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Ring in Christmas with Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats.
Ring in Christmas with Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats.
Miles Chrisinger

The 21 Best Events in Denver, December 18 Through December 24

It is, indeed, the most wonderful time of the year (even if that white Christmas doesn't show up), with plenty to celebrate. Get lit when the brand-new Gaylord Rockies hotel gets into the holiday spirit at LIGHT!, or observe the season the Denver way with Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats at his annual holiday concert. Whether you're a Christmas freak or freakin' over it, there's plenty to scratch your itch in our list of this week's best events in Denver.

Tuesday, December 18

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The largest hotel development under construction in North America is almost complete. Yes, Gaylord Rockies Resort & Convention Center, the massive complex that's been rising on the prairie near Denver International Airport, will officially open on Tuesday, December 18, the same day it will flip the switch on LIGHT! at Gaylord Rockies, an interactive holiday display designed to immerse you in color, patterns and light as you wander through a forest of hue-changing trees and the orb-filed "Valley of Light," exploring the grounds of the new facility. Seeing the LIGHT! is free, but to get a taste of Gaylord, try one of the hotel's eight restaurants, sign up for a service in the seventeen-room European-style spa, or book a room under a limited-time, special Colorado-residents rate that starts at $119. Find out more at gaylordrockies.com.

Wednesday, December 19

Denver hero Nathaniel Rateliff has been putting on holiday concerts in town for years. This year, along with his soulful band the Night Sweats, he'll be spending Wednesday, December 19, and Thursday, December 20, bringing holiday cheer to the Ogden Theatre, 935 East Colfax Avenue. Rateliff will likely present a mix of his soulful hits and Christmas tunes, including a delightfully homoerotic rendition of "Santa Baby" and the profoundly disturbing "Baby It's Cold Outside" with a signature gender twist; the Texas Gentlemen open both nights. For more information and tickets, $47.50, go to ogdentheatre.com.

Margaret Neumann in her studio at RedLine, 2011. Painting: “Mothers of Romulus and Remus,” 2006, oil on canvas.
Margaret Neumann in her studio at RedLine, 2011. Painting: “Mothers of Romulus and Remus,” 2006, oil on canvas.
Valerie Santerli

Thursday, December 20

Known as much for her role as a mentor and teacher of younger artists as for her paintings and drawings, artist Margaret Neumann has been a driving force in Colorado’s cultural scene for years. When RedLine Contemporary Art Center formed a decade ago, Neumann encouraged the nonprofit to foster rising generations of creatives. Honoring that legacy and her body of work, RedLine is showing What Lies Between: A Margaret Neumann Retrospective, which runs through January 8. Neumann will be at the gallery to lend more insight into her work during In Conversation With Margaret Neumann, 6 p.m. Thursday, December 20, at Redline, 2350 Arapahoe Street. RSVP and learn more at redlineart.org.

Friday, December 21

In September, Bolder Writers Warehouse (formerly Boulder Writers Warehouse), in collaboration with Kleft Jaw Press, made a conscious effort to cross borders and mix ideas and readings with various writer communities in metro Denver and beyond. The idea is sticking, and they’ll be back for Krewhouse: A Quarterly Gathering, bringing a big lineup of up to 21 readers to the Red Room at Hooked on Colfax, 3213 East Colfax Avenue. Join hands with the rest of the writers' universe for a solstice with words on Friday, December 21, from 7:30 to 10 p.m.; learn more on the Krewhouse Facebook page.

The Boulder Chamber Orchestra pays tribute to the classical era of Christmas compositions with Gift of Music, a pair of concerts with piano soloist David Korevaar. The program, which consists of "Weihnachtsmusik (Christmas Music)” by Arnold Schoenberg, George Frideric Handel's "Concerto Grosso Op. 3 No. 1," Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's "Piano Concerto No. 27 in B Major," Arcangelo Corelli’s "Christmas Concerto" and a selection of enduring carols, stirs the spirit of the season and connects listeners to a shared musical heritage. The orchestra will play twice this weekend — on Friday, December 21, at Broomfield Auditorium, 3 Community Park Road in Broomfield, and Saturday, December 22, at Boulder Adventist Church, 345 Mapleton Avenue. Showtime for both is 7:30 p.m.; visit boulderchamberorchestra.com to buy tickets, $15 to $25, and find out more.

Comedian Josh Blue, 2006 winner of NBC's Last Comic Standing, at Red Rocks.
Comedian Josh Blue, 2006 winner of NBC's Last Comic Standing, at Red Rocks.
Westword

Last Comic Standing winner and Denver comedy mainstay Josh Blue chose the warm confines of his home club (Comedy Works Downtown, 1226 15th Street) to host the taping of his fourth one-hour special. A followup to 2016's DELETE, Blue's latest hour sums up an eventful two years beset by personal struggles with the comedian's signature blend of quick wit and fearless honesty. Blue, who claims in his bio to have "put the cerebral in cerebral palsy," achieves an unrivaled balance between lighthearted self-deprecation and stage-hardened confidence, and his propensity for riffs ensures that no two shows will be exactly alike. Several shows have already sold out, but tickets remain for the 9:45 performance on Friday, December 21, and the 5 p.m. reprise on Sunday, December 23. Buy yours, $25, and learn more at comedyworks.com.

The Denver Philharmonic joins forces with the Colorado Chorale and Pan Nation steel drum band for a tropically flavored edition of the ensemble's annual Holiday Cheer! concert. Conductor Lawrence Golan leads the players through a genre-blending medley of standards like Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's “March” from The Nutcracker and George Frideric Handel's “Hallelujah Chorus,” interspersed with the sunnier sounds of Tom Miller's “Calypso,” Robert Wendel's "Caribbean Sleigh Ride" and many more cheerful selections. Showtime is 7:30 p.m. Friday, December 21, and 2:30 p.m. Saturday, December 22, at Central Presbyterian Church, 1660 Sherman Street; find tickets, $12 to $25, and more information at denverphilharmonic.org.

The St. Martin's Chamber Choir offers a musical rejoinder to the boy-baby-centric nativity story with A Marian Christmas: Maiden and Mother, a rare feminine perspective on foundational holiday narratives. In honor of the Messiah-begetting Virgin Mary, the chorale joins organist Richard Robertson for an evening dedicated to the sacrifices of motherhood, scored entirely by female composers. The performances also mark the twentieth anniversary of A Marian Christmas, the debut album of the 25-year-old choral ensemble. Join artistic director Timothy J. Krueger and the St. Martin's singers on Friday, December 21, at Saint Paul Lutheran and Roman Catholic Community of Faith, 1600 Grant Street, and on Saturday, December 22, at Holy Cross Lutheran Church, 4500 Wadsworth Boulevard in Wheat Ridge. Both performances begin at 7:30 p.m.; buy tickets, $15 to $45, and learn more at stmartinschamberchoir.org.

Jig into Christmas when the Irish Dance Theatre brings The Celtic Gift to the Paramount Theatre, 1621 Glenarm Place. Dubbed a mix of Riverdance and The Nutcracker by Irish Dancing magazine, the evening will blend traditional Christmas and Celtic music with Irish dancing that will leave you and the family feeling merry and bright. The Celtic Gift starts at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, December 21; find tickets, $20 to $50, and more information at irishdancetheatre.com.

Pioneering Denver's indie-rock scene since 1996, Dressy Bessy has shed members and cycled through different record labels over the course of the band's 22 years. Yet it has consistently remained an essential component of the city's soundscape, partly because of the continuous presence of frontwoman Tammy Ealom. After the long hiatus between 2008's Holler and Stomp and 2016's KINGSIZED, the current members of Dressy Bessy — named after Playskool dolls popular with children in the 1970s — are hard at work on a new album, due out next year. (For a preview of the band's studio tinkerings, listen to "What Do I Get?," a track leaked in honor of late Buzzcocks singer Pete Shelley, on Soundcloud.) Short Shorts, Cool Accent and Rocket Dust join Ealom and company for a stocking full of sonic treats at the Larimer Lounge, 2721 Larimer Street, at 8 p.m. Friday, December 21; find tickets, $10 to $12, and more details at larimerlounge.com.

Bow down, for the "Clown Prince of Hip Hop" will bestow local old-school aficionados with a beatboxing benediction guaranteed to givve what you need. The music-loving burrito barons of Illegal Pete's present Decades Collide, an evening of nostalgic bangers from the ’80s and ’90s headlined by legendary rapper Biz Markie. Best known for the jam "Just a Friend," which was ranked among VH1's 100 Greatest Hip-Hop Songs of All Time, Markie opened for Chris Rock on the No Apologies tour and also appeared in Men in Black II. Buddy up with Biz at a show that also includes Snap ’90s DJs Eric Lake and Garthy Garth. Doors open at 8 p.m. on Friday, December 21, at Summit Music Hall, 1902 Blake Street. Admission is $15 pre-sale, $20 at the door, and $45 for a VIP pass — or RSVP at summitdenver.com for a pair of complimentary GA tickets while they last.

El Vez brings his Mexican Elvis shtick to Ophelia's.
El Vez brings his Mexican Elvis shtick to Ophelia's.
Courtesy of El Vez

When it comes to pure personality, innate talent and a good pinch of brown pride, few Elvis impersonators can touch El Vez. The Mexican Elvis rose from his L.A. punk roots to develop a high-energy shtick and a road show that's way more original than the usual rote deliverance of Elvis’s golden oldies. El Vez's performances encompass political satire and pro-Latino social-justice issues without dropping the humor. See the king of a different color at A Very Brown Christmas on Friday, December 21, at 9 p.m. at Ophelia’s, 1215 20th Street. Doors open at 8; find tickets, $13 to $27, and more information at opheliasdenver.com.

Cheery as they may be, the holidays can also prove to be an incredibly stressful time. If you need a release, consider Comedy Works' Holiday Roast. Starting Friday, December 21, at 9:45 p.m., the best of the best in local comedy promise to "wreck the halls with boughs of naughty," taking aim at Rudolph and Santa and pitting Frosty the Snowman against the Nutcracker. Take your anger out on the stars of Christmas and contribute to the local comedy scene at the same time. The roast runs through December 27 at Comedy Works South, 5345 Landmark Place in Greenwood Village, with a single performance at the downtown Comedy Works, 1226 15th Street, on December 26; find tickets, $14 to $22, at comedyworks.com.

Saturday, December 22

Holiday shopping with a side of craft-brew quaffing seems to be a trend in 2018, and the Denver Microbrew Tour is doing the combo up fancy for Shop Small, Sip Big. The curated tour comes in threes: three boutiques, breweries and cideries, with three tastes at each. The last tour of the season leaves the home base of Stem Ciders, 2811 Walnut Street, at 1 p.m. on Saturday, December 22, and in addition to the major perks, includes exclusive shopping discounts, knowledgeable guides and, as you stroll through RiNo, historical tidbits in passing. Tickets are $40 in advance only at denvermicrobrewtour.com; snap yours up before it’s too late.

Urban Aggregate will end against an experimental sonic backdrop.
Urban Aggregate will end against an experimental sonic backdrop.
Courtesy of Orbiting Olympia

The special programming in conjunction with Joshua Ware’s Urban Aggregate installation at Understudy comes to a close with an experimental backdrop showcasing Front Range artists who mold sound. First up is “Surface Tension,” by Denver performance artists Esther Hernandez and Stephen Daniel Karpik (SDK), which captures real-time ambient resonations set in a gallery landscape. That's followed by a set from collaborators Eve Orenstein and Sean Patrick Faling of Orbiting Olympia, who combine operatic voice and synth sounds. Step into the noise on Saturday, December 22, between 6 and 9:30 p.m. at Understudy, 890 C 14th Street in the Denver Theatre District. Urban Aggregate remains on view through December 31, and admission is free; find details at understudydenver.com.

Swoon to the sounds of the eighth annual Klezfest, presented by the Mizel Museum. Rich with the lore and musical traditions of Judaica, this year's concert includes Hal Aqua and the Lost Tribe, Rabbi Joe Black with Steve Brodsky and a headlining performance from Hadgaba. Rooted in Eastern European Ashkenazi culture, klezmer is a joyful genre, and the centuries haven't diminished its festive vibe one bit. Dance the night away to Old World rhythms when Klezfest returns to the Mercury Cafe, 2199 California Street, at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, December 22; buy tickets, $25, and learn more at mizelmuseum.org.

Reed Fuchs and his creative co-conspirators at the DIY creative space Moon Magnet have proved themselves to be some of Denver’s wildest creative luminaries. For years, they've been talking up Cosmic Pineapple, a television series the group describes like so: “This surReality soap opera about life around Moon Magnet covers the rise and anticipated fall of the multiverse pop sensation **Cosmic Pineapple** as they battle Satan, mortality, social mores, basic hygiene, and jealous roommates in their quest to become even better at being the best.” The series will premiere on the big screen on Saturday, December 22, at the Alamo Drafthouse, following Rubedo lead singer Kyle Gray’s X~Mas Special. Festivities start at 8:45 p.m. at the Alamo Drafthouse Sloan's Lake, 4255 West Colfax Avenue. The movie screens at 10:15 p.m. and costs $5; for tickets and more information, go to drafthouse.com.

Sunday, December 23

Have a gay pre-Christmas at the Sie FilmCenter when CinemaQ’s Big Gay Matinee series presents some old-fashioned fun with the exuberant Rosalind Russell in Auntie Mame. The film remains a gay-friendly classic sixty years after its release, with an enduring message of “Be who you are.” Join Auntie Mame’s wild family for a trip down memory lane on Sunday, December 23, at 1:30 p.m. at the Sie, 2510 East Colfax Avenue, and be there on time for a pre-film drag performance by Kai Lee Mykels; admission is $7 to $11.50 at denverfilm.org.

Andrew Novick and Merhia Wiese bring The Guardian of the Temple to Denver.EXPAND
Andrew Novick and Merhia Wiese bring The Guardian of the Temple to Denver.
Courtesy of Andrew Novick and Merhia Wiese

Denver power couple Andrew Novick, known for his quirky pop-culture forays into art, food and music, and Merhia Wiese, who handles outreach for Meow Wolf Denver, traveled to France in November to view The Guardian of the Temple, a spectacular showcase for the monumental mechanical creations of La Machine Company. They’ll bring the once-in-a-lifetime experience to life in Denver during a travelogue with photos, video and commentary from 2:30 to 5:30 p.m. Sunday, December 23, at the Mercury Cafe, 2199 California Street. Admission is free, but Novick and Wiese recommend patronizing the Merc kitchen before or after the show (the kitchen closes at 3 p.m. and reopens at 5:30); find more details by searching “Come on a 'trip' with us to France" on Facebook.

Giggles abound when the Aspen Laughs Festival presents an evening with Melissa Villaseñor at the Wheeler Opera House, 320 East Hyman Avenue in Aspen, beginning at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, December 23. In addition to making history as the first Latina cast member of Saturday Night Live, Villaseñor wowed audiences with her eerily accurate impressions as a semi-finalist on America’s Got Talent, has lent her vocal skills to animated productions like Adventure Time, American Dad and Ralph Breaks the Internet, and has appeared on shows like Barry and Crashing. The multi-talented performer includes standup, music and art among her considerable repertoire of skills, and she's following her post-season comedy tour with the release of a new EP and a book of illustrations. Buy tickets, $40, and learn more at wheeleroperahouse.com.

Monday, December 24

Visions of sugar plums may be dancing through gentiles' heads this Christmas Eve, but the Chosen People will be hitting the dance floor at the first annual Jewbilee Bash Denver. The soirée offers guests an opportunity to boogie down while celebrating Jewish heritage in an evening dominated by Christian traditions. With beats provided by DJ 2AR and a complimentary beverage courtesy of Tito's Vodka, the bash is ideal for holiday counterprogramming. The celebration gets started at 9 p.m. on Monday, December 24, at Club Vinyl, 1082 Broadway, and doesn't wind down until 2 a.m. — though revelers are encouraged to continue their night at the nearby ART Hotel. Admission is $18 in advance at eventbrite.com and $25 at the door (or $20 with a canned-food donation).

In order for an event to be considered for 21 Best, we need information at least three weeks in advance. Send it to editorial@westword.com or 969 Broadway, Denver, CO 80203.

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