Best Place to Keep It Real 2001 | El Chapultepec | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword
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.
The neon sign beckons you downstairs, and the soothing, softly lit room, the comfortable chairs and the consistently great jazz will keep you inside Vartan Jazz Club. This venue has welcomed the likes of trumpet legend Freddie Hubbard, hard-bop pioneer Horace Silver and the amazing Cuban pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba, among many others. There's dancing and dining, too, but for an always-reliable roster of first-rate talent, no spot is better.
Amsterdam's owners cast an even larger net over the local club scene with the opening of Pure last year, a sort of pulsating oasis on Welton Street. But it's Amsterdam that stands out as their most brilliant achievement. On Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, the club opens its door to dancers eighteen and over and leaves them open until the wee hours of the morning. Local and international DJs spin in the space that, true to its name, achieves the Euro-chic vibe that complements electronic beats so well. Amsterdam is a welcome late-night option for those who know that watching the sun come up after a long night of shaking your booty is one of life's pure pleasures.
Earlier this year, the folks at Vinyl, the club that rose from the ashes after a fire gutted its interior in 2000, got smart: They invited Hardy Kalisher, the brains behind the internationally recognized Boulder club Soma, to help them brainstorm a new direction for their space. The result is Club Next, which takes over Vinyl's multi-leveled dance floors three nights a week, with Kalisher at the production helm. Judging by the offerings so far -- the venue officially launched with a performance from Ben Watt of Everything but the Girl fame -- Club Next is poised to usher in a progressive club scene in D-Town by hosting national and internationally known DJs, as well as provide the opportunity for locals to regularly spin for the dance-happy crowds. This is one club that's definitely worth belonging to.
Every Wednesday night, The Snake Pit puts aside the dance and Gothic music that normally dominates its sound system to make way for Shag, during which Anglophiles dance to new and old music from the canon of British pop. Introduced in the spirit of the Pit's original Brit-pop night, Quid, Shag has grown into one of the most happening club-theme nights in town, where the sounds of Oasis, the Stone Roses and David Bowie inspire club kids to unite under a common musical flag. There's no bollocks about it.

Every year, the Capitol Hill United Neighborhood-sponsored People's Fair showcases some of the finest local artists in mediums ranging from aura photography to basket weaving. It's the music, though, that's of particular interest to many People -- and before the nearly 100 bands converge on the fair's myriad stages, they have to audition. Last March, more than fifty hopefuls took their turns on two stages at the Soiled Dove, playing fifteen-minute sets to the delight of fans and judges alike. Though the quality of the fare ranged, the brevity of the auditions guaranteed a little something for everyone with even a passing interest in local sounds.

Last November, cable-TV giant Starz Encore and company chairman John J. Sie pledged $5 million cash and launched a $7 million fund drive to finance a three-screen, state-of-the-art movie theater facility in the Tivoli. The Starz Encore Film Center, scheduled to open in summer 2002, will become the permanent home of the peripatetic Denver International Film Festival, as well as the site of year-round screenings and film education programs overseen by the University of Colorado at Denver. At last, Denver will have a suitable home for the cinematic arts equal to its art museum and concert halls.

When the impossibly fanciful costumery creations of Howard Crabtree had to be re-created for a local production of Crabtree's campy revue When Pigs Fly at Theatre on Broadway, costumer Lamecia Landrum was completely up to the task. While other career costumers might have been slammed by the demands of fabricating Crabtree's outrageously outlandish drag wear, Landrum stepped to the plate with a swagger, creating believable mermaid and pig suits, a centaur, giant playing cards, and wearable vanity tables that transformed themselves into seventeenth-century gowns with remarkable savoir faire. Crabtree's vision was in good hands.
Take a walk on the wild side at Crested Butte's annual Wildflower Festival. Now about fifteen years old (in good Crested Butte fashion, the origins of the event are a little vague), this festival remains as fresh and invigorating as an alpine meadow after a summer shower. Crested Butte is known as the Wildflower Capitol of Colorado -- it's the micro-climate, stupid -- and you'll be convinced that the title's well-deserved after just a few minutes at this weeklong summer festival. Official activities include wildflower walks that are easy, moderate and downright challenging, along with tours, photography workshops, sketching instruction, cooking classes and musical entertainment; unofficial activities include lying in fields filled with bright flowers and drinking yourself silly in Crested Butte's classic bars. This year's festival is set for July 9-15.
Past seasons have seen Lori Hansen play a lewd nun (Nine), and a failed poet, chorus member and disturbed nun (Suddenly Last Summer). Last fall Hansen eschewed her twisted-sister ways and turned in a nicely controlled performance as a wronged Cherokee bride in part one of The Kentucky Cycle. As another performer knelt by the side of a rustic bed and simulated the sounds of childbirth, Hansen told the moving story of her son's arrival through suggestive movement and lyrical speech. Later, she demonstrated that she was capable of more than saintly forbearance, seeking revenge in a way that wound up casting a pall over her character's entire family. Hansen always creates distinctive characters without letting them detract from the play's bigger picture.

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