Schlessman Family Branch Library
In the past, music sections at most public libraries have been of little interest to anyone other than fans of Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops. But the Schlessman Family Branch of the Denver Public Library is an enormous exception to this rule. The year-old library has approximately 10,000 items in its audiovisual section, including multiple copies of the most popular DVDs. Better yet, the CD selection is wonderfully eclectic and includes rock that's apt to appeal to even the most esoteric listener. (One patron reports having recently found discs by the Magnetic Fields, the New York Dolls and Beth Orton.) Because word of the branch's assemblage has spread, the shelves aren't always jammed -- but you'll always find something you never thought would be stocked in a public library.
There's only one place to surf while snacking on a pressed-beef lunch: the Arby's at 11th and Broadway. Their Cyber Cafe -- the only one in the state -- has two Macs with broadband connections for your dining pleasure. Just don't think it's a free-for-all. The corporate offices cracked down earlier this year after customers hacked into their PCs and changed internal settings and downloaded a new wallpaper. And don't spill any Horsey sauce on the keyboard -- the porn patrol would not be amused.
In the last decade, Swamp Co. proprietor/artist Lindsey Kuhn has silk-screened thousands of his signature day-glo pop-art rock posters, promoting the concerts of Fugazi, Beck and Ween in the process. Kuhn began his career in the Mississippi skate-punk scene, relocating to Texas for a spell before finally settling here in 1999. His business is part DIY, part speculative: Kuhn provide the music-venue customer with a stack of posters free of charge, then squirrels away another stack to sign and sell as limited-edition prints. The strategy works just dandy, as the rock poster has evolved from disposable ephemera into collectible fine art over the last twenty years.
For the last half-century, OME Banjo Company founder Chuck Ogsbury has been the mind behind some of the best banjos money can buy. Gram Parsons, Bela Fleck and Pete Wernick are a just a few of the musicians to pluck these instruments that double as striking objects d'art. The company crafts traditional, jazz and bluegrass models, twanging out about 125 annually in best-of-the-best woods, such as curly maple, Honduran mahogany, Gabonese ebony and Brazilian rosewood. For serious banjo buffs, OME's top-shelf models have 23.5-karat gold plating. No gold records guaranteed.
Twist & Shout
Ken Hamblin III
Lurking around every one of Twist & Shout's cash registers, display racks and merchandise cases are employees who'll share a little -- or a lot -- of what they know without the music-snob sneer. Of course, if members of the Twist staff were feeling a little smug, we couldn't blame them: Fifteen years after vowing to cultivate the best record store in Denver, owner Paul Epstein and his wife, Jill, preside over a rarified retail gem. Why do we love it so? For starters, Twist has the city's best selection of new CDs from artists both mainstream and totally remote. It regularly hosts in-store performances by artists stopping through town on tour. (The Flaming Lips and Elvis Costello are recent drop-ins.) It's one of the few outlets where local musicians are invited to sell their merchandise without the hassle of consignment. We also love Paul's willowy white hair, the ample listening stations, the Little Homies for sale. Mostly, we love that Twist & Shout remains an actual family-style store -- complete with in-house cat! They shake it up, baby.
Wax Trax Records
In these crappy economic times, independent music retailers keep locking their doors for the last time as big-box merchants and Internet piracy threaten their future. But Wax Trax, one of the original indie-store survivors, is cooler than ever after two decades. The outlet gathers together an enormous collection of new and used CDs, vinyl and 45s with prices that range from reasonable to ridiculously low. And it's got world-class cred: The original owners actually started the Chicago Wax Trax label, which gave the world heavy industrial music, after selling the shop to regular patrons. As a result, the store's run by fans of music, rather than people trying to make money off of music. Denver would be a lesser place without it.
Many Boulderites were nervous when Scott Woodland sold the Video Station. It seemed impossible that any new owner could maintain such an erudite staff, the huge and unmatchable selection of films and the unmistakable spirit of the place. But so far Bruce Shamma and Sheri Lapres, who took over last summer, are making old-time patrons breathe sighs of relief. They seem as dedicated to film as Woodland, and the shelves of new releases look nothing like a Blockbuster. There are even some interesting new candies for sale at the counter, including violet pastilles from New York. The town owes Woodland much gratitude for his community-centeredness and the years building up this unique Boulder institution.

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