Best Show Completely Enshrouded in Fog 2010 | Sunn O))) | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword

Avant-garde metal band Sunn O))) finally came to Denver and played a packed house at the Bluebird. Before the show, the stage crew filled the theater with a nearly impenetrable layer of fog; those lucky enough to make it to the foot of the stage could see the mighty Attila Csihar of Mayhem come on stage dressed alternately as a wizard and as a tree spirit while the band, shrouded in robes like Lovecraftian sorcerers, laid down crushing, cavernously dark riffs from beyond the walls of sleep. But everyone could hear Csihar's utterly unearthly, soul-shaking vocalizations. And long after the music ended, the fog continued to roll down the street.

Evan Semón

Mike Marchant is a ridiculous talent as a songwriter, guitarist and general gangly badass. Fortunately for the rest of us, he's willing to share, both as a member of umpteen Denver bands, including Houses and Widowers, and as the host of a songwriting workshop at the Meadowlark. Every other Monday, Marchant leads an informal conversation about the making of music. Ideas are sussed, music is played, and higher levels of understanding are reached. We're not sure what his plans are for the future — the dude's busy — but it's a novel concept and a humble donation of time from one of the city's best artists, regardless.

In the year since Adam and Andrew Ranes opened Casselman's Bar & Venue, it's gone from a 9,000-square-foot space with a lot of potential to an outstanding, multi-use venue that's equally inviting whether it's being used for live music or corporate events. While the back room, which was a distribution warehouse for the May Company in the '40s and '50s, used to sound a bit boomy, a new sound system has done wonders for the place. So has the talent-buying team of Caddy Cadwell and Samantha Hanson, who are gradually ramping up the caliber of national acts coming to Casselman's.

Hunter Stevens

Being in a rock-and-roll band typically doesn't pay the bills, and it seems like half of Denver's musicians earn their keep at either City, O' City or its sister restaurant, WaterCourse. And those who don't work here come here, anyway: Chella Negro has a song called "City O'," in honor of her time at this restaurant. We're not sure if it's the lack of meat, the inspirational quotes on the chalkboard above the bar or the Girl Scout cookies, but something about Denver's greenest hangout attracts some of its best creative types.

We know what you're thinking: Avatar didn't take place in Crested Butte, it was set on some far-off mystery planet that exists only in the computers used to animate it! That's true. But as University of Colorado teacher and Crested Butte resident David Rothman points out, there are enough coincidences between the movie's plot and the town's history to make a conspiracy buff's head swim: In both, a uniquely beautiful natural wonderland is threatened by attempts to extract rare, precious resources and saved by a paraplegic in a wheelchair. Oh, and director James Cameron has a home in the Butte. It's enough for us — and a lot more believable as conspiracies go than alien encampments under Denver International Airport.

There are nerds, and then there are all the subsets of nerds: comic-book geeks, music freaks, LARPers and word nerds, of course, which is why the Denver Public Library's Fresh City Life program has devoted the last Wednesday of every month to epic throwdowns of the Scrabble variety. From 5 to 8 p.m. at Novo Coffee, word lovers can try their hands at any number of language-based games provided by Fresh City Life — but if you have your own, bring it along! Prizes — gift certificates from Novo, Mad Greens and Mad Wine Bar — are awarded each month for the top nerds. Start practicing that triple-word-score strategy!

Courtesy Denver Art Museum

Perhaps the most successful space in the controversial Frederic C. Hamilton Building is the new Denver Art Museum shop built into the formerly bleak and cavernous lobby. Roth Sheppard Architects, one of the city's most distinguished firms, did an undeniably brilliant job of using all those dramatic glass and canted walls — and then the museum did an equally commendable job of filling the shop with an incredible inventory. It includes not only a big assortment of arty gift items and jewelry, but also a vast selection of books that makes it the best art-book store in the state. The Hamilton's interior is clearly a work in progress, but with the installation of this new gift shop, it's off to a good start.

Over the past several years, Hugh Grant, the founder of Denver's Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art, has been enthusiastically collecting art by historic Colorado artists; in the process, he's turned his institution into the principal depository of paintings, sculptures and works on paper by the state's impressive roster of artists. Not only that, but he's become Colorado's most important cheerleader for our prominent place in American art. He recently cemented this high ranking with 100+ Years of Colorado Art, a two-floor show of first-rate pieces that he put together for the Arvada Center.

Courtesy Denver Art Museum

Back in the '60s, when boomers began to experiment with drugs, particularly LSD, the effect was labeled "psychedelic" — and the altered perception colored the psychedelic posters used to promote concerts. A half-century later, those posters are considered art — and the Denver Art Museum has become a major collector of them, as revealed by The Psychedelic Experience, a super-popular blockbuster last summer. The show was put together by AIGA graphics curator Darrin Alfred, drawing from the first-class collection of material assembled by Boulderite David Tippit, and it appealed to both graphic specialists and old hippies — a veritable poster child for an exhibit that was both accessible and artistically impressive.

The Skin of Our Teeth, Thornton Wilder's play about human history, apocalypse and a whole lot more, is tricky to pull off, with its illogical, non-linear plot and crazy mixing of comedy and profound seriousness. The Aurora Fox production owed its success largely to the performance of John Arp as Antrobus, the prototypical human male at the center of the action. Antrobus rules his household, invents almost everything from the wheel to the alphabet to beer, is sometimes affectionate and sometimes furiously threatening — and Arp did all this with humor, conviction and warmth.

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