It is, indeed, the most wonderful time of the year (even if that white Christmas doesn't show up), with plenty to celebrate. Get lit when the brand-new Gaylord Rockies hotel gets into the holiday spirit at LIGHT!, or observe the season the Denver way with Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats at his annual holiday concert. Whether you're a Christmas freak or freakin' over it, there's plenty to scratch your itch in our list of this week's best events in Denver.
Tuesday, December 18
The largest hotel development under construction in North America is almost complete. Yes, Gaylord Rockies Resort & Convention Center, the massive complex that's been rising on the prairie near Denver International Airport, will officially open on Tuesday, December 18, the same day it will flip the switch on LIGHT! at Gaylord Rockies, an interactive holiday display designed to immerse you in color, patterns and light as you wander through a forest of hue-changing trees and the orb-filed "Valley of Light," exploring the grounds of the new facility. Seeing the LIGHT! is free, but to get a taste of Gaylord, try one of the hotel's eight restaurants, sign up for a service in the seventeen-room European-style spa, or book a room under a limited-time, special Colorado-residents rate that starts at $119. Find out more at gaylordrockies.com.
Wednesday, December 19
Denver hero Nathaniel Rateliff has been putting on holiday concerts in town for years. This year, along with his soulful band the Night Sweats, he'll be spending Wednesday, December 19, and Thursday, December 20, bringing holiday cheer to the Ogden Theatre, 935 East Colfax Avenue. Rateliff will likely present a mix of his soulful hits and Christmas tunes, including a delightfully homoerotic rendition of "Santa Baby" and the profoundly disturbing "Baby It's Cold Outside" with a signature gender twist; the Texas Gentlemen open both nights. For more information and tickets, $47.50, go to ogdentheatre.com.
Known as much for her role as a mentor and teacher of younger artists as for her paintings and drawings, artist Margaret Neumann has been a driving force in Colorado’s cultural scene for years. When RedLine Contemporary Art Center formed a decade ago, Neumann encouraged the nonprofit to foster rising generations of creatives. Honoring that legacy and her body of work, RedLine is showing What Lies Between: A Margaret Neumann Retrospective, which runs through January 8. Neumann will be at the gallery to lend more insight into her work during In Conversation With Margaret Neumann, 6 p.m. Thursday, December 20, at Redline, 2350 Arapahoe Street. RSVP and learn more at redlineart.org.
Friday, December 21
In September, Bolder Writers Warehouse (formerly Boulder Writers Warehouse), in collaboration with Kleft Jaw Press, made a conscious effort to cross borders and mix ideas and readings with various writer communities in metro Denver and beyond. The idea is sticking, and they’ll be back for Krewhouse: A Quarterly Gathering, bringing a big lineup of up to 21 readers to the Red Room at Hooked on Colfax, 3213 East Colfax Avenue. Join hands with the rest of the writers' universe for a solstice with words on Friday, December 21, from 7:30 to 10 p.m.; learn more on the Krewhouse Facebook page.
The Boulder Chamber Orchestra pays tribute to the classical era of Christmas compositions with Gift of Music, a pair of concerts with piano soloist David Korevaar. The program, which consists of "Weihnachtsmusik (Christmas Music)” by Arnold Schoenberg, George Frideric Handel's "Concerto Grosso Op. 3 No. 1," Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's "Piano Concerto No. 27 in B Major," Arcangelo Corelli’s "Christmas Concerto" and a selection of enduring carols, stirs the spirit of the season and connects listeners to a shared musical heritage. The orchestra will play twice this weekend — on Friday, December 21, at Broomfield Auditorium, 3 Community Park Road in Broomfield, and Saturday, December 22, at Boulder Adventist Church, 345 Mapleton Avenue. Showtime for both is 7:30 p.m.; visit boulderchamberorchestra.com to buy tickets, $15 to $25, and find out more.
The Denver Philharmonic joins forces with the Colorado Chorale and Pan Nation steel drum band for a tropically flavored edition of the ensemble's annual Holiday Cheer! concert. Conductor Lawrence Golan leads the players through a genre-blending medley of standards like Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's “March” from The Nutcracker and George Frideric Handel's “Hallelujah Chorus,” interspersed with the sunnier sounds of Tom Miller's “Calypso,” Robert Wendel's "Caribbean Sleigh Ride" and many more cheerful selections. Showtime is 7:30 p.m. Friday, December 21, and 2:30 p.m. Saturday, December 22, at Central Presbyterian Church, 1660 Sherman Street; find tickets, $12 to $25, and more information at denverphilharmonic.org.
The St. Martin's Chamber Choir offers a musical rejoinder to the boy-baby-centric nativity story with A Marian Christmas: Maiden and Mother, a rare feminine perspective on foundational holiday narratives. In honor of the Messiah-begetting Virgin Mary, the chorale joins organist Richard Robertson for an evening dedicated to the sacrifices of motherhood, scored entirely by female composers. The performances also mark the twentieth anniversary of A Marian Christmas, the debut album of the 25-year-old choral ensemble. Join artistic director Timothy J. Krueger and the St. Martin's singers on Friday, December 21, at Saint Paul Lutheran and Roman Catholic Community of Faith, 1600 Grant Street, and on Saturday, December 22, at Holy Cross Lutheran Church, 4500 Wadsworth Boulevard in Wheat Ridge. Both performances begin at 7:30 p.m.; buy tickets, $15 to $45, and learn more at stmartinschamberchoir.org.
Jig into Christmas when the Irish Dance Theatre brings The Celtic Gift to the Paramount Theatre, 1621 Glenarm Place. Dubbed a mix of Riverdance and The Nutcracker by Irish Dancing magazine, the evening will blend traditional Christmas and Celtic music with Irish dancing that will leave you and the family feeling merry and bright. The Celtic Gift starts at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, December 21; find tickets, $20 to $50, and more information at irishdancetheatre.com.
Pioneering Denver's indie-rock scene since 1996, Dressy Bessy has shed members and cycled through different record labels over the course of the band's 22 years. Yet it has consistently remained an essential component of the city's soundscape, partly because of the continuous presence of frontwoman Tammy Ealom. After the long hiatus between 2008's Holler and Stomp and 2016's KINGSIZED, the current members of Dressy Bessy — named after Playskool dolls popular with children in the 1970s — are hard at work on a new album, due out next year. (For a preview of the band's studio tinkerings, listen to "What Do I Get?," a track leaked in honor of late Buzzcocks singer Pete Shelley, on Soundcloud.) Short Shorts, Cool Accent and Rocket Dust join Ealom and company for a stocking full of sonic treats at the Larimer Lounge, 2721 Larimer Street, at 8 p.m. Friday, December 21; find tickets, $10 to $12, and more details at larimerlounge.com.
Bow down, for the "Clown Prince of Hip Hop" will bestow local old-school aficionados with a beatboxing benediction guaranteed to givve what you need. The music-loving burrito barons of Illegal Pete's present Decades Collide, an evening of nostalgic bangers from the ’80s and ’90s headlined by legendary rapper Biz Markie. Best known for the jam "Just a Friend," which was ranked among VH1's 100 Greatest Hip-Hop Songs of All Time, Markie opened for Chris Rock on the No Apologies tour and also appeared in Men in Black II. Buddy up with Biz at a show that also includes Snap ’90s DJs Eric Lake and Garthy Garth. Doors open at 8 p.m. on Friday, December 21, at Summit Music Hall, 1902 Blake Street. Admission is $15 pre-sale, $20 at the door, and $45 for a VIP pass — or RSVP at summitdenver.com for a pair of complimentary GA tickets while they last.
Cheery as they may be, the holidays can also prove to be an incredibly stressful time. If you need a release, consider Comedy Works' Holiday Roast. Starting Friday, December 21, at 9:45 p.m., the best of the best in local comedy promise to "wreck the halls with boughs of naughty," taking aim at Rudolph and Santa and pitting Frosty the Snowman against the Nutcracker. Take your anger out on the stars of Christmas and contribute to the local comedy scene at the same time. The roast runs through December 27 at Comedy Works South, 5345 Landmark Place in Greenwood Village, with a single performance at the downtown Comedy Works, 1226 15th Street, on December 26; find tickets, $14 to $22, at comedyworks.com.