With near-daily reminders of how much it sucks to be broke and living on the Front Range, distraught wage slaves can take comfort knowing that Denver's creative community understands the struggle. That's why Westword can compile bi-weekly inventories of the city's best free and cheap events. This week, art and music lovers, cinephiles, comedy nerds, shoppers and families have a cornucopia of reasons to rejoice. Keep reading for ten of the best events in Denver and beyond this weekend, which all cost $10 or less to attend (including five with free admission).
CU Boulder Wind Symphony
Thursday, November 16, 7:30 p.m.
Macky Auditorium Concert Hall
The subgenre of great art inspired by other great art is rich and varied. Composer Adam Schoenberg, inspired by the collection at Kansas City's Nelson-Atkins Museum, wrote the music for Picture Studies in 2011 as a contemporary response to a glorious musical conversation started by Modest Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition. Join conductors Donald J. McKinney and Brittan Braddock as they lead the University of Colorado's Wind Symphony through a stirring performance of Picture Studies. The evening's repertoire also includes an era-spanning variety of opening numbers, including Richard Strauss's "Serenade in E-flat" (composed when he was only seventeen), Joaquin Turina's "La Procesión del Rocío," and Gustav Holst's "First Suite in E-flat for Military Band, Op. 28, No. 1." The free concert at the Macky Auditorium Concert Hall on the Boulder campus is just one of many performances the university's music program happily provides for the classical-music-loving public. Visit the CU Presents events page to learn more.
Thursday, November 16, 8 p.m.
Life is too short to watch bad comedy. Colorado abounds with free comedy shows, but without proper curation from savvy producers and capable hosts, most of these events are tantamount to open mics, where even a free ticket can feel like a rip-off. Comedy in the Alley is a free weekly showcase that brings the best local and traveling comics to a narrow bar off Littleton's Main Street. Co-hosted by Cody Spyker and Jacob Rupp of the Ice Cream Social podcast, Comedy in the Alley is a straightforward showcase format that allows fledgling comics to stretch their wings with longer sets and for seasoned pros to drop a little science. That fine tradition continues tonight with a crackerjack lineup featuring local cut-ups Alex Howard and Andres Becerril, along with Los Angeles' Sean Conroy (a writer for Key & Peele and Mr. Pickles) and headliner Adam Cayton-Holland. Visit the Facebook events page for more details.
Thursday, November 16, 8 p.m.
The Bug Theatre
A local arts-scene institution that dates back to 2002, the Emerging Filmmakers Project has had untold influence on Denver's film scene. An essential networking and collaborative hub for every stripe of cinephile, the EFP celebrates community-building as much as it does films. Join host Patrick Sheridan for a diverse roster of short films including "A Hero in All of Us," directed by Travis Lupher, Matt Anderson's "Hard to Quit" and more, plus a special preview of the Bug's upcoming Denver Nickel + Dime Animation Extravaganza. Doors open at 7:30 and screenings begin at 8 p.m. Find more details on the EFP's Facebook page.
ConnectArte Mercado de Navidad
Friday, November 17, 5 p.m.
Museo de las Americas
Whether local shoppers are ready or not, the Holiday season is nearly upon us. Thoughtful gift-givers have a chance to get ahead of the seasonal shopping craze while hunting for unique handmade treasures at ConnectArte's Mercado de Navidad at the Museo de las Americas. In addition to perusing shelves stocked with art, vintage goods and various collectibles, guests can also participate in crafts workshops where they can learn how to make gifts of their own. Vendors include Agua y Sangre, Natalia da Silva, Carol Mier, Lunapparel, La Catrina Grill, and many more. Find more details on the event's Facebook page.
Friday, November 17, 6 p.m.
Georgia Art Space
A mixed-media sculptor who specializes in reclaimed materials, Katie Caron creates works that pulse with uncanny life. Abstract organic forms that comment on biology, technology and perception, Caron's sculptures have a way of dominating their environment. It's fitting, then, that Georgia Art Space would dedicate the entire gallery to Simulations, a mind-boggling new installation. Intrigued readers shouldn't hesitate: Simulations will only be on display throughout the weekend. Along with the opening-reception celebration, guests can check out Caron's purpose-built installations on Saturday from noon to 5 p.m. or close out the weekend with a special pay-what-you-can performance from Edwina the Great and Her Amazing Traveling Flea Circus. Find out more from the event's Facebook page.
3 Kings Comedy Show with Emily Heller
Friday, November 17, 7 p.m.
3 Kings Tavern
David Rodriguez and Nathan Lund are two of the most affable mirth merchants on the Denver comedy scene, so it's fitting that they've joined forces for a new standup showcase at 3 Kings Tavern. The two are already off to a good start with standup wunderkind Emily Heller scheduled to headline their inaugural giggle gauntlet. Heller, a multi-talented writer, actor and comedian, has performed on @Midnight, Conan and Late Night With Seth Meyers. She was also a series regular on the defunct TBS sitcom Ground Floor, and she's appeared on shows like Maron and BoJack Horseman. Her podcast Baby Geniuses is required listening for comedy nerds. With openers Cody Spyker and Mekki Leeper (Philadelphia), the whole evening is a testament to what Denver comics can accomplish together. Tickets are $10; go to the 3 Kings events calendar for yours.
Midnight Madness: Pan's Labyrinth
Friday, November 17, midnight
With Guillermo del Toro's latest phantasmagorical spectacle, The Shape of Water, due to hit local theaters on December 8, it's an ideal time to revisit his greatest masterpiece thus far: Pan's Labyrinth. Taking place during the bloodiest years of the Spanish Civil War (much like his equally excellent companion piece The Devil's Backbone), Pan's Labyrinth has all the scope and stunning creature effects of epic fantasy, yet never shies away from the horrors of the conflict. With a level of visual splendor that only a big screen can truly convey, this midnight screening is well worth its modest admission fee. Visit the Esquire's box office page to learn more and buy tickets.
Saturday, November 18, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Everyone loves butterflies; in fact, anyone who claims otherwise is innately untrustworthy. Indeed, the only thing better than frolicking with butterflies in a climate-controlled environment is enjoying the privilege for little more than a crisp Lincoln and a shlep out to Westminster. That's precisely the experience that $5 Dollar Day at the Butterfly Pavilion has to offer. Admission includes access to Tropical Rainforest and the remodeled "Crawl-a-See-Em," as well as creepy-crawly encounters with Rosie the Tarantula. Visit the Butterfly Pavilion's events page to buy tickets, $5, and get more information.
Saturday, November 18, 8 p.m.
The Bakery Arts Warehouse
$5 to $10
For cash-strapped transplants, Thanksgiving is necessarily spent in the company of similarly destitute pals. Token Boy's "Perfect" Thanksgiving special celebrates the spirit of chosen family with a series of sketches capped off by a headlining set from local standup legend John "Hippieman" Novosad. Featuring a goofy gaggle of Denver-based performers including Jen Sutherland, James Amos, Evan Davis, Jackie Esbin, Rachel Walker and Chad McNaughton, Token Boy has cooked up an elaborate feast of hilarity, absurdity and goodwill. Token Boy has found an ideal venue at the freewheeling Bakery Arts Warehouse, which is also hosting the triumphant return of Ben Bryant's Guest List comedy showcase the prior evening. Admission is $5 at eventbrite.com (where you'll also find more information), and $10 at the door. Find out more about Token Boy on its Facebook page.
Sunday, November 19, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Denver Art Museum
An architectural landmark from an identity-defining era, the Denver Art Museum's north building is due for a modern update. Constructed under the expert stewardship of Italian architect Gio Ponti in 1971, the fifty-year-old structure will experience an ambitious redesign slated to begin this month. Enjoy free admission to the entire museum (with the exception of the "Her Paris" special exhibit) on Sunday, November 19, as the museum bids adieu to its distinctive north wing until the revitalization project is complete. The celebration also includes live music and dance performances from Taiko Japanese drumming to Mariachi Vasquez and more. Sentimental guests can even write love letters to the artworks they'll miss the most. Check out the Denver Art Museum's events calendar to learn more and plan your visit.
Looking for more to do? Go to the Westword calendar.