The weather's heating up in Denver, and so should your event calendar. Welcome summer with DJs at the Pools in Stapleton or the rebranded Denver Pop Culture Con. If you live on the dark side, don't miss Goth Prom. All that and more is in this week's 21 Best list!
Monday, May 27
Swim season is here, and nothing screams Memorial Day like spending an afternoon splashing at the neighborhood pool. Stapleton’s seven public pools will participate in DJs at the Pools from noon to 4 p.m. on Monday, May 27. Break out your sunscreen, your suit, your floaties and your rafts, and enjoy some Denver DJs spinning tunes poolside while you christen the season with a dunk and a dance. Admission is $10; find more information at stapletoncommunity.com/pools.
Choreographer Kevin Gael Thomas and his Thomas Dance Project created a new production, Beyond Borders, as a tribute to the refugee experience. Original music by composer Greg Walker, along with the Altius Quartet, Rich L’or Nachrist and percussionist David Hinojosa, will accompany the dancers as they tell the story of migrants traveling across Europe. The free show takes place on Monday, May 27, at the People’s Building, 9995 East Colfax Avenue in Aurora; a free reception with appetizers starts at 5:30, and the performance runs from 6 to 7 p.m., followed by a conversation with the artists. For more information and to register, go to afdenver.org.
Tuesday, May 28
Off-Center, the eccentric wing of the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, continues in its recent immersive-theater vein with The Last Defender, a live mashup of video-game strategizing and escape-room quandaries in which you and your cohorts control the action in a world where the Cold War still rages (er, freezes?). An evening of fun and direct participation dreamed up by the House Theatre of Chicago, The Last Defender invites complete strangers to team up and save the planet in the space of about ninety minutes; performances — if that’s what you call them — debut on Tuesday, May 28, at 6 and 8:30 p.m. beneath Patagonia, 1510 Blake Street, and run through July 28. Tickets start at $25 (many shows early in the run are sold out); get started on your adventure at denvercenter.org.
Whether or not you’ve already experienced Rami Malek’s Oscar-winning take on Freddie Mercury, you won’t want to miss it at Red Rocks Amphitheatre, which we Coloradans know is the most beautiful concert hall in the world. On Tuesday, May 28, the Denver Film Society’s Film on the Rocks goes glam and gay with a screening of Bohemian Rhapsody, preceded by live music from the all-woman Spirettes, the combined Denver Gay Men's Chorus with the Denver Women's Chorus, and comedy by Mike Stanley, all beginning at 7 p.m. The film starts after dark at Red Rocks, 18300 West Alameda Parkway in Morrison; find more info and tickets, $16 to $32, at denverfilm.org.
Get yourself in gear for Gay Pride Month with an early dose of Vintage Theatre’s Queer Cabaret, a fabulous revue of show tunes, pop songs, Disney favorites and more, performed live and lip-synch-free by a top-notch drag queen cast. Hosted by drag diva Jessica L’Whor and sidekick Dixie Krystals, the movin’ and shakin’ begins at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, May 28, at Vintage Theatre Productions, 1468 Dayton Street in Aurora; learn more and get tickets, $15, at vintagetheatre.com.
Wednesday, May 29
Let's be honest: The closest most of us will ever get to space will be from our couch after one too many bong rips. If you want to get just a little closer — and actually learn a thing or two about the cosmos — be at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, 2001 Colorado Boulevard, on Wednesday, May 29, for 60 Minutes in Space, a lesson in new interstellar developments using the "best images and animation available," according to organizers. The program starts at 7 p.m. and is included in the price of DMNS admission; learn more at dmns.org.
Thursday, May 30
In its fourth year, the WAVE: Light + Water + Sound festival remains a spring delight in Breckenridge after the slopes shut down, bringing world-class cultural spectacle to an unsurpassed mountain setting without a cover charge. The last WAVE before guiding light Robb Woulfe of Breckenridge Creative Arts departs the high-country organization begins on Thursday, May 30, and runs 3 to 11 p.m. daily through June 2 in and around Blue River Plaza in Breckenridge, with interactive light-based artworks and installations illuminating the town after dark. Spectating is free throughout the weekend, and programming is designed to get people outdoors — not just for the art, but for bike rides, screenings and live music on the river. Find a complete schedule at breckcreate.org/wave, and get information on lodging and dining in Breckenridge at gobreck.com.
Think 360 Arts employs local artists for year-round arts programming on an intergenerational level, in locations ranging from elementary-school classrooms to senior centers. Needless to say, keeping such services going requires constant fundraising, something the organization strives to keep both fun and educational with events like the Think 360 Arts 2019 Full Circle Celebration, a showcase for the program's teaching artists on Thursday, May 30, from 6:30 to 10:30 p.m. at Cultivated Synergy, 2901 Walnut Street. Heading up the in-house entertainment roster will be a hip-hop dance and music mashup with Queenz of Hip-Hop and 2MX2; food, drink and a silent auction round out the festivities. Admission is $50 at eventbrite.com; learn more at think360arts.org.
Rising from the Boston comedy club circuit to her current position as an Emmy-nominated writer for Saturday Night Live, Sam Jay is part of the upper echelon of the industry yet continues to subvert expectations. Equally adept at writing jokes for others and performing her own genre-blending material, as she does on her debut album, Donna's Daughter, Jay's likely just getting started. In addition to appearing on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, Netflix's The Comedy Lineup and her own Comedy Central Presents special, Jay's made her mark on shows such as Broad City, SafeWord and Take My Wife. She'll delight Denver crowds during a headlining engagement at Comedy Works Downtown, 1226 15th Street, from Thursday, May 30, to Saturday, June 1. Find showtimes and tickets, $14 to $20, at comedyworks.com or call 303-595-3637.
The fusion specialists in Garaj Mahal are legendary for blending funk, jazz, traditional Indian music and rock and roll into a delicious jam stew. The wildly improvisational quartet has always maintained a laissez-faire attitude when it comes to fans recording live shows, but the results are a poor substitute for the thrill of seeing the band live. Get ready to groove with Garaj Mahal from Thursday, May 30, through Saturday, June 1, at Owsley's Crazy Diamond, 1700 Logan Street; Tula, Dijon Mustang and Three Days in the Saddle will be there, too. The music starts at 9; find tickets, $10 to $15, and more information at eventbrite.com.
Friday, May 31
The name may be different, but the philosophy will be the same when Denver Pop Culture Con (formerly Denver Comic Con) returns to the Colorado Convention Center on Friday, May 31. Explains con director Christina Angel, "Since inception, our event has been about inclusivity and bringing different fandoms together for a weekend-long celebration. Comics culture has always been a key component but not the entire focus, and the show has not changed any more from last year than it normally does from year to year. So fans and first-timers can all expect the same level of awesome, with a little something for everyone, no matter their age or fandom." And there will be plenty of awesomeness, with guests ranging from Star Trek's George Takei to author Curtis Craddock, and programs on everything from the history of comics to searching for exoplanets. The con runs through Sunday, June 2; get all the scoop, plus tickets, $44 to $93.50, at denverpopculturecon.com.
Installation artist Kenzie Sitterud will direct activities inspired by the mid-century design exhibition Serious Play for Untitled Final Friday: Sit. Stand. Play., as the Denver Art Museum bids farewell to May with a fun-and-games theme that fits perfectly into the post-Memorial Day groove. Prepare to build toothpick sculptures studded with candy, help create a live sound performance, enjoy impromptu performance art, and watch a dance in Sitterud’s “A Queer Tradition” installation. That’s only a sampling of activities planned for Friday, May 31, from 6 to 10 p.m. at the DAM, 100 West 14th Avenue Parkway. Admission is $8 to $13 and free for members and anyone eighteen and under; learn more at denverartmuseum.org.
Early feminism and love between women are major themes in queer playwright Bryna Turner’s Bull in a China Shop, the comedic story of Mount Holyoke College president Mary Woolley and her partner, Jeannette Marks, a professor of English literature, as told through a forty-year correspondence. History brings new takes on the future when Benchmark Theatre, a newish company now at home at the Bench at 40 West, 1560 Teller Street in Lakewood, takes on the material with a cast headed by local star Gabriella Cavallero. Bull in a China Shop opens at 8 p.m. Friday, May 31, and runs through June 29; find information and tickets, $15 to $30, at bull.brownpapertickets.com.
Saturday, June 1
While the woman-centric Athena Project supports everything from arts camps for young girls to show-and-tell meetups for women artists, its Plays in Progress Series is the program’s pinnacle, offering the public a hand in shaping new works by female playwrights. At this year’s two-day series, you can sit in on table, workshopped and more formal concert readings of five plays — Rat, by Lans Traverse; A Driving Beat, by Jordan Ramirez Puckett; Endurance of Light, by Amanda Petefish-Schrag; Mynx and Savage, by Rebecca Gorman O’Neill; and Teach, by Donna Hoke — on Saturday, June 1, and Sunday, June 2, at the Aurora Fox Arts Center, 9900 East Colfax Avenue in Aurora. Festival passes are $85 ($125 VIP); tickets for individual performances range from free to $15 at athenaprojectarts.org.
Sidewalks will be transformed into stunning works of art when the Denver Chalk Art Festival — Westword's pick for Best Annual Festival — returns to Larimer Square on Saturday, June 1, and Sunday, June 2. With more than 200 artists sketching out a glorious underfoot gallery, the fest is a colorful celebration of ephemeral beauty. Whether you're minding your young ones at the kids' corner or testing your shutterbug ambitions in the photo contest, the fun will stay with you long after the street paintings have been washed away by the next round of rain. The free party gets started at 10 a.m. both days; check out larimerarts.org to find out more.
Wander out into the desert, get naked and roll in the dust — that's the general idea of Burning Man, Nevada's annual festival of weirdness. Thankfully, Colorado has something more enticing: Burning Can, a celebration of canned beer, outdoor sports and live music on Saturday, June 1. Oskar Blues invites you to join in the fun at Bohn Park, 199 Second Avenue in Lyons, beginning at 10 a.m. and wrapping up at 11:30 p.m. The beer fest, pouring suds from more than seventy breweries, runs in conjunction with the Lyons Outdoor Games, so you can get tickets as cheap as $10 for just the games and music, or up to $69 for a VIP pass, which includes early entry, swag, unlimited beer tastings, games, music and other amenities (the VIP bathrooms alone will be worth the extra cash). Get tickets and additional information about overnight camping options at burningcancolorado.com. Just remember: We didn't tell you to get naked.
The Youth on Record Block Party will celebrate the organization's work — helping at-risk youth develop their musical talent and other skills — and the surrounding community from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, June 1, outside the nonprofit's headquarters, 1301 West 10th Avenue in the Mariposa project. A showcase of live performances by YOR musicians starts on the stage at noon; elsewhere at the family-friendly gathering, T-shirts will be printed (buy one or bring your own!), Floyd’s 99 will offer haircuts for a small donation to the group, CU Denver's College of Arts and Media will present educational panels, Rainbow Lightning will run a kids' craft area, and more than forty booths from local makers and community groups will be on hand for your perusal. Admission is free; for more information, go to youthonrecord.org.
Was your high school prom for losers? You won't want to miss the fourth annual Goth Prom, which will pack more than a dozen bands, including headliner Assemblage 23, into the Exdo Event Center, 1399 35th Street, from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Saturday, June 1. But this bash isn't just about music; vendors and other entertainers will also be on hand. "It's a great event that speaks to several different communities," says owner/founder AJ Ritual. Last year's prom at Summit Music Hall sold out, and even though Exdo is bigger, you'll want to get your tickets (18+, $25 to $75) now at ritualnoize.com.
DJ, producer and entrepreneur Peanut Butter Wolf may prefer to remain behind the turntables and out of the spotlight, but his influence on mainstream rap music has bubbled up from the underground and changed the game forever. Founder of Stones Throw Records, the influential hip-hop label behind classic albums from Madlib and the late J Dilla, Wolf turned a tribute to a slain friend into a genre-blending empire of beats and bars. While his own releases, including Big Shots and My Vinyl Weighs a Ton, are classics in their own right, the erstwhile DJ has transformed his live shows into unforgettable events full of audio-visual experimentation. Treat your eyes and ears to a smooth and creamy treat when Peanut Butter Wolf and opening act DJ A-L (Future Classic Music) rock Ophelia's Electric Soapbox at 9 p.m.Saturday, June 1; visit opheliasdenver.com for tickets, $13 to $33, and more information.
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Sunday, June 2
In case you missed the news, Denver’s Biennial of the Americas will be back for four days of lectures, panels, mixers, symposia and cultural programming in September. But while you’re waiting, the BotA crew is gearing up with a three-concert series of music from the Americas at Levitt Pavilion, 1380 West Florida Avenue in Ruby Hill Park. The first showcase, co-hosted by the Mexican Cultural Center, presents Jenny and the Mexicats, a band from Mexico City by way of Madrid, and Bay Area hip-hop and Latino fusion outfit Bang Data from 5 to 9 p.m. on Sunday, June 2; future concerts include Aterciopelados with Pink Hawks on July 21 and Wild Rivers with the Copper Children on August 29. Admission is free, or choose a $30 VIP option; either way, register in advance at eventbrite.com (search for Jenny and the Mexicats). Learn more about Biennial events at biennialoftheamericas.org.
The no-holds-barred Story Party is both a podcast and a touring storytelling series that focuses, with plenty of raunch, on dating yarns that range from fiercely satirical to unequivocally embarrassing, culled from audience confessions submitted in advance online. Story Party Denver: True Dating Stories will localize the ensuing hilarity beginning at 8 p.m. Sunday, June 2, at the Oriental Theater, 4335 West 44th Avenue. Tickets are $20 at theorientaltheater.com; learn more and submit your memorably bad-date story of 400 words or less at storyparty.co. Fear not: If you miss the deadline, you can still share your story anonymously on a slip of paper the night of the event.
Know of an event that belongs on this list? We need information at least three weeks in advance. Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.