Best Of :: Arts & Entertainment
Dameon Merkl looks like the tall, handsome son of Orson Welles and has the dark vocal intensity of Nick Cave. His deep voice has a presence and timbre that late-night jazz radio-show hosts would kill for, but even an easy laugh from him carries an undercurrent of menace. As the brooding yet diabolically humorous frontman for Bad Luck City, Merkl is the kind of character you'd root for whether he was the president or the head of a crime family. The stories he weaves in song are spun from the urban-underbelly mythos of film noir, Cormac McCarthy and James Ellroy. In years past, Merkl's sometimes abrasive and guttural voice could seem monochromatic. Lately, though, he's learned to channel it to match his band's rich emotional tapestries. A natural showman, Merkl masterfully straddles the realms of avant-punk and lurid lounge.
Rockbar could inspire a confirmed teetotaler to do a swan dive off the wagon within ten minutes of walking through the door. Conjuring the bygone decadence left behind by Perry's -- as the joint was known during the last days of disco -- Rockbar is the ideal place to relive your wasted youth. The decor in this late-'70s time-capsule remains pristinely intact, with exposed rock walls, patterned carpet, foil wallpaper and vintage lighting fixtures. There's also a notable kitsch factor about the place -- the trashy menu, the lowbrow drink selection (Mad Dog and brands of beer you swore you'd never drink again), the neon band-logo signage and the retro tuneage -- that has prompted some detractors to grumble that the brashness is a little too calculated. These people are completely missing the point. For those about to Rock, we salute you.
Recently witnessed at the Horseshoe Lounge: Avery Rains, aka Mr. Pacman, dressed in a full-bodied lion suit, head and paws included, stripping down to a very skimpy and curiously bulged pink thong. True fucking story. Unfortunately, this was a one-off birthday-party gig and not a weekly event, but it does prove how superbly awesome the Horseshoe is for allowing such hilarious debauchery. Outfitted with comfy stools, two booths, a couple of couches, a pool table and a dartboard, the bar is lounge-tastic and tailored for intimate gatherings with good friends. And if you get lucky, maybe Rains will be there and you can entice him into strutting his stuff just for you.
At first blush, the Lure is a swank place. Almost too swank. Hang out there for a while, though, and you start to realize that it's pretty relaxed. Like that really hot blonde in high school that you yearned to talk to but couldn't muster up the courage, there's more to the joint than meets the eye. Remember when you finally got the stones to talk to her and found out that she was into Hunter S. Thompson and dug Tom Waits? Yeah, the Lure is surprisingly cool like that. Instead of being greeted by some huge meathead at the door, the first thing you see is a gang of smiling ladies behind the bar. It's like a grown-up version of the famed City Spirit, which used to inhabit this spot nearly a decade ago.
Arvada's answer to a Colfax dive bar, 12 Volt Tavern has all the grit and attitude of the city -- without the Colfax freaks. Plopped down in the middle of Olde Town Arvada, the Tavern may seem out of place among its better-groomed neighbors, but its well-worn character is completely authentic. Although the place has only been known as by its current name for the past four years, the bar itself has been at the same location for nearly sixty years. The joint is a choice spot for punks and blue-collar barflies to congregate over drinks and games of pool. During the week, the Volt's killer jukebox spits out cuts by Sabbath, Zep, the Clash, the Sex Pistols and Hank Williams. And on the weekends, the bar gets hotwired by a steady parade of local punk and rockabilly acts.
Aztec Sol is best known for its exhaustive collection of more than 200 tequilas, carefully curated by owner Jose Lara. The funky neighborhood spot is a favorite among locals who live and drink on the edge of Highland: Both caballeros and condo-dwellers are drawn by Aztec Sol's cheap eats and potent, imaginative cocktails. In addition to cantaritas and vampiros (two sobriety-slashing tequila creations), the Sol now offers wireless Internet. Sure, the place can be dark and the music loud, but the connection is strong and, like the chips and salsa, free of charge. So log on -- vamonos!