Best Small Venue 2004 | Soiled Dove | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword
Eric Gruneisen
Everything about the Soiled Dove is rock-solid. Located in the heart of LoDo, it provides an intimate experience unlike any other room. The stage is situated so that there isn't a bad seat in the house, the distance between performer and patron is negligible, and the lights and sound are simply stellar. With a consistent lineup that caters to the best local and national emerging artists, the Dove has become Denver's place to play. And Above the Dove, the venue's rooftop patio, is the perfect place to chill between bands.
After years of sliding faders and twisting knobs for local luminaries such as Blister 66, Rocket Ajax, Chaos Theory and countless other acts, James Martinez has finally found a home behind the boards at the Blue Mule. From one-man acoustic acts to balls-out gutter punks and everything in between, Martinez has mixed them all. And with a keen understanding of the importance of tone versus volume, space and dynamics, Martinez continues to make even the most marginal of musicians sound like superstars without making anyone's ears bleed. Over the past decade, Martinez has mixed at damn near every club and venue in the city, but he's never sounded as good as he does at the Mule.
Because so many downtown warehouses once used for rehearsal spaces have been recast as lofts and galleries, Denver is experiencing an epidemic of homeless musicians. Rents are up all over, but that's only part of the problem; after all, who wants to rent to a bunch of kids with Stratocasters? Actually, John Burr does. He opened Sound Structure Studios on a stretch of Walnut Street that's still desolate enough to accommodate the collective racket of the more than twenty bands that call the place home. The recording and rehearsal spaces are clean, spacious, reasonably priced and well insulated -- which means jammers don't have to worry about getting their reggae mixed up with someone else's bluegrass. Burr plans to open a bar on the site, just for his tenants to hang out and jam in: Consider it a clubhouse for the under-appreciated, under-funded, often unwashed masses also known as local musicians.
The first time the Mars Volta came to town, in November 2001, it was easily outshone by the other acts on the night's bill. Vocalist Cedric Bixler and guitarist Omar Rodriguez seemed reserved, even timid, despite being widely renowned for their explosive stage presence as members of the critically acclaimed El Paso quartet At the Drive In. But by the time they returned two years later in support of the just-released Mars Volta debut -- the epochal prog-rock masterpiece De-Loused in the Comatorium -- their sound and live show had noticeably coalesced. The result was simply the best concert of the year. Unfortunately, it's also probably one of the last times the band will play a venue this intimate.
Garage rocker-turned-director Davis G. Coombe spent six years chronicling the explicit and unpredictable behavior of the Czars, Orbit Service and Rainbow Sugar, then boiled it down into a 99-minute exposé of Denver's underground music scene, warts and all. Intimate, candid and stylish, The Tornado Dream not only graced the 2003 Starz Denver International Film Festival, but it gave local-music fans a glimpse of band life beyond the stage.
Home to the Denver International Film Festival for ten days each October, the eight-house Starz FilmCenter features top-drawer art films and lively revivals through the remainder of the year, along with Saturday-morning programs for children, film-and-discussion nights, themed series and frequent showcases for Colorado filmmakers. In February, Starz hosted the eighth Denver Jazz on Film Festival, in March the Denver Jewish Film Festival. Coming Soon: The sixth Latino World Cinema series (April 1-4) and the fifth Pan-African Film Festival (April 26-May 2). Another program of note this year: "The Psychiatrist and the Critic," in which representatives from those two fields discuss with audience members the messages in All That Jazz, Ponette and the 1956 version of Hitchcock's The Man Who Knew Too Much.
A perennial winner in the movie-food category, the venerable Mayan Theatre serves up the kind of quirky, whole-earth stuff that goes just fine with such indie cinema as 21 Grams or the latest slice-and-dice action from Hong Kong. The Alternative Baking Company's vegan cookies -- Peanut Butter Persuasion is our top choice -- are sure winners, and the politically correct Ben & Jerry's ice cream bars (Heath Toffee Crunch, anyone?) are just right, especially if you're voting for Kerry this year. Those still happy to wallow in high-sodium comfort food will want the Vienna Bagel Dog, heavy on the mustard and relish. The juices are still Odwalla, and the gourmet chocolates are straight from neutral Switzerland. But save room for an after-movie snack at either of the Mayan's neighbors, the Hornet or Seor Burrito.
Seen one multiplex, pretty much seen 'em all. But the Colorado Center Stadium 9, operated by United Artists Theatres, has a couple of minimal advantages: plenty of indoor and outdoor parking, close proximity to pre- or post-movie refreshment (i.e., Dave & Buster's) and, if you're in the mood for a little sensory overload, an IMAX house with a five-story screen, a deafening sound system and an all-encompassing atmosphere. Otherwise, the auditoriums are spotless, the extra-wide stadium seats very comfortable and the cup-holders commodious enough for the biggest $5 soft drink. State-of-the art sound and sure-handed projection enhance the experience. The cinematic fare is standard, but the comfort is exceptional -- even if you're steeped in the gore of The Passion of the Christ.
Since 1941 (the year Citizen Kane was released), the University of Colorado's International Film Series has been a major cultural resource. The inventive CU programmers continue apace in their efforts to bring in exotic and important work. Recently, IFS's "Cult Cinema" series featured screenings of Alferd Packer: The Musical, The American Astronaut and Waking Life; a seven-film tribute to the late Rainer Werner Fassbinder included The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant, The Merchant of Four Seasons and Effi Briest, among others. A few upcoming IFS films: To Be and to Have, a lovely French tribute to the teaching profession; Crumb, the too-little-seen biopic about underground cartoonist Robert Crumb, and That Obscure Object of Desire, the surreal classic by Luis Buuel.
Francis Ford Coppola's daughter, Sofia (the Oscar-winning writer/director of Lost in Translation), gets most of the attention these days, but the man who created the Godfather trilogy, Apocalypse Now and The Conversation was as thoughtful, congenial and engaging as any Denver International Film Festival honoree in recent memory when he appeared briefly at DIFF in October. The bearded bear who helped transform American movies in the 1970s was courtly and unstintingly informative with reporters, confessing to one, "There's no place for me anymore in the film industry." He gave himself wholeheartedly to festival-goers as he discussed everything from the wine business to the re-release of his strange Las Vegas musical, One From the Heart (1982). For newly elected Denver mayor John Hickenlooper, Coppola was a pure thrill: "My best day in office so far," Hick cracked at the buffet table.

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