Best Of :: Arts & Entertainment
Denver's club scene gets more crowded by the month, with new venues sprouting up like spring blossoms (or weeds, depending on how you look at them). Regardless, the hi-dive towers head and shoulders over the field. Into its third year, the club's booking of local and national acts only gets better -- but the bands are only part of the equation. The stage and sound are ideal. The all-ages shows are run smoothly and humanely. Sputnik, the hi-dive's next-door satellite bar, is a great place to chill out before, during or after the rock. Strelka, its kitchen, serves awesome food that caters to carnivores and vegans alike. The whole room is the perfect mix of respectable and seedy, and the owners aren't afraid to host multimedia dance parties one night and noise operas the next. And the location, smack in the middle of one of Denver's coolest neighborhoods, can't be beat. Above all, the hi-dive excels at being intimately, passionately involved with the scene that sustains it. It's not just a place to watch a band, chug a beer and take a piss on your way out. Instead, it feels like home.
When concert season opens at Red Rocks, the crowds run rampant throughout the tiny burb of Morrison. It's enough to make anyone long for a stiff drink and a classic Americana meal, which is exactly what the Blue Cow provides. Whether you prefer a Bloody Mary, a margarita or a mimosa, the staff can hook it up; they serve everything from Budweiser and Corona to microbrews and Mike's Cranberry Lemonade -- even a martini in a pinch. They also brew the strongest espresso in town, and the soft-serve ice cream and shakes are ideal on a hot summer day. It's the perfect place to nurse away a hangover before the big show -- or to kick-start the next drinking marathon.
The title of Lawrence Argent's sculpture isn't very catchy, and most people will draw a blank when hearing "I See What You Mean," but if we say "The Big Blue Bear" at the Colorado Convention Center, you see what we mean. The piece was an instant hit with the public, and it has become a nationally known icon for Denver. Even the normally artless business boosters hijacked it, sending out a guy in a cheesy blue bear suit to promote the hotel tax during last year's election. For all the love, however, it's the fact that the sculpture is sophisticated, contemporary and by a hometown artist that makes it one of the best things downtown.
In 2003, Carol Dickinson was facing retirement from directing the Foothills Art Center in Golden, and she decided she wanted to leave a lasting monument. A take-charge sort of gal, Dickinson went to the Foothills board and suggested having Texas artist Jesus Moroles create a sculpture garden in his signature minimalist style. (Truth be told, it was more than a suggestion; she presented the idea as a fait accompli.) The board agreed, and Moroles teamed up with architect Ted Shultz and landscape designer Susan Saarinen while Dickinson began cajoling donors for funds. Typically, projects such as this take five years to finish, but Dickinson got it done in just two and half, bringing Golden into the 21st century in the process.
Aurora's partly seedy, partly rebirthed main drag gets extra marks for effort in 2005. Last fall, Longmont artist Mario Miguel Echevarria put up his "Aurora Eterna: A Public Spectacle" mural atop Pasternack's Pawn Shop, shedding brilliant neon lights on a series of stylized symbols of Aurora history. "Aurora Eterna" is the perfect companion to the stretch's other murals (by Jason Needham and Susan Cooper), and it adds a touch of class to the tawdry.