Best Dive 2009 | Nob Hill Inn | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword
Eric Gruneisen
The Nob Hill Inn recently celebrated its fiftieth birthday. It's daunting to think of all the people who have spent hours on the stools there, killing time and waiting for the day to the end. But it's the kind of joint where it's easy to lose track of time. The square-shaped bar makes for easy people-watching, and with some of Colfax's finest camping out there, it's usually entertaining as hell. If Bukowski were still alive, this might be his idea of nirvana.
We love local santero Jerry Vigil, having bestowed a previous Best of Denver award on him for his cocky Colorado Rockies muerto, a traditional bare-bones Day of the Dead calavera dressed up in a Rockies uniform. And now we get to laud him all over again for Day of the Dead Crafts: More Than 24 Projects That Celebrate Día de los Muertos, a book he co-authored (with Kerry Arquette and Andrea Zocchi) and contributed to as an artist. Vigil said last fall that he hoped to help impart a more sophisticated understanding of the cultural traditions behind the whimsical Day of the Dead art. And we say he succeeded, without taking away an ounce of the genre's personality.
Molly Martin
Everyone who has been around the scene within the last decade either knows Sarah Slater or has seen her at some of the most interesting shows, local and otherwise. For the past couple of years, she's organized and hosted her Bring Your Own Records night at various places, now mostly Carioca Cafe (aka Bar Bar). Basically, you bring a handful of vinyl instead of CDs or — perish the thought — iPods, and do your thing. What Sarah's doing may seem incredibly retro, but really, it's just a great way to bring people together to share music.
You may not know Lance Stack by name, but if you've been going to certain shows, you've probably seen his impressively portable, live recording setup. For over two years, Stack has been making high-quality recordings of live shows and posting them online. After getting a band's permission, he posts the tracks at his website, the Flat Response. A casual perusal of that site reveals a breathtaking treasure trove of live audio, including the kind of technical information any audio geek would want to know. By any standard, Stack's website is an important document of what's been going on in Denver music.
There couldn't have been a better setting for this textured, nostalgic play than the cozy, elegantly proportioned lobby of the more-than-century-old Barth Hotel, or a script better suited to the environmental approach chosen by director Terry Dodd. The playing area brought out the intertwined passions and emotions of the script and, because it was no brighter than the rest of the room, eliminated the separation you usually feel from the actors. As the title implies, the play is set in a hotel, and occasionally a genuine Barth resident became part of the action, walking through the scene or jumping up and applauding at a resonant moment. The production shimmered with history. Dodd had staged it here seventeen years earlier, and two of the actors from that version were on stage for this one: Judy Phelan-Hill and Patty Mintz Figel. No other local director possesses Dodd's understanding of place and its effect, and his Hot L Baltimore enlarged our sense of what theater is and the subtle, intriguing ways in which it speaks to us.
Director Mitch Dickman and actors Karen Slack, William Hahn and GerRee Hinshaw went out with recording equipment during the Democratic Convention in Denver, asking questions and shooting video. The result was the satiric Mediamockracy, which took on politics, corporate interests and media idiocy in the form of two fictive cable-show hosts: a viperous Fox-style anchor and a talk-show comic in the Stephen Colbert vein. The show got in plenty of jibes, Hinshaw led the incorporated audience discussion, and Hahn and Slack made their characters so vivid and interesting that you almost wished someone, somewhere, would give them shows of their own.
Like chocolate? Then you'll love the Colorado Chocolate Festival, which turns Mother's Day weekend into one long, miasmic cacao high, as hopped-up chocoholics snake from booth to booth tasting chocolate of every ilk, from dark and pure to sweet and milky, gooey to waxy smooth, with wine, with nuts, infused with tea, slathered on cakes, baked into brownies and artfully rolled into rich, melty truffles. Last year, there were chocolate contests, baking demonstrations and a Miss Chocolate crowning, and Willy Wonka strolled the room; there was even a Mother's Day gift market of non-chocolate items.
Denver art takes off Devil horse inspires us to write Mile Haiku Who would imagine that a piece of public art could provide endless hours of entertainment? Back in 1993, New Mexican sculptor Luis Jimnez won a $300,000 commission to create a giant sculpture of a horse for the still-unopened Denver International Airport. From the start, art insiders were betting on what the final price would be and when Jimnez would actually deliver. But all bets were off when the horse killed Jimnez before he could complete it; his estate finally finished the piece in late 2007. It was installed at the entrance to DIA in February 2008 twelve years late, and with a price tag of $650,000 and thats when the fun really began. Armchair critics complained that the horse looked evil; children cowered on car floors as their parents drove by the Devil Horse. And the discussion really took off after realtor Rachel Hultin set up a Facebook page encouraging people to write poems inspired by the horse. She wound up delivering close to 300 poems to the citys arts office and many of those will be read at a special Mile Haiku City poetry slam at the Denver Public Library on April 27. A horse is a horse, and the events free, of course.
Artists have been using recycled materials ever since Marcel Duchamp took a urinal, turned it upside down and dubbed it "Fountain" nearly a hundred years ago. But lately the cause has gained a new urgency. Highlighting this trend was Alchemy, at the William Havu Gallery, in which three artists used non-art materials to create their work. Coloradan Stan Meyer wove roofing tar paper into wall hung constructions. Ann Weber, a California artist who is also into weaving, used old pieces of cardboard cut into strips to make freestanding sculptures, some of them quite large. Finally, Marta Thoma, also from California, strung up old bottles to turn them into suspension sculptures. There's no LEED certification for artwork, as there is for buildings, but if there were, Meyer, Weber and Thoma would obviously qualify.
Although he was frail and seriously ill at the time, Dale Chisman was still able to hold court over what would turn out to be the final solo show of his lifetime, Recent Paintings by Dale Chisman. From a comfortable seat in the office, he greeted a throng of well-wishers at the opening reception who had formed a line so that they could talk with him. Even in bad health, Chisman's powers as a painter were still as keen as ever, as evidenced by the work all around him. When Chisman died just a few months after the show closed, Denver lost one of the most accomplished artists it has ever had.

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