Best Of :: Arts & Entertainment
In less than five years, the hi-dive has become a Denver institution. Many of the current top-shelf local bands got their start at this intimate south Broadway bar, which sits smack dab in the middle of the Baker neighborhood. And even though many of those groups can now easily fill places twice its size, they still make it down to the hi-dive to perform on a regular basis. Perhaps it's because the sound is fantastic and the club promotes local shows with the same vigor and enthusiasm as they would a national. Which makes sense, because frankly, when it comes to talent, there really isn't much of a distinction these days. Thanks to the prescient booking of Ben DeSoto, in addition to being a choice destination for the toast of today's blogosphere, the hi-dive has also become the place to discover tomorrow's indie-rock sensations well before they reach the masses' radar.
Rockbar could inspire a confirmed teetotaler to do a swan dive off the wagon within ten minutes of walking through the door. Conjuring the bygone decadence left behind by Perry's -- as the joint was known during the last days of disco -- Rockbar is the ideal place to relive your wasted youth. The decor in this late-'70s time-capsule remains pristinely intact, with exposed rock walls, patterned carpet, foil wallpaper and vintage lighting fixtures. There's also a notable kitsch factor about the place -- the trashy menu, the lowbrow drink selection (Mad Dog and brands of beer you swore you'd never drink again), the neon band-logo signage and the retro tuneage -- that has prompted some detractors to grumble that the brashness is a little too calculated. These people are completely missing the point. For those about to Rock, we salute you.
Recently witnessed at the Horseshoe Lounge: Avery Rains, aka Mr. Pacman, dressed in a full-bodied lion suit, head and paws included, stripping down to a very skimpy and curiously bulged pink thong. True fucking story. Unfortunately, this was a one-off birthday-party gig and not a weekly event, but it does prove how superbly awesome the Horseshoe is for allowing such hilarious debauchery. Outfitted with comfy stools, two booths, a couple of couches, a pool table and a dartboard, the bar is lounge-tastic and tailored for intimate gatherings with good friends. And if you get lucky, maybe Rains will be there and you can entice him into strutting his stuff just for you.
At first blush, the Lure is a swank place. Almost too swank. Hang out there for a while, though, and you start to realize that it's pretty relaxed. Like that really hot blonde in high school that you yearned to talk to but couldn't muster up the courage, there's more to the joint than meets the eye. Remember when you finally got the stones to talk to her and found out that she was into Hunter S. Thompson and dug Tom Waits? Yeah, the Lure is surprisingly cool like that. Instead of being greeted by some huge meathead at the door, the first thing you see is a gang of smiling ladies behind the bar. It's like a grown-up version of the famed City Spirit, which used to inhabit this spot nearly a decade ago.
Arvada's answer to a Colfax dive bar, 12 Volt Tavern has all the grit and attitude of the city -- without the Colfax freaks. Plopped down in the middle of Olde Town Arvada, the Tavern may seem out of place among its better-groomed neighbors, but its well-worn character is completely authentic. Although the place has only been known as by its current name for the past four years, the bar itself has been at the same location for nearly sixty years. The joint is a choice spot for punks and blue-collar barflies to congregate over drinks and games of pool. During the week, the Volt's killer jukebox spits out cuts by Sabbath, Zep, the Clash, the Sex Pistols and Hank Williams. And on the weekends, the bar gets hotwired by a steady parade of local punk and rockabilly acts.
Aztec Sol is best known for its exhaustive collection of more than 200 tequilas, carefully curated by owner Jose Lara. The funky neighborhood spot is a favorite among locals who live and drink on the edge of Highland: Both caballeros and condo-dwellers are drawn by Aztec Sol's cheap eats and potent, imaginative cocktails. In addition to cantaritas and vampiros (two sobriety-slashing tequila creations), the Sol now offers wireless Internet. Sure, the place can be dark and the music loud, but the connection is strong and, like the chips and salsa, free of charge. So log on -- vamonos!
One of the best things about being a male is the joy of having a penis. Not only is it fun to hold, but the simple act of peeing out of it feels quite nice! Few men are able to enjoy the simple act of elimination due to the typical height of lavatories and urinals. Most are built so low that peeing becomes a complex riddle of geometry and velocity. A 1/32-inch movement of the penis at waist level can seem like the spray of an unattended firehose at two feet below. But tall men and bad aimers need not worry at Pint's Pub. The urinals are built high on the wall, which makes them look like some strange new hand-washing apparatus. Once in use, however, it's easy to see that their height was designed for maximum drainage and minimum splashback. Men under six feet tall can actually rest their penis on the rim, keeping both hands free for text-messaging. Pint's Pub puts the joy back into being a boy.
We all know the words by heart. It's one of the most recognizable TV theme songs of all time: "Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name/And they're always glad you came/You wanna be where you can see, our troubles are all the same/You wanna be where everybody knows your name." Why, yes, actually, we do. And fortunately, there's a place that fits that description perfectly: 3 Kings Tavern. Owned by three former Nobody In Particular Presents co-workers, 3 Kings is the most welcoming, unassuming joint in town. Each and every time you come in -- regardless of who's playing or what's going on -- you can count on being greeted with a cold brew, a warm smile and a friendly handshake from Marty, Jeff or Reverend Jim, which is why everybody keeps coming back.
All the broke, arty types -- musicians, writers, etc. -- in New York can't afford to live in Manhattan. As a result, they flock to less expensive neighborhoods in Brooklyn, which is where hi-dive owner Matt LaBarge and his wife, Allison, once lived. In the fall of 2003, when the couple moved to Denver and took over the former Quixote's spot, they set out to create a hip space like the places they enjoyed in their old Park Slope neighborhood. Ones that served good food, good coffee and good drinks -- even late. Lo and behold, when you build a hip space, the hipsters will come -- and they have. Sputnik has an unmistakable vibe that attracts Denver's boho set, complete with messy-haired hipsters who've traded in their trucker hats for Castro lids. If you didn't know any better, you'd think you were in Brooklyn.
There's something about stepping inside Mario's Double Daughter's on a Sunday night that takes you to a completely different dimension. Dimly lit with subtle red and blue lights, the place is outfitted with chairs that look like they're made out of lipstick. As down-tempo grooves pour out of the speakers, a Japanese flick -- could be the one where some guy gets shot in the shoulder by a mini-rocket launcher and then rips the appendage off altogether -- is being projected on the club's big screen. The film's audio is turned off, but the subtitles are on -- and so are DJs Curu, Eyeam and crew, who are spinning what they call "psycho-tonal extrapolations with mad vibrations for your crazy heads and asses." Add to that a few Alien Blood Martinis and dollar slices from the adjoining Two-Fisted Mario's Pizza, and what you have is an out-of-body experience.
Seeing a show at Pasquini's may be the closest thing there is to a house party in Denver. The space Pasquini's inhabits was once a house, and when it's music time, tables are cleared out and the band sets up right next to the window. And to see bands like 18 Wheeler, Reno Divorce and Letters From the Front up close and personal, volume turned up to eleven, well, there's just something inherently DIY about the whole thing. Maybe it has something to do with not having a stage. Punk Thursdays are the main nights here, where the late-night happy hour starts at 10 p.m. and ten bucks goes a long way with $1 PBRs, Kamikaze shots and slices of pizza.
Owned by two leathermen who sport backgrounds in furniture upholstery, culinary arts and retail clothing-store management, the Eagle is an unholy alliance of industrial chic meets bad-boy bar decor. James Ventrello and James Peck (aka Jim and Jimbo) are the couple who designed and crafted the 4,800-square-foot behemoth of a bar. After $400,000 of renovations and six months of blood, sweat and tears, the shiny new perv palace opened last May. The Eagle offers what you'd expect in a traditional leather bar -- dark corners, pool tables, pinball machines, dartboards, video games and a Sunday beer bust -- as well as the unexpected (luxe-loft look, private mezzanine bar, diamond-plate trim, concrete floors, modern lighting fixtures and two flat-screen televisions). These designer digs serve as stage to a $2 Sunday brunch, a heated outdoor smoking patio and a 1949 Ford vintage truck (parked indoors) that doubles as