When Polytoxic re-created the Band's Last Waltz in its entirety on the night before Thanksgiving last year, it pulled out all the stops. An epic production that came uncannily close to replicating the real thing, Polytoxic and more than two dozen of its closest musician friends transported the capacity crowd back 25 years, to that legendary night at Winterland in San Francisco. Although Tori Pater and company had previously taken on other classic albums -- one a month, to be specific, including Terrapin Station, Zenyatta Mondatta, Fiyo on the Bayou, The Joshua Tree, Hoist, In the Jungle Groove, Houses of the Holy, Exile on Main Street and Appetite for Destruction -- their performance on this November night was nothing less than stunning.
Goosetown Tavern
The King lives...at the Goosetown Tavern. Elvis may be best known locally for putting head to pillow at the old Regency Hotel or shopping at the now-closed Kortz Jewelers on the 16th Street Mall, but it wasn't those venerable locations that his spirit chose to inhabit in perpetuity; it was along East Colfax Avenue, at the Goosetown. Hanging above the bar is what appears to be your standard, run-of-the-mill velvet Elvis painting, but if you watch closely, you can see him get all shook up. Some say his shimmy is just the wind from the front door as it opens and closes, but we know when we're in the presence of royalty. Thank you, thank you very much.
It was a seemingly normal night when all hell broke loose at the Climax Lounge. A few notes into the third or fourth song of their set, the members of No Plot Kill, a Northglenn-based hardcore trio, inexplicably stopped playing, threw down their instruments and tore off outside the building -- with the entire bar in tow. Then the Plot thickened. Apparently the band's ire had been spiked by the opening act -- a group of indignant, prefab, suburban Hot Topic punks called Crack Whore -- who spit on No Plot Kill's frontman David Bartz while he was on stage. In the end, though, the Whores narrowly avoided getting punked: Bartz and company gave the liberty-spiked crumb-snatchers a reprieve when they realized the kids were barely old enough to shave.
It must have been like that line from The Blues Brothers when the immortal Baldo Rex got back together for one night in January at the Lair: "We're putting the band back together. We're on a mission from God." And though another recent notable reunion -- of Babihed -- was inevitable, will last longer and will probably overshadow what was just a one-off for the immortal Baldo Rex, to see Baldo's Ted Thacker waxing his ax again was a dream come true for those who recall the noisetastic band, which called it quits in the late '90s. Churning out smart punk Weirdos style, Phil Wronski might have still had a stuffed animal stuck in his zipper when he belted out, "We have to cling together/ Like family/ Like lovers/ We are the rupture." If only the dirtheads had never taken over 7 South.
Fox Theatre
Brandon Marshall
There's a reason the Fray chose to film parts of its first video at Boulder's Fox Theatre. Aside from being among the country's best-regarded venues, the Fox continues to offer the Front Range's pinnacle concert experience. Unrestricted sight lines and flawless sound abound, and the calendar is consistently excellent and diverse, with the best and brightest locals, indie hip-hop and rock, mainstream acts on the verge, and everything in between. Factor in a friendly bar staff and reasonable drink prices, and you have a room that is simply the most intimate and enthralling place to see a show.
Bolstered by great sight lines, a sizable elevated stage and impeccable sound, the Walnut Room has quickly become one of the finest rooms in town. An intimate performance space on the edge of the Ballpark neighborhood, the Walnut has filled the void left by the Soiled Dove (which recently shifted the focus of its LoDo locale and moved to a brand-new facility in Lowry, slated to open later this year). But although the newer venue is similar to its Market Street forebear, both in ambience and the type of acts it presents (the Dove's former talent coordinator, Mark Sundermeier, is handling booking duties), the Walnut Room has carved out its own identity. The staging area, for instance, is completely separate from the main bar, which has the look and feel of a quaint neighborhood pub; it's the ideal place to escape the music for a few minutes. The club also has free, lighted parking and a decent-sized outdoor patio -- not to mention some of the best pizza around.
Since 1997, Donald Rossa's comfortable, forward-looking club, Dazzle, has been bringing Denverites the best local jazz talent (bassist Ken Walker, trumpeter Greg Gisbert, et al.) and a broad array of internationally recognized musicians. Last October, Rossa coaxed legendary New York pianist Stanley Cowell into playing a rare club date at the Capitol Hill venue, and in May, piano titan Monty Alexander will drop by for a gig. Meanwhile, Dazzle's justly famous Sunday jazz brunch (featuring Denver-born singer Julie Monley and her French husband, pianist Fredric Des Moulins) has grown into a reservations-required event. Dazzle features music in two rooms -- the hip, sleek bar up front and the more commodious dining room in back. The food is pretty good, too. Recently, the jazz-lovers' bible, Down Beat, named Dazzle one of the world's 100 best jazz clubs, and rightly so. These days, it even has its own big band, the periodically convened 9th and Lincoln Orchestra.
Denver's club scene gets more crowded by the month, with new venues sprouting up like spring blossoms (or weeds, depending on how you look at them). Regardless, the hi-dive towers head and shoulders over the field. Into its third year, the club's booking of local and national acts only gets better -- but the bands are only part of the equation. The stage and sound are ideal. The all-ages shows are run smoothly and humanely. Sputnik, the hi-dive's next-door satellite bar, is a great place to chill out before, during or after the rock. Strelka, its kitchen, serves awesome food that caters to carnivores and vegans alike. The whole room is the perfect mix of respectable and seedy, and the owners aren't afraid to host multimedia dance parties one night and noise operas the next. And the location, smack in the middle of one of Denver's coolest neighborhoods, can't be beat. Above all, the hi-dive excels at being intimately, passionately involved with the scene that sustains it. It's not just a place to watch a band, chug a beer and take a piss on your way out. Instead, it feels like home.
First it was Zu Denver, then 60 South, then the South Park Tavern, then the Cherry Pit. Then it was a vacant, smoldering hole. But in January this year, months after a fire demolished the insides of the Pit, the 3 Kings Tavern rose, phoenix-like, from the...well, you get the picture. What no one really expected, though, was for someone to pump some real life and character back into the room. But co-owners Jim Norris, Jeff Campbell and Martin Kilorin, along with promoter and soundman Ross McAfee, have done exactly that. With a punk/rock/metal bent that perfectly complements the rest of SoBo's varied hipster establishments, 3 Kings offers enough great sound, cheap drinks and cool DJs (like Monday night's Tim Cook and Mr. Fil) to carve something special out of Denver's crowded club scene.
Marquis Theater
Michael Emery Hecker
Soda Jerk, Denver's premier promoter of punk and hardcore, had been dwelling comfortably in Rock Island for two years. At least it seemed like a cozy fit -- until February, when Soda Jerk's Mike Barsch abruptly yanked up roots and replanted his operation in the newly refurbished Marquis Theatre. His timing couldn't have been better; as Brendan's Pub and an earlier incarnation of the Marquis, the LoDo locale had its share of struggles over the years. But now, after massive reconstructive surgery and Barsch's aggressively adventurous calendar of events, the Marquis is well on its way to regaining its glory.

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