Best Venue for Dance/Avant-Garde 2010 | Packing House Center for the Arts | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword

Patrick Mueller of Control Group Productions (and its home, the Packing House Center for the Arts) thinks Denver hasn't been living dangerously enough — at least in its arts offerings. He aims to fill the gap by booking more challenging, fringe-style performance programming, from Butoh to multimedia to theater to Control Group's own Dance Night for Beginners series, which blends humorous instruction with dance performance. Mueller says he's looking for a bigger space and better opportunities for collaboration with other groups; in the meantime, look for the Stop. Crawl. Walk. Run. multi-arts festival, coming in May.

After his remixing of a HEALTH track a couple of years ago, the ascent of Travis Egedy, who performs under the Pictureplane moniker, to national and even international renown would have been hard to predict. Dark Rift, his 2009 album, made it onto playlists far from Egedy's immediate group of friends. But despite the attention he's received for his own impressive work, Egedy is always ready to go to bat for the Denver underground scene, asserting in interviews both foreign and domestic that it's one of the richest in the world. And he's proof of it.

Chris Bagley and Kim Shively befriended Wesley Willis when he briefly made Denver his home in the early part of the last decade. Fortunately, they had the foresight to shoot footage of the legendary artist and songwriter as he charmed everyone he met. Culled from five years of meticulously edited footage, including interviews with Willis's family and friends in Chicago and elsewhere, Wesley Willis's Joy Rides tells the story of an extraordinary creative mind that would not be hampered by any ailment. Replete with animations of Willis's artwork, this documentary brilliantly portrays an unlikely rock-and-roll hero in loving detail.

Punchline's DIY 3D View-Master wasn't exactly a boon to the listening experience — but it was really freaking cool. Contained in a standard-sized case, the album could be folded into a viewfinder through which you could view photos of the band popping out at you. And given how little reason there is to buy an actual, physical CD these days, anything that draws people off the Internet is worthy of applause. It didn't hurt that the CD itself was the band's most polished effort to date — plenty to justify the fanfare of the package.

What a Christmas present! A week before we all gathered together to commemorate our contributions to mass consumption and consumerism, the Mile High City was treated to a Holy Night of an entirely different order — an all-local bill at the Fillmore Auditorium. Who would've thought we'd live to see the day? Proving that Denver is truly a special place, this massive show was headlined by 3OH!3, the inescapable and completely affable hooligans from the People's Republic, who picked a lineup that spotlighted fellow locals Meese, the Photo Atlas and The Pirate Signal. For casual fans whose limited exposure to the scene hadn't extended past 3OH!3, Flobots and the Fray, this concert gave a real sampling of some of the other outstanding music being made on the Front Range.

With well-received appearances at Monolith and CMJ for its sixth and seventh shows, respectively, it's safe to say that former Cat-A-Tac frontman Jim McTurnan has gone from good with that group to better with his new band, The Kids That Killed the Man. This time around, McTurnan is writing catchier songs that hit harder. Maybe it's the freedom of having the lead role to himself, or maybe he's just wiser and happier; we're not going to ask too many questions. Now with a second guitarist locked in, the band is working on what promises to be an awesome album of rock-and-roll fuzz.

When partners Duncan Goodman, Joshua Sonnenberg, Jeff Howell and Scott Morrill bought Cervantes' Masterpiece Ballroom and the adjoining Quixote's (now known as Cervantes' Other Side) from the Bianchi brothers last October, they immediately started making improvements in both places. And we're talking about a lot more than a new coat of paint and new decor. The partners went all out, putting a new stage, sound system and lights in the Ballroom, while making the Other Side much more functional by taking down the wall that separated the front and back of the club.

The jukebox at Gabor's is one of our favorites for price alone, since the staff fills it with credits so often it's as good as free. But this juke also holds some killer platters: from staples like Johnny Cash's Live at Folsom Prison and the Stones' Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out! to Tom Waits's Rain Dogs and Lou Reed's Transformer. And in between, there's jazz by Miles, Monk and Dinah; newer alt-discs by Nick Cave, Grizzly Bear and Sonic Youth; and punk by the likes of the Clash and the Ramones. With some fine mix CDs to fill the cracks, any night at Gabor's is guaranteed to come with the perfect soundtrack.

Kiki Nichols had a very good reason for putting together 2009's inaugural Lumberjack Pub Crawl: "I think it sounds fun to dress up like woodsmen and march down Colfax," she told us. And fun it was, complete with Paul Bunyans, a big blue ox named Babe (or two), fake stubble and more flannel than you could shake a hatchet at. One lumberjack even gave out syrup shots in honor of the manliest of all lumberjack breakfasts, the flapjack. Costuming was far less labor-intensive than a zombie pub crawl (unless you're going as Babe), and lumberjacks are definitely bigger drinkers than zombies (unless you're talking about blood). Nichols is already planning her 2010 version, so start practicing the "Lumberjack Song." Timber!

Let there be light! Although several spots around town have holiday light shows, the Museum of Outdoor Art-sponsored extravaganza at Hudson Gardens outshines the rest. Conceived and designed by MOA resident wizard Lonnie Hanzon, Hudson Holiday one-ups everybody else with its artsy attention to detail, whimsy and spectacle that combine to create an experience that's funny (one of its more parodic attractions is an overdecorated and super-synchonized suburban house), psychedelic (huge white globes and animal figures swim with abstract light projections), folkloric (one forested corner of the gardens looks like a page out of a Russian fairy book), and, in part, a steampunkish throwback to Victorian times. Horse-drawn wagon rides are available to take you over the river and through the woods, and we guarantee you'll never want to leave.

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