Best Experimental Mix 2014 | Watt? Amplified and Supercharged Music Expression | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword

Mark Mosher organized the Boulder Synthesizer Meet-Up to connect with others interested in using technology in music. He found kindred spirits in internationally touring trombone player Darren Kramer and Victoria Lundy of the Inactivists and the now-defunct Carbon Dioxide Orchestra. The trio played through Mosher's audio rig, with Kramer processing his trombone through analog and digital devices and Lundy joining him on her theremin. Playing separate sets with a collaborative performance at the end, Kramer, Lundy and Mosher presented a tour de force on the current state of electronic music and its future.

Without officially branding its programming a feminist endeavor, the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art brought women into the spotlight in force in 2013. As part of its Present Box series, BMoCA invited bridal dressmaker Maggie Evans to sew live and artist/lawyer Vanessa Place to present her confessional performance art. The museum's fall series, Craft Tech/Coded Media, gave multiple generations of technology-based artists a great platform for their multimedia work, and companion events like Femcees: Lyrics Decoded brought female musicians into the mix. BMoCA showed that curation doesn't have to be labeled in order to be empowering, engaging and effective.

Join nearly 55,000 film lovers making their way through more than 200 films at the Starz Denver Film Festival, Denver's preeminent, audience-friendly movie event of the year — for thirty years! Whether you want to watch future Academy Award nominees or gems that might never again see the light of day, the Denver Film Festival has got you covered. And where else in town can you rub elbows with Hollywood directors, brave documentarians and independent auteurs talking about their craft and showing off their latest work? Even without the bonus red-carpet events, multiple parties and panel discussions with film-industry players, this fall festival is a chance to pack a year's worth of movie viewing into ten glorious days.

Ethan McCarthy is best known for his work as a musician in extreme-metal bands like Clinging to the Trees of a Forest Fire, Keep and Primitive Man. He's also had experience running the DIY venues Kingdom of Doom, Blast-O-Mat and Aqualung's Community Music Space. A disarmingly gregarious and compassionate person, in seeming contrast to his bleak, aggressive and sometimes forbidding music, McCarthy has been a truly positive force in the local music scene. Recently he's gained notice for his visual art, as well. The dark, detailed and imaginative fliers he's made for various shows immediately pull you in and make you curious as to what event could warrant such powerful imagery.

Have you ever gone to a movie theater and pulled a refillable popcorn bucket and soda cup out of a trash can, washed them off, then sheepishly approached the concession line saying, "I'm here for my refills," praying that the gawky kid behind the cash register won't bust you? To avoid that humiliation, check out the Landmark Greenwood Village, which doles out free popcorn and carbonated corn syrup for every ticketed customer. The quality of the popcorn and the soda selection are better than average, and you can fearlessly fill up to your heart's content — even beyond it. The comfortable theater also has a selection of pub grub and drinks for VIP customers — but it's the UIP (unimportant people) who really get a good deal.

As Andrew Orvedahl and Robert Rutherford, hosts of the Narrators, will assure you, storytelling is an art -- not just an opportunity to spew random reminiscences. In front of an audience, the storyteller must impart drama, give a sense of time and place, and even hit the funnybone once in a while to achieve real success. Over the last few years, the duo's knack for curating stories has gotten better and better, and the monthly series is settling comfortably into new, beer-friendly digs at Deer Pile. At 8 p.m. every third Thursday of the month, Narrators regulars and newbies alike take the stage to riff on a changing theme; the result is magical, profound and believably unbelievable. It's also free -- and that's no fairy tale.

Not many film screenings come with syringes full of human blood. But that's the sort of thing that makes "BloodThirsty Theresa" Mercado's seasonal horror-film series at Crash 45 so special. The impeccably curated films, which show on the first Tuesday of the month and are grouped into Cruel Autumn, Cruel Winter and Cruel Summer, run the horror gamut — from classics like 1974's Texas Chainsaw Massacre to more obscure flicks like the ridiculous alien-abduction movie Xtro to Kathryn Bigelow's vampire tale Near Dark (when those syringes were handed out). Mercado creates handmade souvenirs tailored to each free screening, and the bar concocts movie-themed drink specials to enjoy along with the scares.

Best Fresh Take on the Western Tradition — Group

Western not Western

For Western not Western, Bill Havu and his assistant, Nick Ryan, surveyed the many artists in the gallery's stable to find pieces that use Western-art vocabularies but aren't traditionally Western in style. They included straightforward realists like Jeff Aeling, James Cook and Rick Dula, as well as Tracy Felix, Sushe Felix and Tony Ortega, all of whom pick up Western subjects and then push them through their own individual sensibilities. There were even artists who do abstracted landscapes, among them Sam Scott, Lui Ferreyra and Jeremy Hillhouse, and two, Emilio Lobato and Nancy Lovendahl, who do pure abstractions. The show was right on time, because contemporary art with a Western twang is currently a hot topic.

Contemporary-realist painter Don Stinson depicts intrusions on nature, using the Western landscape in Colorado, New Mexico and Utah to make his point. Often he'll include a derelict drive-in theater or some other abandoned symbol of modernity that he finds amid the breathtaking vistas. In this show, the title painting included a weathered motel sign alone on the plains, with the motel itself long gone. In a twist on this program of finding ruins in the garden, Stinson has also depicted works of art by others, rendering the famous "Spiral Jetty," by Robert Smithson, in the Great Salt Lake, and depicting the landmark Colorado home in "Sculptured House," by Charles Deaton, at dawn. The landscape is Colorado art's claim to fame, and artists like Stinson are keeping it contemporary.

The Robischon Gallery is so big that it's easy for co-directors Jim Robischon and Jennifer Doran to mount large and impressive group shows in which each artist is given his or her own spacious berth. And not incidentally, they also have the curatorial talent to be ambitious. That was surely the case with Out of Line, in which an overarching, unified vision of contemporary abstraction was achieved through the sum of its individual artist parts, including mostly conceptual abstract pieces by Jason Karolak, Wendi Harford, Ted Larsen, Derrick Velasquez, Kate Petley, Annica Cuppetelli + Cristobal Mendoza, and Bernar Venet. The results were spectacular, and by mixing up nationally known artists with prominent locals, Robischon and Doran showed how good the hometown team really is.

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