Best Club Makeover 2008 | Toad Tavern | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword
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.
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.
Molly Martin
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!
Brazilian-born New York artist Vik Muniz is chiefly known for his funny photographs, but he isn't really a photographer. He's a conceptual artist who uses cameras to preserve his ephemeral re-creations of works like "The Last Supper." For that da Vinci sendup, Muniz used expertly applied chocolate syrup, though he's also turned to ad hoc art materials such as cotton balls, wire, thread and cut-up magazines. This spectacular solo was curated by Devon Dikeou, whose own Dikeou Collection includes "The Last Supper" and who cherry-picked the West Collection's sizable Muniz holdings to come up with one of the best shows of the year.
When Frames singer Glen Hansard and new talent Markéta Irglová agreed to co-star in director John Carney's Once, neither expected much. So imagine their surprise when the joy-filled film became an unlikely hit that not only brought them together as a couple, but ultimately earned them an Academy Award for the impossibly gorgeous "Falling Slowly." At the Ogden long before the Oscars, the pair shared music from the movie and plenty more, interacting with the crowd and each other in such an intimate a manner that the audience became not just witnesses to their love story, but part of it.
In January, Robischon Gallery co-directors Jim Robischon and Jennifer Doran put on a full-blown salute to contemporary Chinese art in Face East, an authoritative group show. The two typically go all out for their exhibits, which in this case meant traveling to China to pick pieces right out of the studios and workshops of the selected artists. The exhibit included more than fifty paintings, prints and sculptures by some of the biggest stars of Chinese art and some of the most promising emerging artists. Several artists do work that comments on Chinese politics, while others are more vaguely political, referring to the collision of East and West in Chinese culture. Although China is a police state where cultural life is hardly encouraged, artists there are making the best of it, as they have for centuries.
DJ Ivy is an electronic chameleon behind the decks. Regardless of what he's spinning — house, breaks, down-tempo and damn near everything else — his sets are always tasty masterpieces of dance-floor delight. He handles it all, from smooth and sexy funk to tripped-out space journeys and deep, pumping progressive grooves. Whether he's opening for dance-music royalty or headlining his own residency, he always manages to craft thoughtful, heady sets that ignite the crowd. And no matter what the occasion, Ivy is the consummate professional: He brings it and leaves it all on the floor.
Terry Ann Watts gave a beautiful and open-souled performance as Sister Helen Prejean, the real-life nun who has worked for years with death-row inmates, making her exactly the sort of wise, calm woman you would want beside you in a crisis. Watts was quietly dignified throughout Dead Man Walking, but you could see the mingled rage and pity in her eyes when she was confronted with men who claimed to be only doing their jobs: the rigid, callous prison chaplain, the officer in charge of strapping down the condemned man, the governor who used the convict's last chance for clemency as a political photo op. And she made the moment when Prejean finally broke down and wept almost unendurably poignant.

Best Depiction of What It's Like to Be a Struggling Musician

Everyone But You

After completing El Diablo, his fourth album, Eric Shiveley sold his home in Denver and moved to the San Luis Valley to build a house and recording studio. And just hours before he was slated to break ground in November 2005, he purchased a cheap camcorder at Wal-Mart and began shooting Everyone But You, a touching documentary in which he set out to chronicle the process, but instead captured the feelings of exasperation that accompany being a struggling musician. The film, which highlights a number of great tunes from Shiveley and his friends, has been selected for screening at several prominent festivals across the country. If folks have the same reaction we did, Shiveley's days of struggling may soon be over.

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