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.
Beta
It's not the state-of-the-art sound system, the primo location in LoDo or the crowds of beautiful people that make Beta Denver's best dance club (though none of that hurts). No, it's the high-caliber talent the place brings in week after week. In just its first year of operation, Beta has hosted a cavalcade of talent that reads like a who's who of the world's top dance-music acts., We can't wait to see what Beta does for an encore in year two.
As a member of the Triad Dragons crew, DJ Dragon is part of a dance-music juggernaut that's quickly established itself as the top promotions company in the region. That's given him the chance to play on the same stages as some of the world's top talent, and he's made the most of his opportunities, showing time and again that he can hold his own, regardless of who's spinning. When he's not rocking the stage at one of the big parties in the area, he's honing his blend of progressive, techno and trance at Beta, making him a near-ubiquitous figure in the scene. If you haven't caught a set of his yet, you don't get out enough.
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One of the Kirkland Museum's specialties is modern design, which made it the perfect venue for the traveling exhibit Florence Knoll: Defining Modern. The show comprised pieces of Knoll's furniture that truly expressed her less-is-more philosophy. Knoll favored straight lines and minimal detailing, but she was a perfectionist when it came to scale and proportion. Kirkland curator Hugh Grant supplemented the show with the museum's own pieces by Knoll and other designers of her generation, effectively highlighting Knoll's understated elegance.

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