Though she’s been involved in Colorado’s music scene for 30 years, Cheryl Liguori feels like all that time passed in the blink of an eye.
Liguori is chief executive officer of Z2 Entertainment, which operates Boulder’s Fox Theatre and Boulder Theater and the Aggie Theatre in Fort Collins. The company also books and promotes shows for various other venues around Colorado, including Boulder’s Chautauqua Auditorium.
She remembers having a conversation with Charles Hambleton, of Boulder’s famous alternative rock, rock, reggae, folk band the Samples, while she was managing a New York City music club where the band would perform in the early 1990s. She says she was considering a move out west at the time.
“He was excited about a new venue they were building, so when I moved to the area, I went to check it out,” she says. “I had marketing experience from my advertising agency days, so I handled the opening and was the show marketing manager for a few months around the opening of the Fox Theatre.”
That was in March of 1992. Later that year, she was promoted to general manager of The Fox, located on University Hill, and in 1998, became the general manager of the nearby Boulder Theater, just off of Boulder’s iconic Pearl Street.
“Having a love for both venues, in 2009, I proposed a merger of the Fox and (the Boulder Theater),” she says. The owners of both companies agreed to form Z2 Entertainment and I was named CEO.”
The company officially launched in 2010 and Liguori became its CEO, a role she has enjoyed for nearly 12 years. We chatted with Liguori to learn more about her career overseeing two of Boulder’s most iconic performance venues.
What brought you into the live music business?
I started going to shows in high school, but it was quite by accident that I ended up in the business side of things. I had become friends with (club owners) Larry and Laura Bloch when we all lived in Los Angeles. A few years late,r we all ended up moving back to the East Coast where they eventually created Wetlands Preserve, a live music club in NYC, and asked me to join them. It was an easy choice to leave my ad agency job to adventure with them into the live music world.
What do you like about the live music business?
As venues and live music professionals, we help create that “happy place” for a whole community. We work in the industry because we probably all got hooked by live music at some point along the way.
What is the most challenging aspect of the industry?
For independent music promoters, the competition is fierce and the margins are slim.
Colorado is known for its bustling live music scene. What sets Boulder apart from the rest of the Front Range?
I think it’s because we have great venues, and there is always something interesting going on, whether it is a ticketed show or smaller venues showcasing local talent. The Fox was named one of the top four venues in the country by “Rolling Stone” magazine. Many artists on their way up, such as Radiohead, Dave Matthews Band, Michael Franti, Gov’t Mule, Flaming Lips and John Legend have played that room. The Boulder Theater and Chautauqua Auditorium bring a fantastic range of national and international talent. There is usually a show for any musical taste in this town.
How has Z2 weathered the ongoing COVID pandemic? How has the COVID pandemic affected the live music scene in Boulder more broadly?
COVID was hard on the live music ecosystem and Boulder was no exception. When we were able to open to a very limited capacity, we were lucky to have many talented local artists who played and supported our venues. Boulder is recovering quickly and there are a few smaller venues that are opening soon, which is always a healthy sign.
What determines the type of shows that come through the Fox Theatre vs. Boulder Theater?
It mostly comes down to which capacity is right for the artist at a certain point in their trajectory. The Fox is primarily a standing-only venue and, while we book for the college crow,d we also have acts like Lukas Nelson, George Porter and a fair number of indie acts. The Boulder Theater has a larger capacity and can be a standing or a seated venue, so we have a lot of flexibility with our bookings and can bring in larger acts.
I think both venues offer a uniquely intimate concert experience that isn’t as palpable at larger venues.
What kind of music do you enjoy personally? Are there any shows you are particularly looking forward to seeing?
Oh, so many. I do tend toward indie, but I am looking forward to Ólafur Arnalds and Bela Fleck at Chautauqua this summer. At our indoor venues: Warpaint, Les Claypool, James McMurtry . . . there are too many to name. Everyone is coming out on tour now after such a long pause.
In these uncertain times, what’s next for Z2?
A lot of amazing shows!