The 21 Best Events in Denver, May 20 Through May 26

Denver Day of Rock returns!EXPAND
Denver Day of Rock returns!
Brandon Marshall
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Denver, it's time to get your rock on. Not only is the Denver Day of Rock returning, but this year the concert will include a rock-star-worthy replica of Mount Rushmore, courtesy of the South Dakota Department of Tourism. If that isn't enough for you, keep reading for all the best happenings in Denver this week!

Monday, May 20

Throughout history, people have looked toward the sky to understand our world. When the ancient Puebloans built their ancestral homes at Mesa Verde and Chaco Canyon, they used their understanding of light, shadows, the stars and the lunar cycle to define time and create many cultural foundations. This will be the subject of "Ancient Light," a lecture by University of Colorado professor Erica Ellingson, who will discuss how studying the night sky ties us to people who lived on this land more than a thousand years ago. The talk takes place at the History Colorado Center, 1200 Broadway, at 1 p.m. and again at 7 p.m. on Monday, May 20. Find tickets, $9 to $11, and more info at historycolorado.org.

Tuesday, May 21

Central City Opera’s production of Billy Budd won’t open until July 13, but it’s not too early to plunge into the work of Herman Melville. To celebrate the 200th anniversary of the author’s birth, CCO is offering a series of free events exploring his life. At 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 21, Melville scholar Dawn Coleman will lead a discussion of Billy Budd, the novella that inspired the opera; she’ll be joined by Pelham G. Pearce, CCO general/artistic director, and music director John Baril. The talk will be held in the Gates Room of the Denver Central Library, 10 West 14th Avenue; get the complete CCO schedule at centralcityopera.org.

The beauty of Fbomb is that it’s short and sweet, yet so fulfilling. Originally designed as a showcase for flash fiction, the popular reading has branched out to include other forms of poetry, prose and memoir, which could be seen as condensed narratives of a different stripe. This month’s event, Fbomb: Show Your Bones, inspired by Maggie Smith’s poem “Good Bones,” begins with an open mic to warm things up (sign up at 7 p.m.) before segueing into readings from queer perspectives by Mairead Case and Byron F. Aspaas, a Diné tribe member. Jay Halsey hosts from 7:30 to 10 p.m. Tuesday, May 21, at the Mercury Cafe, 2199 California Street; admission is free. Learn more at fbombdenver.com.

Wednesday, May 22

For the past month, the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art has hosted MediaLive, which it describes as a "new media festival bringing together art, technology and digital culture" that incorporates digital performances, workshops and events by contemporary artists working in media art. The festival will end on Wednesday, May 22, with a performance and reception that organizers promise will mirror one of those listening parties you used to host when new music dropped (remember those days?). The event runs from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the museum, 1750 13th Street in Boulder, and includes a virtual concert by the duo Matmos, which makes music from the sounds of plastics, including police riot shields, grocery bags and medical equipment. The performance will reflect on environmental issues and include sonic and visual elements. For more information about this free party, go to bmoca.org.

Thursday, May 23

The Printed Page on Denver's Antique Row is an anachronism of the best kind: a slightly musty paradise in a Victorian house for lifelong page-turners, packrats and collectors — a place where books are treasures rather than commodities and collecting classes are offered for novice book fanciers. If that sounds like your cup of tea, check out the shop at an informal Printed Page After-Hours Party from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Thursday, May 23, with nibbles and nips and special discounts in the bargain. The Printed Page is at 1416 South Broadway; learn more and RSVP for the free gathering at 303-777-7653, or email theshop@printedpagebookshop.com.

As the Globeville Elyria Swansea community changes thanks to development and the general malaise of growth, Focus Points Family Resource Center has proven an indispensable aid to local families through its GED prep and English-language classes, workforce development programs (including the beloved Comal Heritage Food Incubator, which teaches refugee woman how to manage their own kitchens) and more. Enjoy some of the best food that Comal has to offer, entertainment, premium beverages and a game of Mexican lottery (prizes included) at Lotería, a fiesta benefiting Focus Points, from 6 to 9 p.m. Thursday, May 23, at Big Trouble in Zeppelin Station, 3501 Wazee Street. Find tickets, $60 to $100, and more info at focuspoints.org.

After spending two decades collaborating with an impressive roster of indie-rock luminaries, Pete Yorn has the stage all to himself on the You & Me Solo Acoustic Tour. A multi-talented songwriter who plays nearly every instrument on all of his albums, Yorn makes critically acclaimed music that's irresistible to Hollywood honchos and old-school purists alike. He may be hitting the road in the wake of his latest release, Apart, which he recorded with regular collaborator and erstwhile Avenger Scarlett Johansson, but Yorn will deliver a medley of career highlights without a Black Widow cameo when he stops at the Bluebird Theater, 3317 East Colfax Avenue, at 8 p.m. Thursday, May 23. General admission is $35 to $40, and VIP packages are available for $135 or $285; visit axs.com for information and tickets.

Take a bite out of a very burger weekend.
Take a bite out of a very burger weekend.
Courtesy of Cheeseburger Nebula Galactic Press

Friday, May 24

Cheeseburger Nebula Galactic Press, a Denver-based project founded by William Seward Bonnie and Arielle Roberts, gives a grassroots-level voice to emerging writers and poets both local and from across the nation. The project will come out of the ether for a very burger weekend, two free nights of live readings of every stripe. Fellow independent Colorado lit purveyors Spit Poet Publishing and Birdy will join in at 8 p.m. Friday, May 24, at BookBar, 4280 Tennyson Street, and 7 p.m. Saturday, May 25, at Hooked on Colfax, 3213 East Colfax Avenue; find event details and author introductions at facebook.com/cheeseburgernebula.

Medieval poetry and modern composition clash with glorious bombast in Carmina Burana, a scenic cantata that sounds every bit as grand in the concert hall as it does on the soundtrack to cinematic epics like Excalibur. Adapted from a collection of satirical verses mostly written by Goliard monks in the twelfth century, Carl Orff's masterpiece retains its source materials' timeless warnings against lust, gluttony and the caprices of fortune while evoking the horrors of the German composer's experience as a survivor of both world wars. Join the Colorado Symphony's Brett Mitchell and Duain Wolfe along with Colorado Children's Chorale artistic director Deborah DeSantis for three rousing performances of Carmina Burana, plus Adam Schoenberg's American Symphony, at Boettcher Concert Hall in the Denver Performing Arts Complex; showtimes are 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 24, and Saturday, May 25, and 1 p.m. Sunday, May 26. Buy tickets, $25 to $104, and learn more at coloradosymphony.org.

Vicki Barbolak brings her Trailer Nasty Tour to Denver.
Vicki Barbolak brings her Trailer Nasty Tour to Denver.
Vicki Barbolak Facebook Page

Comedian Vicki Barbolak, who stokes her fire with semi-autobiographical, blue-collar trailer-park humor, has been leaping hurdles and winning prizes in the comedy industry over the past twenty years (including a berth last year among the top ten finalists on America’s Got Talent). She’s now embarked on a national Vicki's Trailer Nasty Tour that will bring her prize-winning persona to the Oriental Theater, 4335 West 44th Avenue, at 8 p.m. Friday, May 24. Find more information and tickets, $25, at theorientaltheater.com.

Evan Weissman rejoins his former colleagues at Buntport Theater for a revival of Something Is Rotten, the company's sendup of Hamlet. Buntport had originally planned to end its eighteenth season with a new original work, but after one member hurt her foot practicing double-Dutch rope jumping, the troupe decided to bring back this hit from 2006, which was also reprised in 2009, and calls for only three actors on stage. “It’s pretty crazy," says Brian Colonna. "We’ve done this so many times, it took almost nothing to remember all the lines and a lot of the movements. It’s like a song you’ve known forever. When it comes on, you instantly remember the lyrics and all the emotions it evokes.” The play opens at 8 p.m. Friday, May 24, and continues through June 1 at Buntport, 717 Lipan Street. Tickets are $25 for opening night (which includes a reception), $18 to $20 for the rest of the run. For more information, call 720-946-1388 or visit buntport.com.

Saturday, May 25

The Denver Arts Festival, which returns this weekend from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, May 25, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, May 26, is much more than a fine arts and crafts fair: You'll also find food trucks; bars with wine, beer and margaritas; and the Kids Art Zone. There will be live music, too: Cass Clayton Band from 3 to 6 Saturday, and the Barkeley Avenue Jazz Band from the Fourth Infantry Division from 10 to noon on Sunday, followed by Spinphony from 12:30 to 4. “The festival continues to grow and thrive at our Stapleton location, and we’re looking forward to continuing our celebration as one of the premier arts festivals in the region," says director Jim DeLutes. Admission is free; for more information, go to denverartsfestival.com.

Contestants come quacking down the track as fast as they can float at the second annual Ducktona 500, a rubber ducky derby that delights spectators while raising funds for a worthy cause. Cast your bets as 500-plus ducks come gliding down Castaway Creek at Elitch Gardens Theme and Water Park, 2000 Elitch Circle, during this benefit for the Ray of Hope Cancer Foundation. The rubber duckies go off to the races starting at 10 a.m. on Saturday, May 25, so make your reservation now for a chance to win VIP passes to upcoming Elitch's events. To participate in the Ducktona 500, head over to nightout.com, where you can purchase five duckies (along with a one-day park pass) for $25 and make a direct donation to the foundation. Spectators who can't get their ducks in a row beforehand can get day passes, $29.99 to $39.99, at elitchgardens.com to watch the action unfold.

Haunted by grieving spirits, thwarted romance and tragic death, Giselle is among the most melancholic triumphs of the ballet canon, as well as one of the most difficult to perform. The pre-professional division of Colorado Ballet Academy dancers are more than up to the task, however, and will present performances at 1 and 6 p.m. on Saturday, May 25, at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House, in the Denver Performing Arts Complex. The timeless tale of an amorous peasant girl who dies of heartbreak and posthumously teams up with a band of Wilis — mythological creatures representing the ghosts of jilted women — to take revenge on her deceitful lover, Giselle has retained its emotional resonance since its 1841 premiere thanks to a classic score from composer Adolphe Adam and the thrillingly ankle-punishing choreography of Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot. Go to the Academy performance page at coloradoballet.org for tickets, $15 to $20, and to learn more.

Fasor Records is making a splash in the local hip-hop and R&B scenes, collaborating with the likes of CRL CRRLL, Felix Fast4ward and Kayla Marque. The boutique label is also throwing some enticing events, like the Fasor Records Pop Up at the Moxy Hotel, 240 Josephine Street. Starting at 2 p.m. Saturday, May 25, the pop-up will include a shop, courtesy of Lawrence and Larimer Supply Co.; a complimentary waffle bar and beermosas; and, most important, performances by top-notch local and not-so-local musicians, including YaSi, Justcallmecarl, Sur Ellz and Corbin Dallas, with DJ sets by KDj Above, @Tyler Watt and CRL CRRLL. The $25 admission includes Fasor Records swag, unlimited coffee pours and music downloads. RSVP is required at the Fasor Facebook page, and tickets are available at eventbrite.com.

Face it: Mount Rushmore is better with rock stars.
Face it: Mount Rushmore is better with rock stars.
Courtesy of Denver Day of Rock

The annual Denver Day of Rock has some new rock stars: George, Tom, Teddy and Abe of Mount Rushmore, an installation on loan from the South Dakota Department of Tourism that comes complete with free scoops of vanilla ice cream made from Thomas Jefferson's original recipe. On Saturday, May 25, Mount Rushmore will be on the 16th Street Mall along with dozens of bands, food trucks and musical games like Guitar Hero and Dance Dance Revolution. You can rock out from 2:30 to 9:30 p.m., all for free (VIP Lounge tickets are $250 and benefit Amp the Cause); get the complete schedule and learn more at denverdayofrock.com.

The Art of Storytelling reading series isn’t flashy, but its mission is fierce: to showcase Denver’s diverse literary community out loud in the cozy confines of Prodigy Coffeehouse, a career-skills incubator for low-income youth. All of the pieces fit together beautifully in May, when the monthly series hands the mic to local newcomer Lindsay Clark, a recent Goddard College MFA graduate, humanitarian and bread baker who’s now writing a nonfiction treatise inspired by her visits to Fiji, and non-binary Puerto Rican author DL Cordero, whose interests lie in sci-fi and flash fiction. Free readings begin with an open mic at 2:55 p.m. Saturday, May 25, at Prodigy, 3801 East 40th Avenue; learn more at facebook.com/artofstorytellingdenver.

Partnering with the Rocky Mountain Pinball Showdown and Game Room Expo, which runs this weekend at the Denver Marriott Tech Center, 4900 South Syracuse Street, Horrorhouse Fest Pinball Tournament is back for its seventh edition. The event — which rolls out starting at 7 p.m. Saturday, May 25, and at 5 p.m. Sunday, May 26 — lets guests participate in some of the most frightening gaming experiences around. Part haunted house and part arcade tournament, the event is sure to spike your blood pressure. Tickets for the Pinball Showdown are $35 per day or $85 for a three-day pass (with VIP options available) at pinballshowdown.com; admission to Horrorhouse Fest is an additional $20. Find more information at eventbrite.com.

Frontline Farming, a food and farmers advocacy group that farms five acres in metro Denver and hosts a crop of programs, including rpay-what-you-can food stands, will host the People's Gathering, a free conference focused on food justice and cooperative building, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, May 25, at New Hope's Baptist New Hope Community Life Center, 3701 Colorado Boulevard. Brandon King, a founding member of Cooperation Jackson, will offer the keynote, talking about how food cooperatives are essential for the security of communities in shifting local and national landscapes. Children's activities will be offered while adults partake of a crop of programs; find out more at tpg.splashthat.com.

Head away from the hills this holiday weekend, and steer straight towards fun off I-70. Colorado High Plains Adventures is hosting is third annual Spring Farm Festival at Caramel Apple Farm south of Bennett from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, May 25. Learn a goat and learn how to make cheese; visit with a llama and pigs from Hog Haven Farms, a local animal sanctuary; browse through wares ranging from homemade crafts to jams and jellies. Admission is free; find out more at coloradohighplainsadventures.com.

Sunday, May 26

Sunday has arrived, but you're not quite ready to wind down your weekend. So hit the town — but make sure it's the right town. Pass up the usual Denver crowds and choose tiny Silver Plume for an evening of music, food and drinks in the cool mountain air. Silver Plume's only watering hole, Bread Bar, 1010 Main Street, invites you to its Great Mountain Honky Tonk. Beginning at 4 p.m. Sunday, May 26. Music will be provided by Casey James Prestwood and the Burning Angels, Larry Nix and Erika Ryann, and JKQ Barbecue and Long I Pie will dish up good eats. Bread Bar promises beer and cocktails, and says brings the kids and the dog, too! Find tickets, $15, and more info at breadbarsp.com.

Know of an event that belongs on this list? We need information at least three weeks in advance. Send it to editorial@westword.com.

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