ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
part 1 of 3
Best Contract Rider
For a September 1994 date at the Ogden Theatre, Zevon's contract stated that he would not play if the sound mixer cried.
Best Music-Fan Mom
Smith's son is Kevin Smith, an Arvada native who plays bass for the Austin-based rockabilly band High Noon. And she does much more than go to shows and clap loudly for her little boy. She's overseen the High Noon newsletter and handled the group's merchandising, and she continues to handle some of the trio's publicity chores. Now, don't you wish your mom cared this much?
Best Music-Fan Dad
Lynn, a former professional basketballer who once played with the Denver Rockets, is proud of his son Rashid, aka Common Sense, a rapper whose fine album Resurrection appeared last year. And Common Sense is proud of his dad, who heads the Denver branch of the Amer-I-Can Foundation, a life-skills program founded by football legend Jim Brown. The result of this mutual respect is "Pop's Rap," a track on Resurrection in which Common Sense keeps quiet while his father does the talking. The result is a tribute to the father-son bond that's as cool as it can be.
Best Official Teen Hangout
2019 Stout St.
Denver's teens were all stressed up with nowhere to go--the rec centers closed down early, and curfews kept them off the street--when a few activists spotted a solution. Specifically, a 6,000-square-foot building that, with the help of some seed money from the state, they turned into the Spot. Now kids gather at the activity center to paint indoor graffiti, listen to music, smoke cigarettes and just hang out.
Best All-Ages Club
St. Mark's Coffeehouse
1416 Market St.
Okay, it's not a dance club. There's no live music. But patrons don't come to St. Mark's to shake their stuff or check out the bands. Under-twenty patrons say they frequent this joe hole where rotating artworks cover the brick walls and classic jazz can be heard for stimulating coffee and neo-intellectual conversation. In short, airhead funseekers usually find the place a stuffy drag and don't return, making it an invigorating atmosphere for postmodern baby bohemians. And the industrial, no-frills decor adds a subterranean appeal that just can't be found in the suburbs.
Readers' choice: After the Gold Rush
Best Latin Dance Club
Los Cabos II
2727 W. 6th Ave.
If you're just looking for a quick cha-cha partner, go elsewhere. Los Cabos II is the place where you can first eat Peruvian and talk quietly with friends before ushering your sweetie onto the dance floor. And the DJ at Los Cabos varies the musical mix, spicing up the salsa with merengue, rumba and other styles.
Best Jazz Club
231 Milwaukee St.
Last year, jazz lover Vartan Tonoian took the old Bay Wolf--a chic room with lousy acoustics--and installed a high-quality sound system that befits the live recordings now made there on a regular basis. On Monday nights, Vartan Jazz is home to Denver's own Neophonic Big Band, and on Tuesdays, Ellyn Rucker is often the featured player; this past year, the club took an adventurous step on Wednesdays, presenting more progressive jazz sounds booked by the Creative Music Works. The club also frequently runs a weekly Latin/Brazilian-flavored show and brings quality players--Eddie Gomez, Lew Tabackin and others--in from other areas. And keeping abreast of cigarette taboos, Vartan's boasts a "smoke-free environment."
Readers' choice: El Chapultepec
Best Blues Club
1624 Market St.
Every time we get the blues, we head to Brendan's Pub, where they've got live blues seven nights a week. This LoDo hep spot features an open jam on Mondays, it's the best place to catch the hottest local moanin' glories, and touring stars like Johnny Copeland and Jimmy Johnson regularly stop by to lament life's little miseries. It hurts so good.
Readers' choice: Ziggie's
Best Blues Jam
Billy Blues Barbecue Restaurant
695 Kipling St., Lakewood
The suburban rib joint known as Billy Blues doubles as a hopping blues club after the dinner dishes are cleared away. While touring acts are occasionally showcased, the real killer attraction is the club's blues jam, held each Wednesday. It's your best bet for catching local blues players in the act.
Best C&W Club
5450 N. Valley Hwy.
Two-step right up, folks. Other country-music specialty houses have tried to knock the Grizzly Rose off its perch, but they can't hold a candle to Denver's honky-tonk behemoth. The Rose simply has more of just about everything: more room on the dance floor, more food options, more souvenirs and more interesting artists gracing its stage. The bookers have proven adept at snaring national talent on the way up, as well as legendary performers like Willie Nelson (the club's a regular stop on his itinerary). The night life's a good life at the Rose.
Readers' choice: Grizzly Rose
Best Folk-Music Venue
Swallow Hill Music Hall
1905 S. Pearl St.
Singer-songwriters are best seen--and heard--in a warm, supportive atmosphere conducive to intimacy and truth-telling. That, in a sentence, is Swallow Hill Music Hall. The room sounds great whether the performer on stage is wielding a single guitar or a gaggle of exotic instruments, and the seating alignment allows viewers to get up-close and personal, as though the musicians were serenading them. It's a room with a view--a great one.
Best Reborn Folk-Music Venue
1795 Pearl St., Boulder
When Penny Lane was forced to vacate its longtime Pearl Street home early last year, the Boulder music scene reeled. After all, the venue had played host to some of the area's most intriguing singer-songwriters and uncategorizable performers for more than a decade. Praise be, then, that the Lane is once again in our ears and in our eyes--and that its latest location is across the street from the old one. Thank goodness, too, that the old Penny Lane spirit is still present at these new digs.
Best Rock Club
2199 California St.
Of course, there's a lot of music other than rock at the Mercury Cafe. The venue also plays host to jazz, folk, blues and worldbeat artists, as well as theatrical productions and more. But over the past year, the Mercury has rocked steady with acts ranging from Mike Watt and Bush to the Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black, and the results have been inspirational. After nearly five years in its latest location, the Cafe is cooking like never before.
Best Underground Venue
2217 Welton St.
No, the Raven doesn't have a phone. Neither does it have an advertising budget, but that hasn't stopped it from becoming a word-of-mouth success. This converted disco is dank, dark and dingy--in short, the perfect place to see local and national punk and alternative artists with a taste for the bizarre.
Best New Venue
3317 E. Colfax Ave.
The rebirth of the Bluebird, a onetime Colfax eyesore, has been a wonder to behold. The renovation overseen by co-owners Evan Dechtman and Chris Swank is first-rate, the attention to sound quality reassuring and the variety of artists invited to strut their stuff refreshing. The theater has booked performers of rock, jazz, punk, folk and just about every other genre in existence, and while its commitment to screening classic movies has seesawed back and forth since its grand opening last year, it's still a great place to see a flick, too.
Best College-Rock Club
University Memorial Center, CU-Boulder campus
The future may be in doubt for Club 156, a hole-in-the-wall at the CU student center, but its recent past has been great. Bookers have invited a terrific assortment of local artists to play here, as well as indie acts that might have 86'd the area if it weren't for the 156. Administrators have threatened to use the space allocated to the room for other purposes. We'd rather they cut the football budget.
Best Punk Club
2022 E. Colfax Ave.
Call it what you will--a dive, a hole, a pit--the Lion's Lair on Capitol Hill is the best place to smell beer-soaked leather, swill cheap suds and observe old-school punks in all their grungy, pierced and punctured glory. Live (and loud) music is the norm here, as is urban-white-boy attitude.
Readers' choice: Seven South
Best Place to See and Be Seen in Bondage Gear (Straight)
1222 Glenarm Pl.
Nowhere are the dancers hotter under the (leather) collar than at Industry. Sporting a decor theme of cold steel and Victorian flourishes, the downtown club is perfect for your garden-variety, would-be Marquis de Sade. The scantily dressed go-go dancers in cages are simply icing on the cake.
Best Place to See and Be Seen in Bondage Gear (Gay)
Where else? A longtime favorite among Denver's mas macho gay men, the Triangle is the textbook definition of a gay biker bar. Men in Levi's are plentiful here, but men in leather, rubber and other S&M regalia are legion. Just don't cross-dress: At the Triangle, they like a man's man.
Best Guys Who Let It All Hang Out
Denver Area Nude Dudes (DAN-D's)
Like to play ping-pong in the buff? Shy about the ladies giggling at your bouncing beauties? The Denver Area Nude Dudes are for you. The club has private social gatherings with a monthly (clothed) meeting at Dad's, a local coffeehouse.
Best Fetish Club
P.O. Box 1012, Denver
PEP-DENCO is Colorado's largest information clearinghouse for pan-gender, pan-fetish adults, which means--well, whatever you want it to mean. The club (whose name stands for "People Exchanging Power") supports legal activities for legal-aged adults, holding monthly socials that are faithfully attended by the curious and about 35 regulars who represent a veritable pornucopia of brand-spanking-new sexual orientations. PEP members are mostly over thirty--but they're still whippersnappers.
Best Resurrection of an Organ
Rocky Mountain Theatre Organ Society
When Harry Huffman's elaborate Aladdin Theatre was demolished in 1984, at least one part of the landmark escaped destruction. But for the first few rough years, the Aladdin/Wicks pipe organ was a wandering gypsy, bouncing from a Boulder church to the too-small Mayan Theatre to East High School, where it--or at least the sum of its parts--is now property of the Denver Public Schools. Volunteers from the Rocky Mountain Theatre Organ Society stepped in and since 1987 have slowly been restoring and installing it, pipe by pipe, with the help of St. Louis organ expert Lynn Bullock. When the work is finished--this fall or the following spring--the noble instrument will be used for educational purposes. We can hardly wait for the first trill.
2544 Federal Blvd.
This hamburger-and-fries mainstay--just a hop, skip and a jump from Mile High Stadium--features a jukebox that time has practically forgotten. Okay, there are a few contemporary tunes on the box, but what makes it special is the wide array of ditties from the past--most of which sport a significant hipness factor. From "That's Amore" and "New York, New York" to "Tequila" and "The Girl From Ipanema," this juke makes the Manor's fast food taste like a rare delicacy.
Best Alternative Jukebox
7 S. Broadway
Seven South is famous for its live music, but the recorded stuff is a dream team of alternative, local music, blues, reggae, industrial and classic rock. Your loose change can call up Dick Dale, Tom Waits, the Velvet Underground, John Coltrane, David Bowie, the Clash, local faves Baldo Rex and, last but not least, the Dead Kennedys' classic single "Too Drunk to Fuck." Jukebox heaven, this.
Best Local Rock Band
Yes, 16 Horsepower is a rock band...and a country band...and a punk band...and, most important, a great band. Vocalist/ multi-instrumentalist David Eugene Edwards, bassist Keven Soll and drummer Jean-yves Tola don't play music that fits into any commercial niche, yet they manage to make their rootsy conglomeration accessible through sheer force of will. The band operates on a positively feral level live, transforming songs marked by simplicity and honesty into timely statements. It's too early to tell if those qualities have been captured on its upcoming major-label debut (for A&M Records), but one thing's certain: You can't fight the 'power.
Readers' choice: Big Bad Freakies
Best Local Rock Album on a Major Label
How did Garrett Shavlik, Tim Beckman and Chanin Floyd execute the leap to Island Records without diminishing their integrity or passion? By insisting that the music on Mississippi be the same stuff they'd recorded long before signing a contract, thereby preventing any interference by well-meaning executives with no taste in music. The songs, cut with the assistance of uber-engineer Kirby Orrick, have a feel of immediacy because they weren't fussed over or fiddled with. And what songs they are: "Superstar" may be the most catchy, but the rest are melodic, captivating and brutal all at the same time.
Best Local Rock Album on a Minor Label
Released by Sonny Kay's GSL label, Destination: Nowhere (available on both CD and decorative vinyl) proves that personnel shifts need not doom a band--or at least not this one. Matt Bischoff has always been a terrific songwriter and singer, and this recording gives him the opportunity to take, and hold, center stage. From "Statue" to "Goodnight," these tunes positively roar. The only problem with the seven tracks is that there aren't more of them.
Best Local Rock Compilation Album
Completed under the auspices of Boulder-based sh-mow records, Shmowballs is both admirably varied (virtually every shade of alternative is represented here) and extremely consistent (none of the groups even come close to sucking). In addition, the album introduces you to acts you might not know (heard of munly? Iz?) that are just as fine as Christie Front Drive, Baldo Rex, Grimace, St. Andre and other participants whose reputations precede them. A sampler that's actually worth sampling.
Best Band Name
That's one hot car!
Best Band Name Change
When drummer Orestes De La Torre left God Rifle, the trio's two remaining members (Dave Galt and Tom Henderson) wanted to stay together but felt they needed to offer fans some indication that the lineup was different. Hence, GODRIFLE. Which is different, all right.
Best Rap Group/Artist
Shatta Mejia is the kind of person who deserves to have a microphone in front of him--because he has a lot of important things to say, and he says them with rare eloquence. His group D-Town Brown is the perfect complement to his words--an extremely live act that uses the primest ingredients from rock, funk and hip-hop to produce a brawny and original fusion.
Readers' choice: Lord of Word and the Disciples of Bass
Best Dance Band
Lord of Word and the Disciples of Bass
When a large contingent of key Disciples departed the group late last year, disaster seemed in the offing for this musical meeting of rap, funk, rock and who knows what else. Instead, Theo Smith (aka the Lord) and the rest of his crew turned likely doom into an opportunity by adding ex-Jonez players Tim Miller and John T. to the fold. The result left the act stronger than ever--and given how strong it was in the first place, that bodes well for future good times in Denver.
Readers' choice: Hot Tomatoes
Best Punk Band
Forget Green Day. If you're looking for some real punk-pop excitement, we suggest you give these vociferous young wags a chance. On their new long-player Nothing Groundbreaking, released on Denver's Black Plastic Records, the members of Pinhead Circus deliver supercharged, four-on-the-floor punk anthems like "Prozac Girl" with the gentle caress of a charging Rottweiler, all the while managing to inject just enough righteous hooks into the mix. This is punk the way it was meant to be played: loose, tough and free of unsightly AOR buildup.
Readers' choice: Boss 302
Best C&W Musician
When does this man sleep? Tim O'Brien worked on the first-rate solo recording Rock in My Shoe, released in May on the Sugar Hill imprint. He collaborated on discs with sister Mollie. He guested on CDs by other worthy area performers, including Celeste Krenz. And he gives not the slightest hint that he's spreading himself too thin--or capitulating to the financially lucrative but creatively suspect stereotypes of contemporary country music.
Best C&W Band
Slim Cessna's Auto Club
Slim Cessna's musical contraption appeals equally to hardcore C&W fans and those who don't give a hoot for country. The material that Slim and the boys cover or create is raw and heartfelt yet delivered with a sense of theatricality and fun that demonstrates, to novices and aficionados alike, all the good things inherent in the genre. Anyone with a hankering to kick up his heels or cry in his beer is hereby advised to join the Club.
Readers' choice: Rattlesnake Shake
Best Bluegrass Artist
Anyone foolish enough to call bluegrass a dying art ought to give a listen to Wernick, a banjoist whose skill on the instrument is astounding. Heard most often with a group of musicians he's dubbed the Live Five, Wernick, a signee to the Sugar Hill label, takes a musical form that can sound quaint in less skillful hands and transforms it into something vibrant and wholly contemporary. Now there's a man with pluck.
Best Blues Band/Musician
Sammy Mayfield and His Blues Band
Although blues guitarist/vocalist Sammy Mayfield spends a fair portion of his time out of town on his "other job," as musical director for R&B king Solomon Burke, he still manages to hold together one of the most committed blues ensembles around. They ought to be tight by now: Mayfield and two of his bandmates, bassist Nathaniel Wright and organist/ trumpeter Marcus Johnson, have been friends and musical collaborators since they were bright-eyed schoolmates in the 1950s. Together with four relative newcomers, they perform Mayfield's original compositions and an occasional classic, reminding us what the blues is really all about.
Readers' choice: Bob Hornbuckle
Best Blues Album
A Shot in the Dark
Stanley Milton's Mean Streak
All the tunes on A Shot in the Dark, a self-produced release from the guts 'n' grits Mean Streak, are Stanley Milton's own blues originals, save for one penned by bandmate Eric Wollan. And it all shines, not only because of the fiery style of Milton's top-notch band, but also because it gives Milton an opportunity to push his compositional skills to the forefront, showcasing a style as distinctly personal as a fingerprint.
Best Rockabilly Band
The Tennessee Boys
No one delivered as much rockabilly joy and innocence as the Tennessee Boys, who flew all the way from their native Portugal to play in the country that gave birth to the King. As authentic a rockabilly combo as you're likely to see this side of Tupelo, the band had to be good to dodge the novelty tag, and it was. Because of an inability to glom onto green cards, the quartet was forced to return to Europe earlier this year. But the Boys promise to motor on back as soon as they can. That's one pledge we should hold them to.
Best Jazz Band/Musician
After seeing Lester Young play, the then-teenage Homer Brown bought his first tenor saxophone, using money saved from delivering groceries after school. What a fortunate break for us. Brown went on to work as a sideman for acts like Jackie Wilson and Sam Cooke, settling here in 1982. Since then, he's put in time as musical director for Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, toured the world's major jazz festivals as a sideman, and recorded in Japan, all while managing to keep a respectable, if low-key, profile around town. If you're lucky, you may catch him doing his thing as a backup man for wife Peggy in Denver-area clubs.
Readers' choice: Dotsero
Best Jazz Teacher
Ron Miles, Metropolitan State College of Denver
Students wise enough to sign up at Metro State will learn from one of the finest musicians/teachers in this area--trumpeter Ron Miles. Miles takes his classes through the history of various phases of jazz, showing students how to identify and recognize players, styles and compositions and paving new avenues of thought about the genre. A musical groundbreaker himself with plenty of irons in the fire, Miles is as interested in jazz's future as he is schooled in its past.
Best Jazzy Celebrity
He's still known mostly for his 1960s-era work in supergroups Cream and Blind Faith. But in recent years Elbert County horse rancher, polo player and drummer Ginger Baker also has gained worldwide respect as a first-rate, innovative jazz musician. Baker's Going Back Home, for Atlantic Records, recorded with bassist Charlie Haden and guitarist Bill Frisell, proved to be one of the year's freshest offerings.
Best Jazz Big Band
Creative Music Works Orchestra
An offshoot of Alex Lemski's Creative Music Works promotions, the orchestra of the same name features some of Denver's premier rock, neoclassical and jazz explorers. Under the direction of saxophonist/composer Fred Hess, the ensemble presents tribute retrospectives, classic jazz and some of the most invigorating improvisational moments around town.
Best Jazz Series
Park Hill Golf Club
4141 E. 35th Ave.
Following the demise of Dick Gibson's jazz series, our chances to hear legendary masters of the golden eras of jazz were few and far between. But at the Park Hill Golf Club, we can return to the sweet sounds of mainstream and swing players. This past year, featured artists included dynamic and diminutive cornetist Ruby Braff, bassists Milt Hinton and Jack Lesberg, pianist Jay "Hootie" McShann and drummer Panama Francis, not to mention younger neo-swing players Howard Alden, Dan Barrett and Scott Hamilton. It's expensive, but so is fine wine.
Best Jazz Summit
Bill Frisell, with Dale Bruning and Ron Miles
October 8, 1994
It was not only daring, it was touching when eclectic guitarist and former Denverite Bill Frisell hooked up with trumpet-playing phenom Ron Miles for a rare appearance here--and made sure to include his old teacher, Dale Bruning, in the festivities. Both halves of the concert were unforgettable: loopy, countrified experimenter Frisell first sat for a sweet duet set with Bruning, whose Zenlike instrumental facility nearly stole the show. Then Frisell stretched out with Miles's trio for a look into what could well be the future of modern music. It really fit the Bill.
Best Worldbeat Band
Mom's Instant Hot
Our resident African music champion, pedal-steel guitarist Glenn Taylor, gave us Orchestra King Mama and, later, Monkey Siren. Taylor's new lineup in Mom's Instant Hot blends a lively, danceable worldbeat sound with lyrics devoted to timely urban concerns.
Best Worldbeat Album
Clay, Blues, Rock, Raga
Honey-dripping harmonicat Clay Kirkland took almost three years to compile the material for Clay, Blues, Rock, Raga, his innovative collection of gut-punching blues, classical riffs, flamenco stylings and East Indian ragas. The resulting effort is enchanting, from the live recording of six tunes done with his former electric band, The Screamin' Demons, to the five acoustic pieces on which Kirkland is joined by flamenco guitarist Miguel Espinoza and two Nepalese musicians on tabla and sitar.
Best Salsa Band
One listen to Metro State College's salsa ensemble--one of eight singled out to perform at the National Collegiate Jazz Festival last spring--will tell you this is no ordinary bunch of students. In fact, many of the group's members came to the program already loaded down with musical credentials: Reed player John Asti has recorded with Latin jazz giant Machito and toured with Broadway's Cats; timbalero Gary Sosias, who also leads Denver's high-profile Conjunto Colores, apparently inherited his skills from his father, a sideman with the Xavier Cugat Orchestra; Sosias's Conjunto Colores bandmate Francisco Mejias developed his superb conga skills in Puerto Rico and Manhattan; and Freddie Rodriguez Jr. is the accomplished son of Freddie Sr., accomplished local jazz figure. Band director Walter Barr puts it more succinctly: "We're not just a window dressing--this is the real thing."
Best Pan Pounder
Percussionist Don Prorak first encountered a steel drum eight or nine years ago and has been hooked on the pans ever since. But it's a healthy addiction--his Pan Jumbies are in constant demand, perhaps because their sunny Caribbean melodies and lilting, islands-in-the-stream rhythms carry an extra-dreamy significance for escapist landlubbers trapped here in arid Colorado. Last year Prorak did manage to escape to Trinidad & Tobago's Panorama Steelband Competition, where he performed with a 120-member group that pounded out an impressive fifth-place finish in the sticks-and-tones contest. What a man of steel.
Best Rock Music
Lost Angel Stone Ensemble
In 1991 Boulder musician Tom Wasinger began creating musical instruments from resonating stones such as slate, andesite and basanite. Teaming with composer/drummer Jesse Manno to form the Lost Angel Stone Ensemble, Wasinger now performs exclusively on rocks (the only nonpercussive instrument used is a jade wind instrument called an ocarina), presenting some of the most melodic, rhythmic and pristine sounds imaginable. It's surreal music for the mind--not bad for a guy who was just "playing around with rocks."
end of part 1
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