Best of 2012: Open Mic Night
Let's face it: There are open mics, and then there are open mics.
Andrea Stone's Monday night showcase at Zodiac falls into the more elite category, regularly attracting musicians who are already active performers in the Springs club scene — or soon will be — along with local poets and stand-up comics. Better-known musicians who've taken part include Charlie Milo, the Hopeful Heroines, Grant Sabin and Chauncy Crandall, all of whom won or placed in this year's Indy Music Awards competition.
"I met both of the bands I'm in at our open mic," says Stone, who performs with Kopesetik Soul and the Mostly Don'ts, also both IMA honorees. "Two groups," she adds, "that couldn't be more different from each other."
It was five or six years ago that Stone went to her first open mic, which was being hosted by Jerry Roskin at McCabe's. "I'd just begun writing songs and I was extremely nervous to play," she recalls. "But Jerry was so nice and encouraging that he made it easy for me to get up there and share my music. I became addicted."
So when Andrea's sister-in-law Christina Stone got together with her best friend Gentle Fritz to open Zodiac on the site of the former Rocket Room, Andrea jumped at the chance to host an open mic of her own. Nearly two years later, musicians continue to arrive early for the chance to play a big stage with high-end sound and lighting systems. Along with it comes a sense of camaraderie, real-time feedback and a free drink for each performer.
And for Stone, it's also an opportunity to bring things full circle. "Ultimately why I host," she says, "is to give back to my community what Jerry gave me years ago, and in spades." — Bill Forman
Best of 2012 • IndyPick: Place to Lose Your Karaoke Virginity: Karaoke with Hazel Humdinger
Never mind why I never karaoked before. The important thing is that I have now, and it's all thanks to this weekly event, set under the warm, sparkly lights of Zodiac. I began with a duet with my boyfriend — "Country Roads" by John Denver — then graduated to my first solo, "White Rabbit" by Jefferson Airplane. Yes, I'd say I feel pretty cool these days. Because Hazel herself is cool (the burlesque star absolutely nails the Cranberries' "Dreams") and so is bartender extraordinaire Dave Baumgartner, you feel like you're hanging out with friends, lame though it sounds. So it's easy to take the plunge on stage, for the first time and many times thereafter; it's always a big, boozy funfest. — Edie Adelstein
Best of 2012: Bar With a Smokin' Patio
Seventeenth-century French playwright Molière was quoted as saying, "There's nothing quite like tobacco: it's the passion of decent folk, and whoever lives without tobacco doesn't deserve to live." Brutal, I know, but it helps explain a little of smokers' deep passion for their habit. Post-smoking ban, Oscar's owner Phil Duhon created a refuge for the black-lunged: Warmed by patio heaters and protected by plastic walls, his recently reorganized, "shabby chic, beach bar" patio now features a large flat-screen TV with the NFL package, and a killer sound system that enables plenty of live music plus the playing of "old-school MTV videos." The patio, Duhon estimates, now accounts for 40 percent of his overall business. — Matthew Schniper
Source: High Rise Coffee Roasters
Get the: Cucuru Cuban (espresso with steamed cream and organic sugar
With art events, music, alcohol options and tapas, Cucuru is more than just a Cuban-themed coffee shop. But while you're there, be sure to check out High Rise Coffee Roasters-fueled standards.
A central promoter and supporter for all things art and culture in the area, COPPeR helms the online arts listing database peakradar.com and publishes the COPPeR Pages, a printed resource for arts organizations, museums, theaters and film festival groups.
Insider Guide 2010
Colloquially known as "The Indy" or "The Single Most Amazing Piece of Local Print Owned or Not Owned by a Megalith of Publishing" (used interchangeably), the paper boasts 126,000 regular readers and, unlike the local daily, has yet to force-feed a copy of the New Testament to its readers.
Best of 2012: Cultural Attraction/Museum
Best of 2012: Art Exhibition
The Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center's 75th anniversary has come and gone, but nothing is settling down at the institution. This year, the FAC gave Springs audiences the work of world-famous contemporary artist James Turrell, as well as sure-to-be-world-famous locals Scott Johnson and Floyd Tunson (see p. 64). On the theatrical side, it's debuted a second-stage season and offered more tickets at a lower price. The Bemis School of Art also continues to dish out satisfaction, says FAC president and CEO Sam Gappmayer. "Bemis is like this juggernaut: It does the same thing every year, but it does it exceptionally well," he says, adding, "It's a class of 18 where someone has a profound experience with their own creativity." Whether you view or create there, the FAC provides a holistic approach to art (for all ages, no less) that makes it a well-deserved community flagship. — Edie Adelstein
Best Of 2012: Local Coffee Roaster
Give the same green coffee to 10 different roasters, and post-roast, "all would be slightly different," says Eric "Harry" Nicol at Colorado Coffee Merchants. That's because the two main variables — roast time and temperature — drastically affect the flavor, and there's no detailed rule book to follow when it comes to the process.
At CCM, a third variable is key to how the company's coffee is roasted: the equipment. Versus the much more common drum roaster, in which the heat comes from outside, CCM's fluid-air bed roaster heats like a "big, oversized popcorn machine," Nicol says. The air flow has a tendency to sift out more smoke and debris, as well as leftover chaff. Why's that important? When you drink a cup of coffee, he says, it's charred chaff that increases the drink's acidity, and can leave both your palate and stomach unhappy.
In the 8½ years since owner Eric Umenhofer opened CCM, the Fillmore Street shop has shifted most of its roasting from an 8-pound machine to a 38-pounder. Coming off that machine these days are two small-batch brands: Ümpire Estate Mountain Roasters and Idle Truck, the latter nodding to Umenhofer's previous career as a local firefighter.
It's unlikely you'll catch the original roaster running during a random stop by the shop — it's primarily used now for developing taste profiles for new coffees. However, drop by midday Monday through Saturday, and you'll probably be able to pick up a whiff of hot beans "popping" through the larger machine while you wait in line to order a latte (or mocha or another fancy drink). CCM roasts daily in order to produce 100 to 150 pounds a day, enough to keep on top of its local business for that day and the next. — Kirsten Akens
Benny's has nothing if not character. And characters. Local blues prodigies like Grant Sabin and Jeremy Vasquez play here on a regular basis, and it's also an excellent pit stop for bikers, barflies and pretty much anyone else who knows how to live the good life.
Happy hour: Monday-Friday, 4-7 p.m.
The goods: $2 wine, wells, domestics; $1.50 Pabst Blue Ribbon; $1 off pitchers
Come here if you are: "Thirsty. I wanted to say 'crazy,' but we've got enough of those."
Local blues prodigies like Grant Sabin and Jeremy Vasquez play here on a regular basis. Benny's is also an excellent pit stop for bikers, barflies and pretty much anyone else who knows how to live the good life.
Best of 2012: Cultural White Knight: Susan Edmondson
As executive director of the Bee Vradenburg Foundation, Susan Edmondson helps people understand that the arts are critical to a thriving community and economy. And by "arts," she's not just talking about the occasional gallery opening or theater performance; enjoying art could mean listening to a church choir, or taking in locally created paintings hanging in coffee shops. Edmondson sees pockets of creativity all over the city, though she adds that she'd "like to see more venues and more affordable locations for artist studios and performance spaces throughout neighborhoods." Of course, more venues would hopefully attract more people to those venues. "I think we have a passionate core of supporters," she says, "and my goal is to make that core larger." — Darcie Mankell