Thursday August 11 Acadian drifters: The Cajun in Cajun music--that high-spirited quality that has no trouble setting the whole room in motion--actually originated, at least partially, way up north in Canada, where displaced French-speaking settlers set off to search for new homes. They ended up in the Louisiana swamps and brought their music, language and culture with them. The ten-piece Quebecois band La Bottine Souriante preserves that seminal music--born of French, English, Irish and Scottish roots--on totally contemporary terms, using myriad instruments and freely interlocking traditional sounds with newer ones. The unique group plays tonight at the Denver Botanic Gardens during an outdoor concert beginning at 7:15. To reserve tickets call 777-7372; they're $14 ($11 DBG members).
Freedy at last: Those who prefer the unassuming branch of popular music (peopled by folks as diverse as Neil Young, Holsapple and Stamey and, heck, even James Taylor) will find a champion in Freedy Johnston, a tuneful, gentle soul with a gift for words and infectious hooks. Following a round of critical applause--which hasn't cooled off yet--for his Bar None album Can You Fly, Johnston is touring strong new material from his recent major-label debut, This Perfect World. He'll make a stop tonight at the Mercury Cafe, 2199 California, for a show beginning at 9:30. See him while you can. Tickets are $8 and can be purchased by calling 830-2525 or 290-TIXS.
Friday August 12 Local heroine: Funny lady Lily Tomlin wowed Broadway with an incredible solo performance comprising five very different roles in Jane Wagner's The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe, a play that's really a series of telling vignettes, each painting a personal portrait of a human soul. Now local actress Pam Clifton, who wowed audiences in a long-running female version of The Odd Couple, has her own designs on the seriocomic tour de force: Clifton's dramatic transformation into bag lady Trudy, punk performance artist Agnes Angst, socialite Kate, ex-swinger Paul and fallen feminist Edie opens tonight at 8 at the Avenue Theatre, 2119 E. 17th Ave., for an open-ended run on Friday and Saturday nights. Reserve seats by calling 321-5925; admission is $12 ($10 students and seniors).
Book 'em, Denver: Don't think you'll need a pile of dough in order to set foot inside the Rocky Mountain Book Fair, starting tonight and continuing tomorrow at the Colorado Convention Center, 700 W. 14th St. Although there will be a representation of rare limited editions, old maps and the ilk, the majority of what you'll find falls happily within any budget--reasonably priced used copies of popular fiction, children's literature, poetry, history, cookbooks, Americana and more. Attend the fair from 5 to 10 p.m. this evening, or tomorrow from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; admission is $3, but serious bibliophiles can peruse on both days for only $5. Call 837-0700.
Saturday August 13 Blues in the face: Guitarist Coco Montoya was originally a drummer--until he was blown away by Albert King's performance during a long-ago Los Angeles concert. You'd never know it now: Montoya is a smoking good blues axist who got a break touring with Albert Collins and eventually joined John Mayall's Bluebreakers, where he filled gigantic shoes left vacant by the likes of Eric Clapton, Peter Green and Mick Taylor. Coco's out on his own these days, with a new album featuring his own hand-picked band. He'll strut the new stuff tonight at 8 at Billy Blues, 694 Kipling St., Lakewood. For details and cover charge call 274-2534.
Finely chiseled: The town of Loveland will become a gigantic art studio today when Sculpture in the Park and its offshoot, the Loveland Sculpture Invitational, return for another year. The celebration attracts over 150 sculptors from across the country who will display, sell and speak about their work, give demonstrations and quick-sculpts and take part in a trade show at the outdoor Benson Park Sculpture Garden, 29th and Aspen Dr., from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. today and tomorrow. Admission is $5; call 1-800-551-1752. In addition, the invitational show, held from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day in tents at 29th and Taft, near the shores of Lake Loveland, will showcase three-dimensional works by another 240 artists, some from as far away as Zimbabwe, and will also feature demonstrations and an auction. Admission to that show is $3; for details call 1-303-663-7467.
Swing, Baxter: Philosophical Western humor and toe-tapping bluegrass make for a homey combination when cowboy poet Baxter Black and Colorado band Southern Exposure team up for a night under the stars at the Arvada Center Amphitheater, 6901 Wadsworth Blvd. Black, who's penned ten volumes of folksy, laid-back rhymes, been heard on National Public Radio and seen on The Tonight Show, will be complemented nicely by Southern Exposure's rollicking bluegrass and Western swing music. Take your good spirits for a whirl tonight at 7:30; admission is $16 reserved or $8 for lawn seating. Call 431-3939.