Always a fine band with an exciting live show, Action Packed Thrill Ride became can't-miss by smoothing some of the rough edges and leaning away from country and toward rock and roll. Now the band's shows are as much fun as its name. The group recorded a new EP, Best I've Felt, and offered it for free as a download and at its shows. There's a warm, inclusive feel to the new stuff, and we're confident the band's full-length followup to the very good A Looseleaf Script will be its best yet.

Paris on the Platte Cafe & Bar
Cassandra Kotnik

Since the state's smoking ban was introduced several years ago, longtime coffeehouse Paris on the Platte and the adjoining Paris Wine Bar were among the only places where people could legally smoke in the city. Near the end of 2009, though, owner Faye Maguire made the tough decision to go smoke-free. But she did more than clear the air; she procured a cabaret license for the wine bar, took down a wall, built a stage, added a sound system — and started booking a weekly stream of live music and DJs. These days, Paris is smokin' — in a good way.

Dazzle

There's a reason that Dazzle keeps winning awards, a reason that Downbeat magazine rates this spot as one of the top 100 jazz clubs in the world: Dazzle keeps getting it right. Seven days a week, you can count on the club to bring in stellar talent, whether it's a high-caliber national act along the lines of Tom Harrell, Bill Frisell, Brian Blade, Charlie Hunter or Joey DeFrancesco, or one of the city's finest offerings, pulling from the likes of Ron Miles, Fred Hess, Jeff Jenkins, René Marie or the jazz supergroup Convergence. Combine the talent with two comfortable listening rooms, a Colorado-centric bar and some damn fine food (including a great happy-hour menu), and you've got a dazzling jazz club that's definitely world-class.

Nathaniel Rateliff has been an undeniable presence on the local scene for years, from fronting the critically lauded Born in the Flood to, more recently, serving as the driving creative force of the Wheel. With Flood, Rateliff's expressive vocals added a layer of distinction to already stirring indie-rock compositions. When he's on his own, though, his captivating voice — which has stilled more than a few boisterous crowds — showcases the subtler nuances of his songwriting. On the heels of successful stints at last fall's CMJ New Music Marathon in New York City and March's SXSW in Austin, which generated positive notices from Brooklyn Vegan and Vanity Fair, Rateliff has truckloads of momentum going into the release of In Memory of Loss, his Rounder Records debut due out this spring. Finally, Rateliff seems poised to get the national recognition he so richly deserves.

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