Cervantes' Masterpiece Ballroom

You wouldn't think a Tuesday night would be the hottest night for finding fresh music, but when Nicole Cacciavillano and her team got ahold of it over a year ago, it quickly gained popularity. Sub.Mission has garnered an unprecedented Tuesday following for new talent in Colorado at Cervantes'. Hosting producer competitions, battles and the occasional headliner (in the past, we've seen the likes of Caspa, Netsky and Sub.Mission's own residents), Cacciavillano and crew prove that no matter what you've got going on during the week, there's always time for fresh new beats. Tuesday nights at Cervantes' are filled with hard-hitting bass lines and complex layers of production from tomorrow's biggest names.

John Ashton, Warren Sherill, Steef Sealy, Brock Benson and Kevin Hart all gave fine individual performances in Conor McPherson's The Seafarer, a play about two drink-sodden Irish brothers, their friends, and the enigmatic figure who shows up for a game of cards. But these performances — the bullying, the silences, the moments of meanness, misery or amnesia — also meshed to create a mesmerizing world in this Ashton Entertainment production, a world murky with booze, despair and even menace, but one that showed a flickering hint of tenderness and light.

Hosting several shows a year that emphasize its family-friendly nature, the Mile High Freedom Band provides a festive party alternative for kids and adults alike on holidays ranging from Halloween to St. Patrick's Day to Martin Luther King Day to Pride. Comprising a full concert band, a marching band, a swing band and smaller ensembles, the GLBTQ-inclusive group works with both seasoned musicians and instrument newcomers to provide all-ages entertainment. And the applause is nationwide: This year the group was chosen from hundreds of marching bands to participate in the 2013 presidential Inauguration Day parade.

It takes guts to say you're going to launch a new major comic convention — but even more, it takes faith, the faint promise of funding, and maybe a wing and a prayer. Still, Comic Book Classroom, a non-profit program that teaches literacy to kids through comics, pushed forward with the first annual Denver Comic Con last June, and the results were fantastic. The convention drew thousands of comic fans, cosplayers and wannabe superheroes to the Colorado Convention Center. And there's nowhere to go but up this year: The guests, who include Marvel maven Stan Lee and pop-culture hero George Takei, are still being announced, and they're stellar. It's enough to bring out the man of steel in everyone.

Conjuring up imaginary worlds, especially Utopia, has always been popular, but there is also plenty of art involving dystopian visions, where the imaginary world is terrible — or at least difficult. Susan Meyer's evocatively titled Plato's Retreat — named for a swingers' club in New York that was closed in the face of the AIDS epidemic in the '80s — was dominated by two crowded miniature "cities" made of stacked acrylic sheets in forms that looked both ancient and futuristic. These cities were populated by little people and accented with clear plastic windows and actual living plants. The tiny worlds — intelligent conceptual takes on doll houses — show that Meyer is really on to something.

The Deer Pile

Disappointed by open-mic nights at bars frequented by judgmental drunk dudes, writer Erica Adams and artist/musician Sara Century created Baby Hair, a monthly night at Deer Pile that encourages queer and female artists to step on stage. Unlike open mics that center on just comedy or poetry, Baby Hair is more free-form: On any given second Tuesday, artists perform everything from narrated text-message conversations to PowerPoint presentations about psychedelic mushrooms, all in a safe community space.

The Denver Jewish Film Festival is about much more than Jewish themes, Jewish directors, Jewish actors or even Jewish storylines. Nothing is off limits in this smartly curated festival, which brings together movies that cross cultures, topics and lifestyles. For its seventh season, the festival showed films ranging from A.K.A. Doc Pomus, a documentary on an unsung songwriter, to Melting Away, the saga of a transgendered child's family struggles. Bigger and better, this year's JFF filled the newly renovated Elaine Wolf Theatre with a twelve-day don't-miss event for film buffs of all denominations.

We always like to see our homegrown talent on national TV, and when standup extraordinaire Adam Cayton-Holland landed a spot on Conan O'Brien's show in January, his fans tuned in to watch. Cayton-Holland even made it to the couch, but not before he quipped about, among other dandy topics, why we shouldn't name children after cities lest they become strippers and why Wendy's new slogan is like testicular cancer. Watch it, Adam: It's lonely at the top.

Mercury Cafe

For more than thirty years, Marilyn Megenity's Mercury Cafe has given this city a movable feast of good works, good food and good entertainment — much of it free. For the last two decades, the Merc has been doing it from the edge of downtown, in an area that was once sketchy and is now heading toward respectability. And you'll find both sketchy and respectable types at the Merc, where first-date diners sit next to Occupy meetings and poetry slams collide with tango lessons and live shows in the underground community space. From morning 'til night, you'll find everything from dance to yoga, jazz to cello, with no charge for many programs. And the food, if not free, is locally sourced and made with care. Just eavesdropping on the conversation one table over could qualify as the best free entertainment in town — but at the Merc, there's always some rising talent on display, too. And if you don't like any of that, you can always grab a free book from one of the Mercury's shelves.

One Wednesday afternoon, hours before he was to perform a sold-out gig at Red Rocks, Jack White casually tweeted the secret location of a free show that had been rumored but seemed too good to be true. But it was true: The performance, which took place at Isdajo Automotive on West Colfax, drew a throng of excited fans who crowded into the small parking lot to watch the former White Stripes frontman play a few songs. White was gone almost as quickly as he came, but the memories from that monumental day live on.

Best Of Denver®

Best Of