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.
Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art
Colorado native and Colorado College art instructor Scott Johnson is an installation whiz, and for this impressive if enigmatic show, he completely took over the East Gallery at BMoCA. The Look of Nowhere, which included separate installations, a video and hemispherical mirrors, all of it sparely lit, was purportedly about Johnson's ruminations on Venice, but that was hard to tell. Easier to see was that Johnson really knows how to command a space and turn it into his own unique world.
It's hard to imagine a more perfect setting for the return of Rage Against the Machine than Denver during the Democratic National Convention. Likewise, there couldn't have been a better supporting cast of kindred artists than State Radio, the Coup and the Flobots, who owe a debt to Rage ideologically and, to some extent, musically. With incendiary anti-war politics informing the proceedings, stoked by the presence of members of the Iraq Veterans Against the War, and a planned post-show march to the Pepsi Center, the tension was palpable. By the time Rage took the stage, the Coliseum felt like a powderkeg ready to explode, and as the band ripped through fevered versions of its most urgent material, Zack de la Rocha barked at the crowd like a rabid pit bull. If ever there was a once-in-a-lifetime show, this was it.
It's hard to say if this is really a band or a performance-art group or both — or if it even matters to make such distinctions. It seems laughable to say that the act has developed since its debut early last year, but it has, adding various members along the way. "Spellcaster" is the group's vocalist, and throughout live performances, he seems to verbally abuse the "band" as well as the audience, which is also treated to out-and-out sonic chaos from the musicians, one of whom sometimes plays guitar while wearing boxing gloves. You never quite know what's in store at a Spellcaster show, but it's all imbued with a much-needed sense of danger.

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