Best New Bar From a Musician 2008 | Crown Hill Taphouse | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword
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.
Even though it's been widely ridiculed — and hated — it's hard to deny the power of Luis Jimenez's "Mustang" on the approach to Jeppesen Terminal at DIA. The 32-foot-high outdoor piece is a perfect example of the artist's sensibility, bridging the gap between the high art of classic Western imagery and the low brow of the carnival's garishly painted fiberglass ornaments. The gigantic rearing stallion, with its luridly blue coat, bulging black veins and glowing reddish-orange eyes, is pointedly disturbing, and the story of its creation matches that mood. Thirteen years overdue when it was delivered in February, "Mustang" was also over budget and the subject of lawsuits between Denver and Jimenez. And in June 2006, a piece of the sculpture fell on the artist and killed him. Nonetheless, Jimenez's final work may have been his best.
Like many cities, Colorado Springs has a vacated railyard next to its downtown. Since it's small and in Monument Creek's floodplain, however, the city decided to turn it into America the Beautiful Park instead of developing it and to anchor the park with the stunning modernist sculpture "Continuum — the Julie Penrose Fountain," by renowned sculptor William Burgess. Set in an elaborate group of pools designed by architect David Barber, the open loop of steel lined with hundreds of water jets is about four stories tall. And if the cascading water and gigantic size aren't enough to inspire notice, the sculpture is on a rotating turntable. In good weather, the place teems with kids; surely, it's one of the best ways to spend an afternoon in the Springs.
Old downtown Aurora has seen better days, and the city's leaders have attempted to turn that fact around in any number of ways, one of which is the installation of public art in the area. Among the several commissions completed in the last year or so is "Ghost Trolley," by Lawrence Argent, which sits in the center island across from the Martin Luther King Library. The sculpture, executed in translucent plastic, is a flattened, three-dimensional image of a trolley appropriated from a historic photo taken when these quaint streetcars ran up and down Colfax Avenue. The context combines the best of the past and present.
Kurt Lewis opened this small, comfortable performing space with Bold Girls, a fine play about Ireland's Troubles directed by Anthony Powell. Now Paragon Theatre has made the place its permanent home. A welcome addition to Five Points, a historic part of Denver, the theater will also be used for music, poetry readings and classes. Everyone knows that crossroads are magical places, and Lewis intends to create a vibrant center here, featuring a fertile fusion of cultures and art forms.
Cassandra Kotnik
When he bought the nearby Sport Bowl Lanes & Billiards, Gothic Theatre owner Steve Schalk wanted to turn the spot into a live music/bowling center with a sci-fi theme, and even thought about having the Millennium Falcon crashing into the front of the place. While he didn't end up going quite that far, the iconic Star Wars spacecraft became the inspiration for this spot, and space-themed murals lining one of the walls do give it the look of a spaceship. The venue itself is out of this world: One side is a live-music club that brings in local and national acts and features a state-of-the-art sound system (it had to live up to the Gothic's standards, after all), while the other side houses the bowling alley, pinball machines and pool tables.
Since it opened in the lower level of a large church complex, Brooks Center Arts has become a haven for some of the town's less volume-driven acts looking for a place other than a bar to share their music. The venue, organized primarily by filmmaker/songwriter Laura Goldhamer, is like someone's large living room, complete with tea and other goodies sold at a discount in the back and a true all-ages policy throughout. Which means that people of all persuasions, and all ages, can come here for a special evening of music and art.
Does Drag the River still exist — and if so, in what form? That's a difficult question to answer. The band allegedly broke up in 2007, only to reunite in order to promote You Can't Live This Way, a first-rate CD issued by the Suburban Home imprint. Afterward, the players drifted back into the shadows, but a bio included on the outfit's still-active MySpace page concludes with the phrase "It never ends." That's good news, if true. If not, it's a real Drag.

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