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.
It ain't easy being funny these days. "Your mama so fat" jabs died with the banking collapse. Dick jokes in the middle of a recession? Fuggedaboutit. Thankfully, we still have Greg Baumhauer, Ben Kronberg, Ben Roy, Jim Hickox and former Westword scribe Adam Cayton-Holland (who recently released a DVD called Dick Jokes for Artists), the witty fellows behind the standup production company Wrist Deep Productions. From weekly open-mike nights at the Squire Lounge to viral videos like "Barackman Turner Overdrive" to wildly popular monthly extravaganzas at Orange Cat Studios known as "Los Comicos Super Hilariosos," Wrist Deep's genre-pushing, gut-busting humor is a full-time vocation – and one whose acclaim is spreading beyond Denver. Thanks to this crew, even in these troubled times, there are enough dick jokes to go around.
So you're producing a blockbuster musical on a limited budget, a show known for productions that feature sparkly costumes, amazing technical effects and big, big musical numbers. What do you do to make audiences forget the Broadway show and those costly touring versions? Here's Michael J. Duran's answer: He assembled a cast of talented actors and ingenious tech people, and he let everyone cut loose as only the BDT gang can. He put tall Brian Norber into staggeringly high heels and a glittering dress; he encouraged Wayne Kennedy and Scott Beyette to pull out all the stops as producer Max Bialystock and his bookkeeper sidekick; he deployed so much talent in the chorus that the group numbers were full of delicious surprises. And he put the vulgar, exhilarating whoop missing from many big-budget versions of The Producers back into this insane Hitler-baiting story.
David Ivers is primarily known as an actor, but this production showed off his directing chops. He changed the play's time and locale, wedding the script's Elizabethan humor to the bright optimism of the 1920s, the era of flappers. With the help of an excellent cast that included Kathleen M. Brady as a hilarious Mistress Quickly, an inspired set by Hugh Landwehr and David Kay Michelson's gorgeous costumes, Ivers managed to make this minor Shakespearean work not only funny, but elegant, giving us lightness and wit where we'd expected only incomprehensible speech and corny puns.

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