Features, Print January 10, 2020

Hit The Ground Running – Hodi’s Half Note: 10 Years of the FoCo Music Mainstay

by Dan England

Daniel Mladenik may be the big boss at Hodi’s Half Note, but he began his time at the Fort Collins music mainstay as the “heavy” demanding derailed drunks to chill.

He knew the owners who bought the Starlight, a famous punk and metal club at 167 North College Avenue, and that’s how he got the job as a bouncer straight out of college. Mladenik wasn’t especially buff or a karate master, but he managed to dodge any serious danger. He loved working security because he got to see a different band with a different crowd and a different atmosphere every night. He got to live out his favorite hobby as a job: He got to hear live music nightly. He preferred jam bands such as the String Cheese Incident (even following them across the country one year) but he enjoyed all music, from country to cajun with punk, metal and hip-hop in between – as long as he could see it live. “I got to see everything I’d never seen before – every night,” he said.

The Hodi’s Half Note stage has hosted legendary acts for a decade, and even more as The Starlight, including The Misfits, above in 2007, for their 30th anniversary tour.

A couple of months after he started, the Starlight’s owners wanted to leave the business, so he bought into the venue with two other partners in 2010. They renamed it Hodi’s after a great aunt. He knew nothing about owning a nightclub, but he learned how to tend bar, and leaned hard on that love for live music.

That was enough until Mladenik got enough confidence to buy out his partners and take over. He’s now run the business for seven years, and Hodi’s will celebrate its 10-year anniversary with a big bash on January 24.

Fort Collins heroes In The Whale, on stage at Hodi’s in 2016. Photo by Peary Schroeder.

“I loved this place as a venue, and so it made sense to me,” Mladenik said, “but I had to hit the ground running after I bought it. I had to dig through a lot of years of crap. I was here all day, every night, managing the bar and just trying to learn.”

He learned the ins and outs of insurance, taxes, band contracts and contacts for booking, but he mostly went with his gut, booking as many different genres of bands as possible because that’s what he loved as a music fan.

Ween on stage at Hodi’s Half Note in 2012.

Hodi’s is still known for being an eclectic, independent music venue with a capacity of 300 patrons. It’s tricky to have that identity, given that, say, country fans generally won’t go to a metal show, but Mladenik sends out emails of what’s playing every week to a long list of fans, constantly scouts talent and works with Denver clubs to bring bands up to Fort Collins while they’re on the road.

Hodi’s size allows Mladenik to book national acts, but ideally he shoots for a band on its way up, or even on its way down, so to speak. Once they become too popular, he rarely sees them any longer because they’re ready to play larger venues. That kind of booking takes a keen eye and a lot of work. “You can’t just hope everything comes to you,” he said.

The Burroughs performing at Hodi’s in 2015. Photo by Peary Schroeder.

Mladenik has settled down since his days working as a security guy. He’s married now, raising a 12-year-old and a 20-month old, and he’s got a full staff at the club which ensures he doesn’t have to be there working every night. 

But he still loves live music. The upcoming 10-year anniversary bash is a perfect example of why he’s stuck around: Dave Watts and Friends will play, a supergroup with Watts of The Motet and Jason Hahn of String Cheese Incident plus some others. He believes the band will sell plenty of tickets, but he’s excited about it as a fan as well as a nightclub owner.

Brent Cowles at Hodi’s in 2015. Photo by Peary Schroeder.

That same enthusiasm Mladenik has for live music is a big part of the identity of Old Town Fort Collins and the people who go there too. Hodi’s 10 years as an independent venue prove it. “We don’t have a built-in bar crowd, and that’s hard, but I still have a deep love for music,” Mladenik said. “I feel like this is what I was put here to do.”

On January 24, Hodi’s Half Note hosts its 10-year anniversary bash at 167 N. College Ave in Fort Collins. Supergroup Dave Watts and Friends (Motet, String Cheese Incident) will perform. Go to hodishalfnote.com for tickets, a full calendar and email sign up.