Best DJ Presence 2011 | Colorado DJs at the 2010 DMCs | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword

Okay, so none of the dudes actually ending up winning this year, but still, it's a pretty big deal that five of the dozen contenders at the finals of the DMC World DJ Championships last year in New York City were from Colorado. Even more impressive, while three of those — DJs Notch, Skip Ripkin and B*Money — qualified locally, the other two, Cysko Rokwell and Jeff C, earned their slots by traveling out of state and battling on somebody else's stamping grounds. Says a lot for the caliber of talent here. Win or lose, it was a good look for Colorado.

At one point, Julie Zorrilla, the twenty-year-old Denver School of the Arts alumna featured on this round of American Idol, was our odds-on favorite to win the whole competition and become the franchise's next breakout act. We can dream, can't we? Although Zorrilla was eliminated, we're sure we haven't heard the last of her, or her stunning original material. And no matter where she goes from here, she's earned her place as the most dapper reality-show contestant our fine state has ever produced. Her fashion sense was repeatedly remarked upon by new Idol judges J. Lo and the pervy, tongue-wagging Steven Tyler. You go, girl!

The music that VibeSquaD (aka Aaron Holstein) produces falls into the glitch-hop/mid-tempo/psychedelic-bass category, and he's got the talent and the know-how to push glitch-hop further than we knew it could go. His latest full-length album, The Fire, offers up complex layers that are flawlessly arranged, with split seconds of silence spliced into tracks at the perfect moment. From opener "Freshmaker" to closer "Empower the Wallflower," the classically trained Holstein employs squiggly squeaks, breaky beats, distorted hip-hop samples, wobbling bass lines, clean taps, eerie synthesized keys and more. It's all reminiscent of Squarepusher, only more approachable and less mechanical. The Fire is bound to set glitch-hop fans aflame.

Fans of house music were ecstatic when they discovered that well-respected DJ Doc Martin and the long-dormant Dubtribe Sound System would be visiting Casselman's for an event titled simply "LOVE." And it was impossible not to feel the love while hearing the music wash over the crowd. Martin charmed with a mixture of old-school and brand-new tracks, exhibiting his mastery over vinyl and turntables as he warmed up the audience. Then came the amazing display of Dubtribe: Sunshine and Moonbeam Jones sat on a rug, surrounded by equipment and hand drummers pounding out the beat as they created their funky tribal house sound live using computers, mixers, samplers and more. The energy the pair generated was clean and uplifting, and while fire-spinners danced in the corner and a giant custom-made LED heart flashed and throbbed above them, they cast a LOVE spell on everyone at Casselman's that night.

There are only three characters in Art, a play about a man who buys an all-white painting at an astronomical price and the two friends whose loyalties are severely tested by the extravagant and pretentious act. Under the meticulous direction of Richard Pegg, three superb actors — Josh Hartwell, Jim Hunt, Chris Kendall — in this Miners Alley production made every moment and motivation clean and clear, and the currents running through all of their interactions were deep and tantalizing. For ensemble work, Art was a masterpiece.

River North, with its active enclave of studios and workshops, has always stood by its motto "Where Art Is Made." But increasingly, it's also where art is seen, as more and more galleries open their doors in the neighborhood. These days, the funky and the tony rub elbows happily in RiNo, as evidenced by the recent move to the area by the highly regarded Rule Gallery, hot on the heels of the more freewheeling Wazee Union's debut. They could, in fact, change that motto to "Where All Art Is Made," as the district has morphed over the past few years into a beehive of creative — and connected — endeavors. Charge on, RiNo!

Best Experimental Music and Food Showcase


Last year, Corey Elbin set out to create a special night of community-oriented experimental music and performances, which just happened to include reasonably priced vegetarian and vegan meals. And with Gorinto, his Wednesday-night showcase of some of the most interesting avant-garde musicians and performance-art and dance acts in town, Elbin has thoroughly succeeded. Hosted on the second floor of the Mercury Cafe, Gorinto benefits from a superb sound system and a comfortable environment in which you can experience the likes of Ships & Fog, Aenka, Holophrase, Last Eyes and Alphabets, among others, all over a healthy meal. The result is always pleasantly surprising, always satisfying food for thought.

Kevin Kain is not your typical party promoter. Not only is he part of a team of folks who frequently and consistently pack Denver's hottest hip-hop nights, but he manages to stay on point with his Facebook game, ranting with the eloquence of a judge and the lexicon of a journalist. Whether it's about the club fuckery he experiences or a hilarious observation on society, Kain incites conversation and inspires swift reactions. Though full of charm and niceties in person, Kain uses his Facebook status as a bully pulpit — and people crowd around for the sermon.

Rockstar Aaron knows how to throw a dance party. But that only makes sense, because for years he's been one of the hardest-working DJs in these parts, spinning regularly at least three nights a week. With Female Trouble, which he helms on Fridays at Bar Standard, he lays down an energetic mix of rock, dance and Top 40, tossing a bit of '80s magic into the mix as well. Although the club night makes a slight nod to the John Waters film of the same name, Aaron also makes it clear that while the evening is edgy, it's geared to the ladies — and, by virtue of that, gentlemen. There's no cover, and females get $1 drinks until midnight. Do you smell T-R-O-U-B-L-E?

Between arthouses and snowboarders and anyone else with a large white surface to project on and a masochistic yen for cat-herding, there are probably at least two film festivals running at any given time in this town. And while many of them suffer from a disconnect — either they're "local" or they're "good," but they're rarely both — the first EFPalooza made a strong bid for resolving that imbalance. Of course, its parent organization, the Emerging Filmmakers Project, based at the Bug Theatre, has been uniting, nurturing and showcasing local filmmakers since 2002; in fact, the impetus for the festival came when host Patrick Sheridan realized that the group was about to screen its 500th film, which he felt warranted some celebration. With a track record like that, it's no surprise that the inaugural EFP managed to round up a diverse and shockingly high-quality selection from an array of top-notch local artists — and even though the going is always roughest the first time around, EFPalooza delivered like gangbusters. Here's to the sequel.

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