Best Kiddie Recording 2001 | Permanent TeethNatural Selection | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword
Denver-based songwriter Mark Ledwig first penned Permanent Teeth as a classroom tool: An elementary-school teacher in Los Angeles, he knew his catchy numbers might help bilingual students comprehend such things as punctuation, the alphabet, multiplication and environmentalism. But after hauling some of his professional musician friends into the studio and recording under the name Natural Selection, Ledwig wound up with a recording that should appeal to fans of the Fab Four almost as much as the second-grade set. The CD is currently available exclusively through the Masterworks Music Services Web site, at, but it's definitely worth checking out from a music standpoint. As for the lyrics, who couldn't use a little refresher in the basics?
The time commitment required to see all of The Kentucky Cycle didn't deter area theatergoers from sampling Robert Schenkkan's nine-play, six-hour epic. Even though the evening could have easily degenerated into a Roots-length version of the old Daniel Boone television series, director Jeremy Cole staged the saga with economy, passion and clarity. And the splendid ensemble of actors triumphed where it mattered most, uncovering each play's unique flavor, each character's particular humanity and each time period's overriding sweep. Mostly, though, the effort amounted to a monumental achievement for the Hunger Artists ensemble.
A longtime member of Hot Rize and a well-liked member of the local music scene, Charles Sawtelle died in 1999 at age 52. But he touched a great many people while he was here, as Charles Sawtelle: Music From Rancho deVille (Acoustic Disc) amply demonstrates. Guest appearances by acoustic artisans such as Vassar Clements, Norman Blake, Jerry Douglas and Sam Bush, as well as by accordionist supreme Flaco Jimenez, ably supplement Sawtelle's own sublime picking.

The World Horror Convention 2000, held last May in Denver, wasn't for people with propellers whirling on their beanies; it was a feast for professional writers of horror. According to organizer Ed Bryant, generally accepted as the Colorado godfather of the genre, about 300 of the 500 people attending the convention were professionals: a group of editors, agents and writers that included such luminaries as Peter Straub, Steve Rasnic Tem, Dan Simmons, J. Michael Straczynski, Omni editor Ellen Datlow and the ever-argumentative Harlan Ellison. The conference provided panels and presentations as well as a wealth of networking opportunities. "There was a lot of talk about horror -- why we write it, is it a serious art form," says writer Melanie Tem. She herself reconnected with an editor she'd lost touch with and sold him two novels. Hmmm...a horror story with a happy ending.

Tucked away on a side street just a block from the 16th Street Mall, the Bovine Metropolis Theatre is a gem of a performance space, where comedy troupes like the Acme Comedy Players and the SansScript Players regularly bring out the laughs. Audiences can expect everything from improvisation to cleverly designed skits to nutty musical numbers; the theater, which also offers comedy workshops and classes, is the place to be for udder hilarity.

United Artists' vast, fifteen-house multiplex on the teeming 16th Street Mall may not be the most pleasing edifice, architecturally speaking, but when the lights go down and the credits come up, moviegoers can revel in every postmodern comfort: sculpted, well-cushioned seats arranged in the steeply canted, viewer-friendly "stadium" style, convenient cup-holders, and top-of-the-line projection and sound. Certainly, many suburban theaters boast similar high-tech facilities, but the Denver Pavilions 15 is downtown, and that's the greatest comfort of all for filmgoers who love city life.

Technically, the Cherry Bomb Club never really went away. But the release of last year's self-titled album on DivineShaker Records cast the collective -- which counts prestigious Denver music alumni, including members of the Warlock Pinchers and Foreskin 500, among its members -- in an exciting new light. Full of soundtrack soundbites, funky rhythmic loops and the undeniable diva stylings of vocalist Erica Brown, Cherry Bomb Club, the album, is one of the most soulful, fun and infectious offerings to come down the local line in a good long while -- and one that landed the group a slot at the CMJ Music Marathon in New York City last October. For now, the band's future looks a little shaky because of Brown's departure early this year; hopefully, the Club can keep it together for the good of local music and the groove in us all.

A lesser director might have turned Flyin' West into a hiss-filled potboiler. But in director Jeffrey Nickelson's capable hands, Pearl Cleage's play became an expansive ode to courage, self-determination and the price of freedom. Despite the dramatist's frank treatment of the subject of domestic

abuse, the play was hardly a sermon; instead, Nickelson and company paid tribute to the generations of trailblazing women who selflessly cleared the way for those who came after them. And Shadow's early-season production of Hughie resurrected one of Eugene O'Neill's more colorful characters with sublime grace: With all of Ralph Kramden's expansive largesse and Archie Bunker's blunt-witted pluck, actor Kurt Soderstrom brought a wealth of understanding to the character of Erie, covering a lifetime's worth of defeat, loneliness and fear in the space of 45 minutes.

Best Promoter of Musically Uncategorizable Weirdness

Tom Steenland

The man behind Boulder's Starkland Records continues to put out some of the county's most intriguing avant-garde CDs, and now Tom Steenland has branched out into a new medium: immersion. Starkland's first DVD turns the spotlight on worthy performers such as Paul Dresher, Pamela Z, Meredith Monk and Denver veteran Bruce Odland. May Steenland continue to wander far from the beaten path.

Although most people equate LoDo more with baseball than bands, Frank Schultz and his team at the Soiled Dove have been presenting living, breathing music almost every night of the week in a high-end setting. The venue's music calendar has received a considerable boost from former Herman's Hideaway booking manager Sharon Rawles, whose knack for scouting fun and promising local and national talent has given the Dove wings. Over the past year, the club has also deepened its commitment to the local music community: Lesser-known acts are invited to take the stage during the Locals Launch series, and the Dove hosts monthly Colorado Music Association meetings. With a professional staff, impeccable sound system and music-supporting spirit, the Soiled Dove is on its way to becoming one of the best music rooms in the state.

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