The penultimate week of August has arrived and autumn is knocking at the door. No matter the season, however, Denver is constantly bustling with fun and frivolity. Art lovers, cinephiles and comedy nerds in particular have plenty to look forward to this week: Nearly every day holds a free gallery opening, movie screening or performance for the viewing pleasure of the city's thrifty and adventurous residents. Keep reading for five of the best free events in town.
The Squire Strokes Back Vol. 3
Monday, August 21, 11 p.m.
The Squire Lounge
Roaring back to life like a passed-out drunkard at last call, comedy returns to the Squire Lounge in gloriously destructive fashion on Monday, August 21. While the weekly open mic may have gone the way of the black rhino, local comics and fans alike hold fond memories of the bygone Denver institution. Luckily for these scumbag nostalgists, Squire Strokes Back producer and comedy super-fan Chris Baker has enlisted Greg Baumhauer to host a new late-night standup showcase during which he'll roast the crowd and his fellow performers alike. Monday's show features local jokesmith Jodee Champion along with a cavalcade of visiting comics in town for the High Plains Comedy Festival, including Pittsburgh's Shannon Norman, Chicago's Danny Maupin, Las Vegas's Brandt Tobler and New York City's Owen Straw, Shane Torres and Jono Zalay. Visit the Facebook events page to learn more.
Sunset Cinema Presents: Step Up
Tuesday, August 22, 6 p.m.
The Galleria at the Denver Performing Arts Complex
From Singin' in the Rain to You Got Served, dance sequences provide some of the most purely joyful movie moments in cinema history. The Denver Performing Arts Complex's month-long Sunset Cinema series, which concludes on Tuesday, August 22, celebrates the art of dance on film with free screenings of fleet-footed classics. Although 2004's Step Up may not offer much in the way of story, its expertly choreographed moves and sugary escapism launched a five-film franchise, turned the agile Channing Tatum into a full-blown movie star, and inspired a rash of lesser imitators throughout the aughts. Visit artscomplex.com for more details.
The Doom Room: High Plains Kickoff Show
Wednesday, August 23, 8 p.m.
Ratio Comedy staple the Doom Room calls upon comedians to be funny without the safety net of their joke books, while they riff on a random assortment of topics that pop up on the nearby screen of doom, all while being heckled by the Darth Vader-esque voice of doom (Nick Gossert of Lucha Libre & Laughs). It's a steep challenge, and some of the performers ride a wave of laughter from the beery crowd while others crumble by the second prompt. For a performer, the show is a nerve-racking trial by fire, but for audiences who love a healthy dollop of schadenfreude with their jokes, there's no better show in town. The showcase on Wednesday, August 23, is an official kickoff show for the High Plains Comedy fest, with a lineup that features local Doom Room champions Patrick Scott, Georgia Rae, Cory Rhoads and Katie Bowman, along with prodigal Denver comics Jordan Doll and Chris Charpentier, with headliner Shane Torres (who's put together quite a run of shows during his visit to town). Join hosts Andrew Bueno and Ian Douglas Terry for a flop-sweat-riddled giggle fest, and enjoy a free taste of High Plains to whet your appetite for the gauntlet of funny that awaits. Visit the Facebook events page to learn more.
Thursday, August 24, 6:30 p.m.
FirstBank’s Latin Concert Series at Levitt Pavilion continues at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, August 24, with a live performance from the talented Gaby Moreno. The Guatemalan-born singer-songwriter has won accolades and melted hearts with her soulful, bilingual blend of jazz, R&B and disarmingly catchy pop. A Latin Grammy Award winner and perennial nominee, Moreno also received an Emmy nod for co-writing the theme song for the sitcom Parks and Recreation. Luckily for thrifty music fans, FirstBank — in partnership with local pop radio station 95.7 The Party — is presenting the concert, which also includes opening act Vanessa Zamora, for free. The new Levitt Pavilion is at 1380 West Florida Avenue; RSVP and get more information at levittdenver.org.
Variance: Opening Reception
Friday, August 25, 6 to 9 p.m.
Variance is a group exhibition of staggering variety and eye-catching beauty. Featuring a roster of favorite gallery artists and a number of exciting debuts, the exhibition kicks off on Friday, August 26, with a free opening reception from 6 to 9 p.m. at Abend Gallery's classy new location on Wazee Street. With haunting landscapes from Heiko Mattausch; soulful oil portraits from Nadezda, Zack Zdrale and Jaclyn Alderete; Rob Rey's stunning "Bioluminescence" series and many more works, a bounty of irresistible art treasures awaits at Variance, which runs until Saturday, September 9. Visit Abend Gallery's events page to learn more.