Best Record Label 2008 | Rope Swing Cities | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword
Since its launch a little over two years ago, the quirky, eclectic Rope Swing Cities has issued nearly thirty releases in a variety of genres, ranging from the spacey electronic abstractions of Loafeye and the intricate mind-fuck programming of Ten to Tracer's IDM soundscapes and the emotional indie rock of Roger, Roll. Every release is distributed as a free download from the label's website, with select high-profile releases getting deluxe, limited CD treatment. A well-kept Denver secret, Rope Swing Cities has nonetheless established itself as a place for adventurous listeners to discover something new without risk, carving out a fantastic niche for itself even as the traditional concept of a label becomes more irrelevant.
Next to death, unrequited love is perhaps the cruelest of life's inventions. Few things are as euphoric as the rush of endorphins you feel the first time someone truly steals the breath from your lungs — or as soul-crushing as later realizing that the one you love doesn't love you. On The Fall I Fell, Ian Cooke does a masterful job of articulating the poignancy of such a scenario over the course of a dozen tracks. From the chamber-heavy instrumentation to Cooke's unique vocal style, this disc is as compelling musically as it is thematically, and its packaging was both unique and perfect. Hands down, Fell was the best local recording of the past year.
What you'll see at Heritage is unlike anything you'll see anywhere else. It's pure silliness, pure Colorado, pure pleasure, an odd mix of dramatics, song, utter craziness and actors just sort of palling around with the audience. Veteran T.J. Mullin writes a lot of the material and delivers his roles with laid-back but assured humor. With the exception of Kira Cauthorn, who's rapidly adjusted to the nutty style required, most of the actors have been around forever. Annie Dwyer, a fearless and inspired clown, supplies much of the energy and lots of surprised laughter. Rory Pierce knows how to be manly and also how to show off his legs in a dress; Alex Crawford is a mean percussionist and a dry-lipped funnyman; and nothing would work as well as it does without the vigorous and nimble musicianship of Randy Johnson.
The conceit of this sendup of Titus Andronicus, Shakespeare's bloodiest and most incoherent of plays, is that a wandering troupe of five actors is presenting it as a musical. Buntport actually got us through the entire plot, using a board with caricatures and lightbulbs to tell us which of the five actors was playing which of the several dozen characters at any given moment, a van that moved from place to place on the stage, all kinds of goofy props, and the company's usual combination of literacy and lunacy, playfulness and skill.
Victoria H. Myhren Gallery director Dan Jacobs organized a history-gathering project based on eight past members of the University of Denver's art faculty, including some of Denver's best-known artists. The lucky eight were Vance Kirkland, Arnold Rönnebeck, Louise Rönnebeck, John Billmyer, William Sanderson, Otto Bach, Mina Conant and Marion Buchan. Art-history grad students Petra Sertic, Laura Fry, Neely Patton, Jillian Desmond, Lauren Fretz and Kristin Bonk, as well as undergraduate Alisha Stovall, did the legwork for Eight Painters & Sculptors at the University of Denver, constructing a factual record of the department's history by combing old records and bulletins. Some of DU's best art teachers were examined in this important endeavor, and some of its best students deserve all the credit for its success.
Animals are a well-established topic for sculptors, and many examples can be seen around town in the form of metal or marble horses, stags, lions and eagles. Last fall, California artist Michael Whiting brought his own menagerie to the Plus Gallery for Walk in the Park, which featured constructivist renditions of a doe, a buck, a squirrel, a rabbit, a mouse — and a man and a woman — creating a hard-edged, dusty-colored Garden of Eden. Typically, sculptures of animals are meant to convey strength and beauty, but Whiting made the best of this tradition by instead casting them as players in a conceptual installation.
In their purest form, abstract paintings are about paint, but some artists base their abstractions on representational imagery. That's what Boulder painter Amy Metier did in Position and Drift at the William Havu Gallery, using gardens and flower bushes as the basis for her vividly colored expressionist compositions. Paintings of flowers are often sweet and sentimental, but Metier's are monumental and lyrical.
Courtesy of the hi-dive
There's a reason this club keeps winning the Best Rock Club award, and it has nothing to do with its amenities. While the staff is welcoming and the drinks reasonably priced, the space itself isn't impressive. In fact, the sightlines outside of the main area kind of suck, and the stage is so unadorned that even a homemade lighting rig operated by Phil the Fan would be a vast improvement. So, no, it's not the amenities. The reason the hi-dive earns this award time after time is simple: Its programming is consistently choice, and the sound is impeccable.
MCA Denver
When the Museum of Contemporary Art/Denver opened this past fall, it was immediately celebrated far and wide for its plucky backstory, sleek design and striking exhibits. But few people mentioned the superb room on the top floor filled with little else but massive beanbag chairs. We're not sure what, exactly, this space has to do with contemporary art, but it sure is awesome. It's the perfect spot for a relaxing time-out with the kids after they've had more than their fair share of the galleries — or for a gigantic pillow fight with your hyperactive buddies. Better yet, sneak some drinks over from the rooftop bar and while away the entire afternoon. Every museum should have such a space, starting with the Smithsonian.
The title "promoter" can be a loaded one, conjuring the image of some sleazy opportunist trying to milk coin off another's god-given ability. But if you're a musician on the local periphery, you can do no better than having John Baxter in your corner. Eschewing the limelight and any sort of credit, he's the kind of music-first guy who'll hate getting an award. But ask any of the artists he's helped promote — from Ian Cooke to Ghost Buffalo to Tim Pourbaix to Killfix — and they'll tell you how invaluable his help has been. Currently working his ass off for the Old Curtis Street Bar — where he's helping provide one of the more diverse and consistently entertaining lineups around — Baxter can be seen night after night, day after day, nodding his head to the sounds of a scene he so obviously adores.

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