Having an anarchist collective host musical events is not a new or unique occurrence in Denver: The Breakdown Book Collective put on multiple memorable shows at both of its locations, and the Pitchfork House was one of the very few places where you could see crust-folk outfits like the Fainting Fansies in their element. Post Pony Palace benefited from the habitation of Magee Headley of the Haircut and her diverse musical tastes, so we saw the likes of avant-garde duo Dark Blue Dark Green (from Columbia, Missouri), Kitty Crimes, Cap'n Fresh and the Stay Fresh Seals, and noise artist Lockbox all in a living room with a P.A. Naturally, Headley's own band played the house on more than one occasion, and when you went to the place, you really did feel like you were visiting a friend who invited punks and other weirdos in to play music.

What's the best way to teach students how to run a hotel and events center? By having an actual hotel and events center right on campus, of course. And that's exactly what the Metropolitan State University of Denver's Hotel and Hospitality Learning Center accomplishes by doubling as a SpringHill Suites Marriott hotel. The swanky-looking combination classroom building and boutique hotel commands the corner of Speer Boulevard and Auraria Parkway. It was designed by Denver's venerable RNL architectural firm, which created a series of intersecting boxes set at various angles to one another. The walls are covered in a luscious purply-gray brick on the street sides, with buff brick used where the planar walls face the campus. In between is mirror-tinted glass, including a Mondrian-esque passage marking a doorway.

Nestled inside The Surface Beneath, a group show presented last summer, was a hallucination in the form of an installation by emerging artist Brandon Bultman. The unforgettable "Bufalo Blanco" consisted of a derelict upside-down '57 Buick station wagon with its exposed undercarriage planted with real prairie grasses. A thoughtful young artist, Bultman proved he's also ambitious with this piece; to get the car through the gallery doors, he had to turn it on its side, which he accomplished with the help of heavy-duty air bladders. He found the car, riddled with bullet holes, on a family farm, where those same kinds of grasses grow. To Bultman, the spectacular installation represented his childhood in Kansas — which apparently was pretty topsy-turvy.

Best International Film Organization Based in Denver

Design Onscreen

As a Colorado-based film organization, Design Onscreen functions on several levels: as a film-making entity, as a festival organizer, and as an advocate for the restoration of post-World War II architecture. The non-profit foundation also curates the Architecture + Design Film Series, culling documentaries that showcase architecture in film and include historical, cultural and stylistic subject matter. Design Onscreen then takes these movies around the world, to push a dialogue on America's recent architectural past.

Dazzle

Now in its fifteenth year, Dazzle has secured its spot as the premier place for jazz in Denver. But it's not just here that the club's been praised: Downbeat magazine listed it as one of the top 100 jazz clubs in the world — and with good reason. The level of talent that's brought in week after week makes it a really great venue. In the last year alone, Dazzle has hosted Joe Lovano, Esperanza Spalding, the Bad Plus, Vijay Iyer, Kurt Elling and the stellar trio of Ron Miles, Bill Frisell and Brian Blade. To top it all off, the walls here are acoustically treated, so the sound is top-notch, and sight-wise, there's not a bad seat in the house.

Dazzle

For a long time, guitarist Dan Schwindt ran the "Tuesday Session" jazz jams at Dazzle, one of the few spots in town to hold such get-togethers. Now hosted by drummer Todd Reid, these jams attract some of the heaviest players in town, as well as younger music students, who get to hone their chops in a live setting with Reid, bassist Ian Hutchison and a different special guest every week on guitar or piano.

Lion's Lair

Variety is key to a great jukebox, and the juke at the Lion's Lair has it in spades. From the blues of Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf to the classic rock of the Stones and Zeppelin — and pretty much everything in between — it's one of the more diverse collections in town. And since the Lair brings in its fair share of punk acts, you'll find a good dose of punk, as well, whether it's coming from the Clash or one of the many mix CDs in the box. Rounding out the lineup? Soundtracks from Curtis Mayfield's Super Fly and the reggae-centric The Harder They Come, as well as country from Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard.

Armida's

When it opened some twenty years ago, Armida's hosted karaoke one night a week. But the Mexican restaurant soon focused in on the entertainment option, and for years it's been one of the few spots in town to host karaoke seven nights a week. It's also grown into one of the most popular venues for people to strut their stuff — so much so that it recently opened another karaoke room on the weekends and upgraded the main floor.

Listening to Paper Bird, M & the Gems or Laura Goldhamer and the Silver Nail, you wouldn't necessarily guess that their female members, some of whom make up the comedy band Harpoontang, have raunchy humor up their sleeves. But after witnessing Harpoontang's live show, with the acoustic funk of "Jingle Me Down," a song about safe sex with Santa, or the gloriously titled "I Want My Hymen Back," you'll be hyperventilating with spastic joy. Still, there's more than just the novelty of female artists talking dirty at work here: Harpoontang is made up of hilarious and talented women who have shared a bill with some of the city's best standups.

Berk Gibbs started Elm & Oak in 2005 while living on the East Coast; since then, it has grown from an artist collective of sorts to a monumental player. Backing artists like Two Fresh, Cherub, Black Actors and fellow Elm & Oak owner Alex Botwin's solo project Paper Diamond, the label also provides space for boutique art and clothing sales at its Boulder location. In keeping with a community mindset, the imprint has teamed up with the University of Colorado to hold semi-regular lectures and classes for CU students interested in all facets of art and the music business. Thanks to the constant flow of releases from its artists, Elm & Oak has established itself in the community as a force to be reckoned with.

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