Best Bar Band 2008 | The Informants | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword
Plenty of musicians take umbrage if their group is called a bar band. Still, the finest acts with this label don't need open taps or drink specials to work their magic; their playing is intoxicating enough. Witness the Informants, which boasts killer brass, a driving rhythm section, a lead singer (Kerry Pastine) capable of starting any party, and songs such as "Stuck on You" (from the album Stiletto Angel) that sound just as good to a designated driver as the folks along for the ride.
Every coffee snob has his favorite barista; it's sort of like rooting for your hometown football team. But how do you determine who's actually the best of the best? The answer was the first-ever Mountain Regional Barista Competition, held in March in Thornton — though the results were a letdown for latte-loving locals, since they can't actually enjoy the efforts of several of the top contenders, who were either based in other states or didn't serve drinks to the public. It was sort of like a fantasy football team winning the Super Bowl. Thankfully, you can partake of one champion's work at a local coffee shop: third-place winner Heidi Bickelhaudt of Trident Booksellers and Cafe in Boulder. Bickelhaudt, who learned the ropes in such coffee hot spots as Chicago and Madison, Wisconsin, pulls a mean espresso and knows the secrets of roasting, too. Next time you get a cappuccino from her, you can tell your jealous friends you just had the best coffee drink around, and you won't be talking java jive.
If radio programmers, bloggers and hip-hop heads across the country react as favorably to Flobots as the folks here at home, this insurgent seven-piece hip-hop band could soon find itself the focus of nationwide buzz. There's certainly a lot to love about the outfit, which earned its local reputation by putting on massively entertaining shows featuring thought-provoking, message-driven songs. And the act puts its politics where its mouth is, engaging in community activism and urging fans to follow suit. With the Agency Group doing its bidding and a rumored record deal on the horizon, Flobots are ready to take on the world.
Reunion shows are generally intended as a celebration of days gone by for those who were there the first time around, a moment for grizzled old-timers to reflect on how good it was back in the day. But in some rare instances, these shows also serve as a primer for the new breed, showing them just how it's done. Such was the case this past September when three of Denver's fabled bands from the '90s — the Volts, Crestfallen and Christie Front Drive — got back together at the Marquis for Denverfest 3. Longtime fans were relieved to hear that their heroes hadn't lost a step, while others discovered these venerable acts for the very first time.
Michael Hornbuckle is a hell of a guitar player — though that's not too surprising, given that he's the son of the late, great Bobby Hornbuckle, a local legend and a killer blues ax-slinger. Every Sunday at Bushwacker's Saloon, Michael kicks off the blues jams, sometimes with his badass bass-playing brother Brian alongside, with a scorching set of his own tunes and covers. These blues brothers in action are enough reason to check out the weekly jam nights, but other local players also come by to strut their stuff before an appreciative audience that includes motorcycle guys and biker chicks who enjoy both the killer blues and the cool vibe.
Kinky folks are like vampires. No, they don't drink blood (most of them don't, anyway), but like those winged fiends, they do their best work at night. No wonder some of the hottest BDSM action around (suspension, floggers and electrical toys, oh my) goes down at the Masters & Servants After-Hours Party at the Sanctuary private dungeon club every second Saturday of the month. You have to be a member to get in, but it's easy to join (take an introductory class, attend three events, get sponsored by a member and shell out the $20 annual membership fee), and the all-night bang is definitely worth the buck. Rest assured that by the time dawn rolls around at the end of your first party, you'll definitely feel whipped.
Mice are empathetic, feeling each other's emotions. Rats are kind to one another. And whales possess spindle cells, the same cells that help humans and apes process emotions. These are all facts gleaned from the latest findings that Marc Bekoff — professor emeritus of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Colorado at Boulder, member of the Jane Goodall Institute's ethics committee and co-founder (with Goodall) of the organization Ethologists for the Ethical Treatment of Animals: Citizens for Responsible Animal Behavior Studies — includes in his book Animals Matter. The tome is not only a compendium of recent scientific findings, but also a call to action for animal lovers. Why, for example, does the United States Animal Welfare Act refer to rats, rabbits, mice and birds as "non-animals"? And what can be done to improve the lot of our scaly, furry and feathered friends? Animals Matter boils dense scientific studies down to an easily digested format, and also lists myriad ways we can better the lives of our non-human cohabitants on the planet.
Shane is just a small role in Contrived Ending, an original play by Josh Hartwell. He's one of those dopey, marginal little guys whom no one in his high school respected, and who gets put down constantly even after high school is over. He also invents all kinds of lies to make himself seem more important. In Conundrum's production, playing Shane as a muffled little dormouse who nonetheless possesses a spark of spunk and integrity, Steven J. Burge almost stole the entire show.
Despite the limitation of having just a small storefront for her modest gallery, Sandra Phillips has been noticed in the competitive Santa Fe arts district, and she's done it by showcasing noteworthy Colorado artists, especially those working in ceramics. The culmination of her ongoing clay promotions was last fall's Masters in Clay, done with Sally Perisho, which included giants of the medium like Paul Soldner, Maynard Tischler and Martha Daniels along with other talented artists such as Carroll Hansen, Katie Caron, Bebe Alexander, Julie McNair and Amy Chavez. By promoting the best, Phillips found success.
Boulder artist and University of Colorado professor Kim Dickey converted the Rule Gallery into a conceptual garden for Cold Pastoral last summer. Photos she took of gardens in France filled most of the walls, while the back wall of the gallery was covered with mirrors, giving the illusion of great space. These elements set the stage for the main attraction: gorgeous ceramic sculptures in the form of potted plants. Similar to the permanent ones Dickey did for the rooftop cafe at the new Museum of Contemporary Art, the sculptures at Rule were placed in two parallel lines, creating an allée. They were formally complicated, with a dizzying array of parts referencing leaves and finished in creamy glazes, making this "garden" one of the best places to beat the heat on a hot summer day.

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