Back in October, Mayor Wellington Webb announced the city's plans for an exhaustive New Year's Eve celebration that would center on the 16th Street Mall in downtown Denver. He promised that this year, the city would usher in the new year in style, noting that last year's rather unimpressive public festivities were not the result of any shortcomings on the part of City Hall, but rather Denver's keen grasp of the Roman calendar: 2001 marks the dawn of the new millennium, Webb noted, not 2000, as sucker civic leaders the world over erroneously touted in splashy celebrations from New Zealand to Nova Scotia. In his announcement, Webb alluded to a wealth of street performers and local artists who would make the mall come alive with the sound of music on December 31 -- presumably so that those who didn't want to shell out big bucks for hotel packages or cover charges could still be entertained, albeit in the chilly air of a winter night in Colorado.
Yet the promotional materials that followed Webb's speech remained non-specific on the issue of just what bands and artists would be performing and where. Those who visited the Millennium Celebration Web site (denvergov.org/party) or called the event's hotline (720-913-8213) were told only to expect lots of music; a Westword staffer who compiled entertainment listings for our New Year's Eve Guide (see last week's insert) was unable to obtain a list of performers. Many names were dropped by the city, however, particularly that of Pierre-Alain Hubert, the French fireworks artist who had a hand in blowing up the Eiffel Tower last year and was commissioned to design Denver's 'works this time around. But in the musical arena, the only thing potential partyers could count on was the debut of something called the "World Anthem," a pastiche of bits and pieces of national anthems from around the globe that's slated for broadcast just before midnight. (The World Anthem Project was overseen by Denver music producer John Guillot; with the catchy slogan, "One World. One Anthem," it's sure to infuriate WTO protesters while delighting those who still advocate the use of the Esperanto language.)
As the event grows nearer, it appears that Webb's initial vision of a mall full of strolling minstrels and multiple stages has dwindled; according to Ron Garrison, cultural-events coordinator for the Mayor's Office of Art, Culture and Film, in the final tally, the city will host a grand total of four artists on two stages: Opie Gone Bad (tentatively) and Lannie Garrett (at 8 and 10 p.m., respectively) at Glenarm Place at the Pavilions; and Conjunto Colores and Hazel Miller (also at 8 and 10) at Arapahoe and 17th streets. These are all fine, trusty performers, but Lollapalooza it ain't. According to Garrison, the city simply realized that live, al fresco music was a smaller part of its millennium-welcoming plan than initially imagined.
"What we finally realized was that most people would be indoors at hotels and restaurants. We decided we could accommodate the outdoor crowds with just two stages rather than three or four," Garrison says, adding that his office also initially considered having three or four bands billed per stage before running into a little snag. "We struggled with having one artist play an hour and a half versus two hours, and we realized that [the acts] would want the same funding regardless. We had to go with what we could afford, because the money from private donations just didn't come in like we needed it to. So we settled on four great acts who were available and affordable and who had a broad appeal."
Garrison's explanation of the diminished musical offerings seems like a simple exercise in supply and demand. And it's easy to see why the bands that were chosen -- a lucky four selected from an initial list of 25 candidates compiled by local booking agency Skyline Talent -- were chosen: They're all crowd-pleasers with broad appeal, harmless and happy enough to be entertaining without inciting riots (or upstaging the "World Anthem"). Garrett's inclusion is perhaps the least surprising; after all, Webb is a self-proclaimed fan, and the singer has been a fixture on the Denver scene long enough to have her own walking tour. Conjunto Colores will inject a little spice and Miller will represent the blues, while Opie will rock just enough to get mall-bound businessmen in the mood for champagne and chivalry. It'll be fine. But it won't be the musical extravaganza that was once promised. Those who hope to have music as the centerpiece of their New Year celebration would be wise to hop around (almost all local clubs have solid shows planned that evening) and avoid the Mall like an Amish grandmother.
Happy new year!
Jazz fans who enjoy a good, old-fashioned groove session are invited to attend -- and participate in -- Monroe Tavern's inaugural Jazz Jam on Saturday, December 23. The event is hosted by Atomic Pablo, a local combo that's known primarily as a kind of cross-genre cover band, with a set list that usually includes crowd-pleasing, wedding-suitable tunes by B.B. King, James Brown, Stevie Ray Vaughan and the Funky Meters. On Saturday, however, its free-range jamming will focus on '30s- and '40s-era jazz as well as Latin stylings. Musicians are invited to bring instruments, though charts, amps and fake books will be provided. The Monroe Tavern is located at 3602 East Colfax Avenue. Sounds swingin'...Also in the wide world of jamming, Boulder's Tulagi will host its own variant on the Best Of phenomenon with the Best of the 13th Street Workshop showcase set for Saturday, December 23. Over the past year, the 13th Street Workshop has evolved as a vehicle for songwriters to connect with one another in an improvisational atmosphere while trying out new material on an unfamiliar crowd. Saturday's show is a chance to see some of Boulder's braver souls doing their thing in a stripped-down setting...And in the spirit of the season, the 15th Street Tavern will host a charity benefit for the Metro Care Ring, a Denver food pantry and assistance outfit that helps the area's low-income population. Appropriately enough, Westword's own Marty Jones and his Pork Boilin' Po Boys will headline the food-themed affair. Canned goods will gain you access to the benefit, which takes place on Friday, December 22. To all a good night.
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