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.
Taking the Rock 'n' Bowl concept to a higher level, the Beats and Bowling underground parties at Elitch Lanes offer glow-in-the-dark bowling 'til 5 a.m., with a continuous underground party-music soundtrack, for the imminently justifiable cover charge of fifteen bucks (which includes all bowling). Upon arrival, bowlers pick up their shoes and declare allegiance to one of several local DJ collectives (Casa Del Soul, Mile High House, etc.). At the beginning of each hour, scores are automatically tallied, and the DJs representing the team in the lead take over the turntables for the next sixty minutes. Organized by local DJ and promoter Eric Shimp, better known on the club scene as DJ Sexclown (we're serious - and so is he, apparently), the Beats and Bowling parties are sporadically scheduled and unadvertised by conventional means. Watch for fliers or visit the Mile High House Web site for your next chance to pick up a spare at four in the morning.


You'd be wise to arrive at the Gemini Tea Emporium early on the last Friday of every month; by 10 p.m., the bright, lovely Gemini spills over like a too-filled teacup. Packing them in is Cafe Nuba, a performance-poetry series that draws the most energetic, passionate and politically infused young writers, lyricists, hip-hop rhymers and straight-up new-school bards. Host Lady Speech conducts the artful mishmash, in which all are invited to read on a first-come, first-slammed basis. Now broadcast on the Boulder-based Free Speech TV network, Cafe Nuba is beaming into screens across the nation; fortunately for Denver, the real thing can be experienced live. Cafe Nuba may just signal the rebirth of cool verse in our town.


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Most evenings at the Climax Lounge, the game area in a back room is open to everyone. But every Thursday night, novices are advised to step aside and let the experts do their thing. Boasting one of Denver's only competitive p-ball competitions, the Lounge has become a sporting destination for indie rockers, punks and pinball wizards who like to ping and pong metallic balls around -- and who take said activity very seriously. Cheap beer, good music and free admission are among the attributes that make the Climax Challenge fun for spectators as well as players. This club's got game.


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