Best Of :: Arts & Entertainment
For more than a year, pundits the world over wondered whether John Barton's Tantalus would be a millennium-defining hit or flop. Much like the nature of Greek myths themselves, the grand, lavishly staged show was less absolute, and the joint effort of the Denver Center Theatre Company and England's Royal Shakespeare Company leaned more toward triumph than failure. The virtuoso performances, masterful directorial touches (the piece was co-directed by British theater legend Peter Hall and his son Edward) and astonishing design elements made for an event that brimmed with brilliance, wit and beauty. Despite its marathon length and exorbitant admission price, the epic showed itself to be a bold experiment about the dangers of aspiring to be godlike before understanding our own mortality.
Yes, it's a school night, but that doesn't bother the lively and loyal crowd on the dance floor at Rock Island. So What, a weekly dance night at this LoDo institution, finds DJs K-Nee, Style 'N Fashion and Aztec playing just about anything they and the crowd feel like. The Tuesday-night gig grew out of K-Nee's So What radio show on KUVO eight years ago and has been spinning an eclectic mix of funky, soulful grooves combining acid jazz, Afrobeat, nu jazz, hip-hop and other sounds in various locations ever since. So watcha, watcha, watcha want?
A pub named Streets of London might seem an unlikely place for a night of country-flavored entertainment, but don't tell that to DJs Stagger Lee and Chester Fields. These good ol' boys are the hosts of Country Gone Wrong, an inside-out C&W show that pairs heartbreak with hilarity. Country classics and obscure hillbilly odes segue into X-rated Johnny Paycheck tunes and rip-snorting stuff from new alt-country acts. And when these DJs start riffin' on a theme, there's no stopping them. Who knew there were so many tunes about chickens, truckin', cheatin' and alcohol? Hank definitely didn't do it this way, but he'd love it all the same.
Jake Jabs came out fighting when the News and Post announced their proposed JOA. But then, he's taken on wilder beasts than rampaging publishers, as becomes clear in the first few pages of his self-published autobiography, An American Tiger ($19.95 at an American Furniture Warehouse store near you, or online). The rags-to-recliners story starts with Jabs's childhood on a hardscrabble farm in Montana and ends with his triumphant crowning as the National Home Furnishing Association's 2000 Retailer of the Year; along the way, Jabs also manages to include dozens of pages from his American Furniture Warehouse customer-service and employee policies. But then, Jabs knows all about how to overstuff a package.
Recorded and/or filmed at Red Rocks, Road Rock V.1, an in-concert CD, and Red Rocks Live, a DVD, aren't just fine documents of Neil Young's undimmed musical energy. They're also reminders that the natural amphitheater located in the foothills west of Denver remains the most primordial place to see a concert in these United States.
Mark Bliesener's decision to expand his musician consulting business to the Web is a gift to bands and artists anywhere, not just those who share his Denver area code. Bliesener is what those in the music industry refer to as an "insider": a former critic, performer, publicist and manager who now helps artists at all levels improve their chances of making a living at this thing called music. Bandguru.com's primary function is to introduce potential clients to Bliesener's background and services for hire, but it also contains a wealth of information that's free for the clicking, including an exhaustive listing of American and international record labels and Web links galore. Guru, we have so much to learn from you.
While there ain't nothing like the real thing, jammingconcerts.com provides a pleasant alternative to the live-concert experience. The Denver-based site hosts a dizzying archive of live audio and digital video footage of local and touring artists, all culled from performances in Englewood's palatial Gothic Theatre. A hell of a lot more fun than e-trading, it's an online pleasure that's free, easy to access -- and legal.
KVCU-AM/1190, the student-run station at the University of Colorado at Boulder, is staffed by musical enthusiasts who break down barriers as a matter of course. They're eager to inform young listeners about great music of the past through the use of artist features focusing on acts that rose to prominence long before most of them were out of their Pampers. But they're just as enthusiastic to clue in older listeners about the finest underground sounds being made today via playlists that spotlight the most interesting acts in virtually every genre. The result is a benefit for music lovers of all ages.
Jay Mack is no spring chicken. He's been in the radio biz for decades and made news last year after having an on-air respiratory attack; a concerned listener who called 911 on his behalf may very well have saved his life. But the years have made him terrifically knowledgeable about rock and roll, and on Doo-Wop Sunday Morning, he puts his smarts to use, breaking free of the tight KOOL 105 playlist to spotlight forgotten obscurities from the music's golden era. Fans have responded so favorably that Mack's time has been expanded: He can also be heard Sunday nights and weekdays from noon until 1 p.m. Rock on.
For three years running, KUVO's Destination Freedom has been broadcasting its own brilliant re-creations of historical black radio dramas every third Tuesday at 9 p.m. The scripts were written in the late 1940s by Richard Durham, who wrote 104 plays about significant African-Americans. His subjects included everyone from artists like W.C. Handy and Marian Anderson to historical figures such as Ida B. Wells and Harriet Tubman. So far, the station has aired 28 shows, with some sixty actors participating. In addition, the half-hour time frame has expanded to an hour in order to include commentary and musical guests. Don't touch that dial.
KBCO is easy to take for granted. But despite being part of the enormous Clear Channel conglomerate, which critics charge with contributing to the homogenization of radio everywhere, the station is still in touch with the singularly Bouldery vibe that it's emitted from the beginning. And for that, locals should be extremely grateful.
In a day and age when too many public-radio stations are generic and canned, Boulder's modest-sized KGNU remains intensely local, proudly idealistic and wonderfully idiosyncratic. Sometimes smaller is better.