Best Free Entertainment 2008 | Cinco de Mayo on Federal Boulevard | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword
Too bad Mexico has already laid claim to Cinco de Mayo on its calendar, because that country doesn't do anything to celebrate the alleged holiday — whereas here in the Mile High, May 5 is a party worthy of celebration. One weekend a year, generations of Denver's Latinos head toward Federal Boulevard in their lowriders and whips, rolling on fat chrome wheels or bouncing on hydraulics with traditional gold spokes. The result is a cross between a car show and a parade. Some vendors peddle Mexican flags — even though half the people who come out to celebrate were born on this side of the border — while others sell tacos in the street. Teenage lovers hold hands, parents push strollers and point out the pimped-out cars to their kids. Aside from a couple of knuckleheads, the festivities are usually peaceful, and Denver makes sure there are more than enough police officers on hand to make people feel comfortable — or uncomfortable, depending on who you are.
Oskar Blues
You have to love the way the folks at the Oskar Blues brew castle wear their roots-rock affinity on their sleeves. After all, what goes better with a cold Old Chub than a dirty-good, salt-of-the-earth blues band? Maybe a honky-tonk or alt-country combo puttin' down a riff in a room that would be smoky if it could be? Join the free music club at and get access to free monthly downloads of selected music from a changing roster of smaller indie labels such as Big Bender, Yep Roc and Bloodshot. We'll drink to that.
Courtesy Denver Art Museum
Who would have thought that the coolest Friday-night party around would be at a stodgy art museum? But sure enough, on the last Friday of every month, the Denver Art Museum turns itself into a lively all-ages club, complete with local DJs or bands, a cash bar and a host of kooky activities — guided meditation in the Asian galleries, séances surrounded by selections from the Louvre, pedicure operations painting miniature artwork on your toes — that are sure to get those cranky old curators bristling behind their bifocals. The events are free with the normal price of admission, and they end by 10 p.m. — leaving you plenty of time to hit the town and act like the drunken buffoon you really are, knowing that you've already gotten your fill of high-falutin' culture.
Chris Adolf, leader of Bad Weather California, has that ineffable "it" factor that sets him apart. When he's on stage, it's almost impossible to look away, and when he's really on, his performance is both epic and breathtaking. Adolf could easily turn that kind of power to evil as the leader of a cult or corporation, but luckily for us and the rest of the world, he's focused that energy on doing good musically.
The voice and singing style of Bela Karoli frontwoman Julie Davis is a perfect match for the group's smoky, sultry, future-lounge sound. Her vocals are seductive, touched with a hint of danger, and wrap sensuously around the exotic, jazz-tinged music, subtly casting Davis as a classic femme fatale. Between songs, though, she comes off as funny, sweet and charmingly earnest. It's not quite the Madonna/whore paradox that so many guys find compelling, but it's close enough to be all but irresistible, while still 33 percent less offensive to feminists. Bela Karoli is good because it has an appealing, torchy sound and strong songs, but it's Davis's up-front presence that really counts.
Eric Gruneisen
Skip Reeves isn't called the "Funktogolist" for nothing. Dude knows his funk, which becomes obvious when you listen to his Saturday-night show on KUVO, "A Funk Above the Rest." He's working overtime spreading the funk gospel, and in his quest to make Denver one city under a groove, he's been hosting the 1st School of Funk every other Tuesday at Jazz@Jack's. There, in addition to laying down everything from Larry Graham and Funkadelic to the Gap Band and Kool & the Gang, Reeves also brings in some the city's finest funk outfits, such as Soul School and Funkiphino.
Last spring, Robischon Gallery put together a beautiful and coherent exhibit that highlighted a range of contemporary abstraction while showcasing the work of more than a dozen artists, each with a personal aesthetic vision. To create this dazzling show, the gallery started off with a series of works on paper by an international star, Ellsworth Kelly. Then, mining its stable, Robischon brought in a bevy of other notable artists, including Brad Miller, Kris Cox, Trine Bumiller and Scott Chamberlin.
William Stockman was on everyone's list of the most significant contemporary artists in Denver right up until he split around five years ago. He returned not long after, but quit making art while he made a living. In 2006 he went back into the studio, and it must have been just like riding a bike, because he picked it up again almost immediately, as proved by Nothing Is Hiding, his solo this past winter at the Singer Gallery put together by Simon Zalkind. Made up of poetically composed figural paintings and drawings created just since he relaunched his career, the show marked Stockman's triumphant return.
Colorado was a red state in the last presidential election. And it's also home to that other Focus organization — which means that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered Coloradans find themselves living elbow-to-elbow with one of the most conservative groups (and, arguably, some of the most conservative people) in the country. What's that like? Matt Kailey, author of Just Add Hormones and staff writer for Out Front, wanted to find out, so he began collecting poetry, short stories, personal essays and experimental writing from 33 GLBT Colorado citizens; the result is this absolutely fabulous anthology. Each piece is different, but a common thread runs through them all: living day to day outside the straight-and-narrow gender and sexual-orientation categories in today's Colorado. Get out and be proud!
To some extent, actors are at the mercy of the productions in which they appear. An exciting show can make an okay actor look terrific; an excellent actor can seem weak if trapped by circumstances. So far this season, Trina Magness has emerged with honor from two productions that simply didn't work. She played the first witch in the noisy, ill-conceived Macbeth staged by Listen Productions, giving the harridan a sinuous and insinuating grace that chilled the blood. And in Red Herring at the John Hand Theatre, while the play lacked finesse, Magness came close to redeeming the evening with her Maggie, the stereotypical detective's doll, a role she played with dry and understated wit.

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