Best Karaoke Bar 2011 | Music Bar | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword
Eric Gruneisen

For most people, karaoke is something done only in the privacy of the shower or when your friend drags you (with your fourth or fifth vodka tonic in hand) to the stage to giggle through an ensemble rendition of "Girls Just Want to Have Fun." But for the few and the proud, karaoke is an art form. And there's no better place to practice that art than at Music Bar, where the karaoke is on three nights a week (Thursday, Friday and Saturday) and where your chances of getting multiple turns at the microphone in a single night are better than at other karaoke mainstays — in between renditions of "Girls Just Want to Have Fun," of course.

Label compilation albums are tricky to pull off; they have to work on multiple levels, from bringing in new fans to appeasing established ones. But the tongue-in-cheek name of Experimental Dance Breaks 36 shows exactly how a label should be doing it. This is equal parts old material, new material and — here's the important part — material from other people in the same scene who aren't on the label. In the end, this compilation not only shows off what Plastic Sound Supply has to offer, but it shows off what the label's friends are up to, as well.

Most of the masters of Denver's current photo scene weren't even born when now-ninety-something Hal Gould opened his House of Photography in Cherry Creek in 1955. And he was an accomplished photographer long before that, having gotten his first camera in 1932. He went on to help establish the Colorado Photographic Arts Center in 1963, mounting shows as the exhibition director of the group, and then in 1979, he opened his Camera Obscura Gallery directly across from the Byers-Evans House, just west of the Denver Art Museum. In the intervening decades, Gould put together one impressive show after another, some highlighting the efforts of internationally known photography stars, others featuring works by top Colorado shutterbugs. And Gould would probably keep going for decades more, but with a weak art market as a result of the recession — not to mention that he's really earned a rest — he and partner Loretta Young-Gautier recently decided to close the gallery. The term "end of an era" is thrown around a lot, but this time that poignant phrase is the perfect description of what's going to happen when Gould finally locks up Camera Obscura at the end of April.

If live instrumentation were a living organism, you would find it alive and well at Appaloosa Grill on Tuesday nights. That's when the trio of DJ Check One, Charlie Parker Mertens and Qknox join as BigWheel Electrosoul and set the place ablaze with their progressive and confident brand of hip-hop. With Check One on drums, Qknox on keys and Mertens on bass, the threeome serves up classy and innovative music that makes you want to dance — or at least enjoy a drink at the bar. Big Wheel isn't just a bar-residency band, however; these musicians have a full-length album in the works, not to mention a "brunch" collaboration with DJ Vajra titled The Guac Vol. 1.

After giving us a gallery of interesting characters at numerous Denver venues over the years, Paul Page left town last year to pursue acting work in New York City. Last we heard, he'd acquired a good agent. So we're beating back that nasty, sneaking hope we always entertain when one of our favorites leaves that he/she will fail miserably and return to us. Instead, we're wishing Page a brilliant career.

Best Local Actress Receiving National Attention

Lucy Roucis

On November 4, Lucy Roucis, whose fine work we've seen in Phamaly productions for many years, attended the Los Angeles premiere of Love and Other Drugs, starring Anne Hathaway and Jake Gyllenhaal. Roucis has a feature role in the film, as a jokester who cheers up Hathaway's character, newly diagnosed with Parkinson's. And anyone who saw the comic routine that Roucis perfected a few years back on the pros and cons of her own Parkinson's knew that she'd be perfect in the role. Pro: Having so much movement from medication and burning calories, you can eat anything you want. Con: Except soup.

As both a producer and a DJ of the so-hot-it's-on-fire dubstep sound, Alert is taking the subgenre to new heights — or, more appropriately, to deep, wobbly, bass-thumping lows. You can tell by listening that Alert is a big horror-movie fan; his tracks are like stepping into a nightmare, but in a good way. The ominous bass tones meld with monster-like noises, slurping sounds, crunching beats and freaky keyboard notes that will send shivers down your spine — and your feet pounding to the dance floor. Via his Oblivion Fringe label, Alert is also bringing similarly minded dubstep DJs and producers into the limelight. Who knew dubstep could sound this good?

Joe Thunder is a staple in the hip-hop scene, whether he's filming the hottest freestyle ciphers outside of shows or hosting his Lazy Sunday DVD series, which emphasizes the talents of the brightest local stars. Thunder promotes all facets of the scene, everything from rapping and deejaying to graffiti and b-boying. With his trusty camera by his side, he continues to expose the masses to inherent greatness within our community.

Thanks to her friendship with director Michael Duran, the voice of Carol Channing herself welcomed audiences to this warm, lively production of Hello, Dolly! at Boulder's Dinner Theater, where it was graced by a stellar performance from Alicia Dunfee in the title role, a charming one from Wayne Kennedy as Horace Vandergelder, the man she's determined to snare, and a stage full of lively performers.

Denver's avid fashion community followed Mondo Guerra's on-air story as it unraveled during Project Runway's eighth season last summer and fall. And each week, our beloved made the cut, wowing the judges with his style panache — and stunning the world with his on-air admission to being HIV-positive. Lovable Mondo finished strong, with three consecutive wins in the second half of the season, and an overwhelming number of fans insist he was robbed in the finale, where he lost to Gretchen, despite his being the favorite of both Tim Gunn and Heidi Klum. Politics. But the topper is how Mondo has carried his post-show fame with grace, sweetness and humility. First he trashed plans to move to Los Angeles and instead came back to Denver to set up shop in his home town. And since then, bless his heart, he's taken on the stance of an AIDS activist, designing limited-edition T-shirts to benefit AIDS research and using his newfound celebrity as a soapbox for the cause. You go, boy!

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