Sie FilmCenter
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.
Denver Art Museum
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.
Luscious and lyrical, a feast for the eyes, ears and mind, The Light in the Piazza reminded you of just how romantic a musical can be. Every performance was a gem. Katie Rose Clarke was a luminous Clara; David Burnham, too, sang like an angel. And at any point, if you happened to get bored watching superb actors carry an absorbing plot or listening to varied and heart-stirring music, you could study the exquisite architectural contours of Michael Yeargan's set, admire the vibrant colors of Catherine Zuber's costumes or take in the shifting play of light created by Christopher Akerlind. This play left you dizzy with pleasure.
The current lineup of Widowers looks an awful lot like the now-in-limbo Constellations, with two-thirds of the same people, but Mike Marchant's tight songwriting — with just the right blend of pop smarts and psychedelic swirls — and Cory Brown's melodic drumming signal that this outfit is up to something very different. In just over a year of live shows, the act's sound has evolved into a sticky, infectious garage-pop hybrid that's accessible enough to draw a crowd, but just unique enough to stand out in that crowd. Guitarist Davey Hart flails and wails hypnotically at the edge of the stage while Marchant — all doe eyes and Julian Casablancas come-ons — purrs his abstruse lyrics and twists his guitar into new and interesting shapes. Meanwhile, Mark Shusterman's fractured, flickering Rhodes adds just the right amount of sparkle. Driven home by subtle, insistent and undeniably sexy rhythms, Widowers melodies linger long after the last string stops vibrating.
Every once in a while, a bar opens that just feels like home — if your home had cheap drinks (we're talking dollar PBRs all the time) and a damn fine jukebox stocked with everything from old-school punk to classic country to jazz and everything in between. The Continental Club is a simple, unpretentious joint — a little on the small side, but it works. And it's a welcome addition not just to the Santa Fe arts district, but to all of Denver — particularly since it augments that jukebox by bringing in live bands like Whiskey Throttle and Lyin' Bitch & the Restraining Orders.
Tyson Murray knows a few things about bars — and music. The Railbenders bassist was one of the original owners of Bender's Tavern, and last summer he took over the former Wheat Ridge Bar & Grill, turning it into a damn cool spot. While the Taphouse may be only a fraction of the size of his former joint, Murray has it stocked with seventeen beers on tap, including Boddingtons, Kronenbourg, Hoegaarden, Beamish Irish Stout and a few local microbrews. And he keeps the rest of the place jumping, too, especially on Mondays, when the lovely and talented Angie Stevens holds court at the weekly open stage. And on Saturdays, there's a steady stream of live blues and alt-country bands on, uh, tap.
Nearly two years after opening the basement-level Slim 7, Bill Ward expanded his subterranean empire to the other side of Larimer Square, taking over the 6,000-square-foot space that formerly housed the Champion Brewing Company and transforming it into two clubs, Pie Hole and Below. They're about as yin and yang as it gets: Pie Hole is the brightly lit, sparsely finished late-night pizza joint, while Below is a dark, candle-filled gothic lair pulled out of the pages of an Anne Rice novel. Nosferatu would foam at the mouth at the sight of this killer den — but to make sure the place stays lively, Ward has brought in nationally known DJs, as well as Lipgloss DJ Michael Trundle, who helms the club's weekly Recession Wednesdays.
The name may be ridiculous, but Uddermadness is deadly serious about bringing innovative, exciting dance-music talent to Denver. Founded less than two years ago, Uddermadness quickly built a reputation as promoters with an ear for what's hot and a knack for booking artists for their first Colorado appearances. From the pulsing, jazz-infused techno of Cobblestone Jazz to the infectious, irresistible sound of Booka Shade, this crew has been responsible for some of the most exciting dance-music events in the region. And with a number of top-notch productions lined up for the near future, Uddermadness has demonstrated that there's always room for one more promoter on the scene — provided said promoter kicks this kind of ass.

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