Best Live Hip-Hop Band 2011 | BigWheel Electrosoul | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword

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!

When Backbeat's own Tom Murphy and Dane Bernhardt set out to make a documentary about the Colorado music scene, they had a big task ahead of them: Hundreds of bands had come and gone, never seeing their own story told. But the duo took on the massive project with grace, and the resulting Denver Undiscovered is a glimpse into the music created by dozens of bands from Denver, Boulder, Fort Collins and every little space between. Framed by Murphy's own historical narrative of Denver's underground creative culture of the past few decades, the film's heart is a series of interviews and performances. This is an in-depth look at a scene that has often gone unnoticed by the rest of the country.

A couple years back, Andy Guerrero put his funk band Bop Skizzum on hiatus in order to focus full-time on the understandably pressing matters of being a member of Flobots. But now the Bop is back and — if you'll forgive the cliché — better than ever. The music is alive with energy, and the band is tackling its business with charm and aplomb. Case in point: The act saw an opportunity to personalize its song "I'm So Much Cooler" for Valentine's Day. Fans could request a personal message to someone stuck in a crappy relationship, and then the band would make a custom video confessing the sender's unrequited love. In a world where artists are looking for increasingly creative ways to spread their music, few are doing it better than Bop Skizzum.

We've gone hoarse yodeling the praises of Dana Cain, giving her a cover story and an honorary MasterMind award, but all for good reason: The local event promoter and patron of the arts is having the biggest year yet in her storied career of celebrating all things Denver with Barnum-esque hoopla and a modern quirkiness. Her roster of new and ongoing events just continues to roll out: Vintage Voltage! The Denver Style Expo! The Colorado Chocolate Festival! The Denver County Fair! The Denver Modernism Show! And more, more, more! Dana wants to put this city on the map, and she's giving us plenty of pins with which to do it. Step right up.

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