Best Musical Number 2009 | "Come Look at the Freaks," Side Show | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword
Amid the thunderous chords of "Come Look at the Freaks," the first number in Side Show, the cast formed a ragged circle at the perimeter of the stage. Although their expressions varied — blank or determined, resigned or defiant — they were all looking at us, the audience. You, they seemed to say, you, sitting comfortably in your plush seat, you whose muscles move smoothly over bone, whose voice emerges from your throat uncracked and whose body responds unhesitatingly to your barely conscious demands. Perhaps it's you who's the freak — because of what you don't know, and the blind, heedless way you move through life, complaining when the bus is late or your coffee's a little bitter. Defiance, rage, even a hint of exultation — they were all part of this fierce, powerful number.
It seems unlikely: an art museum in a Denver Tech Center office building. Granted, the Palazzo Verdi isn't an ordinary office building. It's a slick and handsomely appointed but understated structure blessed with a 55-foot atrium sporting an inset replica of the cathedral labyrinth at Chartres, an ethereal chandelier by Lonnie Hanzon and Todd Siler's monumental wall mural. It's also home to a cafe, Larry DiPasquale's Mangia Bevi. And, yes, it's got a museum, too, one dedicated primarily to showcasing works from the vaults of major art collector and Palazzo Verdi developer John Madden, which means its exhibits can be over-the-top eclectic and, just a little, a means to an end. But the Madden Museum is still more than a rich man's toy, since it offers us the opportunity to share a smorgasbord of works by the likes of Thomas Hart Benton, Robert Rauschenberg, Thomas Moran, Jackson Pollack and other strange but wonderful bedfellows — and to do it in the midst of the south suburban wasteland. And that fills a pretty tall order.
Dancers might have grace and good balance, but when it comes to taking a step up in the world, their chances are few and none. So when a local dance troupe gets a national pat on the back, it's reason to, well, dance for joy. And Ballet Nouveau Colorado really worked hard for this honor by constantly tweaking the range of what ballet is and can be, under the creative watch of choreographer Garrett Ammon, a gifted dancemaker. Featuring everything from the annual 21st Century Choreography Competition (with audience participation) to a season of programs inspired by rock songs or poetry, this ensemble's offerings constantly raise the barre.
Young Coyotes has been around for less than a year. In that short time, however, the act has released two EPs, embarked on several cross-country tours, recorded a Daytrotter session, been hailed on numerous blogs and attracted a high-powered manager in Blee Music's Brian Swartz (Rose Hill Drive). Seemingly milliseconds after forming, the band went from playing Saturday matinee sets at places like Lifespot last summer to garnering choice gigs at Monolith's VIP party and Hot IQs' annual holiday party — which led to discriminating music fans across the city howling for Young Coyotes. Why all the fuss? That's easy: The music, which is sparse but fiery and melodic, like Akron/Family channeling the best moments of the Shins with the vitality and conviction of Arcade Fire.
As a local rep for PBR, Alissa Anderson visited a quite a few bars in this town. The next logical step was to own a bar of her own. So last October, she and her husband bought the former Club Boca, which had been vacant for close to a year, did a quick renovation that involved moving the bar to the front near the window, and opened in a flash. Just as quickly, the bar was attracting regulars, especially service-industry folks, and Anderson started bringing in bands, DJs, art shows and a whole lot more. While the place still doesn't have a sign up, it's pretty easy to find: Just look for the neon beer lights and lots of people in the window.
After Brendan's closed up shop on Market Street and then unsuccessfully gave it a go at the spot where the Marquis Theater is now, a large hole was left in downtown's blues scene. Thankfully, Blues on Blake, which combined the former Laughing Dog Deli and Dugout spaces, stepped up to bring blues back into downtown. Modeled after the '40s and '50s supper clubs of New York and Chicago, with candles on the tables and steaks, fish and wine on the menu, the dark, cozy Blues provides the perfect backdrop for the fine local blues acts it showcases three nights a week. Just down the street from Coors Field, Blues on Blake has scored a home run.
Eric Gruneisen
Francois Safieddine has been in the LoDo club business for fifteen years. During that time, he's launched such hot spots as Lotus, Monarck, 5 Degrees, Mynt and, a year ago, his super-posh 24K club. But Suite Two Hundred might just be the feather in Safieddine's cap. Since it opened last August, the ultra-slick upscale club, located in the former Lucky Star space, has brought in nationally known celebrities such as Aubrey O'Day, Lady Gaga, Rock of Love's Daisy de la Hoya and Playboy Playmates to host parties that, in turn, attract many a local sports celebrity. While the club is usually packed on the weekends, its Room Service industry nights have also become the place to be on Tuesdays in LoDo.
With a mix of moxie and money, Plus Galley owners Ivar and Karen Zeile undertook the reconstruction of the Flue structure on the back side of the old Benjamin Moore paint factory on Larimer Street. For the redesign of the existing building and the creation of an addition, the Zeiles tuned to Denver architect Steve Chucovich, a cutting-edge neo-modernist. Chucovich orchestrated a second-story rectilinear volume that seems to float above the old brick structure. The results are intelligent and beautiful.
Even though the Food Chain doesn't have a MySpace page, website or even a logo, it's made a big enough impression through a collection of leaked tracks for us to take notice. The Chain consists of producers Mass Prod, MoHeat and Mic Coats, with contributions from Frank E. and rappers Champ (aka Oren Lomena from Raw Sports/Fox Sports Rocky Mountain and 104.3 FM/The Fan), Jae One (Urban Nerd/, Midas (Gang Green INT), C-One and F.L. Given all that talent in one place, we wouldn't be surprised to see this crew end up at the top of Colorado's hip-hop food chain (pun definitely intended).
The premiere of the Mile High Music Festival last summer yielded a unique opportunity for local music fans, offering them the chance to take in sets by homegrown musical heroes like Rose Hill Drive, the Photo Atlas, Born in the Flood and the Flobots in the afternoon, then spend the evening lolling on the grass to the strains of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers or the Dave Matthews Band. It was an ideal fusion, a marriage of the local and the national, the commercial and the indie in an expansive, open-air setting. It was a festival where rock legends like Steve Winwood followed hometown artists like Meese, a gathering where giants from the history of pop music rubbed elbows with artists who've helped forge the local scene.

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