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.
Denver painter Homare Ikeda, who was born and raised in Japan, made his reputation with densely composed nature-based abstractions so methodically produced that it sometimes took years to complete one. But after receiving a fellowship to work at Omaha's Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, Ikeda had a change of heart and decided to work much faster, creating more than 100 pieces during his few short months at Bemis. Surprisingly, kicking up his speed didn't affect the quality of his work in any way, and the prints and drawings in Homare Ikeda count among the best things he's ever made.
Bret Bertholf performs classic honky-tonk as the frontman for Halden Wofford and the Hi-Beams — and he definitely knows his stuff. The Long Gone Lonesome History of Country Music, which Bertholf wrote and illustrated, is a flat-out wonderful look at the country genre in all its tacky, quirky, irresistible glory. Thanks to charming illustrations of C&W heroes and heroines and whimsical prose about style, fashion and the music itself, Lonesome proves thoroughly entertaining and unexpectedly perceptive, offering the sorts of insights that even dyed-in-the-wool country fans can appreciate. Kids will love it — if they can wrestle it away from their parents, that is.
Sutra Dance Bar & Lounge
Just over a year ago, Paul Piciocchi and Charles Trujillo opened the sleek and sexy Sutra Room in the short-lived Donkey Den space, then added Left on Lincoln in the front. After trying to operate separate clubs that catered to different crowds, they decided to join the two spaces, in the process creating the best of both worlds. But they didn't stop there. To spice up the fun factor and change the energy on the dance floor, they put in two mini-stages and a mirror so that people could watch themselves dance. And they also added a swing and a stripper pole, presumably to boost the sexy factor. After all, the club is called Sutra.
Hiccups Sports Bar & Grill
The first two Hiccups sports bars are known for hot bartenders and waitresses wearing ass-less chaps with their panties. But when Hiccups III took over this former Brewski's location, the owners stepped things up, making this third spot the biggest and possibly the baddest of the bunch, with a big stage that attracts cover bands and the like (hell, even Jimmie Van Zant has played here) on weekends and Wednesdays, which also happens to be a good night for the ladies, who can drink free from 9 p.m. to midnight. And Monday through Friday, everyone can quench their thirst with five-dollar pitchers of beer. Let's see: hot chicks, cheap beer, live music. Sounds like a winning formula to us.
Larimer Lounge
Jeff Davis
Lately, happy hours at the Larimer Lounge have gotten happier. In addition to daily happy hours from 4 to 8 p.m. with $1 PBRs and Miller High Lifes, $2 wells and $3 you-call-its, the club has reinstated its late-night happy hours: Sunday through Thursday, midnight until close, you can grab $2 PBRs and High Lifes. The club's also souped up its happy hours by adding a few attractions: Monday it's Ninja Bingo; Wednesday it's Courier Happy Hour, with free Benny Blanco's pizza; Thursday it's free Breckenridge barbecue; and on Fridays, you can catch Jim Yelenick (aka Sputnik Slovenia) singing and playing hilarious acoustic covers of the Clash, Turbonegro, Boomtown Rats, Madonna and Britney Spears.
The Toad Tavern
After taking over the Toad Tavern this past August, one of Brice Hancock's top priorities was to build a new stage. Today the tiny spot in the corner that couldn't fit more than four people is no more; bands now perform on a better-situated platform that can easily accommodate at least a ten-piece act. And Hancock didn't stop there. He also raised the ceiling about eight feet and beefed up the sound system, doubling the number of speakers and power amps and effectively transforming a quaint suburban bar with a stage into a full-fledged music venue.
Bender's Tavern
One of the fliers for Night of the Living Shred shows a picture of two naked chicks with skateboards. But while you'll probably see some skateboard videos Thursday nights at Bender's Tavern, naked chicks not so much. Still, the young rocker boys and girls do sometimes let their hair down in more ways than one. It's hard not to, what with guys like DJs Wesley Wayne and Parris on the turntables throwing down everything from '80s metal to old-school hip-hop and a whole lot more. For the past two years, these guys have been packing Bender's dance floor and whipping the kids into a frenzy, in the process creating one of the city's best nights to hook up. And if that ain't enough, Wayne, Parris and promoter Charlie Morrison have also brought such renowned platter pirates as DJs Swamp, Qbert, Troublemaker, Goldenchyld, Platurn, Tittsworth and Klever to town.
Lion's Lair
Jon Solomon
A Denver institution, the Lion's Lair has always been a great place to see a show, whether you're seeking the city's best ear-splitting punk, metal and hardcore or taking in rare performances from iconic musicians like Graham Parker or Garland Jeffreys. Still, the place was due for an update, so kudos to Sarah Levin, who took over booking duties last August. She revitalized the venerable room by augmenting the usual dark and heavy fare with a steady stream of celebrated songwriters and acts from all facets of Denver's vitally eclectic scene.
Though it's spent many years ensconced in the former Elyria Elementary School building north of I-70, the heart and soul of the Chicano cultural and theater collective El Centro Su Teatro never left the old barrio. El Centro has always meant to return to that neighborhood, so we applaud the center's purchase of a property at Second Avenue and Santa Fe Drive, where it can return to its roots while looking fully toward the future — a future that will include a performing arts center with two theaters, a gallery space, an outdoor plaza and more. ¡Viva El Centro!

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