Best Concert Debacle 2013 | Wyclef Jean 4/20 show | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword

The free show featuring Wyclef Jean and hosted by the University of Colorado at the Coors Events Center last April was designed to stamp out unofficial 4/20 observations on campus. The concert was open only to students — and once the doors closed, those students would not be allowed to leave the venue for the duration of the entire two-hour show. The result of this draconian restriction? The venue, which holds around 11,000, drew a paltry 400 the most generous guesstimate. Meanwhile, the pot party went on outside.

Since opening in 2008, Beta has shown time and again that it's the best dance club in the city. Sure, a big part of that is having a state-of-the-art Funktion-One sound system that's unrivaled by virtually any club in North America, but the other reason Beta has been named one of the best dance clubs, here and around the world, is the caliber of talent it brings in. On any given week, there's bound to be at least one internationally renowned DJ on the calendar; in the past few years, that list has included Paul Oakenfold, Richie Hawtin, Deadmau5, David Guetta, Skrillex and John Digweed, for starters.

Last summer, the Denver Art Dealers Association mounted a citywide event called "Introductions," featuring work by artists new to Denver. A standout in the series was Linhas Polimórficas, a solo dedicated to Rosane Volchan O'Conor, a Brazilian-born artist who recently relocated to Boulder. The show was made up of an installation and works on paper, and the relationship between the two was pretty obvious, with the former like a 3-D version of the latter. Both kinds of work included dense skeins of scribbled lines, but for the installation, some of them were done in custom squiggles of neon, while in the prints they were done with inks. O'Conor had originally been a budding scientist, then a musician before turning to visual art, and these previous pursuits are still referred to in her impressive artwork.

Every now and then, Equinox Theatre, known primarily for camp humor, gets serious — as it did last year with Sarah Ruhl's In the Next Room, or the Vibrator Play. A play about orgasms and Victorian attitudes toward women, this would have been a gutsy choice for any company, let alone one with severely limited resources, but director Deb Flomberg took it on wholeheartedly. She scoured antique shops and put together a display of antique vibrators for the lobby, assembled a good cast, called in a feminist historian to discuss sexuality in Victorian times, and asked her actors to search their souls for the deepest and most honest way to perform the scripted orgasms. The result was a celebration, sweet and sexy and tender.

Anthony Camera

When Ethan McCarthy stepped away from Blast-O-Mat, Aaron Saye, a longstanding supporter of local underground culture and music, stepped in and prevented the building that housed it from potentially returning to being the auto-repair shop it had been in its previous life. Recruiting a group of volunteers from the underground scene, Saye transformed Blast-O-Mat into Seventh Circle Music Collective. The initial mission of the newly christened venue was to provide a safe space for all sorts of music and a meeting place for cultural and artistic endeavors, and it appears that Saye and company have kept true to that goal. As host to numerous shows each week, Seventh Circle has filled an important gap for those who prefer an alternative avenue for presenting their music.

Keith Garcia

Since its start as the annual signature fundraiser for the Colorado Gay Volleyball Association four years ago, the Queen of Aces pageant has grown into an entity all its own. For a chance to win a sparkling crown and carry out do-good missions throughout the year, this old-fashioned drag blowout attracts contestants of all impersonation skill levels. The costumes may be imperfect and the talent and lip-syncing portions of the pageant a little lopsided, but each queen gives it her all — and the audience applauds the effort.

Steven Cole Hughes played Millet in Is He Dead?, a Creede Repertory production presented at the Arvada Center, but he spent most of his time in drag as Daisy — and he did it deliciously. Despite the frilly dress and golden wig, he avoided the usual mincing walk, smeary clown lipstick and high-pitched giggle. Millet-Daisy was earnest and bemused, and trying desperately to remember her backstory — whether she was married, for example, and how many children she had. Eventually, surrounded by suitors offering jewelry, she began to relax and enjoy the power of the skirt. Best of all was her drawn-out, coltish, rocking attempt at a curtsy, which had the audience almost puking with laughter.

With the emergence of dubstep — sometimes falsely referred to as "fast drum and bass" — other EDM genres have taken a side seat. The tried-and-true plate-traders at Recon don't subscribe to this. Recon DNB has maintained prominence in Denver by bringing real drum-and-bass to the people who know and love it. Whether you find yourself in the dampest of underground clubs or in the spotlight at the hottest dance venue, it's likely that Recon DNB is responsible for bringing the producer who's pumping out tracks at 180 BPM, thus forcing you to dance your ass off.

Being plugged into the local dubstep scene is one thing, but having your finger on the pulse internationally is a whole other feat. The Sub.Mission crew has done just that by bringing the biggest names in the burgeoning genre stateside for half a dozen years now. Utilizing their in-depth knowledge of the dubstep scene, the folks at Sub.Mission have opened the eyes of newcomers and faithful dubsteppers to established U.K. talent as well as newer faces in the local scene. You may not like all of the music that's being churned out of the mainstream EDM mill, but you can be sure that when you see the Sub.Mission name on a flier or an event, the music will be pure and the talent will be top-notch.

It's been a banner year for electronic music in Denver — after all, the metro area is home to Communikey and the Great American Techno Festival, so we've grown to expect headliners that should make EDM fans in many larger metropolitan areas green with envy. But Afterhours Anonymous produced consistently amazing shows throughout the year, bringing in internationally renowned DJs and producers like Radio Slave, Chris Liebing, Max Cooper and Pan-Pot, who set local dance floors aflame with their sets. AA producers even landed a stage showcasing top-notch EDM acts at the massive Global Dance Festival rave at Red Rocks — and they're keeping the momentum going in 2013, with Maya Jane Coles lined up for a 4/20 show at NORAD (named one of Rolling Stone's 25 DJs Who Rule the Earth, Coles is flying out in between Coachella slots) and big plans for this year's Global stage. We can't help being addicted to Afterhours Anonymous.

Best Of Denver®

Best Of