For whatever reason — maybe because of the way the mountains stand out crisply and firmly against the sky — hard-edge abstraction has deep roots in Colorado, going back more than half a century to the work of Aspen's Herbert Bayer. Other artists in the state who have embraced the approach include Angelo de Benedetto, Otto Bach, Bev Rosen, George Woodman, Clark Richert and David Yust. And straight lines and sharp edges still have their fans, as evidenced by the work of Pard Morrison, a leader in the current generation of Colorado artists who could be called hard-edged abstractionists. At the Edge of the World, his show at Rule Gallery when it was still located on Broadway (it's relocating to RiNo this spring) represented something of a breakthrough for Morrison, with his checkerboard paintings turning into checkerboard sculptures. Based on the sumptuous works in this show, that was clearly the best move that Morrison could have made.

Fog is a dangerous entity for fans, especially when the band using it is hell-bent on filling the venue with so much that nobody can see a foot in front of them. Page 27 loves fog, and would use the tool to a degree that would cause permanent blindness if it could. Combined with the chaotic, often headache-inducing music, the fog creates a perfect aural trip that's sure to cause disorientation, fear, claustrophobia and possibly a little nausea. The effects, though often befuddling, are truly astounding to behold. This is gloom with a view.

Mike Marchant is on the short list of Denver musicians who seem like they write great songs in their sleep — but no one is as generous with his talent. In addition to his prolific work as a guitarist-for-hire, Marchant has greatly increased the production of his own band over the past year. Recognizing the increasing impracticality of trying to make money off of releases, he gave his most recent release a different priority: Everything he made from the characteristically brilliant Indulgent Space Folk, Vol. 3 went to benefit local arts charities. Wherever there are people who are passionate about music, Marchant will be there.

Eric Peterson's final record in his brief but influential career as a Denver musician was lathe-cut rather than pressed in the traditional manner. As a consequence, the record is more delicate and will bear the marks of repeated listens; the songs will become fuzzier and eventually disappear entirely into white noise. And in that way, the record embodies its message: Polaroid in Reverse offers a contemplation on the world's ceaseless entropy. As physical mediums become more fleeting, many bands are returning to the LP — but rarely does anyone find a way to use vinyl to do something that an MP3 or even a CD simply cannot do.

Best Use of Time to Produce a Discography

Colin Ward

Over the past twelve months, Colin Ward — who sometimes goes by Alphabets, or Phonebooks — has released more than a dozen virtual and tangible albums of original work and remixes. His stream-of-consciousness productions combine the rhythmic meditations of rainforest sounds with layers of vocal and electronic loops, which are then expelled in multimedia-packaged albums like the three he's released most recently: Gembones, Jeweltones and Pirate Life. Calling on such muses as teen pop star Justin Bieber and Ward's own cats — Thea Claire, Panda and littlefoot — the prolific artist, along with musical collaborator Stephan Herrera, continues to melt our minds with out-of-this-world electronic music that gets updated almost monthly on his Bandcamp page.

Cervantes' Masterpiece Ballroom

Nearly every night, Cervantes' Masterpiece Ballroom plays host to local DJs and other rising talents, giving them the opportunity to showcase their craft in front of lively audiences — while also giving Denverites something compelling to do throughout the week, making the uphill climb to hump day bearable and the downhill slide into the weekend smooth and invigorating. This year the owners made renovations to the main floor of the old theater, adding a larger stage and relocating the soundboard; the result is a venue where you know you'll always find a party, no matter the day or the performer.

Denver Art Museum
Courtesy Denver Art Museum

The artist at the center of Charles Deas and 1840s America had quite a story. Charles Deas was from a once-prominent family in Philadelphia; after studying art in New York, he headed out west to record the previously undocumented people and places in the area. And then, after producing a body of incredibly accomplished work on the Indians and the wilderness where they lived, he was declared insane and committed to the Bloomingdale Asylum at the ripe old age of 29. He was still institutionalized at Bloomingdale when he died nineteen years later. (Deas's depictions of Indian braves as either beefcake studs or dreamy twinks give us more than a hint at what his "mental" problem was.) This major scholarly undertaking was put together by the world's foremost Deas scholar, Carol Clark, and it was a worthy salute to someone who helped invent the genre of Western art, an approach that is still going strong a century and a half later.

Beauty Bar

Humor-related studies have explained the dearth of women in comedy by suggesting that jokes are a form of social competition for men, who go for the laughs more often because it elevates them in status among their peers; women, on the other hand, aren't socialized in the same way. Whatever the case, comedy is a goddamn sausage party — and that's exactly why the world needs more stuff like Ladies Laugh-In, where women just as cynical, embittered and attention-starved as their male counterparts can get enough stage to go for the big yuks. Started last July by comedienne Heather Snow not long after she got her start at open mikes and decided she wanted to see a little more X-chromosome representation around town, the monthly comedy night dropped anchor at Beauty Bar and immediately took off, hosted by musician Chella Negro and featuring the cream — both male and female — of the local comedy crop. Still, the spotlight here is on the ladies, and they're using it to shine.

On April 17, 2010, local musicians Kaz Bemski and Lindsay Thorson opened their home for the day-long Who's Having Fun? Fest. The event had a simple goal — to allow everyone to enjoy music in a booze-free, drug-free and smoke-free environment — and the fest more than accomplished that. Dream Wagon played a set on the porch, Pollination Population threw down a screwed-tape session in the living room, and Candy Claws crammed its whole family-style band into the basement for a performance. The building that housed the Who's Having Fun? Fest has since changed hands, but it's still a hub of creativity: Stephan Herrera and Colin Ward (aka Alphabets) recently threw a successful art/house show in the same space.

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