Best Recording by a Newcomer 2003 | Dreams of a Lost TribeJohn Davis | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword
After a few years of toiling in the music shadows, Dixie transplant John Davis has finally treated the local music consciousness with his unique take on American roots music. Dreams of the Lost Tribe is a lush, layered masterpiece of deep-fried Americana that's equal parts Flannery O'Connor, deep-bottom blues and Tin Pan Alley treasure. Chock-full of imagery, emotion and fresh language, this debut is a commanding stunner.

David Eugene Edwards is the grandson of a Nazarene preacher, and like a chip off the old block (or in this case, brimstone) he offers up his solo debut side project Wovenhand. The presentation sounds as though it has gathered some dust, probably because it is largely derivative of his band 16 Horsepower. But Wovenhand's message -- like the call of a street-corner doomsday prophet -- is hard to ignore.

No matter how mainstream and mall-ready punk rock gets, there's always a new batch of bands lurking in dirty bars and warehouses tearing out the type of hot-wired, four-chord rock that launched the genre almost thirty years ago. On Undead in Denver, compiler Timmy Gibb and producer Bart McCrorey have assembled a cast of sixteen local bands contributing two songs each, most of which heavily reference the sound of punk legends such as Social Distortion, Channel 3, the Avengers and the Ramones. Standout tracks include Reno Divorce's "Getting Used to You," The Hacks' "Vodka," Teenage Bottlerocket's "Mini Skirt" and the Swanks' "Big Man Mouth" -- but the whole disc rumbles with the subterranean shock of raw, honest and uncorrupted punk rock.

Under the leadership of music director Marin Alsop, the Colorado Symphony Orchestra released a new CD this year through the Naxos imprint. Recorded live at Boettcher Hall, the disc offers a unique take on two of Tchaikovsky's more popular symphonic compositions. So far, Naxos has distributed 4,500 copies to retail stores, and sales have been better than expected; we'd call that a coup in the world of classical music.

Despite their collective name, the members of Accidental Superhero have worked hard in their seven years, making their own success instead of waiting around for a record-label deal. The Internet-savvy Colorado Springs outfit racked up close to a million downloads through, repeatedly edging past radio-saturating bands and onto that site's top-ten list. Now their music can be heard across the country on low-watt FM stations, as well as many other places on the Web. The Superheros self-sold over 10,000 copies of their first CD back in 1998; a new disc, Full Circle, is poised to do even better. The New York Post is just one in the gaggle of press cheering the band on. All this, and they can leap tall buildings in a single bound.

The minds behind -- Dan Vigil, Kelly Beckwith, Nate Weaver and Trish Baird -- have done a fine job in the past few years, moving from a mere message board to what is now a comprehensive online resource for those interested in local performers of all stripes. Offering a local calendar along with news, reviews, interviews and a comprehensive database of performers, the site covers the Mile High scene admirably and is eminently surfable. Deep down, though, it's the creators' straightforward and sincere enthusiasm for local music that makes it all happen.

Louisville-based UltraCo Inc., once a darling of the Boulder-area high-tech economy, has since fallen on harder times. Founded in 1999, the company rebuffed a few acquisition attempts, only to see its business model fizzle after the dot-bomb. But UltraPlayer media software, with its customizable appearance and the versatility to play all of the most popular audio and video formats, is still among the cream of the crop -- and even though the company is defunct, the software is still available to download for free online.

At a show that recast the Flaming Lips as a backing combo for Beck, bandleader Wayne Coyne enlisted nearly thirty local fans to join the band on stage, cloaked in full animal-suit regalia.
The Ogden Theatre isn't exactly a quiet room. On most nights, the music is loud and so is the crowd, the members of which angle for position, and cocktails, on the floor and in an upper balcony. But when the Icelandic dreamspace outfit Sigur Rós performed for a sold-out show in November, the place took on the feel of a symphonic chamber. Attendees appeared genuinely stunned by the gorgeous, whale-sound music they were hearing, as well as the accompanying film reels projected on a giant screen. Vocalist Jón Thor Birgisson wailed siren songs and led a large band through waves of blissful sound shaped by keyboards, piano, strings and guitars played with violin bows. No wonder the audience couldn't stop staring: Watching Sigur Rós's performance was like watching the Northern Lights move about the sky.

Tea and Harry just seem to go together, like frogs' eyes and newts' toes. And nearly 200 million books sold worldwide doesn't hurt, either. So Oak & Berries Tearoom owner Roxanne Mays hosts Harry Potter teas each November for kids of all ages to get together over a cuppa to discuss the newest book's possibilities or recount the latest on-screen antics of Harry, Hermione and Ron. It's a splendid, Hogwarts-worthy setting, and costumes are welcome, as are good appetites: The Tearoom offers finger sandwiches, hot chocolate and other tidbits to all attending Potterphiles. We assume there's a nice, safe place to park broomsticks.

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