Bender's Tavern
There are 6,000 songs in the QuickSand Karaoke catalogue, and every single one of them leads to trouble. Nowhere is this more apparent than on Thursday nights at Bender's, when the place transforms from a cool Capitol Hill music venue into a frantic den of karaoke insanity. Show up early if you want to sing, because by 10 p.m., the competition for stage time is fierce: Everyone in Cap Hill, it seems, has the same pressing need to sing -- badly, drunkenly, obsessively -- to scores of slushy strangers. QuickSand's catalogue is vast, covering everything from Willie Nelson to Paul Weller, which means there's something for every vocal range and pain threshold. Notice how the volume gets louder as the hour gets later; come closing time, you'll be begging the DJ for just one...more...song.
Comedy Works Downtown
Who says you can't teach an old dog new tricks? The Comedy Works may be celebrating its 25th birthday this year by bringing in one big name after another, but the club stays fresh by giving amateurs a chance, too. And there are no hours more amateur than Tuesday's New Talent Night, when comedy guru Deacon Gray shepherds about fifteen newbies through brief sets. Not only does New Talent Night give untried comics a chance to perform before a real audience and develop skills, but Gray gives each performer written feedback after the show. Why did the chicken comedian cross the road? To test his wings at the Comedy Club.
John Killup, aka Big John, is one scary motherfucker. He's big, very big, covered in tattoos and usually wearing a scowl that could freeze lava. Get a little out of control at Three Dogs Tavern, and he's going to keep law and order on your ass. But Killup has a softer side, too: The ladies' man models for Suavecito's, the local zoot-suit shop, and when he decides to let down, he has a killer smile. But don't tell anyone.
There's no single formula for a memorable concert, but the odds of greatness are significantly improved when a show takes place in a modest-sized venue and features an excellent group at its creative peak. System's Ogden gig fit all of these criteria and more. The date was part of a brief tour intended to amplify interest in Mezmerize and Hypnotize, a pair of instant classics that had not yet been released, and it more than succeeded. Daron Malakian, Serj Tankian, Shavo Odadjian and John Dolmayan tore through their newest material with humor, fierce pride and a sense of discovery that instantly translated to the fortunate few who managed to score tickets for this up-close-and-personal showcase.
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.

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