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.
Sunday August 14 Case transparent: Variety, fine technique and brilliant color reign at the impressive Rocky Mountain National Watermedia Exhibition, a nationally recognized annual juried show sponsored by the Foothills Art Center in Golden. This year's exhibition, in progress at the center, features works--ranging in style from figurative to nonobjective--by 113 regional and national watermedia artists. The exhibit, one of Foothills' top draws each year, continues through September 11. Admission is free. The center is located at 809 15th St.; for information call 279-3922.
Fiddles in the sticks: Violin pluckers from far and wide will bridge the gap this afternoon during Fiddlers on the Gorge, a fanciful day of music in full view of the spectacular Royal Gorge Bridge. The fun begins at 10 a.m. today when Nashville superpicker Chris Daring performs rags, breakdowns, waltzes, blues and twin-fiddle harmonies with the Silver Arrow Band; it continues at noon with a world-class fiddling contest, during which a panel of esteemed fiddlers will judge players ranging in age from 4 to 82. The bridge, which spans the Arkansas River at a height of 1,053 feet, is located eight miles west of Canon City off Hwy. 50. Admission is $10 ($8 seniors and kids four to eleven); if you'd like details on how to enter the contest, call 1-719-275-7507.
Monday August 15 The men in the trenches: Get out your trench coats and fedoras--it's the second annual Gumshoe Night at the Denver Press Club, and three of Denver's most accomplished mystery writers will be on hand to pontificate on their trade. Authors Michael Allegretto, Margaret Coel and Rex Burns will speak and autograph their books at 7:05 tonight, at the behest of panel host Warwick Downing. Admission is free; call the Press Club, 1330 Glenarm Pl., at 571-5260 for details.
Tuesday August 16 Bucking a bad rap: You've heard the negative rap on rap--that it's not musical and it's mean-spirited, blah, blah, blah. For an alternative viewpoint, listen to Us3, a swinging group that puts an end to all the arguments by mouthing off melodically against a jazzy background, sans the bad attitude. They'll change some thinking tonight at the Ogden Theatre, 935 E. Colfax, where they'll be preceded by the Fugees and Reg. E. Gaines, beginning at 8. Tickets are $16; for information call 830-2525 or 290-