Now that we're on the waning side of the solstice, many sun-burned locals are seeking opportunities to take shelter from the swelter. Luckily, the week ahead is rife with opportunities to beat both the heat and the summertime doldrums. From screenings in air-conditioned movie theaters and inventive comedy shows to a Unicorn Festival and a story hour led by drag queens, Denver's creative community continues hustling to bring residents the best entertainment in the city. Thrifty and adventurous locals can take heart that the following ten events can be experienced for less than ten dollars, including seven freebies.
Summer Used Book Sale
June 22-24, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
Denver Central Library
Plenty of people still like the feel of a real book in hand, with pages you can turn and print that won’t make your eyes go wonky. But for old-school bookworms who also feel guilty about the trees that died to make their old-fashioned books, there's a happy solution: Buy recycled tomes instead. A good place to start is the Denver Public Library’s Summer Used Book Sale, a literary extravaganza of bargains in every genre, from kid lit to cookbooks. This year’s sale, offering more than 60,000 books, CDs, DVDs and other media, takes place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily Wednesday, June 21, through Saturday, June 24, at the Denver Central Library, 10 West 14th Avenue Parkway. Most items are priced at $5 or less, and teachers qualify for an additional 25 percent discount during the sale. For more information, go to dplfriends.org.
Thursday, June 22
Mutiny Information Cafe
Lisa Matthews claims to be the “booking agent” for Tripp Nasty, the Denver-based spoken-word performance artist and experimental musician who has made waves playing classical music in bars and DIY venues like Rhinoceropolis — and who very likely has no booking agent. She has more than a little in common with Nasty — much more — with the exception of their music. When it comes to Matthews’s sound, think No Wave and industrial coupled with poetry scrawled in a journal and a darkly dreamlike vibe. Matthews, who looks like she just left a shift at the library or a corporate accounting job, has borrowed style tips from Laura Palmer...and is no doubt willing to walk on the wild side. Catch Nasty’s “agent” at Mutiny Information Cafe on Thursday, June 22.
Friday, June 23, 9:30 p.m.
Scream Screen is back at the Sie FilmCenter for another month of terrifying fun. Denver scream queen Theresa Mercado, known for her blood-soaked treasury of cosplay characters and wicked imagination, will conclude the Treasury of Terror: A Decade of Horror Anthologies, at 9:30 p.m. Friday, June 23, by screening a 35mm print of Tales From the Darkside: The Movie. Like every screening in the series thus far, a short film of Mercado’s choosing will precede the feature presentation. For information and tickets, which cost $7 to $11 per screening, visit denverfilm.org.
Drag Queen Story Time
Saturday, June 24, 10:30 a.m.
Second Star to the Right Children's Bookstore
Nurture your children's love of reading while broadening their cultural horizons this Saturday at Drag Queen Story Time, which kicks off at 10:30 a.m. at the Tennyson Art District's Second Star to the Right Children's Bookstore. Led by the glamorous cast of DragOn!, Drag Queen Story Time features eye-opening illustrated books such as Todd Parr's Be Who You Are and My Princess Boy, by Cheryl Kilodavis and Morris Micklewhite. While it's a fun way to keep the kids entertained on a Saturday morning, Drag Queen Story Time challenges gender stereotypes and encourages both tolerance and self-acceptance. Best of all, admission is free.
Read on for more cheap and free things to do this weekend.
Propaganda! Featuring Mike Stanley
Saturday, June 24, 8 p.m.
Soiled Dove Underground
Originally hailing from Detroit, Mike Stanley toiled for years in the Chicago standup scene before emerging as one of the city's leading lights and eventually winning the title of "Best Chicago Standup Comedian" in a People's Choice poll from the Chicago Reader. A true road dog, these days Stanley spends most of his time performing all over the country and overseas. His latest standup album, Shiner, is available on iTunes. He's a fitting headliner for Propaganda!, one of Denver's top-drawing locally produced showcases. The evening also spotlights Brett Hiker and Los Angeles comedian Nathan Mosher along with co-hosts Eric Henderson and Stephen Agyei. Visit Propaganda's Facebook event page to learn more. Tickets, $10, are available via Ticketfly.
Comedy Saved the Video Star 1 Year Anniversary Show
Saturday, June 24, 9:30 p.m.
Mutiny Information Cafe
No longer enjoying the cultural cache of the medium's golden years, music videos have evolved into millennial nostalgia objects, fond reminders of an era when you could have your MTV if you wanted it. J.D. Lopez, a local comic and host of the Left Hand, Right Brain podcast, celebrates music videos with Comedy Saved the Video Star, an inventive showcase that invites comics to perform a set before riffing on a music video of their choice. To celebrate a year of monthly shows at Mutiny Information Cafe, Lopez welcomes some of his funniest guests from the past year, including local comics Rachel Weeks, Timmi Lasley, Adrian Mesa, Janae Burris, Caitie Hannan and In the Whale's Eric Riley to come riff on their favorite videos. Early arrivals can request to see their videos in a DIY version of Total Request Live. The show starts at 9:30 p.m.; admission is free.
Coors Light South Platte River Fest
June 24-25, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
While splashing around the creek at downtown's Confluence Park is a fine idea for any sweltering late-June weekend, the scene is rarely as lively as it will be during the fifth annual South Platte RiverFest. Coors Light and the Greenway Foundation have teamed up to assemble a full day of entertainment for sweaty locals, including stand-up paddleboarding demonstrations, a climbing wall, slacklining, fitness classes with Sound Off Colorado, and arts of both the visual and culinary varieties. Throughout the day, guests can also crack a cold Silver Bullet while enjoying live music from performers like Selasee & the Fafa Family, DJ Jillian, the Cannon Doll, Residual Stank Band and many more. The festivities sprawl across Saturday and Sunday, and they're free and open to the public. Visit thegreenwayfoundation.org to learn more.
Sunday, June 25, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
There’s something about a unicorn that opens up the primeval realm hidden in everyone’s soul. Now you can let those faeries run free at the first annual Unicorn Festival at Clement Park, 306 West Bowles Avenue in Littleton. Dreamed up by Dana Cain Events and Michelle Baldwin’s Frolic and Vamp, the all-ages fest will turn the park into a rainbow-hued, glittery mini-amusement park of princesses, wizards, mermaids, a big dose of Harry Pottermania and, of course, unicorns. Lots of unicorns. You’ll never want to leave. "Our goal is to create an environment where wonder and imagination rule — a reminder to everyone that we live in a magical, beautiful world where all things are possible,” Cain explains. The Unicorn Festival runs from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday, June 25; tickets range from $5 to $10 in advance for general admission (children ages two and under are admitted free), or $12 to $20 for a Disney-style, line-skipping, limited-edition Magic Pass. Learn more and pre-purchase passes at unicornfestivalcolorado.com.
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Sunday, June 25, 3:30 p.m.
Saint John's Cathedral
The beauty of choral liturgies transcends cultural roots, stirring the souls of worshipers and non-believers alike. A monthly tradition, the 3 p.m. Evensong at Saint John's Cathedral is an essential part of Denver's musical landscape that too often goes overlooked. The Saint John's Choral Evensong, which has a surprisingly robust performance calendar, delivers some of the most beautiful harmonizing anywhere in the city. Admission is free, but donations are always appreciated.
Midsummer Night's Jazz
Tuesday, June 27, 7:30 p.m.
Denver's City Park is a delight throughout the summer, popular with locals for its vast green expanses, shimmering lakes and lively pavilion. Far from being merely a scenic place to walk your dog, City Park also maintains a thriving cultural calendar throughout the warmer months. At 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, June 27, the Mile High Freedom Bands' Freedom Swing will take to the pavilion stage for a Midsummer Night's Jazz. It's a perfect opportunity to cuddle up with your loved ones on a lawn blanket and enjoy the splendor of a Colorado sunset soundtracked by jazzy jams. Admission is free; visit mhfb.org to learn more.