Some of this city's best festivals return this week, including the massive Crush Walls celebration of street art, the Denver Food and Wine Festival and, on a smaller scale, the festive Westwood Chile Festival. As if that weren't enough, there are plenty of plays, music festivals, cons and DJ battles to keep you busy through early September. Keep reading for the 21 best things to do over the next seven days.
Monday, September 2
From its humble beginnings ten years ago as a tiny graffiti paint-off called Colorado CRUSH, Crush Walls is partially responsible for turning Denver into a town of street murals; one need only visit RiNo to see what we mean. This year's Crush will spread even further into every nook and cranny of RiNo for what organizers are calling a "360-degree art festival" between Monday, September 2, and Sunday, September 8. Onlookers can view murals in process and even contribute to a few, attend parties, take workshops or hit up a concert with Mexican songstress Natalia Lafourcade at the Mission Ballroom. It’s a lot to take in, so go prepared: Learn about this year’s artists, both local and international, and the busy schedule at crushwalls.org.
Tuesday, September 3
Truly appreciating jazz means understanding the role that Blue Note Records, founded in New York in 1939 by German-Jewish refugees Alfred Lion and Francis Wolff, has had in promoting the art form at its best. After all, Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane, Bud Powell and Art Blakey are just a few of the artists who’ve passed through Blue Note’s studios. Blue Note Records: Beyond the Notes, a film by documentarian Sophie Huber, will bring you up to speed with footage both archival and in-the-minute, as well as conversations and recording sessions with living jazz greats like Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter. Start your education on Tuesday, September 3, when the International Film Series at the University of Colorado Boulder screens the film at 7:30 p.m. in Muenzinger Auditorium, 1905 Colorado Avenue in Boulder. Learn more and buy tickets, $7 to $9, at internationalfilmseries.com.
Wednesday, September 4
Grab your wallets and gird your gullets, local foodies and oenophiles: The Denver Food & Wine Festival returns for some fine living starting Wednesday, September 4. Co-sponsored by Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits and the Colorado Restaurant Association, the festival will pair some of the best local restaurants with the finest Colorado wine and spirits for its marquee event, the Grand Tasting, from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday, September 7, at the Pepsi Center. Meanwhile, have Dinner Under the Stars on Wednesday at Liberati Restaurant and Brewery, 2403 Champa Street; toast your favorite drink-slinger at the Bartender’s Bash at Exdo Event Center, 1399 35th Street, on Thursday, September 5; get down at the patio party at Cattivella Restaurant, 10195 East 29th Drive, on Friday, September 6; and wrap things up at the Rise + Dine brunch on Sunday, September 8, back at Liberati. Find tickets, $45 to $250, and more information at denverfoodandwine.com.
Seeking a poetry reading with some punch? Mutiny Information Cafe, Meow Wolf and Suspect Press will team up on Wednesday, September 4, for Mutiny Poetry Series #6, another stellar spread of local poets topped by the community-minded performance poet Adrian Molina, aka Molina Speaks, who will be joined by host Brice Maiurro and fellow poets Hayden Danksy, Claire Heywood, Cassie Hottenstein, Grace Mitchell and Estefania Muñoz. Doors open at 7 p.m. and readings start at 7:15 p.m. at Mutiny, 2 South Broadway. Admission is a $5 donation, but no one will be turned away; learn more at the Facebook event page.
Thursday, September 5
Over a decade ago, arts writers Mary Voelz Chandler and Michael Paglia created Colorado Abstract: Paintings and Sculpture, a well-researched and -designed historical survey of artists in a legendary niche in Colorado art. The book, which was published in 2009, is in the news again, with a comprehensive two-part anniversary exhibition covering both of its threads: abstraction’s historical timeline in the state and a survey of the artists who carried the genre forward. The first section, Colorado Abstract +10: A History, opens with a reception from 5:30 to 8 p.m. on Thursday, September 5, at the Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art, 1201 Bannock Street, and runs through January 12. (The survey end of the celebration opens on September 12 at the Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities, 6901 Wadsworth Boulevard.) Tickets for the Kirkland reception, $10 (free for members), are available at eventbrite.com; learn more at kirklandmuseum.org.
Curious Theatre Company starts a new season ablaze with topical fury by staging Antoinette Nwandu’s Pass Over, a drama that's rooted in the classic existential underpinnings of Waiting for Godot but is angrily modern in setting: the America where young black men fear for their lives every day and protagonists Moses and Kitch imagine an exodus from their horrifying life on the streets. Pass Over opens for previews at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, September 5, and Friday, September 6, then continues through October 12 at Curious, 1080 Acoma Street. Find tickets, $20 to $44, and more information at curioustheatre.org.
Friday, September 6
Henrik Ibsen’s classic drama A Doll’s House ends with a slam of the door as an early wisp of feminism rises in protagonist Nora Helmer’s heart and she walks out on her family. Lucas Hnath’s A Doll’s House, Part 2, a sequel with a modern twist and a touch of comedy, picks up fifteen years later, when Helmer comes back with divorce papers to sign. You can see both productions, individually or back-to-back, when the Denver Center for the Performing Arts Theatre Company presents them in repertory, beginning with a preview of A Doll’s House at 7 p.m. Friday, September 6, and continuing through November 24 at the Ricketson Theatre in the Denver Performing Arts Complex. Tickets start at $30 and can be paired in a variety of options, including consecutive performances on Sundays beginning September 21; reserve seats and learn more at denvercenter.org.
If you’re looking to wallow in something heavier than the jam bands, Americana acts and reggae groups that dominate Denver's music scene, consider Hex Denver. The two-day festival of harsh noise, grindcore, metal and industrial music rages at the Bluebird Theater, 3317 East Colfax Avenue , starting at 7 p.m. on both Friday, September 6, and Saturday, September 7. Lightning Bolt headlines with support from Author & Punisher, the Body, Sharptooth, Dreadnought, Echo Beds, Vimana, Church Fire, Munsens, Many Blessings, Green Druid, Necropanther and more. Pig Destroyer tops the bill on Saturday with support from the Dwarves, Call of the Void, Glacial Tomb, Sharone, Muscle Beach, Abrams and more. Tickets start at $30 at axs.com.
Bluegrass music is the thread that pulls Bright Star together. Set in the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Broadway collaboration between author/comedian (and banjo player) Steve Martin and singer-songwriter Edie Brickell is a love story that spans decades, from the 1920s to the ’40s, and is based on true events. Looking for a romantic hoedown? The Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities, 6901 Wadsworth Boulevard in Arvada, presents the regional premiere of Bright Star on its Main Stage, beginning with a 7:30 p.m. show on Friday, September 6, and running through September 29; find information and tickets, starting at $53, at arvadacenter.org.
Saturday, September 7
If your dog appreciates a good swim, don't miss the twelfth annual Doggie Plunge, which closes the season at Pirates Cove Water Park, 1225 West Belleview Avenue in Englewood. Bring your spayed or neutered pooch to the fancy outdoor pool to cool off and splash around from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, September 7; pet-themed vendor booths will also be on site for humans browsing. The admission price of $15 per pup benefits Freedom Service Dogs, an organization that trains dogs for various service roles; learn more and reserve your pet’s place in the pool at freedomservicedogs.org.
The art of bonsai entails more than cultivating miniature gardens. The tradition, which originated in sixth-century Japan, provides a focal point of Zen meditation for patient gardeners, and pruning stray roots and branches from the dwarfed trees serves as a metaphor for clearing obstacles from the path to enlightenment. Learn to grow your own at the Rocky Mountain Bonsai Society Show and Sale, starting at 9 a.m. Saturday, September 7, and Sunday, September 8, at the Denver Botanic Gardens, 1007 York Street. Get inspired by expert demonstrations, starter kits for sale, and an installation from bonsai artist extraordinaire Todd Schlaffer. The show and sale are included in regular DBG admission, $9 to $12.50; visit the calendar page at botanicgardens.org to find out more.
If the humongous Cherry Creek Arts Festival feels daunting, with its 250-plus booths and multi-street layout, consider the condensed Stanley Arts Festival instead, brought to you by the same host organization, CherryArts. The fest comprises the work of ninety juried artists inside and out at Stanley Marketplace, 2501 Dallas Street in Aurora, an enticing venue full of eateries and shops where you can relax and recharge during the day. This year’s free event runs from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, September 7, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, September 8, and includes hands-on family art activities, interactive installations and live music, not to mention the manageable spread of offerings from national artists. Find more information at stanleyartsfestival.org.
Follow the beating drums and smells of fresh-baked fry bread to the Friendship Powwow and American Indian Cultural Celebration, a local tradition returning to the Denver Art Museum, 100 West 14th Avenue Parkway, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, September 7. Expect the usual artist booths, dancers in traditional dress and drum circles — but new this year will be a special ceremony dedicated to the late Nancy Blomberg, a 28-year veteran curator at the DAM who oversaw the American Indian, African and Oceanic art collections. Admission is free; visit the events calendar at denverartmuseum.org for further details.
Though it's only been around since 2010, the Westwood Chile Fest feels like a mainstay event in Denver, probably because it celebrates the strong Hispanic heritage that still runs deep in the quickly changing Westwood neighborhood. This year's festivities get started at noon on Saturday, September 7, with an opening ceremony, food trucks, arts and crafts, chile roasters, a pepper-eating contest, a farmers' market and more during the afternoon, and live music, artist booths, vendors and dancing taking over until 7 p.m. Chile Fest headquarters is at 3738 Morrison Road; admission is free, but come armed with cash for all the wares and a high threshold for spicy food. Find more info at bucuwestchilefest.com.
Crush Walls is descending on RiNo for a week of muralists painting walls in every free nook and cranny of the arts district. It all officially wraps up on Sunday, but think of the Crush Block Party on Saturday, September 7, as the crowning celebration while artists finish up their work. The party runs from noon to 8 p.m. at Crush central: the lot adjacent to Denver Central Market, 2669 Larimer Street. It’s sure to be a blowout, especially when you factor in the open-air concert with the Lionel Young Band from 2 to 6 p.m. at nearby Boxyard Park, 2500 Broadway. Admission to both events is free; RSVP and learn more at crushwalls.org.
Denver Food and Wine keeps cooking up new events, with a Bartender's Bash and the Riedel Wine Glass Seminar both on Thursday, September 5; the Cattivella Patio Party on Friday, September 6; and the Rise + Dine brunch festival on Sunday, September 8. But the main course remains the Grand Tasting on Saturday, September 7, when over forty top restaurants from around Colorado will be serving samples that you can wash down with tastes of more than 700 wines and spirits. (Good luck with that!) VIP is sold out, but you can still snag general admission tickets for $125; they get you into the bash on the Pepsi Center grounds (where parking is complimentary) from 1 to 4 p.m., when you can eat and drink to your heart’s content. For a complete schedule and to buy tickets, go to denverfoodandwine.com.
Back in 2006, when Adams County had some of the worst-funded libraries in Colorado, the area's Rangeview Library District launched the Anythink library system, which, with taxpayer help, has saved the underfunded system and created innovative programming. Leave it to Anythink to plan a fundraiser that’s just as inventive: Sparkopolis: Celebrating 10 Years of Anythink is more than a gala; it’s a night of discovery offering interactive displays and hands-on projects from the Denver Museum of Nature & Science and virtual-reality outfit Alt Ethos, among others. Join in from 6 to 10 p.m. on Saturday, September 7, at Anythink Wright Farms, 5877 East 120th Avenue in Thornton; food from chef Amos Watts of Corrida is included with admission, $75 to $100 at anythinklibraries.org/sparkopolis.
From hummable harmonies to complex arpeggios, Bobby McFerrin's stunning vocal range hits note after note of pure joy. Winner of ten Grammys, including two for "Don't Worry, Be Happy," McFerrin has dabbled in pop, classical and jazz, collaborating with such musical luminaries as Yo Yo Ma, Herbie Hancock, Béla Fleck and many more over his three-decade career. The Colorado Symphony Chorus joins McFerrin for an unforgettable a cappella evening starting at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, September 7, at Boettcher Hall in the Denver Performing Arts Complex; find tickets, $20 to $94, and more information at coloradosymphony.org.
Sunday, September 8
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Anyone with a vested interest in retro pop culture will have a blast at Denver Retro Con, where more than 100 vendors will be hawking superhero figurines, Steiff stuffed animals, Betsy Wetsy dolls, classic board games and more, more, more on Sunday, September 8, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Ramada Plaza by Wyndham Northglenn/Denver North, 10 East 120th Avenue in Northglenn. Beyond the vendors, Retro Con will throw in activities, including a presentation from Strawberry Shortcake creator Muriel Fahrion and an ’80s fashion show. Admission is $8 at the door (half-price for cosplayers and free for kids under twelve); get the full scoop at denverretrocon.com.
Colorado is blessed with a thriving classical-music scene, but Boulder's Takács Quartet may be one of the state's most reliable sources of classical prestige. The quartet was founded in 1975 by students from the Franz Liszt Academy in Budapest, and although it has relocated and gone through some personnel changes, each of its current players — violinists Edward Dusinberre and Harumi Rhodes, violist Geraldine Walther and cellist András Fejér — was awarded an Order of Merit Commander’s Cross from the Republic of Hungary. Takács returns to the University of Colorado Boulder's Grusin Music Hall for performances at 4 p.m. Sunday, September 8, and 7:30 p.m. Monday, September 9; visit cupresents.org to buy tickets, $37 to $45, and learn more.
Watch some of the best DJs in the U.S. throw down at the DMC USA Finals DJ Battle on Sunday, September 8, at Temple nightclub, 1136 Broadway. Founded in 1985, DMC DJ Battles have produced legends, including DJ Craze, Mix Master Mike, A-Trak and more, and the U.S. finals in Denver will give regional champions six minutes each to showcase their best at the turntable. Judges will pick a winner, who will get to represent the U.S. at the DMC World DJ Championships on September 28 in London. See the spin doctors in action from 5 to 10 p.m.; tickets, are $20 in advance at templedenver.com or $25 the day of the competition.
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