Best Of :: Arts & Entertainment
The Walnut Room is a massive extension of Soundstructure Studios -- a popular, musician-friendly rehearsal space on a formerly barren fringe of the Ballpark neighborhood -- with its own restaurant, bar and performance venue. Since it opened, the room has netted a reputation as one of the best-sounding rooms in town, with a huge stage and spot-on sound crew. With its fine wood bar, red neon sign and generous drink specials, the Walnut Room is more than just another cool venue in an invigorated part of town. Rather, it signals a sea change in the way Denver thinks about local music: Here's a venue dedicated entirely to supporting and showcasing musicians while giving them a place to hang out and build community.
The action can get pretty hot and heavy when LoDo's bars let out at 2 a.m. But from the cheap seats on the sidelines, watching the crowds pour out of the clubs and pour themselves into cars and cabs -- after some last-second attempts to hook up --can be mighty entertaining. And the vehicles parading slowly past offer a non-stop urban soundtrack.
Though Stevyn Prothero's tiny Iron Feather Book & Zine Shop is in danger of losing its space in north Denver, the place's do-it-yourself attitude lives on to the bitter end. Prothero welcomes any and all wannabe zinesters to use his stuff -- Xerox, keyboard, scissors and so on -- to create their own page for the community-based Open Zine Project. Prothero knows something about what it takes to create an indie publication: His own Iron Feather Journal has been coming out sporadically for years. Open your mind and take up your pen.
Capitol Hill encompasses a wide swath of central Denver, so it's no wonder that the Capitol Hill People's Fair is the city's best, and most diverse, festival. From its humble beginnings at Morey Junior High in 1971, when 2,000 people attended, the People's Fair has exploded into Colorado's premier arts-and-crafts happening; last year, some 275,000 people attended the three-day event at Civic Center Park, soaking up live entertainment, food by the barrelful, community and family-oriented activities and the best people-watching of the year. The fest is a huge fundraiser, as well: Capitol Hill United Neighborhoods raised $45,000 for area nonprofits in 2004. Kick back, kick off your shoes, and celebrate Denver's funkiest neighborhood.
Normally, when you come across a celebrity in Aspen -- say, Kevin Costner fashioning a kayak for an In Style magazine photo shoot -- it's funny, but not ha-ha funny. For nearly one week out of every year, though, Aspen is the ha-ha-funniest place in the world. The U.S. Comedy Arts Festival is a veritable all-you-can-eat buffet of humor, from standup to sketch comedy to readings; Cheech and Chong, Conan O' Brien, Jim Carrey and Dave Eggers were among those on hand this year. And how about all those hangers-on in fur coats with VIP passes around their necks, talking on headset cell phones? Now, that's funny.
The first of its kind in the United States, The Shoot Out Boulder celebrated the art of quick and cheap movie production. Filmmakers were given 24 hours to complete a seven-minute short. Only in-camera editing was allowed -- meaning everything had to be shot in sequence -- and the footage had to incorporate specific locations or props from within the Boulder area. Several dozen crews of both novice and seasoned filmmakers participated in the quick-paced contest, resulting in an amazing variety of subjects and styles that ranged from the hilarious to the reflective. Plans for another festival are under way, which is great news: The Shoot Out is a can't-miss opportunity for area filmheads.