Don't become so distracted by holiday preparations that you miss all the exciting activities in and around Denver this week, including great concerts, movie premieres, dance performances and more. Keep reading for the 21 best events over the next seven days.
Monday, December 9
Back in 2012, introspective rapper Kevin Abstract posted a note on a Kanye West fan forum saying that he wanted to form a music collective. The result? The Texas-born, California-based rap collective, hip-hop crew and boy band known as Brockhampton. In the years since, Brockhampton has shaken up how people think about pop music and rap. Known for putting on high-energy concerts, the act is returning to Denver for a show at the Mission Ballroom, 4242 Wynkoop Street, at 7 p.m. Monday, December 9. Anti-colonial firestorm and rising rapper Slowthai will open, along with experimental duo 100 Gecs. Tickets, $42.50 to $99, are available at axs.com.
Tuesday, December 10
No matter the stage, a performance by Wonderbound is always memorable. But Ice, an all-new dance-theater production that wraps the darkness and magic of winter with a live score by musician/composer Jesse Manley, is certain to be special. It's set in the intimate confines of Wonderbound’s studio facility at 2535 East 40th Avenue, with shows at 6:15 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. starting Tuesday, December 10, and continuing at the same time Tuesdays through Thursdays through December 19. The $60 price tag includes beverages, along with appetizers at the early shows and desserts at the late ones; reserve seats and learn more at wonderbound.com.
The Boulder Fringe Festival doesn't hibernate after its annual two-week run, but instead offers fringe benefits, including Fringe Express Series, a recurring event that demands audience participation, but on your own terms: writing, art and music are all welcome at the free-falling open mic. Improv comedy duo the Dudes will headline the inaugural night, starting at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, December 10, at Trident Booksellers and Cafe, 940 Pearl Street in Boulder. The theme is “Warm Fuzzies,” so dress accordingly; prizes will be awarded. Visit facebook.com/boulderfringe to keep up with future events.
Wednesday, December 11
Unlike so many of the Crush Walls creations proliferating around RiNo, a lot of Denver's new murals are hidden away in narrow alleys running through urban canyons. The free Between Us Alleyway Walking Tour, led by curators Hey Hue and Castle Searcy and hosted by the Downtown Denver Partnership, will explore five of these latest pieces during a winter stroll. Meet your guides at 3 p.m. Wednesday, December 11, in the alley off 16th Avenue between Broadway and Lincoln Street; the three-hour tour and reception winds up at the Downtown Denver Rink at Skyline Park, 1601 Arapahoe Street, for artist talks and giveaways. Find information on the Facebook event page.
When Marshall McLuhan said that "the medium is the message” back in the ’60s, he couldn’t have predicted the level of technological interface we tune into every day in the 21st century. Kids today navigate a daily blast of information on the Internet, from social media to news of the day to streaming content. British multi-disciplinary artist Ben Coleman led a group of PlatteForum ArtLab interns on an investigation of the nature of the media-driven message in modern times, focusing specifically on superhero movies. The culminating exhibition, Super, opens with a reception from 6 to 8:30 p.m. on Thursday, December 12, at PlatteForum, 2400 Curtis Street. In keeping with the theme, Cole and his student artists lay out their findings through live performance, audio description, foley, scriptwriting, sampling, and sound and video editing and processing. Learn more at facebook.com/platteforum.
After Red Gerard won Olympic slopestyle gold in PyeongChang in 2018, the recent Westword cover star devoted the next season to a more personal project: filming around the world with his brother, Silverthorne-based filmmaker Malachi Gerard, and close friends and fellow boarders Ben Ferguson and Sage Kotsenburg. "The Olympics were an awesome experience, but they were...over talking about the Olympics and having that experience define them," explains Malachi. "They made the decision to make their own movie, tell their own story and make their own choices about what kind of riding they were doing and where they were going." The result, Joy: A Snowboard Film, is Malachi's first full-length project as co-director (he shares the credit with Tyler Orton); it will premiere locally at 7 p.m. Thursday, December 12, at Mile High Spirits, 2201 Lawrence Street. Other films on the evening's roster include Per Mission, with Kyle Mack, and Trash, with Zak Hale. Tickets are $15 at eventbrite.com or at the door, and include an after-party with Red Gerard in the house.
Looking for a weekend escape? Head to the mountains for Vail Snow Days, a music fest running from Thursday, December 12, to Sunday, December 15. Musicians will play at bars and restaurants throughout the ski town all weekend long, while Modest Mouse headlines the main stage on Friday night and the Head and the Heart graces it on Saturday night. Most of the happenings are free — including the big weekend shows — but a VIP option with preferred viewing, heated areas, and complimentary drinks and food is available for $150 per night. For a full schedule and locations, go to vailsnowdays.com.
Few fundraisers have as elegant a format as dinner in a gallery, surrounded by curated art, with an artisanal meal to match. But that’s exactly what you’ll get at the KNOCKOUT Cancer Dinner, a benefit for First Descents, a nonprofit organization providing outdoor adventures for young adults living with cancer and other serious health conditions. Set within the group exhibition KNOCKOUT, an international pop-art-themed show curated by neon artist Scott Young and inspired by Andy Warhol’s words “Art is anything you can get away with,” the dinner shows off craft eateries and small businesses located in the Dairy Block, including Brutø + BØH, Blanchard Family Wines and Run for the Roses. Chow down in Young’s Dairy Block studio, 1821 Blake Street, on Friday, December 13, from 6 to 10 p.m.; admission is $165 in advance at eventbrite.com. KNOCKOUT runs through January 3.
J-Horror fans have a new outlet for their passion, thanks to the Aurora Sister Cities International's Movies4ACause series, which this year is focusing on Japanese cult classics that are hard to find on the big screen. They’ll kick things off with a Friday the 13th screening of director Hideo Nakata’s 1998 psychological horror story Ringu (Ring), which set off a flurry of sequels in Japan and remakes in the West. See how it all started at 6 p.m. Friday, December 13, at the Village Exchange Center, 1609 Havana Street in Aurora. Tickets, which benefit ASCI programs, are $15 in advance at eventbrite.com or $20 at the door.
The fact that Matter — the Denver graphic-design firm where printing is done the old-fashioned way, using metal type on a hand-cranked letterpress — is still around after twenty years of upholding centuries-old craft and modern design standards is remarkable. But it's also no surprise: Matter's success lies in the genius of Rick Griffith, the visionary entrepreneur with an encyclopedic interest in printing and design who founded and built up the business with help from various dedicated partners and crew. But for Matter’s Twentieth Anniversary Party + Print and Gift Sale, Griffith will do things the way he has every holiday season: with lots of music — live, canned and curated — as well as fish-tank mojitos (this year with kombucha!), printing demos and a huge sale of prints, design books and gift items for all of your artsy friends. Drop in at Matter, 2134 Market Street, on Friday, December 13, between 6 p.m. and midnight and dance the night away; learn more at facebook.com/matter.studio.
Virtual reality, projection mapping, 360-degree video: The Denver-based multimedia designers at Alt Ethos are all over that frontier, and their business is growing. So much so, it turns out, that it requires a bigger space with public access. That dream come true debuts with an opening celebration for the Alt Ethos Studio and Innovation Center, from 7:30 to 11 p.m. Friday, December 13, at 2505 West Second Avenue, Unit 11; guests will experience interactive immersive projections, an LED tunnel, a 360-degree digital dome and Technicolor LED clouds while enjoying food, drink and live spins by DJ Jason Guava. Immerse yourself! Admission is free, but an RSVP is requested at eventbrite.com.
Saturday, December 14
Cherry Creek North businesses plan to pour on the holiday cheer at the retail district’s fourth annual Winter Fest, a winter wonderland plunked down in Fillmore Plaza — with stilt-walking ice princesses, ice carvers, fire-warmed seating, strolling carolers, giveaways and more — just in time to finish up seasonal shopping in style. Walk the neighborhood and visit participating businesses offering discounts, holiday treats, demonstrations and other perks before winding up at the plaza, First Avenue and Fillmore Street, for family fun from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, December 14. Winter Fest is free; find details at cherrycreeknorth.com.
The 24th annual Holiday BrassFest will spread plenty of cheer through the streets of downtown on Saturday, December 14. Organized by the Denver Brass, the event is expected to draw more than 100 players of all ages and experience, who'll practice for an hour or two before putting on an extravaganza that starts at noon in the Galleria at the Denver Performing Arts Complex. If you want to play, get to the Studio Loft at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House by 10 a.m.; the fee is $10 for returning participants and $22 for newbies (which includes the BrassFest book with five-part brass quintet arrangements that you can use throughout the season). Listening is free, but don't come empty-handed: You're encouraged to bring chairs and wear Santa hats, as well as outerwear suited to the season. For more information, go to denverbrass.org.
What happens when Opera on Tap throws a holiday party? Total pandemonium — and a choose-your-own-story-style aural repast of your operatic and holiday favorites. Join OOT at the annual On Demand Holiday Special, which also promises a “World Famous Drunkestra” and sing-along fun, on Saturday, December 14, at 7 p.m. at Rory's Tavern, 404 Broadway; getting plastered while participating is entirely up to you. General and student admission is $8 in advance at operaontap.org/colorado, or pony up $10 at the door.
Stain'd Arts will release the fourth edition of its biannual art and literature magazine at 7 p.m. Saturday, December 14, at ReCreative Gallery, 765 Santa Fe Drive. For this round, the theme was "Grey Space," and contributors were asked to explore the shades between extremes, between lives and between borders, and the tensions that define us; the result is an impressive collection of essays, art and black-and-white photography. It will be launched with an equally impressive event, promises Stain'd co-founder Noah Kaplan, with an interdisciplinary, self-guided art installation along with literature, music, dance and visual art, food and drink and plenty of surprises. Find out more about the event and see the online version of the publication at staindmagazine.com.
Singer-songwriter Joel Zigman, a music educator and self-described recovering classical composer, makes lo-fi, synth-heavy pop songs in the tradition of Casiotone for the Painfully Alone. They’re sincere, raw and charming — and rooted in what he describes as “lots of transgender feelings.” Zigman will play a set alongside Teacup Gorilla, Birdhouse View, Hayden Dansky and ENJI during an evening of music and poetry starting at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, December 14, at the Bakery, 2132 Market Street. Tickets are $5 at the door; find more info at facebook.com/JZigmanMusic.
Harry Potter and the holidays seem entwined in a way that must have something to do with magic, and you can celebrate both this season at the Yule Ball: Harry Potter Book Trivia, a Potter party and trivia competition based on the books and hosted by Growler USA Highlands Pub, 4433 West 29th Avenue. Trivialize for prizes solo or as a team over five rounds of play on Saturday, December 14, from 8 to 10 p.m.; admission is free, but you must register in advance at eventbrite.com.
If you’ve followed Chance the Rapper, T.I. and Cardi B’s quest to find the next great rapper on Rhythm and Flow on Netflix, you’ve already seen rising Denver rapper Old Man Saxon, one of two Colorado-based artists on the show. While his music has been included on HBO’s Silicon Valley, the Netflix film Someone Great and Madden NFL ads, Old Man Saxon has never headlined a concert before. That will change on Saturday, December 14, when he performs at the Larimer Lounge, 2721 Larimer Street. Doors open at 8 p.m. and the show starts at 9; find tickets, $20, at larimerlounge.com.
Sunday, December 15
Book some time at the Barnes & Noble store at 960 South Colorado Boulevard on Sunday, December 15. From 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., this location will highlight books by Colorado authors working in a variety of genres, from nonfiction to novels, mysteries, self-help and children's books. Judith Briles, "the Book Shepherd," has pulled together a collection of more than a dozen local writers who'll talk about their tomes and sign them for holiday gift-giving. “And with each book sold,” Briles notes, “Barnes & Noble generously supports the Colorado Authors’ Hall of Fame with their own donation.” For more information, go to stores.barnesandnoble.com.
Family-oriented holidays, including Hanukkah, can be tricky for Jewish members of the LGBTQIA community at large, who don’t always find acceptance from family and fellow Jews. But in Denver, there’s a solution for that: Find your people at the LGBTQIA + Rainbow Hanukkah event on Sunday, December 15, from 5 to 7 p.m. at Dos Luces Brewery, 1236 South Broadway, courtesy of the Staenberg-Loup Jewish Community Center’s new LGBTQIA+ initiative. Spin the dreidel, play some games, network with friends old and new and enjoy a repast together; the $10 fee includes food, drink and fun for folks 21 and up. Learn more and reserve a spot at jccdenver.org/rainbow-hanukkah-brewery.
Have an event you'd like considered for 21 Best? We need information three weeks in advance at [email protected]