Best New Gallery Space 2009 | Plus Gallery | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword
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.
Like "Mustang" at DIA, John McEnroe's "National Velvet" has elicited a lot of public comment. But here the jokes have been accompanied by sniggers and smirks rather than shock and awe. Some have suggested that the piece, a contemporary take on an obelisk cast from piled-up sandbags — in the Platte River floodplain, no less — suggests either a penis or a stack of breasts. What really makes this sculpture fun, though, is the way McEnroe parodies traditional monumental sculpture by placing a glow-in-the-dark red plastic spire in the middle of an old-fashioned-looking town square.
Everything Absent or Distorted's strong debut, The Soft Civil War, should have been difficult to improve upon — a sophomore slump would have been acceptable, even expected, from Denver's resident bombastic pop big band. But somehow the group pulled out all the stops and delivered a second album that not only fulfilled the promise of its stellar debut, but flat-out obliterated it. Sanding off some of the first album's charming rough edges and streamlining the eclectic songwriting and sound, The Great Collapse is an accomplished, symphonic masterpiece that delivers its heartbreaking barbs and beams of hope in the form of a dozen perfect pop songs destined to become classics.
Since relocating from Denver to its new home in Aurora last April, Shadow Theatre Company has become a forum for much more than just drama. Artistic director Jeffrey Nickelson and the Shadow crew have incorporated a wide range of performing arts into the theater's programming, including the new "Soul Den" concert series mounted by DaJazz Records CEO Michael Hancock in January. Billed as a fusion of neo-soul, jazz, gospel and R&B, the event offers a meeting of local musical minds in an intimate, theatrical setting. The first round of shows in January boasted compelling and participatory performances from aspiring stars and established veterans of the soul genre, a dynamic that Hancock has promised will figure into future series in April and May.
Inside the spacious lobby, dozens of people chatted, smiled and sipped wine as they waited for the opening of Dinah Was — Shadow Theatre's first production in its brand-new home. Along one wall was a series of sculptures by Ed Dwight, and wandering through the crowd was artistic director Jeffrey Nickelson, beaming. For years, the company had performed at the Ralph Waldo Emerson Center, where audience members sat on folding chairs in a large, bare room and the actors had to prepare on the fire escape, since there were no dressing rooms. But then Shadow caught the attention of a developer who'd been working with the City of Aurora to develop a lively arts district on East Colfax. In 2008, Nickelson moved his company into this beautifully renovated building, complete with a comfortable 191-seat theater, and set the stage for years to come.
Formerly the Trilogy Lounge, the b.side is carrying on some of the musical legacy left of the former music venue and restaurant while carving out a niche of its own. Although DJs still frequently spin there, b.side has also brought in an eclectic mix of nationally renowned talent such as the Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey, Dirty Sweet and the Mighty Underdogs. The club has also recruited some fine local jazz talent on Sundays, as well as singer-songwriters, reggae and hip-hop artists. The b.side is especially kind to the electronic folks and electronic-centric groups and organizations like MFA and Communikey, which has helped make the venue a hot spot for electronic music as well.
When some of us would see the old Muddy's sign on the back of this building, we'd instantly remember the days when downtown Denver was both a scary place and one where interesting coffee shops and clubs could be found. When the building was renovated, a piece of Denver history was erased, and in its place was what looked like a slick extension of LoDo. Turns out the owners had more in mind, as the Loft has been hosting live music of all stripes in a room with surprisingly good acoustics and a spacious, well-appointed environment in which to enjoy them.
It's hard to believe that the formal Western art galleries on the seventh floor of the Denver Art Museum's Ponti tower were shuttered for five years. Sure, some Western pieces have been displayed on the second floor of the Hamilton building, but most of the collection had been in deep storage until recently, when curators Peter Hassrick and Thomas Smith teamed up to reinstall it. Among the treasures now on display is "Cowboy Singing," by Thomas Eakins, which the DAM recently acquired. The institution signed over half ownership of "Long Jakes," by Charles Deas, to the Anschutz Collection in exchange for half ownership in the Eakins. Times being what they are, this kind of creative financing is likely to become more common, something art fans certainly can't complain about.

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