Black History Month might be ending soon, but it's going out with a bang, with plenty of events in Denver celebrating the African-American experience. The Black Actors Guild will lead tours through the Jordan Casteel show currently at the Denver Art Museum, and Denver's under-celebrated African-American creators will shine at Blackstravaganza. Other happenings on deck: Andrew Novick's celebration of Casa Bonita, the Roots coming through town, and Mardi Gras the Mile High way. All that and more in this week's 21 best events calendar!
Tuesday, February 19
Late honorary Coloradan Joe Cocker, the ’60s rock star who spent his final years living in the town of Crawford in the state’s North Fork Valley, started his career as a gas fitter in Sheffield, England, and is perhaps best remembered for his electric, off-the-charts performance at Woodstock. That high point is immortalized in the 2017 documentary Joe Cocker: Mad Dog With Soul, but the film looks at the low points, too, and the fragile personal makeup that drove his fifty-year career as a singer. Catch up on the arc of Cocker’s life at a special screening, with filmmaker John Edginton in person, at 7 p.m. Tuesday, February 19, at the Sie FilmCenter, 2510 East Colfax Avenue; tickets are $7 to $11.50 at denverfilm.org.
While the Black Cube nomadic museum gets to work on what could be a banner year of courageous art programming, the nonprofit ignites its 2019 season with Martin Creed: Words and Music. Creed, an internationally known, London-based polymath with a punk sensibility and a sweet Scottish brogue from growing up in Glasgow, will deliver a live performance/art talk/autobiographical monologue. Black Cube will present the one-of-a-kind show from 8 to 10 p.m. Tuesday, February 19, at its headquarters, 2925 South Umatilla Street in Englewood; admission is free (or a pay-what-you-wish donation), but an RSVP is required in advance at blackcube.art.
Wednesday, February 20
As the People’s Building, 9995 East Colfax Avenue in Aurora, beefs up its programming with Aurora-centric music, dance and theater, program curator Aaron Vega is throwing some fresh comedy into the mix, beginning on Wednesday, February 20, with the People's Building Comedy Show, a new standup showcase hosted by comic whirlwind Katie Bowman and introducing a quintet of local comics. The comedy revs up at 8:30 p.m., and admission is a $5 donation at the door. Next, on Thursday, February 21, the Black Actors Guild will take up residence in the building to debut Colfax Comedy With the Guild, a show of the guild’s special brand of comedy and improv, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. (admission is $5). Want more info on People’s Building programming? Visit thepeoplesbuilding.com.
Get ready for Artopia 2019, Westword's annual arts extravaganza, at a free Artopia Pre-Party from 8 to 10 p.m. Wednesday, February 20, at LVL (the lower level of Temple Nightclub), 1136 Broadway. The joint will be jumping and beats will be bumping with music by DJ Stretch, a performance by The BBoy Factory, and Artopia giveways and ticket deals. It's all designed to prepare you for the main event, a celebration of decades of hip-hop culture on March 1 at The Church. For more information on the pre-party or Artopia itself, go to westwordartopia.com.
Thursday, February 21
Discover the sweeter side of physiology at Science Lounge: Sugar Sugar, a tasty and informative presentation that turns an inquisitive eye toward the candy aisle. Discover how glucose and fructose affect the digestive system and learn all about the chemical compounds that make up some of your favorite treats, at a fun and family-friendly evening of experimentation. The lecture is guaranteed to tease your brains and tickle your tastebuds; it runs from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Thursday, February 21, at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, 2001 Colorado Boulevard. Get tickets, $13 to $15, and more information at dmns.org.
Each year, the Colorado Environmental Film Festival brings documentaries from around the planet to Golden, inspiring audiences to help save said planet. This year’s festival, which opens on Thursday, February 21, and runs through Saturday, February 23, includes fifty films about everything from elephants and automobiles to water politics. While the opening-night party is sold out, weekend passes are still available for $65, and tickets for individual films run $9. All screenings take place at the American Mountaineering Center, 710 Tenth Street in Golden; find a complete schedule and ticket information at ceff.net.
The fun-loving team of Hayley Dixon and Kalindi DeFrancis will return to Leon Gallery at 7 p.m. Thursday, February 21, with The Talent Show: Valentine’s Edition, an anything-goes romp where contestants can do just about anything they like at the mic in the name of cheap entertainment, since Dixon and DeFrancis believe that "you are your own best talent." All performance slots have been filled, but there's still a need for an audience to judge all that talent. Come prepared for a smorgasbord of stories, poems, jokes, limbo dancing and whatever else the human mind can concoct at Leon, 1112 East 17th Avenue. A donation of $5 is requested at the door, but no one will be turned away. Visit the Talent Show Valentine's Edition Facebook page for details.
Friday, February 22
Denver will be chill this weekend when the UIAA World Cup Ice Climbing Tour comes to the Mile High City for the first time. The action's all in Civic Center Park, starting with opening ceremonies at 6 p.m. Friday, February 22, followed by qualifying rounds, semi-finals and finals in various divisions on Saturday, February 23, and Sunday, February 24. "We are proud to support our U.S. ice-climbing athletes and bring this impressive event to downtown Denver," says Phil Powers, CEO of the American Alpine Club. "Competitive ice-climbing is one of the most exciting things I've ever watched; the stamina, skill and seeming impossibility of it all make for an outstanding spectator experience." And you can be one of those spectators. Admission is free; see the full schedule and learn more at theuiaa.org.
Riffing off the Denver Art Museum’s current Jordan Casteel exhibit — a showcase of the Denver native’s portraits of family and folks in her Harlem neighborhood — this month's Untitled Final Friday will follow the theme of "City on Stage." Members of the Black Actors Guild will lead tours through the show, and the evening will include community-driven social exercises, performances and poetry readings; everyone will regroup at 9:30 p.m. for a special breakdance performance by the Freak Show, in a preview of its act for Westword's Artopia on March 1. The Montbello drum line gets things warmed up at 6 p.m. Friday, February 22, at the DAM, 100 West 14th Avenue Parkway; admission is included with the regular museum entrance fee. Learn more at denverartmuseum.org.
The next show in the season for the Arvada Center's Black Box Theatre is The Moors, playwright Jen Silverman’s humorous take on the fictional Brontë sisters' milieu, in which the angsty loneliness of life on the moors plays out with a cast that includes two sisters, a governess, a mastiff and a moorhen. Who will find love in the dark, moody highlands? Find out when The Moors opens at 7:30 p.m. Friday, February 22, at the Arvada Center, 6901 Wadsworth Boulevard in Arvada; performances continue through May 18, in rotation with The Diary of Anne Frank and, beginning March 15, Sin Street Social Club. Get tickets, starting at $40, at arvadacenter.org.
Immerse yourself in the splendor of the human voice when the Kantorei choral ensemble presents All Things Bright and Beautiful, a trio of concerts honoring the legacy of John Rutter — arguably the greatest living choral composer. The music starts with Rutter's “For the Beauty of the Earth” and “A Gaelic Blessing,” and concludes with “Six Chansons,” by Paul Hindemit, and Kim Arnesen’s “Infinity,” showcasing the full spectrum of modern vocal music along the way. The first performance is set for 7:30 p.m. Friday, February 22, at Saint John's Cathedral, 1350 Washington Street; a second 7:30 p.m. show will be at First Plymouth Congregational Church, 3501 South Colorado Boulevard, on Saturday, February 23; and there's a matinee at 3 p.m. Sunday, February 24, at Christ Church Denver, 2950 South University Boulevard. Admission to any of the three is $20, or $15 with a senior discount (students and children free); buy tickets and learn more at kantorei.org.
Private kinks come out to play at the SPANK Annual Fetish Ball, a freak-friendly edition of Deviant Night at Tracks Nightclub, 3500 Walnut Street. Don your most alluring leather, lace or latex attire for an evening of beat-driven and BDSM-tinged debauchery set to the soundtrack of DJs Slave1, Sante and Harris Miller. The frisky festivities include Ru Entertainment go-go dancers and a polyamorous array of local vendors vying for your shopping dollars. The swinging soirée kicks off at 9 p.m. Friday, February 22, and boogies along until Denver's municipally mandated closing time of 2 a.m. Explore the alluring possibilities that lurk just beyond the boundaries of your comfort zone — while adhering to public-nudity laws, of course. Admission is $5 in advance and $10 to $15 at the door; buy tickets and learn more at deviantnight.com.
Saturday, February 23
Cultural appropriation is a hot topic these days, but it can be tough to identify, especially in the worlds of art and design, where white artists have been censured for controversial content and native motifs show up in mass-produced fashions. What’s appropriated, and what’s simply an example of cross-culturalism? Get a broader look at the controversy at Who Owns Culture? Appropriation & Appreciation in the Global Art World, a daylong symposium on Saturday, February 23, at the Denver Art Museum, 100 West 14th Avenue Parkway. The programming starts at 9:30 a.m. with a keynote by design historian and curator Glenn Adamson, and the lectures and discussions continue through 4:15 p.m. Admission is $20 to $35; get details and tickets at denverartmuseum.org.
Many jazz musicians got their start in the incubators of their school's big bands, learning how to read charts, improvise and, above all, collaborate with others. See a sampling of some of the region’s best college bands at the Big Band Boogie Bash, a nearly eight-hour marathon of performances hosted by the Colorado Conservatory for the Jazz Arts. The program will run from noon to 8:15 p.m. Saturday, February 23, at the Mercury Cafe, 2199 California Street; find a schedule and tickets, $12 to $16, at jazzarts.org.
Local comedian and erstwhile Pussy Bro Janae Burris will salute Denver's under-celebrated African-American creators at Blackstravaganza, a celebration that starts at 2 p.m. and will continue long into the evening on Saturday, February 23. The lineup includes music from Danette Hollowell and Queen Jay Triiiple; poetry readings by Jovan Mays and Kerri Joy; a live podcast recording with Rebekah Henderson of Off Color; a special edition of Cartoons & Comedy; and a few lively rounds of the wokeness-testing game show "Ask Your Black Friend." It's all at Oskar Blues' Black Buzzard, 1624 Market Street, the Best of Denver award-winning venue where Burris hosts a weekly Tuesday night comedy open mic. Day passes, $20, include one free drink; find more information at ticketfly.com.
Mardi Gras grew out of southern Louisiana's wild blend of Creole and Cajun traditions, but those cultural roots are sometimes lost in the drunken parties and tangles of beads left behind by the parade. For a more authentic experience, KGNU Independent Community Radio and the Colorado Friends of Cajun and Zydeco have been throwing a more folkloric Mardi Gras Dance Party for years, and they'll keep the tradition going in 2019 with help from the Preston Frank-Ed Poullard Creole Dance Band on Saturday, February 23, from 6:30 to 11:30 p.m. at the Avalon Ballroom, 6185 Arapahoe Road in Boulder. A package, $30 in advance at brownpapertickets.com or $35 at the door, comes with Cajun-style fare for purchase from Oskar Blues, a costume contest, a Vodoun Alley attraction and a free dance lesson for the uninitiated. Proceeds benefit KGNU; learn more at cfcz.org.
Rock along with The Roots, who are bringing their singular brand of instrumentally inflected hip-hop to Denver's Fillmore Auditorium, 1510 Clarkson Street, on Saturday, February 23. Taking a break from their house-band duties on The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon, Black Thought, Questlove and the constantly rotating Roots ensemble are hitting the road with ingratiating gusto to remind fans of their peerless musicianship and unforgettable live performances. Doors open at 7 for the 8 p.m. show; find tickets, $54 to $147, and more information at livenation.com.
Prepare to be enchanted by Wonderbound's Cupid's Playground, which offers up a quiver's worth of cherubic charm at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, February 23, and Sunday, February 24, at the PACE Center, 20000 Pikes Peak Avenue in Parker. The program showcases the graceful choreography of Wonderbound's dancers, accompanied by fresh yet reverential interpretations of classic works by musicians from the Colorado Symphony. A tuneful and toe-tapping journey through the peaks and valleys of romance, Cupid's Playground explores the human heart at play. Visit wonderbound.com to buy tickets, $22 to $50, and learn more.
Sunday, February 24
Artrepreneur Andrew Novick loves Casa Bonita. He loves Black Bart's Cave (where he likes to take photos of pals in the dragon's mouth), he loves the puppet shows, he loves the waterfall, he loves the merchandise. He even loves the food...especially the chile rellenos. And on Sunday, February 24, he's inviting you to share the love when he celebrates his 300th visit to the pink eatertainment palace during Andrew Novick's X-Treme Casa Bonita Adventure and Fundraiser. Get tickets, starting at $25, in advance at isaveeverything.com (20 percent will go to the Food Bridge Marketplace), then show up at 6715 West Colfax Avenue in Lakewood between noon and 7 p.m. and head to the Magic Show Room, where Novick will be holding forth. To spread the love, don't miss the Pretty in Pink exhibit at the nearby Next Gallery, 6851 West Colfax Avenue in Lakewood, which will be open all weekend after an opening reception from 6 to 10 p.m. Friday, February 22; find out more about that at nextartgallerydenver.com.
Where will you watch the Academy Awards? For some swank society, comedy by Chris Parente and the Queerbots, a glass of bubbly and plenty of contests and games to keep you amused, put on your party garb and head to the Clocktower Cabaret’s annual Oscars Viewing Party, a slightly decadent evening of pre-show gown-gaping (consider the modern décolletage!), predictions and lots of laughs and cheers. The fun runs from 5 to 9 p.m. on Sunday February 24, at the Clocktower, 1601 Arapahoe Street; admission is just $15 at clocktowercabaret.com.
Monday, February 25
History tends to be whitewashed, especially in the West, where tales of gunslinging Anglo settlers loom large over the contributions of blacks, Hispanics and true natives. Terri Gentry, a volunteer docent at the Black American West Museum, will shine a light on the westward migration of African-Americans “and the significant contributions of black cowboys, educators, entrepreneurs, homesteaders, miners and medical and military trailblazers” during a talk titled "African-Americans in the West" at 1 p.m. Monday, February 25, at the History Colorado Center, 1200 Broadway. Tickets, $4 for members and $5 for non-members, are available at historycolorado.org.
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