Every weekend is a good weekend to get out of town in Colorado, but Labor Day offers even more excuses to pack up your bags and hit the road. There's plenty to do in the mountains this weekend, but don't worry if you're stuck in Denver; between concerts (some free!), food festivals and book readings, you'll have plenty to do this week.
Tuesday, August 29
Even though all of its members are natives of Arles, in the South of France, the Gypsy Kings are steeped in the Spanish tradition of flamenco music. Crafting a tuneful hybrid of rumba flamenca, romani, salsa and pop melodies, the Gypsy Kings broke into the international mainstream in 1987 with the release of their self-titled album, which included canonical classics like “Djobi Djoba” and “Bamboléo.” Get swept up in their singular rhythms at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, August 29, at Boulder’s Chautauqua Auditorium, 900 Baseline Road. Visit chautauqua.com to learn more and buy tickets, $55 to $78.
Wednesday, August 30
If you’re not on the bestseller list, being an author, especially a striving author dependent on small presses and live readings, can be more a labor of words and storytelling and finding an audience — especially the latter. Counterpath, itself a small press as well as an event venue, periodically gives over its space to such writers, local and otherwise, to present new work for an appreciative audience. Working authors Steven Dunn (Potted Meat, Tarpaulin Sky Press) and Mairead Case (See You in the Morning, Featherproof Books) of Colorado will join Portlander Zachary Schomburg (Mammother, Featherproof Books) for a reading on Wednesday, August 30, from 7 to 9 p.m. at Counterpath, 7935 East 14th Avenue; admission is free, and the atmosphere is sympathetic. Refreshments will be served. Learn more at allevents.in.
Ellementa, a women's group focused on cannabis education, will hold another meeting and roundtable chat on Wednesday, August 30, at Cluster Studios from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. The evening discussion will focus on using cannabis to treat anxiety and depression, and will feature Cannabis Therapeutics: A Manual for Cannabis Practitioners author Jamie Lynn Thomas. Online tickets are $10, but entry at the door will be $20. If you cannot afford entry, contact Ellementa for a possible gift admission. Find out more at eventbrite.com.
You may have heard something about an eclipse that just passed overhead. If you didn’t get your fill or had one of those horrible bosses with no soul that didn’t let you go outside and watch it, don’t worry: The Denver Museum of Nature & Science has you covered. Its regularly occurring program 60 Minutes in Space returns Wednesday, August 30, at 7 p.m. in Gates Planetarium, with Mars Rovers — Opportunity and Curiosity. According to Dr. Ka Chun Yu of the museum’s Space Sciences Department, a museum researcher “will not only cover the eclipse, but also the latest in news and discoveries outside the solar system such as stars and galaxies.” Best of all, it’s free — and glasses aren’t required! Go to dmns.org/learn/adults/after-hours for more information.
Thursday, August 31
With the regional premiere this week of Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’s Appropriate, Curious Theatre Company begins its new season with the familiar intention of pushing the audience’s buttons and making folks think. The play, written by a black playwright, tweaks our view of racial issues without ever presenting a black character on stage. The story of a white family thrown together uncomfortably at the old homestead in Arkansas, à la Tracy Letts, to divvy up their patriarch’s possessions after he dies, Appropriate turns on its side with the discovery in the house of an old photo album documenting lynchings and the underlying knowledge of an old slave cemetery on the former plantation’s grounds. Knowing Curious’s track record, this is going to be good stuff. Appropriate opens for previews at 8 p.m. Thursday, August 31, and runs through October 14 at Curious Theatre Company, 1080 Acoma Street. Find information and tickets, ranging from $18 to $50, at curioustheatre.org.
Inspector has been a force in the Mexican ska scene since the 1990s, blending reggae, ’60s rock and roll and pop. Part of the musical movement Avanzada Regia, which made waves in the ’90s, the band has continued to inspire Latin music worldwide. Inspector will play a free show at Levitt Pavilion, 1380 West Florida Avenue, at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, August 31; local Latin act iZCALLi, which describes itself as “a molotov of nostalgia and exhilaration,” will open. For more information and to RSVP, go to levittdenver.org.
At 6 p.m. on Thursday, August 31, the Leanin’ Tree Museum and Sculpture Garden will seal the envelope on more than forty years as a free tourist attraction. Although the card company’s factory at 6055 Longbow Drive in Boulder will remain open (and continue to offer tours, as well as operate a gift shop), the gallery that displayed the private art collection of Ed Trumble, who founded Leanin’ Tree Greeting Cards in 1949, will close; most of its contents — primarily Western and American Indian-themed art — will be auctioned off in early 2018. Find out more at 303-729-3412 or leanintreemuseum.com.
As the United States grapples with the fallout from the recent white-nationalist march in Charlottesville, Virginia — where a white supremacist drove his car into a group of counter-protesters, injuring many and killing one — having frank conversations about race is more important than ever. At the Shorter Community A.M.E. Church, 3100 Richard Allen Court, Drs. Nita Mosby Tyler of the Equity Project and Timothy Tyler, the church’s pastor, will host “Getting Real: A Raw Conversation About Race.” The much-needed (and free) discussion starts at 7 p.m. on Thursday, August 31. For more information, contact the church at 303-320-1712 or visit the event’s Facebook page.
Triumphantly returning for its fifth year, the annual Chef & Brew Festival is a fun and frothy movable feast. The fest, which helped spread the word that craft beer and chef-driven cuisine were a heavenly pairing for foodies and brewhounds alike, continues to challenge chefs and brewers to experiment with bold new flavors and intriguing combinations, one reason it was crowned Denver’s Best New Festival in these pages back in 2012. This year’s Chef & Brew — taking place at the Exdo Event Center on Thursday, August 31, from 6 to 10 p.m. — will see twenty chefs compete against each other, with guests enjoying the results. A panel of expert judges will award prizes for Best in Show Dish, Best in Show Beer and Best Pairing, and attendees will select the winner of the evening’s grand prize. Visit chefandbrew.com to learn more and buy tickets, $55 to $75. A portion of the proceeds will benefit Project Angel Heart.
Friday, September 1
Lit Crawl Denver is back for a second year in conjunction with the San Francisco-based nonprofit Litquake Foundation’s international Lit Crawl series, bringing the region’s literary community together for an evening of readings at various locations along Tennyson Street in the Berkeley neighborhood. Six literary groups that regularly host local readings — At the Inkwell, Fbomb, the Mile-High MFA program at Regis University, Lighthouse Writers, Colorado Humanities and Tethered by Letters — will give presentations between 6 and 9 p.m. on Friday, September 1, as part of the cultural district’s First Friday festivities, before the whole thing ends up at BookBar, 4280 Tennyson, for raffle prizes, drinking and shmoozing with the authors, a cross-section of Denver’s very best. Learn more and chart your course at litquake.org/events/lit-crawl-denver.
Andy Haynes is a dynamic standup comedian known for his appearances on Conan, Last Comic Standing and Comedy Central’s The Half Hour. Haynes is also known for his Midnight Run comedy showcase, which gets comedians unreasonably stoned and then lets them sort through the weirdness on stage. A natural fit for the Sexpot Comedy brand, Haynes is in town this week to headline a show on Friday, September 1, that will also include local comics Emily Zeek, D. Kelly and Mike Stanley; the fun starts at 7 p.m. at Syntax Physic Opera, 554 South Broadway. Haynes and Sexpot will also bring the Midnight Run showcase to an appreciative and equally stoned Denver audience at the Bug Theatre, 3654 Navajo Street, at 8 p.m. on Saturday, September 2. Visit sexpotcomedy.com to learn more. Tickets for the Syntax show, $7, are available via Nightout; Midnight Run tickets are $10 at the door.
Villain Arts, which has organized tattoo gatherings for the past twenty years, will bring its traveling Tattoo Arts Convention to Denver for three days starting on Friday, September 1. The inaugural convention will spotlight some of the world’s best tattoo artists, a collection of tattoo memorabilia and a slate of sideshow performers at the Colorado Convention Center, 700 14th Street. Whether you’re a tattoo artist looking to study up on your craft at one of the convention’s workshops, a body looking to become a canvas, or simply a voyeur hoping to witness body painting, piercing suspensions and other extreme body art, this is the place to be. For tickets, $20 to $40, and more information, visit villainarts.com.
When it comes to great festival grub, Denver is about more than just turkey legs and funnel cakes. Every year, the Taste of Colorado takes over Civic Center Park, at Broadway and Colfax, on Labor Day weekend to showcase some of the city’s best food. This year’s celebration runs for four days starting Friday, September 1, with more than fifty restaurants and food vendors dishing out their finest alongside a marketplace packed with arts and crafts. Local and national live music on six stages and artisan demonstrations will help keep things lively. Admission to the Taste is free, but you’ll need to purchase food and drink tickets inside if you want to partake. Get all the details at atasteofcolorado.com; festival hours are 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday, 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, and 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday.
Nan Desu Kan, or NDK, as the cool kids call it, is the premier Japanese animation and culture festival in the Rocky Mountains. The 21st annual edition, at the Denver Sheraton Downtown, 1550 Court Place, will have plenty of guests, panels and merchandise booths, but will also offer 24-hour video screening rooms, gaming (both tabletop and video), cosplay contests and late-night dance parties for three days starting Friday, September 1. Prominent guests include Dante Basco (Avatar: The Last Airbender, Hook), Sumi Shimamoto (Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, Princess Mononoke, Hello Kitty) and Leah Clark (the Pokémon movies). Every year, NDK chooses to support one deserving charity, and this year’s benefactor is Extra Life, which takes video gaming and the love of community and turns it into help for the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. For tickets and more information, including a complete schedule, visit ndkdenver.org.
The 1970s has been called the Second Golden Age of Hollywood, and 1977, in particular, was a banner year, especially for sci-fi geeks. May saw the release of a little film called Star Wars, while November saw the release of a film unlike any other in the sci-fi genre: Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Smart, thoughtful and realistic, it solidified Steven Spielberg’s place as the preeminent filmmaker of his generation. With cutting-edge special effects by Douglas Trumbull of 2001 fame and a score by the incomparable John Williams, it was not only one of the most cinematic films ever made, but also one of the loudest. It’s the kind of movie that demands to be seen on the big screen — and thanks to Sony, you can see it in a brand-new 4K restoration. Close Encounters will play for one week starting Friday, September 1, at the Alamo Drafthouse at 7301 South Santa Fe Drive in Littleton, as part of the SYFY25 Screening Series. Find tickets at drafthouse.com.
Saturday, September 2
We’ll take any excuse to visit Manitou Springs, a quaint mountain town just an hour and a half south of Denver. Especially the Commonwheel Artists 43rd Annual Labor Day Art Festival. For three days starting Saturday, September 2, artists in the Pikes Peak region will basically throw a party that showcases beautiful and affordable arts and crafts, concerts from local musicians, belly-dance performances and more. The fun runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily at Manitou Springs Memorial Park, 502 Manitou Avenue. Find more information at commonwheel.com/festival.html.
Worldwide sensation Pole Theatre USA twirls into the Oriental Theater, 4335 West 44th Avenue, on Saturday, September 2, for an alluring and gravity-defying spectacle. Hosted by Sydney-based pole dancer extraordinaire Michelle Shimmy, Pole Theatre USA starts things off at 3 p.m. with its Semi-Pro Division contest, presided over by expert judges such as Maddie Sparkle, Marlo Fisken and more, before returning at 8 p.m. for the Professional Division showcase. In addition to the sensual Pole Classique, wherein glamorous dancers honor the cabaret roots of the art form, pole dancers will explore the style’s dramatic and comedic potential while folding elements of classic dance like ballet and tango into their routines. Visit poletheatreusa.com to learn more and buy tickets, $25 to $75.
This weekend will offer more reasons than just the mountains to look up in Steamboat Springs. The Wild West Air Fest kicks off at 9 a.m. on Saturday, September 2, at the Steamboat Springs Airport, 3495 Airport Circle, and will showcase some of the finest pilots in Colorado flying beauties from World War II. Pilots will perform acrobatics and formation flying, and attendees can even catch a ride on a plane. Although rides will run you a few hundred dollars, tickets to the Air Fest are $10 for adults and $5 for children (kids ages six and under admitted free). And while you’re in the area, don’t miss the Yampa Valley Crane Festival and the downtown Steamboat Farmers’ Market and sidewalk sale. Find tickets to the Air Fest and more information about the various events happening over the weekend at steamboatchamber.com.
Sunday, September 3
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Add a little rhythm to your Labor Day weekend at Levitt Pavilion, 1380 West Florida Avenue, staging grounds for the free Cumbia Festival. Though cumbia music and dance are part of a courtship ritual that originated in Colombia, its irresistible danceability has spread around the world, inspiring various subgenres and enduring across generations. Join performers such as Mexico’s La Tropa Vallenata and local acts Tropical Kaoba and Los Chavos Dun Dun, along with other special guests, from 3 until 10 p.m. on Sunday, September 3. Visit levittdenver.org to RSVP for the Cumbia Festival and learn more about other free performances in FirstBank’s Latin Concert Series.
Monday, September 4
Broken Shovels Farm, the no-kill dairy at 8640 Dahlia Street in Henderson, fights for animal rights and works tirelessly to save goats, cows, chickens, turkeys and more from neglect and brutality. The public is invited to scratch bellies and hug the farm’s animals at a fundraiser with musician Nathan Kalish on Monday, September 4, from 5 to 9 p.m. Attendees are encouraged to bring apples, celery, citrus fruits, kale and other farm-friendly foods for the animals, and tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for children under twelve. It’s BYOB, and the Wanderculinarilust food truck will be on the premises. For more information, including details about the animals’ food, visit facebook.com/brokenshovels.
While most of us are academically aware of the global refugee crisis, it’s all too easy for the struggles of displaced people to remain an abstract concept. Presented by Doctors Without Borders, Forced From Home contextualizes the refugee experience for well-meaning guests eager to learn more. Guided by an experienced foreign-aid worker, visitors can explore a 10,000-square-foot installation at Courthouse Plaza on the Pearl Street Mall in Boulder, discovering the gauntlet of challenges people face when making the gut-wrenching decision to leave their homes. Hear the stories of families from conflict zones such as Iraq, Lebanon and South Sudan, and experience a simulation of their journeys in a 360-degree virtual reality film while discovering for yourself how essential services like Doctors Without Borders can be for displaced individuals. The free exhibit opens on Monday, September 4, and runs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily through Sunday, September 10. Visit forcedfromhome.com for more details.