AAMP has consistently produced a quality late-night party that surpasses all others and continues to leave lasting impressions. To keep things legit, a door guy is always there checking IDs, and security ensures guests' safety by making sure nothing unsafe is going down. AAMP brings in the hottest dance acts, some of whom have never been seen or heard by many of the attendees, who simply show up because they know the party is going to run late and be a good one. These after-hours soirees typically don't start until midnight, and they run well into the morning hours — or until people can't party anymore. Should you find yourself in the late-night mode, this is the place to be.

Gothic Theatre

The Nerd Prom, a party/concert that went down at the Gothic Theatre in January and was put on by Denver funk 'n' soul band Bop Skizzum, drew current, former and never-were nerds. There were seafoam-green tuxedos, light sabers, Chewbacca masks, "Kick Me" signs and taped-up glasses. (Stop us if this sounds like something Stefon would list on SNL's Weekend Update.) Because when it comes to proms, nobody should want to step out of a white limo with doves flying out from behind them. Even if you celebrated Nerd Prom years after your real one, you could think of it as therapy — with legal booze.

Yellow Feather Coffee

When Yellow Feather opened its doors, it was the kind of coffee shop that offered not just solidly great coffee with a choice of milk and milk substitutes, but a community-minded space, as well. While not a traditional music venue, Yellow Feather has hosted touring artists along with local bands looking to have their release shows at an intimate venue where people of all ages could go and feel welcome without the pressure of alcohol or ticket sales. The shop has also hosted classes through Free School Denver, and its relaxed environment on an otherwise busy street is welcoming to crust punks, artists and businesspeople alike.

Best American Idol Appearance by a Denver Artist

Magic Cyclops

Scott Fuller had pretty much retired Magic Cyclops. But he found the opportunity to rekindle his long-running brand of performance-art comedy and music by trying out for American Idol last year, at what was then Invesco Field at Mile High. Clearly, he did it for his own amusement and perhaps to have stories to tell later; he didn't necessarily expect to make it to the first round of the broadcast version. In what has to be one of the most memorable few minutes in Idol's history, Magic performed a couple of songs for the judges and got to be funnier on the show than anyone has ever been. While the appearance translated into a bit of national notoriety for Fuller, it also added real color to an otherwise tame program.

National Western Complex

Last summer's inaugural Denver County Fair, which took shape in the fertile, never-say-never imaginations of event promoter/dreamer Dana Cain and artist/gardener/doer Tracy Weil (not to mention pie-making artist Chandler Romeo, who came up with the original concept), cut through every cultural cross-section you could think of. There was fashion. There was urban commerce. There were pancakes, chickens, a freak show, performing pigs, pie contests and Devo. The most important point? The Denver County Fair wouldn't have worked without the dozens and dozens of volunteers who stepped up to set it up and tear it down, coordinate events in each pavilion and keep things running smoothly throughout. More than a spectacle, the fair demonstrated how disparate folks from a diverse community can come together and throw the best party this town has seen. We can hardly wait for the 2012 edition in August.

Readers' Choice: Taste of Colorado

Artist Dorothy Tanner uses light as her medium — along with water, plastic, fabric and her imagination. The sculptures adorning the walls and fountains on display at Lumonics are psychedelic and mesmerizing. When Tanner and her talented crew open up Lumonics for an event (which is at least every weekend), there's almost always a light show filling an entire wall, courtesy of guest videographers and designers or the Lumonics experts themselves. The space contains several rooms and display areas, with secure spots to stash coats, shoes and jaw-dropping art (don't miss the pyramid installation). Shows range from intimate world-music journeys to bass-heavy dubstep lineups to DJ workshops to ecstatic chant and dance. For an illuminating experience, there's no substitute for Lumonics.

Denver Art Society

You might have stumbled into the Denver Art Society on a First Friday, wondering what it was all about. Well, here's the deal: The nonprofit, which looks something like an art flea market and hallway art exhibit at a grade school during an open house, is all about advocating for kids whose schools lack sufficient arts programming. With that in mind, the society offers classes for kids (and the aforementioned exhibition opportunities), as well as space for working artists and performers who in turn volunteer their time. The Denver Art Society's biggest dream yet? The Treehouse Youth Art School, a more formal version of what it's already been trying to do that will offer free cultural classes for kids because — hey — without an arts education, kids grow up not seeing the world in all of its colors.

RiNo District

It's hard to beat the art heavyweights around the Civic Center, but by virtue of its vast scale alone, RiNo — the River North Art District — definitely does, and thus deserves the title of best arts district in Denver. Though pioneering arts outposts began to occupy the Upper Larimer section of the district three decades ago, only over the past five years has a critical mass of art-related outfits occupied the former railyards — with some 100 studios, galleries, ateliers and other art-related operations now sited there. Credit for the successful promotion of RiNo goes to artists/arts advocates Jill Hadley Hooper and Tracy Weil, who founded the district just as the artistic invasion of the almost-abandoned industrial zone hit full speed. As a result, today RiNo is a favorite destination not just for local artists, but for arts enthusiasts throughout the metro area.

Our region doesn't lack good photography, but it's been lacking a good photography showcase since Hal Gould's Camera Obscura shut its doors a year ago. In the meantime, though, two of the area's biggest photography boosters — the then-homeless Colorado Photographic Arts Center and Working With Artists in Belmar — struck up a merger deal last summer that's still being finalized. Here's our snap judgment: Now under the directorship of Rupert Jenkins as the New Colorado Photographic Arts Center, the strengths of both venues, pre-merger — WWA's instructional side and CPAC's curatorial reach — combine to make this a powerhouse representative of the future of photography in Colorado. We can't wait to see what develops.

Dressed in thick tweed suits to match their infectious twee songs, the members of Fingers of the Sun have not only graced the Denver music scene with one of the most expertly crafted albums of 2011, but they've delivered plenty of eye candy, as well. From Nathan Brasil's mid-'60s slug mustache to Suzi Allegra's thrift-store dresses and Marcus Renninger's daring leisure suit and ascot, the band always looks theatrically sharp, strutting that fine line between Prada perfection and what Project Runway's Tim Gunn would describe as "costumey."

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