Best New Underground Music Festival 2012 | Goldrush Festival | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword

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!

In his decade on the job as theater critic for the Denver Post, John Moore helped transform the local scene. He saw just about everything. He was a tireless advocate who fought for more print space and also made innovative use of every other medium at his disposal. On the paper's website, he posted photos of productions as well as chunks of script, videos, live podcasts and a rolling log of current productions, and wrote a blog called Running Lines. He Tweeted. He posted on Facebook. Mindful of the next generation, he created a forum called Standing O to cover high-school dramatics and draw school kids and their families into the arts scene. He organized the Post's annual Ovation awards and helped the Colorado Theatre Guild formulate their Henrys. John was everywhere around town where theater was happening. As a result of his work for the Post, he was named one of the country's twelve most influential critics by American Theatre Magazine and won a Westword web award last fall. Although he took a buyout from the Post, he still occasionally writes for the paper — and is now at work on his own play, which could be quite a consolation prize for those of us who miss his regular presence.

Kelly Tobin's appearance in Vox Phamalia: Quadrapalooza made you question the essential meaning of art, and the line between acting and simply existing — with revelatory truthfulness — on a stage. As part of this series of skits and songs about disability, Tobin stood on stage to tell you about hers. She had a lovely, spunky, warm presence, but you could see that talking about her life was hard; at one point she forgot what she was saying for a few moments, because in addition to truncated limbs, she has suffered a traumatic brain injury. But she told a wonderful story about deciding to save a doomed foot in formaldehyde after amputation — complete with the three toenails she and her two daughters had defiantly painted in different colors — and keeping it under the bed. You could have clustered her account with those crazy-inspirational stories about women who tattoo the spaces left on their chests after a mastectomy, or show up for chemo in sassy, sky-high heels, but her performance wasn't show-offy that way. It didn't make you think that Tobin was braver than anyone else, or funnier, or more colorful. You didn't say to yourself, "Oh, isn't she wonderful? Look at how she can laugh despite all she's been through." Though her warm, melodious voice never faltered, she made it clear that nail polish doesn't begin to assuage the shock and sadness of amputation. What she gave us in the end was life straightforward and unadorned, and the understanding that hers was the human condition — just as surely as your own.

A magnificent traveling show at the Denver Art Museum, Robert Adams: The Place We Live provided an in-depth look at one of the most important artists associated with Colorado. In the '60s and '70s, Adams revolutionized photography by depicting the local landscape. His shots of the breathtaking Colorado scenery also captured the tract houses and trailer parks set incongruously, and disturbingly, in the middle of it, exposing the rape of the environment — a favorite topic for Adams, and the one that guaranteed his fame. The show was put together by Yale University Gallery's Joshua Chuang and Jock Reynolds and tweaked for its Denver stop by the DAM's photo curator, Eric Paddock. Despite his politically charged subjects, Adams also imbued his work with an old-fashioned beauty that paid homage to the great landscape photographers of the nineteenth century, through his sense for composition, his intimate scale, and the high quality of his prints.

In just a week, Girls Rock Denver turns girls ages eight to eighteen into rock stars. The local organization formed in 2007 as part of the national Girls Rock Camp Alliance, and ever since, it has been putting on an annual week-long summer camp where aspiring rock goddesses learn how to play instruments, form bands and then perform before a crowd of adoring fans. Last year's showcase marked the debut of such camper bands as Rockin' Funky Donuts, the Heartless Doves of War and Purple Lipstick, playing hits like "Cross Out the Boys" and "Rainbow of Death." By empowering females through music, Girls Rock Denver shows there's a place for those little ladies more into Bratmobile than Bratz dolls.

Jack Gould

To say that Cervantes' is a clubhouse would be using a loose tongue, but to say that it's the meeting point for all local talent would be totally spot-on. There's a show here almost every night, and you'll find local DJs mingling in the Ballroom or over on the Other Side, sipping drinks, sharing music or just taking in the scene. It's nice to see so much talent congregate in one room and get along: The sense of community in the local DJ scene borders on family ties, and the vibe at Cervantes' is refreshing.

Denver not only boasts the 2011 national champion slam-poetry team, Slam Nuba, but in March the city hosted its largest poetry event to date: the Women of the World Poetry Slam. And then a local won it: Longtime poet and 37-year-old mother of four Dominique Ashaheed, a member of the Slam Nuba team, held on to the first-place slot through all three days of competition. She finally took the title with "For Emmett Till," a piece that related her ancestral history while also telling of the 1955 lynching death of a fourteen-year-old African-American boy. Being home to two national champions as well as host of the successful Women of the World event puts Denver squarely in line to host the national slam championship in the near future. Word.

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