Best Metal Band — Still 2008 | Cephalic Carnage | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword
No one will confuse Cephalic Carnage with a new act: Guitarist Zac Joe and his squad of aural assassins have been grinding out visceral riffage for more than fifteen years. Still, they remain as impressive as ever, and show it on every note of Xenosapien, their latest CD for Relapse Records. Rather than simply heaving out death-metal cliches, the musicians approach each track as a test of their skill and imagination. And on the likes of "Divination & Volition," which is as technically impressive as it is brutally inventive, they pass with the highest marks in the class.
Metal and hardcore are big draws in Denver, thanks in part to Uncle Nasty. You know this, of course, if you've ever tuned your dial to KBPI between the hours of midnight and 2 a.m. for Metalix, the long-running underground, metal-centric specialty show he founded. Six days a week, the best emerging talent is spotlighted, along with the town's heavyweights. And during drive time, Nasty often brings in area acts for Local Band Hang Out Day and gives them the star treatment. His undying support for the music made here reflects the fact that he's a part of the scene himself, as the frontman of Horse. Hail Nasty!
Carrie Beeder's violin magic has been a mainstay of the Denver music scene since 1994, when she began playing with performance-art weirdos Gladhand. Lately, however, she's become almost ubiquitous, performing with Bela Karoli, the Wheel, Joseph Pope III, Hearts of Palm, Astrophagus, Born in the Flood, Everything Absent or Distorted (A Love Story), Dan Craig and her newly unveiled improvisational project, Recess. Folks like d.biddle and Roger Green are also eager to get a bit of the Beeder, and for good reason: Adding her inimitable touch while blending smoothly with a wide range of acts, she's one part session player and two parts sensational string-sizzler.
Neighborhood Flix Cinema & Cafe is such a welcome addition to the Lowenstein Theater complex, we can only wonder how we lived so long without it. Other places have mixed food and film, but never first-run movies with first-rate food. Neighborhood Flix combines a bar/bistro (with an initial menu designed by James Mazzio of 5 Degrees and Via fame) with progressive programming and intimate screening rooms for a powerful trifecta. Films cross the spectrum from Hollywood's latest to documentaries to international flicks and second-run indies — and the crowds that flock here prove there's always room for one more art house in a city filled with sophisticated cinephiles. The food selections are inventive (popcorn and popcorn shrimp!), the drinks are bountiful, and the price is right: $5 for matinees, and free for kids under five. The couch-style theater seating is so comfy, you'll want to stay through the credits.
Landmark's latest theater not only offers the same great first-run and art films you'll see at the Mayan, Chez Artiste and Esquire, but it has a lounge complete with a bar. And then there's the snack deal: free popcorn and fountain drinks for the cost of admission. Granted, the tickets are a few dollars more than the current standard, but cinephiles with big appetites and a powerful thirst will more than break even. The real way to enjoy a movie here in true creature comfort, however, is to shell out a couple of extra bucks for the VIP option, which nets you deluxe chairs and wait service from on-call staffers until the movie begins. It's a relatively small price to pay for celebrity treatment; the only thing missing is the red carpet.
Movie theaters that offer food and drink service are becoming almost commonplace. But that's food and drink service in the lobby. The Aurora Movie Tavern is one of the Tavern chain's "premier" locations, which means that there's full waitstaff service in the theater itself. Press the call button at your seat during the film, and your server will bring the beverage of your choice — and what choices! There's the Blue Thing, the signature margarita, or the Big Blue Thing for 2 — forty ounces of that signature margarita for $15.99. The Movie Tavern also mixes up a mean margarita and sells not just a bucket o' beer, but the Tavern Tanker, which for $9.99, comes filled with your favorite brew — and then you get to take the Tanker home. Happy trailers to you!
Programmed under the auspices of the Denver Film Society, Starz is not only a great place to see the latest in foreign and independent films, but it's also home to nearly a dozen ongoing series that cover all the cinematic bases. There's Cinema Q for the gay-centric crowd, DocNight for those who want an injection of reality into their film-going lives, and Rocky Mountain PBS Free Community Cinema, which offers a sneak peek of films to be aired later by the PBS series Independent Lens, to name a just few. For late-night fun, monthly Mile High Sci Fi nights combine comedy and B-movies, while Kids First! provides free Saturday screenings for the junior set. A recent addition, Seeing Double, even brings back the hallowed double feature on Thursday nights and Saturday afternoons. At Starz, variety and good taste go hand in hand.
Courtesy Denver Art Museum
Artists today want to tell stories, but a generation ago there was a group of artists who simply wanted to make beautiful paintings, and they were the subject of Color as Field, a magnificent exhibit at the Denver Art Museum. The traveling show was guest-curated by Karen Wilkin, for the American Federation of the Arts, and the DAM's able Gwen Chanzit. Wilkin included color-field compositions by Morris Louis, Helen Frankenthaler and Kenneth Noland, as well as work by the style's ancestors, like Mark Rothko, and creations by the movement's heirs, such as Frank Stella. Not just one of the best shows last year, it was one of the best in decades.
Jonathan Bitz has an unbridled passion for local music. The mastermind behind Syntax, the well-regarded literary-arts publication, his love for the scene has resulted in much-needed exposure for such vital Denver artists as Ian Cooke, Bela Karoli, Gregory Alan Isakov and Rachael Pollard. Last spring, Bitz and the Late Jack Redell created a three-day singer-songwriter confab titled A Moveable Feast, which spotlighted these acts and other emerging artists. That led to a traveling version of Feast, as well as the like-minded Living Room series at the Meadowlark, where Bitz currently handles booking duties. The scene would be nowhere near as vibrant without tireless evangelists like Bitz.
With Ragtime, it felt as if Boulder's Dinner Theatre had opened the doors and let in a great whoosh of invigorating air. This is one hell of a musical to stage, one based on an important book that marries a meaningful plot with a smart, perceptive script and terrific songs. To create a cast, artistic director Michael J. Duran teamed up with Jeffrey Nickelson of Denver's Shadow Theatre Company, and Nickelson himself played the enigmatic angel-devil Coalhouse Walker. The energy and discovery created by this fusion of talents from the two companies was palpable, and the production was a joy, buoyed by strong performances, filled with memorable moments and crammed with musical numbers that ranged from meltingly lovely to funny to wildly exhilarating.

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