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.
The morning personality on the CU-Boulder station, Alisha is perky without being cloying, and she goes out of her way to give listeners new information about the tunes she spins. Special features include regular interviews with the station's music director, Denise von Minden, that highlight the latest additions to the outlet's playlist, and "Artist of the Week" segments assembled in part by listeners. Through these efforts, Alisha keeps the focus right where it belongs, which is on Radio 1190's great music.
Let's be Frank: She got da stank! You can take it to the bank.
When Newsweek correspondent Daniel Glick set out to chronicle the October 1998 fires that did $12 million in damage to Vail, he wound up writing what could be Colorado's ultimate whodunit -- albeit one still without a conclusion (the list of suspects is long, however). But in shining a light on the alleged acts of eco-terrorism, Glick illuminates a much bigger puzzle: How a sleepy nook in the Eagle Valley turned into the world's biggest ski area, a company town that answers to Wall Street rather than the romantic muse of the ski bum. Powder Burn adds up to a stunning indictment of how Colorado sold itself down the Eagle River. And where there's smoke, there's ire.
From navy blazers to red vests to bold Hawaiian luau-wear, Denver's frat-rock revivalists, the Orangu-Tones, are always in complete harmony -- from a fashion standpoint, that is. "Authentic" is the key adjective here: These guys wouldn't look out of place at a 1962 sock hop. The Tones' reliable uniformity is particularly refreshing in a time when many outfits seem to have forgotten that clothes sometimes make the band.
Grizzly Rose
Eric Gruneisen
Denver's long-lived country establishment has had its share of troubles over the past year. But despite a little scandal, some ownership troubles and battles with state liquor law-enforcement agencies, there's a bloom on the Rose again. Thanks to new management -- the place is now helmed by longtime Grizzly Rose dance instructors Kathy and Bill Ripolla -- this expansive roadhouse has returned to hosting national and regional country bands and serving longnecks to thirsty cowboys and girls. Area country fans, thrilled with the recovery, are boot-scootin' back to the Rose.
Mercury Cafe
From swing to salsa, dance crazes come and go with an almost Swiss precision. (We're still awaiting the return of the Freddy.) At the advance of each new wave, the Mercury Cafe is ready, opening its funky doors to dancers of all persuasions. While swing and lindy hop are still going strong, tango currently reigns supreme in Marilyn Megenity's luscious eatery/bar/cabaret on California Street, with weekly milongas, classes for dancers of all levels (from beginners to very advanced) and the occasional opportunity to learn from a visiting Argentine master. The Merc still shines brightly in the firmament of local nightlife.

La Rumba
Eric Gruneisen
You needn't know how to dance when you enter Sevilla, but it helps: Five nights a week, the gorgeous, Euro-style nightclub inside the Icehouse ushers in hordes of well-dressed dance-floor denizens, who move to the cardio beat of live Latin sounds, from merengue to mambo and salsa. Even if you prefer to just relax and watch other people shake their shimmery thangs, Sevilla is still a desirable nightspot: The drinks are reasonable, the atmosphere festive but not overpowering, and the clientele always entertaining. Sevilla has more Spanish flavor than a fire-roasted chile pepper.
Fox Theatre
Brandon Marshall
For a theater stuck in the middle of a college town that's about as white as the inside of a hospital toilet bowl, the Fox Theatre sure knows how to kick some flava: More than any other venue in the state, it consistently hosts fine performances by up-and-coming hip-hop talent along with its indie-rock and pop artists. The Fox's rap-centric calendar is made all the more appealing by a crystal-clear sound system and well-designed floor plan: You can actually see -- and understand -- the performers on stage. We hope the Fox maintains its good rap for a long time to come.

El Chapultepec
Courtesy El Chapultepec
It's hard to keep it real these days in chic, overpriced LoDo, but no place keeps it real better than Jerry Krantz's El Chapultepec jazz club, an undeniably divey institution. It's smoky, true. And crowded, yes! But it costs only one beer to get in, and you can count on the local musicians to play like it's their last night on earth.

Best Of Denver®

Best Of