Vicki Myhren Gallery
Paul Soldner first became interested in ceramics while he was a student at the University of Colorado back in the 1960s. Over the next four decades, the California-based artist maintained a studio near Aspen that he used during the summer. Paul Soldner Ceramics, organized by Dan Jacobs for the University of Denver's Myhren Gallery, included pieces from a wide range of dates, but it was mostly filled with the artist's wild sculptures of smashed shapes done over the last ten years. The results were eye-popping.
New York-based conceptual photographer Carla Gannis took up the topic of the femme fatale for her BMoCA solo last summer. In doctored-up digital photos with appropriated imagery from Hollywood movies, Gannis placed a sexy young woman in the midst of the action. The large, elegant color photos typically simmered with erotic content or with violence — or the threat of it. Although many contemporary artists work along the same lines, Gannis stood out by giving her series a compelling narrative.
Bender's Tavern
You know a DJ's got mad skills when he's flown in every week just to host a club night. Such is the life of DJ Klaw, whose main gig is manning the decks at motocross champion Carey Hart's club in Vegas. Around the same time that Hart and Klaw unveiled Mommy's Little Monster at Wasted Space in Vegas's Hard Rock Hotel, Klaw launched a similar night at Bender's Tavern on Thursdays. Taking its name from Social Distortion's 1983 debut, Mommy's Little Monster features Klaw and residents DJs Deftron and El Brian throwing down the best of hip-hop, electro, breakbeat, mash-ups and gutter punk. And if the music doesn't entice you, the Ghetto Bottle Service might: Bring five friends and eight bucks, and enjoy a bottle of booze and mixers on the house.
NV Lounge
Eric Gruneisen
The Continental Club had a lot of potential, but it only lasted a year. In January, former 15th Street Tavern owner Myke Martinez teamed up with musicians Desi Gonzalez and Maia Fortis to buy the spot, and they immediately began fixing it up. They made the stage bigger and painted it with black and white zigzags, dubbing it the David Lynch stage. Indeed, the red velvet behind the stage gives it a Lynchian feel. Hell, they even show Twin Peaks on Sundays. With all three owners being musicians, they've beefed up the music, bringing in a steady stream of punk, metal and rock. And when there's no live music, they've got DJs spinning metal, honky-tonk and a whole lot more. Martinez still hopes to resurrect the 15th Street Tavern someday in another spot; in the meantime, One Eyed Jacks will easily do the trick.
Novo Coffee
Not long ago, it would have been obscene for ritzy restaurant menus to name-drop their brand of coffee. But that's happening around here all the time now — especially when the coffee being used is Denver-based Novo Coffee. And that makes sense, since the family-owned Novo crafts coffee like other boutique outfits craft great wine or beer, seeking out the best beans around the world, roasting them in their Larimer Street facility and obsessively instructing their customers and clients on the best way to extract nuanced nectars from the grounds. The results have been named some of the best in the country, and Novo's main coffee bar, across the street from the Denver Art Museum's Hamilton Building, has become a caffeine-fanatic mecca. Isn't it time you took a sip of perfection?
A large part of what makes Lauri Lynnxe Murphy — the local artist, artrepreneur, scene-maker and Westword MasterMind — tick is her utter confidence in all that she does. When she decides to open a store, she opens a store. When she decides to put more energy back into being an artist with connections, she's an artist with connections. And, it goes without saying, when she decided to make a subjective book of photographs she's taken over the years of thrift-store junk and strange figurines, she — yep — went out and made a book, American Dream: Portraits of Things, which is available for sale online at www.blurb.com. It's a delightfully creepy slice of kitschy Americana, and besides, as Murphy herself notes on the front flap, "No tschotchkes were harmed in the making of this book!"
RedLine Contemporary Art Center
Courtesy RedLine Contemporary Art Center
For years, photographer and philanthropist Laura Merage fantasized about creating an "art incubator," where galleries hosting serious exhibits would be mixed with studios for working artists. So she snagged a big concrete block commercial building in Curtis Park and then had Bryan Schmidt of Semple Brown Design spiff it up and turn it into an art center, which opened in late 2008. The results are a stunning success, in particular the unbelievably large exhibition rooms. With visitors able to see both art and artists under the same roof, RedLine could soon rival the top art venues in town.
This play tells the story of Beane, a sad, lonely, crazy man who finds love when a young woman breaks into his apartment, threatens him and starts babbling about minimalism and arson. Except that this young woman might be imaginary. The script is funny, original and touching, and director Jarrad Holbrook did beautifully by it, utilizing a clever, expressive set by David Lafont and mood-setting lighting by Jen Orf. The four performers — Emily Paton Davies, Scott McLean, Barbra Andrews and Brian Landis Folkins (a newcomer we can hope to see a lot more of in the coming years) — had perfect timing and perfect chemistry together.
When Denver singer-songwriter John Common started putting out feelers for an all-kazoo ensemble, many folks assumed he was joking. However, as Common proved with the project's debut at the Oriental Theater in February, he was absolutely serious about the admittedly silly idea. The People's Kazoo Orchestra doesn't exist to bring more attention to Common, who hopes it will be a self-sustaining ensemble without his involvement. Nor does it exist to produce groundbreaking music. The concept is simple: Everyone, regardless of musical talent, should get to experience the rush of playing music on stage in front of an audience. This effectively puts the means of production into the hands of everyone in town. You could almost write a manifesto about it.
The re-release of the VSS's final album, Nervous Circuits, hardly needs recommendation. But Hydra Head, the label that put out the reissue, included a bonus DVD of live footage of the band from periods seemingly across its career, including shows at actual venues in Chicago, D.C., Brooklyn, Berkeley and Boulder, as well as at a church in Philadelphia. None of the footage is really professional-quality, but what makes it most interesting and significant is that it captures the essence of what it must have been like to experience those performances, flaws in sound and all. The footage also shows what a vital, powerful and important band the VSS really was.

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