Ten best (and strangest) arts and culture experiences in 2012
Impromptu dance party at this year's Nan Desu Kan anime convention.
Denver, you've got it going on. This year, I was lucky enough to be a part of many incredibly cool events involving local and national artists, musicians and performers. Combing through the past year of Westword stories, I compiled this list of the best (and strangest) arts- and culture-related experiences from 2012.
This might have been one of the worst concerts I've ever been to, and I've been to hundreds. T-Pain took his audience inside the Ogden Theatre hostage as we sat through hours of his ego mania -- teasing the crowd with thirty-second snippets of his hits, he did not finish a single song.
Instead, he rallied through dozens of tracks in three-plus hours, stopping and starting as he pleased, talking about himself between half-singing and half-rapping. It was a true disservice to fans -- if he had any left -- and by the time he finally finished his set in Denver this past February, more than half the venue had cleared out. For the record, I was a fan. I am not anymore.
A chance assignment brought me in contact with the Elitch Gardens Historic Theatre Foundation, which offered me the opportunity to tour the century-old venue. The gentlemen who gave me a tour of the building were hesitant to speak about anything remotely close to a ghost story -- but there was definitely some spookiness happening in the cold and ancient space.
A chair set up in the box reserved for former theater owner Mary Elitch until her death in 1936 only added to the haunted vibe. But it wasn't a feeling of terror -- it was clear that anyone still hanging around the Elitch Gardens Theatre in less-than-human form was there in good fun. (And according to one of my tour guides, he did hear laughter coming from the unoccupied balcony once upon a time.)
Closed to the public since the mid-'90s, the organization has worked to preserve the building and hopes to raise enough money to not just fully restore it, but open it once again. I hope so -- even in a state of disrepair, the place is gorgeous.
I hate cover bands. I think it is a stupid concept that serves the musicians playing in them and a fan base that can't move on. But this past summer, I was in a Hole cover band -- and I loved every minute of it. Nothing allows you to escape adult reality quite like playing pretend, and being a live derivative of Courtney Love was as close to my teenage dreams as I could get.
It took me a few years, but I finally did it: I experienced a full weekend of the Nan Desu Kan anime convention. The immersion was intense -- mostly because I knew nothing about cosplay, anime, manga, voice acting, etc. -- but worth it. Being allowed to enter into another world like this was humbling, and I came away with a respect for the time, money and energy it takes to live the Gothic Lolita lifestyle.
I'm an unabashed R. Kelly fan, so when I heard that this event was happening (again), I jumped at the chance to go. If you've not experienced an Action Pack-organized movie showing, it's like Rocky Horror, but better. For this performance, the Sie FilmCenter gave us spatulas, condoms and tiny foam object-shooting guns to utilize during key points in the 24 chapter showing of Kelly's 33 chapter (and counting) epic story.
What's more, the people behind this communal watching figured out that many fans of Trapped are also fans of Kelly's other pop music works of art -- and the show began with a three-song singalong that included "Ignition (Remix)," and on-screen instructions telling adults specifically not to care what other people in the theater might have thought about your dancing. I certainly didn't care, and stepped in the name of love along with everyone else.
I didn't know this prior to her performance at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House in May, but Kristin Chenoweth is a one-woman show unto herself. In fact, I didn't know anything about Chenoweth as a performer, but I did enjoy watching her sing and dance and squeal and be used as a prop by her sassy male back-up dancers. The Chenoweth exhibition also led me to believe that the GLBTQ-accepting Christian isn't human; she's just a really well-crafted robot.
Finding out about Wayne White was close to an accident -- I had never heard of the artist before I received an assignment involving a showing of Beauty Is Embarrassing, the documentary about his life. But I did know White's work well -- his puppets and art were integral to Pee Wee's Playhouse and Smashing Pumpkins' video for "Tonight, Tonight" -- I just didn't know his name. The film captured White's relentless drive to create, as well, as his sarcastic and loving nature -- something that rang true in the five minutes I spent meeting him in real life. Still not sure who Wayne White is, exactly? Check out this list of work you may not know White created.
3. That improv show where I all I could do was stare at this guy's penis.
I can't say which improv show I was witnessing when I had this terrible experience, because I don't want to embarrass the dude. But just a note to adults out there: If you're going to wear the grown-up footed pajamas in public, make sure they are long enough to fit your tall frame. Otherwise, it's like stretching lycra over a boner in a thong, which is like not wearing clothes at all. When this happens in the context of a performance, you might think everyone's laughing at your jokes; but really, they're laughing uncomfortably about sharing this penis-exposing experience with a room full of strangers.
If you're like me and you don't have kids (or much of a reason to be around kids in your daily life), I recommend signing up to work at a summer camp next year. It will change your perspective on the world. I volunteered for Girl Rock Camp with the big- headed idea that I was going to change some little ladies' lives with all of my band knowledge. Instead I was put in my place by a bunch of awesome eight-year-olds, aka the Hopeless Pickles of Pizazz, while gaining a new level of respect for parents and teachers who work with kids on a daily basis.
The first night of Katt Williams' s stint in Colorado had me beyond stoked that I was going to see my favorite comedian of all time, for the first time ever. But what ensued was a painful-to-watch public meltdown of someone in need of support. I could only speculate that what I saw stemmed from long-term substance abuse problem, but whatever it was, it was heartbreaking. Since his November shows in Denver, Williams has been arrested several times for his continuing bizarre behavior. My hope is that 2013 is a better year for him.
Get the Arts and Theater Newsletter
Weekly information keeping you in the know when it comes to the art and theater scene. Find out about upcoming performances, exhibitions, openings and special events.