Best New DIY Venue — Boulder 2012 | Chrysalis | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword

Though these days Boulder is mostly high-tech ventures and other moneyed interests mixed in with the university, remnants of the best part of its hippie past remain in place. Chrysalis Co-op is as its name implies: a communal living space where people not only live together, but grow food and share ideas and creative ventures. The co-op has also reached out to the community well beyond Boulder to host events, including avant-garde musical performances and poetry readings. By sharing food with everyone involved in the performances as well as the building's inhabitants, the good people of Chrysalis provide a unique and intimate experience, the spirit of which infuses every happening hosted. While not as active as a more traditional DIY venue, this place has been an oasis of underground art in Boulder.

Unit E got started when the guys from Rubedo and some friends rented out part of a building so that they could have a gallery and a place to hold shows and have complete control of the environment. It has since grown into the kind of place where underground bands of all stripes play alongside art shows, all reflecting the good and wide-ranging tastes of its curators. The clean, intimate venue bridges the gap between a warehouse space and smaller bars. You might not always know what you're in for when you go there, but it will always be worth your while.

The showpiece of Create Denver Week is the Create Denver Expo, a nuts-and-bolts day of workshops, business resources and networking hosted by Arts & Venues Denver (the city department that resulted from last year's merger of the Division of Theatres and Arenas and the Denver Office of Cultural Affairs) specifically for local creative types — but that doesn't mean the rest of us can't get involved, too. That's because Create Denver Week is also a vibrant urban showcase during which the creative community shares cultural experiences with the entire city, through a series of parties, art exhibits, video, concerts, markets and lectures given over the four-day event. Not only is it all about creativity and interactivity — from video screenings in the streets to fashion shows in alleys — but it's also an active window into what's happening in venues all over town. Don't miss this year's celebration, scheduled for May 10 through May 13, 2012.

Readers' Choice: The Big Eat

Though it appears to be on the front lawn of the new Clyfford Still Museum, "For Jennifer" is actually on land owned by the Denver Art Museum, which also owns the fabulous Joel Shapiro sculpture. A signature Shapiro, the 32-foot-tall, dazzling blue piece is a cross between minimalism and representation, with the rectilinear metal bars economically brought together in such a way as to suggest a woman dancing. And that woman is the late Jennifer Moulton, the planning director during Wellington Webb's administration who envisioned the Civic Center Cultural Complex. Moulton never saw her vision come to fruition; she died in 2003, before the DAM's Hamilton Building had been built and before the History Colorado museum and the Clyfford Still had even been conceived. But it's fitting to have an ad hoc memorial to her located in the middle of it all. And a stunning memorial it is.

Readers' Choice: "Cloudscape," Christopher Lavery

With all of the buildup — from the buzz that Snake Rattle Rattle Snake generated almost immediately after forming a few years back to the breathless accolades the group continues to collect — there seemed plenty of room to be disappointed with Sineater, the band's first full-length. Fortunately, Snake Rattle Rattle Snake delivered on all of its early promise. From Ravi Zupa's stellar cover art to the ominous clouds these ten songs conjure up with their angular guitar lines, pulsing bass and powerful percussion propping up Hayley Helmericks's enthralling vocals, Sineater is absolutely riveting from beginning to end.

Readers' Choice: Sineater

Best New Underground Electronic Venue


The space formerly inhabited by Muddy's Coffeehouse and later known by a variety of names — Club Evolution, the Loft, Gallery 22 and Club Ra, among others — has found new life as an electronica and hip-hop space with two dance floors and a spacious outside patio. The venue, which has brought in an array of acts, from Lee Foss and Little Mike to Punisher and Matthew Dear, has also hosted the summer-long Sunday-afternoon tidbit On the Way Back Down to help ease the return to the work week, as well as a stellar New Year's Eve party and assorted Burning Man-related events. With decent cover prices and free parking across the street, 2200 is the perfect place to see top locals and big names in electronic music in an intimate, relaxed setting.

Crawford Philleo, Sam Martin and Ryan Pjesky are three of the most active music bloggers in Denver. Last year they decided to put their heads and resources together to curate a music festival to reflect their mutual and individual musical interests. As with any such event, the organizers agonized over its planning and execution. These efforts paid off, as the September event seemed to go smoothly, and it felt as though each act was personally selected without there being some weird kind of application process or behind-the-scenes politicking. Because of this, up-and-coming out-of-town artists like How to Dress Well, Quiet Evenings and Happy New Year played alongside locals such as Tennis, Candy Claws and the Kevin Costner Suicide Pact.

Once BLKHRTS came roaring onto the local scene, it was only a matter of time before the act's ferocious brand of hip-hop attracted attention outside of Denver. So it came as little surprise when estimable Los Angeles-based music critic Jeff Weiss praised the group in the L.A. Times after seeing it in California this summer. But what was surprising was that the outfit made a big enough impact on Weiss that he included BLKHRTS' BLK S BTFL in a roundup of his favorite underrated rap releases of the year on Pitchfork — props that were well deserved.

Canadian actress Rebecca Northan sat forlornly at a table on the stage of the Galleria Theatre wearing a tight dress and a red clown nose. She told us that her name was Mimi the Clown, that she had been stood up, and that she was going to select a new date from the audience. She did. And this wasn't one of those token audience-involvement gestures you see so frequently. This was the real thing. The man she selected at each performance spent almost two hours on stage with Northan, improvising his way through the getting-to-know-you chat, a snuggle on her sofa and an imagined five-years-down the line sequence — all under her shrewd, sometimes gentle, sometimes slightly sterner, guidance. A show like Blind Date, brought here by Denver Center Attractions, is a high-wire act, calling for instant judgment — everything depends on the man who's selected — and a knowledge of when to control and when to let the untried partner take the reins. But Northan's presence, charm and intelligence never faltered.

The first Friday in May is National No Pants Day, and last year the Denver Flash Mob and Denver Fun Times came up with the bright idea of hosting a No Pants Party at the Ginn Mill. Not surprisingly, the 2011 party turned out to be a fabulous time, with free admission (and a reasonable pants-check fee of just $2), drink specials, costume prizes, a Pants Off Dance Off and more. The proceeds went to help DenverWorks, an organization providing assistance for job seekers; there was even a pants donation station at the party. The No Pants Party was organized by the same people behind the Denver No Pants Light Rail Ride, which you might have spotted this past January. Here's hoping another iteration of the goose-pimpling party is in the works for this May. Bottoms up!

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