BEST FREE ENTERTAINMENT 2006 | Colorado Fire Tribe Confluence Park | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword
Sunday nights are the hottest of hot summer nights. It's the night that members of the Colorado Fire Tribe meet up at the Confluence Park boat launch to drum and dance with fire. These are spontaneous, informal gatherings -- no tickets, no reservations. People just wander up on the spectacular view of spinners rhythmically swinging flaming lanterns suspended on chains, twirling fiery batons and dancing with all manner of blazing accoutrements. When it all comes together, it's as much about athleticism and grace as it is about meditation and control. When it doesn't come together, it's mostly about leg scars, nasty head knots and pants on fire. Though seldom necessary, thick blankets are at the ready for stopping, dropping and rolling. And the roiling South Platte river is always available to cool any hotheads.
Back in 1898, moovers and shakers in this cowtown decided to brighten up the January gloom with a major stock show, complete with free beer and barbecue for the locals. After 30,000 drunken Denverites rioted through the stockyards, city boosters didn't risk another stock show until 1906 -- but it's been going strong ever since. The National Western Stock Show now attracts hundreds of thousands of people for fifteen days every January, when they can watch people put down serious money on 4-H calves, see whip-cracking monkeys tame rodeo clowns, buy Ginsu knives, eat everything from funnel cake to Rocky Mountain oysters, and drink themselves silly in the Cowboy Bar, right by where the steers are better groomed than any Cherry Hills matron. This is how the West was fun.
Crested Butte is Colorado's last rugged, old-style ski village, with a downtown full of Victorian cottages and storefronts dating back to the mining days -- and open space providing a buffer between the town and the condos of the burgeoning ski area. For a week every July, Crested Butte gets just a little wilder when the Crested Butte Wildflower Festival is in full bloom. Sure, parts of the festival can be quite cultured -- classes on making botanical teas and potions, for example -- but there are also rough hikes and horseback rides through some of the most beautiful terrain you'll ever see. This year's homegrown festival -- the twentieth in Colorado's official Wildflower Capital -- runs from July 10 to 16. Stop and smell the primroses.
The Walnut Room is best known as a place to catch hip bands, listen to spoken-word artists at the monthly Cafe Nuba events and preview movies made by local filmmakers. On Sunday nights, regulars gather around the bar to catch stars of a different sort. Do the names Moe Szyslak and Abu Nahasapeemapetilon ring a bell? How about Dale Gribble, Boomhauer and Stan and Hayley Smith? If so, you'll fit right in when the bartender turns on the TV for a Fox lineup that includes The Simpsons, King of the Hill, American Dad and/or Family Guy. (Save your serious drinking for the half-hour when the godawful sitcom The War at Home comes on.) Just what was it that Ralph Wiggum found up his nose? Can Hank learn to embrace Bobby's feminine side? What Hollywood star does Roger the alien have a crush on now? Stay tuned.
It seems that every rock-and-roll radio station in town has some form of Beatles tribute worked into its rotation, but the Mountain's Sunday-morning Breakfast With the Beatles stands out every week. Rather than endlessly spinning the fifty or so songs everyone knows by heart, DJ Archer digs deep into the Fab Four's catalogue, pulling out rare live tracks, demos and interviews, often surprising even the most seasoned fan. Archer's theme is more of a thread than a rule, so there are frequent oddities, such as obscure tunes recorded by artists on the Apple label and covers of popular Paul-and-John tunes done by folks from around the world. For the faithful, Breakfast With the Beatles is like that other Sunday-morning ritual: sacred, uplifting and essential.
There's something about the quiet of an early Saturday morning, when the streets are empty and the sky's full of pastels, that makes you feel like the only person on earth. KGNU's Honky Tonk Heroes, three hours of Americana and country-and-Western music, intensifies the disembodied vibe of the wee hours -- but in the most pleasant way imaginable. The show presents an amazing array of old-timey artists who used to be radio sweethearts -- Bob Wills, Ernest Tubb, Roy Acuff, Webb Pierce and Merle Travis -- plus a few wonderful nostalgic, transporting touches. You might even hear twenty minutes of Hank Williams playin' and pimpin' on a vintage recording of "The Old Flour Hour." Forget sleeping in: Honky Tonk Heroes is worth getting up for every time.
Justly, East High School alum Don Cheadle has become one of Hollywood's most talented, sought-after actors. Two years ago, he gave the world a moral wake-up call with his Oscar-nominated performance in Hotel Rwanda; in 2005, he scored again by portraying a thoughtful Los Angeles homicide detective who's having an affair with his Latina partner (Jennifer Esposito) in Paul Haggis's Best Picture winner, Crash. A disturbing meditation on race and bigotry in post-9/11 America, the film boasts an all-star cast (Sandra Bullock, Matt Dillon, Ludacris, Brendan Fraser, Thandie Newton, et al.) that Cheadle, also one of the film's producers, was instrumental in assembling -- at bargain-basement rates.


Match Point

In Woody Allen's latest movie, Scarlett Johansson plays a sexy wannabe actress in London who initially entrances the tennis-pro protagonist (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), but eventually becomes so loathsome to him that he shotguns her to death and kills an innocent neighbor to cover his tracks. Allen doesn't explain how Johansson's character turned out the way she did, but he does offer a few clues. At one point, for instance, she announces that she's from Boulder, Colorado, and she's determined never to return. Well, Boulder doesn't want you back, either!
The 28th edition of the Starz Denver International Film Festival featured more than 200 films from two dozen countries, as well as in-person visits from such movie-world luminaries as the director, producers and writers of the surprise hit Brokeback Mountain, indie star Philip Baker Hall (Dogville, The Talented Mr. Ripley) and actor David Schwimmer. The Telluride Film Festival may have more glitz and glamour, but Denver consistently delivers the goods, with everything from The World's Fastest Indian to Manderlay, Lars Von Trier's latest, to documentaries about the terrors of boot camp and the flaws of the death penalty. The strangest 2005 event? A festival-sponsored gathering of friends and colleagues of the late Hunter S. Thompson at the Denver Press Club -- a locale the late writer often terrorized in mid-binge.
Pre- or post-movie, grab a little loudmouth soup with a couple of olives in it over at Marlowe's, or a slab of lasagna at Maggiano's. The thing that still separates the fifteen-screen Denver Pavilions from all the other largely indistinguishable multiplexes from here to Castle Rock is the proximity to top-drawer food and drink on Denver's 16th Street Mall. That, and free underground parking (be sure to get your ticket stamped in the theater lobby). Comfortably fortified, you then slip into your padded rocker for ninety minutes of Pink Panther yuks or three hours with the Israeli commandos of Munich. As with all 'plexes, the Pavilions' theaters are clean, the high-tech sound system is good, and the projection standards are fine.

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