Best Singing Hero 2001 | Christopher SimmonsPHAMALy | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword
Before Christopher Simmons died of an aneurysm last year, he had begun working on improving the singing skills and overall professionalism of the group he'd performed with for several seasons. According to one of his colleagues at PHAMALy (The Physically Handicapped Amateur Musical Actor's League), Simmons "admonished us to prepare better for auditions, take classes and to raise things up a notch. During the last few months, one of PHAMALy's volunteers has taken over his project," the friend continues, "and I'm hoping that his challenge will make people rise to the occasion. If PHAMALy wants to be taken seriously, we've got to work harder at it." Giving a posthumous award is one way to honor his memory; but picking up where Simmons left off would be even better.

While some young Jews have drifted away, organizers of the regular Friday-night Shabbat Unplugged at Temple Emanuel have figured out a way to make the Song of David ring out. Featuring modern instruments and a rabbi who can riff, the monthly event has been catching on. Where once there were little more than a hundred people in the synagogue, there now comes a crowd of some 800 or more singing, swaying and praying. This is truly a musical mitzvah.

Backed by a band that included sister Astrid and wife Pegi, Neil Young ably demonstrated that he still has the chops, the power and the appeal to keep fans coming back again and again. And again. In three consecutive sold-out appearances at Red Rocks -- one of which included a freakish downpour that didn't manage to turn the music, or the audience's enthusiasm, soggy -- Young's performance was nearly flawless. In a setting that matched his almost prehistoric essence, he tore through acoustic renderings of gentler material and blazed through more visceral favorites, at times appearing to be transfixed in some netherspace reserved for genuine guitar demigods. We can only hope he keeps on rockin'.

Best Steps Taken by a Public Institution

Poets Way

They're four small steps for Boulder, but four giant steps for poem-kind: The first four of fifty proposed engraved sandstone slabs were laid in a walkway at the Boulder Public Library's south entrance last fall, featuring quotes by poets Wawatay Eninew, Rabindrath Tagore, Thomas Hornsby Ferril and Anna Akhmatova. According to project coordinator Michael Evans-Smith, a few new poets will be added to the walk each year for the next ten years; Evans-Smith hopes that upon completion, Poets Way will be "an interface between our world and the quieter, darker, more peaceful world beyond." A refreshing idea in a noisy, media-driven new millennium.

Over the years, Ocean View Books (the press relocated from the West Coast in the mid 1990s, thus the name) has published a series of volumes on the history of Colorado art. The two-person operation -- Lee Ballentine is the designer; his wife, Jennifer MacGregor, is the editor -- has just put out its tenth issue, The Erotic Art of Edgar Britton, by poet Jane Hilberry. The volume takes a look at Britton, the state's most significant modern sculptor of the mid-twentieth century. Previous monographs have been devoted to Edward Marecak and Roland Detre; there have also been surveys on modern sculpture and painting. Luckily for us, Ocean View isn't finished yet, with more books in the Documents of Colorado Art collection being added to the list all the time.
You know the cows are coming home when normally sleek and sultry local entertainer Lannie Garrett pulls on her cowgirl outfit and emerges as Patsy DeCline, a country singer who's never going to make it to the Grand Ole Opry. On Friday and Saturday nights through May 5, the popular sendup of country music transforms the Denver Buffalo Company into the ReCliner Lounge. You'd be crazy to miss it.
In an unprecedented collaboration between the Denver Art Museum and the Denver Performing Arts Complex, the outdoor exhibit Joel Shapiro was presented on DPAC's lawn on Speer Boulevard; an additional piece has been placed in front of the DAM. The traveling show, which was put together by New York curator Martin Friedman, includes classic Shapiros in welded steel and aluminum dating from the 1980s to the present. Many are signature pieces that reconcile figural abstraction with minimalism by using clusters of steel beams to suggest the human figure. The exhibit will remain in place through May.
Rather than let a shrinking market for live music and shriveling pay end his career, Trace Christensen rolled with the changes. He's now replaced bandmates with his own pre-recorded tracks, taking his one-man karaoke company into area clubs. As one musician playing the parts of four or five headbangers, Christensen's oddball act is a gas to witness, one that rocks like no other solo effort in town.
Vertical Garden was the best of three solo exhibits mounted this past winter that showcased the most recent work of Lakewood sculptor Chuck Parson. An apparent workaholic, Parson created two complete environments for this show along with a group of related sculptures, all of which attempted to put a human face on our technological society. The tour de force was "Vertical Moment," a ceremonial space surrounded by a metaphorical fence and equipped with an acoustic baffle and amplifier, allowing viewers to hear their own footfalls on the walkway that leads into the piece. Parson is one of the state's most sophisticated artists, and this exhibit was one of the best last season.

Clark ov Saturn was a multifaceted contributor to Denver's scene before his 1999 move to New York City. His local-access cable show -- one teaching German, no less -- never seemed to get in the way of his ambient DJ gigs or the touring schedule of his techno/industrial unit, ph-10. Now ensconced as a DJ in Brooklyn coffee shop/vintage store Halcyon (its global prestige goes far beyond the dark roast), Clark has found time to expand his portfolio. Which explains why the Clarkster was found strolling through Manhattan, coffee in hand, in the guise of a dot-com superstar in one of Visa's Christmas commercials. Go, Clark.

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