Best Colorado-Themed Bar 2011 | Stoney's Bar & Grill | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword
Molly Martin

Stoney's Bar & Grill touts itself as "a local kind of place," and the owners take that concept pretty damn seriously. This rustic spot, which moved into the former Andrew's on Lincoln space last summer, practically screams "Colorado," with a pond and miniature campsite near the entrance, a ski gondola turned photo booth up front, 150-year-old reclaimed barn wood lining the walls, and antique skis and bikes hanging from the rafters. In keeping with the theme, Stoney's uses locally sourced meat (including some exotic critters) for its sliders and offers plenty of Colorado beers in cans — which all get recycled, with the proceeds going to local charities. And with twenty HDTVs scattered around the place and two 120-inch projection screens, Stoney's is not just a "local kind of place," but a great spot to watch the home teams.

You really have to see Lunar Fire to understand what's so special about this collective. You can't accurately call it a band, because dancers are an integral part of the show, often leading the musical improvisation through movement. And what dancers they are, implementing fantastical costuming, spinning fire, aerial acrobatics and more while the world-jam-rock fusion pounds out behind their graceful gestures. Each member of the group has fingers in several other pies; they all come together in Lunar Fire to cut loose and let the music go where it will. With two percussionists, two vocalists, a bass player, several dancers and a rotating cast of guest musicians playing unusual instruments in the group, you never know where this journey is going to take you — but it's a given that it will involve deep, inspirational lyrics and some of the sweetest eye candy you'll ever see.

Founded in 1953 as the Mines Chamber Ensemble, the Jefferson Symphony Orchestra has evolved into the toast of Golden, thriving in an era when even big-name orchestras are struggling to fill the seats. Chalk it up to the dedication of nearly a hundred talented musicians who volunteer long hours to the cause; stability at the helm (conductor William Morse has been the maestro in these parts since 1999); a commitment to a distinguished young artists competition; and a real connection to a community that loves the orchestra's fine-tuned blend of pops, holiday and classical fare.

There was no shortage of memorable concerts over the past year, with shows ranging from Lady Gaga at the Pepsi Center to LCD Soundsystem at the Fillmore to Gorillaz at Wells Fargo. But none were quite as memorable as this one. Three decades after Pink Floyd first conceived this production, technology finally caught up to the original vision, and Roger Waters brought the whole spectacle to life with flawless precision. From the opening explosions of "In the Flesh," complete with a WWII-era biplane dive-bombing the partially erected wall, to the closing notes of "Outside the Wall," the evening was positively mesmerizing. The sound wasn't just good — it was an expansive, enthralling, spectral, three-dimensional experience. Combined with the stunning visuals, pyrotechnics, inflatable creatures and airborne pig, it was like watching a digitally remastered version of The Wall in 5.1 surround with thousands of your friends.

When the Warlock Pinchers announced they'd be reuniting for two shows in August 2010, Denver exploded with excitement. Then, almost immediately after the shows, Eyeosaur Productions announced that it would be releasing a DVD chronicling the two nights — which led to more explosive anticipation. When the product was finally delivered in December, it combined live footage, behind-the-stage scenes and interviews with everyone involved into what is certainly the best concert documentary that Denver has seen in a very long time. It couldn't have been easy to capture the pure energy that flowed through the Gothic Theatre those nights, but somehow the Eyeosaur folks managed to do it.

Now in its third year, Beta continues to be Denver's hot spot for clubbing. Armed with the Funktion-One Dance Array 4 Speaker Stack System (Beta was the first spot in North America to get one), this dance club bumps like no other, bringing in such world-class talent every week as top spinners Richie Hawtin, John Digweed and Pete Tong, as well as a parade of the area's finest DJs. Although Beta is huge, it still fills up on a regular basis. And for those nights when the dance floor is packed with sweaty, beautiful people, Beta recently teamed up with Kryogenifex Productions to help cool down the crowd by blasting liquid nitrogen into the air.

When hi-dive/Sputnik owner Matt LaBarge took over the Bulldog Bar (and Monroe Tavern before that) last year, it didn't take long for him to turn the dive into a comfortable, inviting spot. Taking his inspiration from older clubs in the Silver Lake area of Los Angeles — as well as an even earlier incarnation of the space as the Alamo, which was East Colfax Avenue's first piano bar back in the '40s — LaBarge made the Lost Lake Lounge the kind of cozy, cabin-like club you're always happy to find. And with folks like Nathaniel Rateliff doing monthly residences, you're certain to run into more than a few appreciative musicians in this dark joint. We're not in Kansas anymore — and it doesn't feel much like Denver, either.

Whether this dude is partying hard in Moscow or shooting couches with a shotgun between shows in Alaska, Pictureplane is always talking about Denver. The Rhinoceropolis inhabitant has been going his own way for the better half of a decade, but as his goth star has risen, so has the promotion of his adopted home town. Mr. Plane, aka Travis Egedy, celebrates what's good in the community from which he emerged, making Denver-centric mixes for Fader and spreading the cassette-tape gospel that is Hideous Men, Alphabets and Hollagramz to kids overseas. Denver has enjoyed the benefits of his cheerleading, too, as national bands have made Rhinoceropolis a must-stop on the DIY touring circuit.

Set in a timeless Japan, The Sound of a Voice tells the story of a warrior who arrives at the home of a woman he believes to be a witch; he intends to kill her, and the two interact in several taut, charged and ambiguous scenes. Director Warren Sherrill did full justice to the play's poetry and intensity in Paragon Theatre Company's production. He enlisted two dancers from the Kim Robards Company to add depth and perspective, and in Sheila Ivy Traister found an actress able to communicate both the central character's witchiness and her humanity. When she poured tea into a cup, the sound of the trickling liquid mesmerized the entire audience — such was the level of precision and concentration Sherill's entire production achieved.

Phamaly is truly an amazing family of performers, all with varying physical disabilities — and director Steve Wilson knows how to work around, and with, every one of them. Wilson doesn't just accommodate these handicaps; he makes them a positive force in the action. When he and the company took on Beauty and the Beast, a tired, sentimental old musical, they made it new and vibrant. Jenna Bainbridge and Leonard Barrett were magnificent in the leads, and there were many pleasures in the smaller roles: Every one of the enchanted objects in the Beast's castle had its own charm and personality, for instance. The big numbers were done with a professionalism that any major Broadway production would have trouble matching — and with far more heart.

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