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
Jon Solomon

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.

Eden

Eden is a garden of lesbian delights. Thanks to a diverse menu of vegetarian- and vegan-friendly options, Eden is as green-friendly on the inside as the grass-colored building is on the outside. But it's the after-dinner fare that makes Eden a standout on the nightlife scene: In addition to regularly supporting the women of Denver with events dedicated to roller derby, women in slam poetry, female fundraisers, International Women's Day and the like, the restaurant also offers fun, one-night-only events that cater to the double-X-chromosomed. Did you miss the Lady Gaga tour documentary on HBO? Eden's got a bad romance with the singer. You might also encounter diva-centric dance jams, sapphic sirens burlesque, yoga over brunch, or your favorite lesbian reality star.

The Deer Pile

Onus Spears, local character and a man of the people, is also an avid fan of Denver's writers, musicians, comics, artists and poets, on whom he bestows lots of love at Rawlitix, the intimate live talk and variety show he hosts monthly at the Deer Pile. In a casual, salon-like, house-party atmosphere, Spears, a born yakker, focuses on people who don't necessarily spend time in the spotlight; like any good talk show, each installment features live music and comedy, tied together by a guest interview. Denver has recurring comedy shows like the Grawlix and the Fine Gentleman's Club. We have storytelling and readings, the Narrators and My Teenage Angst. But until now, we didn't have a talk show...and certainly not one like this.

Co-ops, schools, associations and art groups often mount shows that feature the work of their members exclusively. Material Engagements, at Laura Merage's RedLine, comprised pieces by the complex's residents and former residents, and it was definitely a winner. Guest curator Harmony Hammond made the savvy decision to choose material as the organizing theme; this was a necessary call, given that there is no particular stylistic requirement for RedLiners and every artist does his or her own kind of work. Among the best aspects of the exhibition was its intelligent design, with each of the two dozen artists given a dedicated space and plenty of breathing room.

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