Charlie Brown's Bar & Grill
Mark Antonation
As Boulder's goody-two-shoes influence spreads insidiously across the Front Range, more and more smokers are forced to find public spaces that still allow the open practice of their vice. At Charlie Brown's, smoking is not only allowed, it's practically encouraged. Four people settling down to dine will be provided with at least three ashtrays, regardless of their location beneath the impotent No Smoking sign. Two enormous filter fans, a slight nod to the non-smokers on the other side of the bar, work overtime but do little to relieve lungs of secondhand smoke or clothes of the permeating smell of blessed nicotine. Smoke 'em while you still can, and do it at Charlie Brown's, where everybody might not know your name, but they certainly know your smokers' cough.


Sancho's Broken Arrow
Sarah McGill
For a bathroom to be considered "the best," it must reek more of personality than of your drinking buddy's puke. The men's restroom at Sancho's may not be the cleanest in Denver, but like the tie-dyed audience at a Phish show, hygiene is not central to its appeal. With elaborately airbrushed portraits of granola-centric staples like Bob Marley, Jim Morrison and John Lennon, the room can make a three-Long Island Iced Tea bender feel like an acid trip. Since it's a men's restroom, it is not completely free of graffiti (it takes only a few strokes of a sharpie to make a mushroom look phallic), but even your non-Deadhead friends will find the Jerry Garcia mirror groovy.
Gabor's
A women's restroom must always give a little bit more. For the ladies, it's a place not only to take care of business, but to seek refuge when the guys are going over the score of last night's Avs game for the umpteenth time. Gabor's offers a collage-crazy restroom that mostly resembles an introverted teenage girl's bedroom. The walls are covered with a mishmash of old Life magazine photos, Vogue fashion ads and poetry - not dirty limericks -- scratched on the walls. Portraits of beefcake Ben Affleck co-exist with portraits of beef-jerky punk icon Iggy Pop, with a painting of Charlie Chaplin in the left stall to keep you company. The rooms are an extension of Gabor's old- and new-school aesthetic -- and they could be more interesting than your date.


Sundown Saloon
It's hard to believe that one can actually find a bar with some diversity in a town teeming with rich white frat boys. Everyone from toothless locals cadging ciggies in the penalty box (smoking room), to burly Air Force guys out for some rugged homo-social bonding, to poor graduate students taking advantage of the free pool (until 10 p.m.) can be found here, rubbing elbows in perfect harmony. The jukebox, while schizophrenic in its selection, functions well as social glue: Pool players across the room can be heard singing along to Johnny Cash one minute and Radiohead the next. It's a beautiful sight, but remember: No matter what your race, color, or creed, don't put your damn feet on the pool tables.


Larry Daniel is the unflappable gent who has been running the door and deejaying at the Climax and its predecessor, the Raven, since the locale's disco heyday. He's also been putting up gracefully with hordes of punk brats and drunk scenesters since the venue started hosting rock shows in 1994. When he's trying to clear the room at 1:45 in the morning, he gets on stage and bellows into the mike, "All right, folks -- it's No-Tell Motel time!" Which is pretty funny during an all-ages show, when the crowd is made up of sixteen-year-old kids with liberty spikes.


Golden's historic Buffalo Rose is one of the state's better music rooms. What makes it so special? A split-level roadhouse layout and soundman Mike Maloney. The always-accommodating Maloney finesses the Rose's full-sized P.A. to perfection, thrilling listeners with a sound that's big but never blows out eardrums. Patrons enjoy Maloney's artistry, and players reap the bennies from behind the stacks with a stage mix that's arena-rich but not overdone.
Ronnie Crawford could probably bench-press more than all of the young rockabilly kids who sidle up to the Skylark Lounge's long bar combined. At sixty, the stylish, sunny barkeep pulls pints and chats up the retro and twang-loving crowd that frequents the Baker neighborhood watering hole with a vigor and youthfulness that belie his technical status as a senior citizen. A longtime presence in the Broadway business district, Crawford knows almost everyone who walks through the 'Lark's door, and his brain buzzes with stories and jokes about the neighborhood, past and present.


The idea of a lawyer for Qwest -- a company that just saw four of its executives indicted on a variety of nasty charges -- making new-age music in his spare time makes perfect sense: Who in such a position couldn't use a little stress relief? But considerably more unexpected is the fact that Broken Voyage, Kelly David's debut recording, is a compelling and captivating excursion into the ambient/space genre that's deservedly won national acclaim. Even an attorney couldn't object to that.


While Norah "Where the hell did she come from?" Jones went home with an armful of awards after the 2003 Grammy awards in New York City, Denver-reared India.Arie managed to grab two of her own. The soulful singer snagged statues for Best Urban/Alternative Performance for the song "Little Things," and Best R&B Album for her sophomore release, Voyage to India. Arie's former Nuggets father, Ralph Simpson, must have taught the diva-with-a-conscience how to make a slam dunk.


Change, especially the easygoing kind, takes time. But after a while, it starts to show. Such is the case at Swallow Hill, where in the few years since the venue moved to its present space and Jim Williams took over as director, the concert hall/music school has quietly turned into an entrenched community presence. Something goes on there almost every day, be it a coffeehouse jam session, gallery opening, song circle, recording session or major concert, and, as always, students of all ages come and go, lugging their guitar cases, mandolins, fiddles and autoharps hither and thither. Music lives in this old church building, and Swallow Hill's welcoming door always seems to be open.

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