Mark Dardano is a verifiable Denver Northsider with almost 100 years of community history to his family’s name.
In the early 1900s, his grandfather built a house on 38th & Kalamath Street where his father was later born and where only two blocks away his mother would grow up on 39th and Jason Street. Mark and his six siblings were raised in that Kalamath house, and it was there that he learned to play guitar in the sixth grade.
Since those middle school days, Dardano has been entertaining Denverites with live music for the past fifty years, most notably as a percussionist with his trio Fedora Nights. Typically adorned with his signature goatee and fedora hat, Dardano and his trio have performed for years at storied Italian restaurant Gaetano’s (3760 Tejon Street) and the urban winery Bonacquisti Wine Company (4640 N Pecos Street).
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Fedora Nights could be heard performing nearly every genre of music — from oldies and jazz to salsa, pop, cumbia, and more. But like many local musicians in Denver, the past year-plus drastically changed everything.
“This past year has been hard for the entertainment business, as well as other businesses,” Dardano told The Denver North Star in a recent interview. “With that said, I believe if we continue to be smart about it, we are close to turning the tide and it’s all going to come back stronger than ever.”
Live music has been hard to come by since March 16, 2020, when Denver’s music venues were essentially shut down from COVID-19 restrictions. Now, venues such as Mission Ballroom, Bluebird Theater, Levitt Pavilion, and Red Rocks have announced major upcoming performances from both local and national acts, but expect most venues to have reduced capacity and social distancing measures as the Denver music scene, along with musicians like Daradan, attempts a big comeback.
“We’ve all been practicing individually and downloading new music so when we start up again it won’t sound like we’ve been slacking,” said Dardano. “We’re looking to be exciting with a fresh new show.”
Fedora Nights played a Mother’s Day show at Bonacquisti’s, who “did it right” according to Dardano. “It was [supposed] to be an outside event, but it was wet outside as you well know. [The owner] moved it inside but, within all the restraints, it proved to be magical.”
The trio have booked a number of private engagements from now through the end of summer and they will be back at Bonacquisti’s Winery at the end of June (the official date will be announced on Fedora Night’s Facebook page). As for Gaetano’s, Dardano said the owner is hopeful that live entertainment can resume at the restaurant as soon as July.
This summer holds many other magical opportunities to see musical and artistic performances: Su Teatro Cultural and Performing Arts Center’s grand reopening on June 10 with “War of the Flowers” (www.suteatro.org), Larimer Lounge has live performances booked through September (www.larimerlounge.com), and Mission Ballroom has a string of big performances starting next month /www.missionballroom.com).
When it comes to the successful reemergence of the music scene, Dardano places the onus squarely on the venues. “All I can say about the venues is: whoever is trying to open within the restraints and having safety first in mind are going to make the music scene come back quicker. The venues who just want to pack people in are going to prolong the comeback.”
Jon Amar, a North Denver resident, covers music for The Denver North Star. His career has taken him from the halls of the U.S. House of Representatives as a speechwriter to the local startup scene as a technology entrepreneur. He was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area and graduated cum laude from California State University, Long Beach with a B.S. in Political Science.