As Jen, the sister in the two-person musical John and Jen, Gina Schuh-Turner turned in a wonderfully committed performance. She not only acted well and sang beautifully, but she brought a particular subtlety to the stage — at times heart-meltingly tender, at others hilariously funny. And in one memorable song, she morphed into a loud, shrewish sports mom, screaming out instructions as her young son struggled through a Little League game.
Marquis Theater
Michael Emery Hecker
The thought of sending naive teenagers into the heart of the Ballpark neighborhood can be daunting for parents. But thanks to Soda Jerk Presents' Mike Barsch and Ben Davis, such apprehension is unfounded when it comes to the Marquis Theater. Although all ages are welcome, the longtime promoters, who successfully put on all-ages shows at Tulagi and Rock Island for years before taking over here, clearly cater to the underage set. Barsch and Davis consistently put together stacked bills of emerging acts that appeal to the MySpace generation. Younger fans are ushered into a massive area in front of the stage that has clear sightlines and is completely separate from the space occupied by folks of legal drinking age — and the shows end well before the witching hour.
Denver Central Library
The hoopla over the new DAM complex shouldn't drown out the props due to the downtown library as a vibrant art source all its own. Quite apart from the permanent offerings in and around the DPL that have survived the endless construction next door — Daniel Lipski's little horse on a big chair, the Edward Ruscha murals — the library continues to offer an impressive roster of exhibitions at its Western Art Gallery and Vida Ellison Gallery. Recent shows have featured the work of George Elbert Burr, Herndon Davis and Frank Mechau; fresh perspectives on Native American and Chicano artists; a host of offbeat art and children's books; exhibitions devoted to the work of the DPL's own staff; and, early last year, the 120-foot scroll manuscript of Jack Kerouac's On the Road, accompanied by some revealing photos of Denver during the Beat era. DAM the titanium torpedo, the library keeps on rolling.
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Twenty years ago, Colorado art from the 1950s and '60s was more often seen in thrift shops than in galleries or museums. But times have changed, and in the past ten years, many people, especially curators, scholars and collectors, have become interested in artwork from this period. Hugh Grant of the Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art is now the leading advocate for the forgotten Colorado artists, two of whom, Edward and Donna Marecak, were the subject of the large and thoughtful Marecak Diptych. Edward was a painter working in figural abstraction, while Donna was a premier modern potter. Although they sometimes collaborated, their respective styles were very different. At Kirkland, these artists live on through their work long after they're gone.
East End Applied Arts
Talented silversmith, gallery owner with an eye for good design, community arts organizer, Aurora politician: Kim Harrell is a walking work of art. As the Aurora Art in Public Places Commission Chair, she helped bring work by local artists to the suburb's depressed downtown and East Colfax corridor. And in 2006, she took her mission one step further, founding the East End Artists Association, which sponsors periodic district art walks.
When Devon Shirley left his post as drummer for the Photo Atlas, he could hardly wait to resurrect this project. Watching the baby-faced, monkey-limbed percussionist perform with guitarist Holland Rock-Garden of Machine Gun Blues and keyboardists Nick Martin and Kyle Gray, it's easy to see why. Shirley brings the same lightning-fast precision and grace under pressure that made his playing in the Photo Atlas so mesmerizing, but in Red Orange Yellow, he infuses it with jazzy subtlety, mathematical complexity and plenty of animal aggression. Gray comes unglued, Rock-Garden broods and Martin seems eerily calm, but all eyes are on Shirley as he treats the audience to an intricately woven and diabolically premeditated pummeling. The band's expiration date is imminent, as Martin plans to move to Japan this summer, so get your beating soon.
Performers are often said to boast natural talent when their artistry is neither heavy-handed nor overly self-conscious — and in that sense, John Common has plenty of natural talent. But a more literal interpretation also applies to his latest recording, Why Birds Fly. Throughout tunes such as "Moonlight" and "Unseen Things," Common weaves traditional instrumentation with the sort of found sounds heard in forests at night: the ambient noises of creatures that creep, crawl or take wing. These subtle touches make his work seem natural in every sense of the word.
Anyone who knows anything about perfumes knows that a horrible but incredibly powerful smell is mixed in with more refreshing and pleasant aromatics. Abracastabya is a bit like that: Its name sounds like it should go with a screamo or post-hardcore act, but its music is much more experimental and artfully nuanced, not at all abrasive and obnoxious. Geoff Brent and Willow Welter came up with the name when they were playing around with new words, and it stuck. Friends have urged them to change the band's name to be more in line with their eccentrically beautiful music, but when you have a moniker that magically memorable, why bother?
With three beautiful and golden-throated females singing sun-dappled melodies and gorgeous, nostalgic harmonies, and three rugged, musically gifted men providing accompaniment on banjo, guitar and trombone, Paper Bird offers plenty of crush material. But even if none of the aesthetically pleasing members of the act catch your eye, you won't be able to resist falling hard for their old-timey songs, which blend elements of folk, jazz and country and deliver them with impeccable grace. Whether you bring a date to fall in love with or go solo and pick a bandmember to crush on, the state's loveliest sextet has the key to your heart.
Putting punctuation, especially exclamation points, in a band name is always a bad idea. Right, Panic! at the Disco? (Uh, make that Panic at the Disco.) And no matter how you say We Are! We Are!, you end up sounding like a stuttering idiot who can't conjugate properly. Since this act is actually a powerful, hard-charging instrumental outfit capable of rocking faces off with wild abandon, We Are! We Are! thinking it's time for a name change.

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