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
JC Buck
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.
Neither The Gin Game nor Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? are particularly timely, though the latter is an American classic and welcome viewing any time. But at Paragon, Warren Sherrill's productions of these two plays made them contemporary. The Gin Game featured Jim Hunt as a man fighting the ravages of time and his own loneliness in the most ungracious way possible, with Patty Mintz Figel as his cunning opponent; despite the unspectacular text, you felt deeply for these lost people. And Virginia Woolf was a jolt of rage-fueled adrenaline, with Sherrill's sure directorial hand evident in everything from the strength of his casting to such tiny details as the real snapdragons used in one scene.
Oriental Theater
Due to a restrictive agreement for a show they'd played a few nights before, the members of 3OH!3 were unable to promote their performance at a Sims Snowboard-sponsored event at the Oriental in January. While this was a shame for the duo's rabid fans as well as the Oriental's owners — especially considering that the act had sold out the Gothic the previous Saturday — the show was a rare treat for the audience, who'd only expected to watch an endless parade of kids snowboarding down staircases on the big screen. So when Nathaniel Motte and Sean Foreman appeared on the stage, throwing Sims swag into the mostly underage crowd, the audience went apeshit. Then the goof-hop outfit proceeded to play the intimate show with the same energy and intensity they'd displayed at the sold-out Gothic.
Within the magical A Midsummer Night's Dream, realities dissolve and two pairs of lovers are bamboozled by fairies into losing track of their original alliances and switching partners again and again. The interrelated themes are that love is crazy and lovers blind, that we all live in a world of illusion, and that theater itself mirrors this shifting, upside-down universe. At the Colorado Shakespeare Festival, director Gavin Cameron-Webb set these shenanigans on a stage within a stage, and the design was simple, elegant and workable. The actors were all convincing, and they didn't attempt English accents or pound away at the humor and exaggerate the sentiment as so many Shakespearean performers do. As a result, you heard the lines clearly — and since A Midsummer Night's Dream is filled with poetry, that clarity made the production sing.
Sarah Fallon has a lovely voice and she knows how to speak Shakespeare, giving the poetry its due without ever sounding phony. At the Colorado Shakespeare Festival last summer, she brought real humor to the role of the jilted Helena in A Midsummer Night's Dream — broad but never over the top.
When former Insider Spider members Nathaniel Barsness and Greg Schoonmaker (also ex-Mannequin Makeout) joined with Diana Sperstad (formerly of As Seen on TV) and Suzi Bromfield (previously with Supply Boy and Catatonic Lydia), they wrote some of the most feisty, beautiful pop songs ever to grace Denver stages and performed them as the charming, energetic Games for May, whose name was taken from a Syd Barrett song. In April 2007, the outfit released its first and only album, The Season Is the Reason, and included in each copy a photograph of the band posing at Sperstand's house, making each CD a collector's item. Despite having released such an accomplished record, the group wasn't able to capitalize on its achievement and wound up breaking up in May, ironically.
Instead of using shapes to define his artwork, contemporary conceptual artist Roland Bernier uses letters that form words. These letters are made of laser-cut mirrors, sawn plywood or printed vinyl. For a twenty-year retrospective — representing the second half of his forty-plus-year career — Walker Fine Art was transformed into what looked like a museum. One reason was that some of the installations, sculptures and bas-reliefs had been part of his Close Range show at the Denver Art Museum in 2001, but the best parts of Retrospective were all the new works that revealed Bernier's relentlessness in following his unique aesthetic journey.
Denver painter Clark Richert is a perennial favorite with young artists, both the many students he's influenced as an art professor at the Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design and others who have taken his lessons through osmosis. Richert is interested in advanced math, which he uses to determine the details of his paintings and other works like "Riemannian Tangercies," his public-art piece in pavement and epoxy that decorates the fire lane at the Museum of Contemporary Art/Denver. That work was closely related to the paintings and digital prints shown at Rule last fall, in which he laid out non-repeating patterns using a range of colors against an indeterminate monochrome ground. An intriguing aspect of Richert's oeuvre is the way he remains loyal to his principles while constantly changing the way his pieces look.

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