RedLine Contemporary Art Center
Courtesy RedLine Contemporary Art Center

The work of Viviane le Courtois is all about community, waste, decay and everyday things, and those themes followed through in her RedLine installation How to Eat an Artichoke?, a complex study of the community of eating and its by-products. The exhibit began with an elaborately set, completely hand-built beetle-kill pine table, set with homemade ceramics and other accoutrements made of natural materials, including baskets of sumac branches, yucca and mulberry paper. A group came together to eat artichokes at the table; the scraped artichoke leaves that remained from their feast were left in the baskets to dry and curl up. While film documented the lovely, communal breaking of bread, the leftover leaves spoke of what happens after the feast. The whole thing was beautiful food for thought.

RiNo District

Sculptor Mike Whiting's monumental, weathered and pixel-shaped "Rhino," installed last year at 24th and Larimer streets and sponsored by the Broadway Viaduct Lower Maintenance District, creates an incredible entry to the RiNo Art District. The tough-as-nails, sky-blue steel ungulate polices the intersection fiercely yet comically, as if daring you to come in. Don't mind if we do.

Wazee Union

S. Brian Smith and Neil Adam wheel and deal real estate, but to them, a building isn't just a building. When they saw an empty warehouse and former factory wasting away down by the railroad tracks off of Brighton Boulevard, they envisioned creating something modern and bold, a community-builder with a concrete floor. And so Wazee Union was born. Inspired by such communal artist colonies as the Third Ward in Brooklyn, they sectioned off nearly fifty studio spaces of varying sizes and rented them, cheap, to artists, crafters, designers and creative small businesses. Not surprisingly, those spaces were snapped up like that and are now rarely empty for more than a couple of days. But artists don't just work here; they also show their work: The thriving community hosts juried gallery shows, Second Saturday open houses and other arts-oriented events. The project has been so successful that Walnut Workshop, a sister enclave, is now open right across the tracks, and Smith and Adam have plans for more retooled properties in the works.

Slapped up boldly on the backside of the Ellie Caulkins Opera House along Champa Street, the massive "Faces of Colorado Art" is a tribute to the region's talented creative pool, a who's who checkerboard of local artwork and artist portraits. Thank the Denver Theatre District, which worked with Plus Gallery's Ivar Zeile to put the cultural patchwork together, for a beautiful reminder that Denver artists rock.

The underground creative collective of Tuyet Nguyen, Matt Scobey and Tony Farfalla excels at kicking ideas around. One of them, to tear down gallery walls, both real and subjective, and hang art in the streets, took shape when they traveled down to Miami Beach with an artist entourage to do that very thing, during the annual citywide arts fair Art Basel Miami Beach. They hauled in a batch of submitted Denver artworks, hit the dollar store for buckets and wheat paste, found a wall and went to work, pasting up the art in an alley in the dark of night and documenting it all on video. Talk about an art attack!

Molly Bartlett, Samantha Davis, Ethan Hill and CJ Macleod have to be the coolest kids at their high school. By day, they're regular teenagers; by night, they turn into SAUNA, an intelligent pop band that crams jumpy beats and reverb-heavy guitars into a perfect throwback package. When the band isn't performing, you can find its members at the foot of stages for Liz Phair, Black Angels and Best Coast shows — doing more music-history homework, the result of which is clearly displayed in their own explosive live sets. If you're lucky enough to catch SAUNA live, the band just might do an excellent cover of the Who's "Boris the Spider." How cool is that?

Medical marijuana cardholders, meet your new favorite band: Skully Mammoth. Taking some obvious cues from Sleep and Sabbath, these barely-out-of-high-school dudes make droney, psychotropic rock that just goes on and on and on. And on. If the jammy metal four-piece was never told to stop playing, chances are it probably never would. If you're into sludge and have an hour or three to kill, Skully Mammoth — formerly known as Black Magicians From the Mountaintops of Mars — has some ten-minute-plus songs that should fill the bill.

In 2010, Hot White opened for No Age at the Bluebird and the Warlock Pinchers at the Gothic, but the band is equally content playing basement shows and house parties. Whether climbing tables at the Meadowlark or scraping the cement at Rhinoceropolis, the trio of young punks easily fills any size room with plenty of attitude and noise. The bitter sawing of Tiana Bernard's bass and vocal wails combined with Kevin Wesley's back-to-the-floor guitar playing and the smiling terror of Darren Kulback's drumming make Hot White one of the best live bands to see in Denver any night of the week — on a stage or in your living room.

What better band to see on a date than one that sings about awesome dates? With Lust-Cats of the Gutters, the dual vocals of Robin Edwards and Alex Edgeworth are like a personal cheerleading section, singing about really wanting to get to know you, hanging out with your grandma and, eventually, sticking their tongues in your mouth. Or close enough. The duo's Bratmobile-meets-the-Sonics style works like an intelligent sidekick, a musical wingman that feeds you lines during those awkward moments when you're just getting to know that special new someone. And if that budding relationship doesn't work out, you can always console yourself with Lust-Cats' anti-date anthem, "Nothing Cool Happens on Dates."

Lincoln's Road House might be known primarily for its meatloaf cheeseburger, pot roast burrito and Cajun food, but the bar also brings in a meaty lineup of the area's finest blues acts, including the Informants, Delta Sonics, David Booker and Stanley Milton, on the weekends. Lincoln's also books such nationally known bluesmen as Muddy Waters's son Big Bill Morganfield and Albuquerque's Todd Tijerina to play the tiny stage next to the door. There isn't a whole lot of room to dance at Lincoln's, but the colorful crew of bikers and other regulars make the most of the space and always look like they're having one hell of a good time.

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