Best Place to Watch Day Turn Into Night 2010 | Carioca Cafe (Bar Bar) | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword
Molly Martin

It's fascinating to watch how the clientele at the Carioca Cafe, better known as Bar Bar, changes over the course of a day (and three happy hours) — especially when this classic dive, one of the last left downtown, brings in live music. Get there a few hours before a gig and you'll find some of Denver's finest barflies, a few of which might have been there since the doors opened that morning. As the hour gets later, an assortment of hipsters, punks and rockers mixes in with those barflies, the music gets loud, and the next thing you know, you're in a veritable drinker's nirvana. Dive, he said.

Amy Adams, Castle Rock's finest export, has already received considerable critical acclaim, netting Golden Globe and Oscar nominations for roles in Junebug, Doubt and Enchanted. In 2009's Sunshine Cleaning, though, she showed that she could carry a film single-handedly. The film, about a single mother who starts her own crime-scene clean-up business, was too quirky for its own good, never seemed to settle on a tone and left plot threads hanging all over the place. But Adams's charm, screen presence and ability to sell every line saved the film from itself. She was simultaneously so believable and engaging, it hardly mattered what was going on around her.

Ken Arkind and Panama Soweto dropkick the notion that you can't make a living as a poet. You just have to be a really good poet. Arkind and Soweto, who have ruled Denver's slam scene for years, are both National Poetry Slam champions, a credential that brings calls from universities, clubs and venues. As the Dynamic Duo, this two-man team travels the country performing feats of literature (a word they coined, "gnuck," was recently added to the Urban Dictionary) and inspiring the next generation of slammers. When they're not on tour, the pair stays busy in D-town, leading poetry workshops and classes for Denver youth. That's definitely not gnuck.

Courtesy Denver Art Museum

Since coming to the Denver Art Museum from Germany, director Christoph Heinrich has been a workaholic, refitting the permanent-collection galleries devoted to modern and contemporary art and putting together a couple of major shows, including Embrace!, an over-the-top, pull-out-all-the-stops installation that's garnered national attention. The title reflects his goal of having artists embrace the revolutionary interior of the four-story Hamilton Building; to pull it off, Heinrich selected seventeen artists, including three from Colorado: John McEnroe, Rick Dula and Timothy Weaver. The resulting show makes this addition a far more accessible space — and one that the community, as well as artists, can truly embrace.

Paul Gillis is an artist's artist who toils away in his studio, creating quirky, cartoonish paintings and watercolors — but rarely exhibits them. Realizing that, Simon Zalkind, one of Denver's most gifted curators, mounted a show devoted to pieces that Gillis had done over the last dozen years, almost none of which had been displayed before. Although the works are nominally narrative, it's hard to say just what story Gillis is telling: His pictures include robots, animals and vessels of various types, as well as writings in imaginary languages, all of it set in weird, surrealistic settings that look simultaneously ancient and futuristic. His cryptic work was a fitting choice for the Singer, long a force in the Denver art world, but now facing an uncertain future at the Jewish Community Center.

Justin Criado

Sure, Eugene Carthen can sing the blues. Hell, dude's been honing his pipes since he was four years old, singing gospel through high school and performing with various R&B groups since then. While he regularly gigs around town as Eugene Sings the Blues, he also hosts a Wednesday-night blues jam at Herb's, where players join the listeners packing the bar's back room, waiting for the chance to shine with Carthen.

The Antrobus family represents all of humanity in The Skin of Our Teeth, Thornton Wilder's strange, 1940s play about the end of the world, and the playwright clearly saw Mrs. Antrobus as a conventional housewife. But in Billie McBride's hands, she was less a submissive helpmate than a woman intent on protecting her family, and so strong in her beliefs that she could withstand almost anything. She was also hyper-competent. "I can starve," she remarked calmly at one point. "I've starved before. I know how."

Scott Beyette's lisping, daft and desperate William Barfee was the highlight of the 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, a sweet, silly musical about competitive kids. In this Boulder's Dinner Theatre production, Beyette (who's also been doing some excellent directing at BDT) pulled off the neat trick of being hyper-funny and completely over the top while still communicating all the teenaged angst and vulnerability of Barfee. That's Barfay, he kept exclaiming desperately.

Jeffrey Nickelson founded Shadow Theatre Company on a $500 gift in 1997, kept it going on a shoestring, moved it into a fine new home in Aurora two years ago, resigned abruptly last summer and, shortly thereafter, died of a heart attack. Since then, the company has dissolved in a welter of accusation and counter-accusation. Nickelson may never have been able to achieve the stability he wanted for Shadow, but that shouldn't distract Denverites from his profound accomplishments: his passion for black history and desire to teach through theater, his efforts to reach out and heal division, and, above all, the evenings of revelation, drama, heart-stirring music and sheer lighthearted comedy that Shadow provided for so many years.

Singer/guitarist Aaron Hobbs isn't any older than many musicians who started making their mark around town in the '90s. But his first band, Small Dog Frenzy, crafted an indie-rock racket that's undergone many reincarnations since, an unbroken string of excellence that includes the projects Acrobat Down, Hobbs NM and, currently, Popwreck. Hobbs's raspy, catchy anthems have served as a model for great songcraft and, yes, even integrity for over fifteen years now — a lifetime in terms of music trends. Through all of indie rock's ups and downs, he's remained true, sure and full of soul. Listen up, kids, and learn how it's done.

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