Wednesday November 16 Jazz on the rocks: Thought-provoking, avant-garde music hasn't exactly been a mainstay here in stolid old Denver, but that seems to be changing. More venues mean more variety, and as concert halls blossomed in the last year or so, so did the fare. In that spirit, the Bluebird Theater, 3317 E. Colfax Ave., serves up a daring double bill tonight when New York's Lost Tribe and Medeski, Martin & Wood demonstrate what might happen when jazz, funk grooves, rock and world music fall into the melting pot. The members of Lost Tribe--including two very different guitarists (one a distortion-loving heavy-metal raver, the other a neat and clean funk- and jazz-based picker), a powerhouse drummer, a bassist and an alto saxist--owe something to Steve Coleman's M-Base improvisations and something to their own accomplished musicianship. MM&W exercises its witty right to speculate on fanciful musical cohabitations where Thelonius Monk and Bob Marley might get along famously. Tickets to the 7:30 show are $6; for details call 322-2308.

Uphill battle: The climb may not seem so steep when participants in the 1999 Broadway Stairclimb reach the top. There on the 37th floor--more than 700 stairs later--they'll find a Survivors Party where they can all pant and sweat together with the other brave souls who made the ascent. The race, which raises funds for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, is open to anyone willing and takes place at--where else?--1999 Broadway. The winning male and female competitors will go on to New York City for a similar run up the stairs of the Empire State Building. Information and entry forms for the 5:30 p.m. event are available by calling 292-1999.

Thursday November 17 Every little thing she does is magic: Some musicians have just got it--the solid pipes, the intelligent wit and the panache it takes to win a following. Shawn Colvin is like that--smartly melodic, she strikes a shared chord with every song, and there are those who would follow her anywhere for a taste of her repertoire. Although she's an accomplished songwriter herself, Colvin has just released an album of well-crafted interpretations of songs by others, appropriately titled Cover Girl. She'll do justice to those tunes and some old favorites as well tonight at 8, in the second half of a two-night stand at the Paramount Theatre, 1621 Glenarm Pl. Another solo flyer, David Gray, opens; call 290-TIXS for tickets, $20.

Friday November 18 Spending spree: Even if Christmas spending is a convention, that doesn't mean you have to buy conventional gifts. Searching out the unusual shouldn't be difficult this weekend, when a number of holiday auctions and markets get under way. For instance: The Friends of the Denver School of the Arts hope to raise funds for a Practicing Artist Program with a Bizarre Wreath Auction for Normal People, tonight at 6 at the Denver Art Museum, 100 W. 14th Ave. Pkwy. A $25 contribution entitles you to a buffet and dessert extravaganza, performances by the school's jazz band and dance students, and a chance to bid on a number of wreaths you'll probably never see the likes of again--there's Martine Reeh's "Wade's World" (a kind of Broncos montage), Mickaela Earle's "Giraffic Heart" (a well-named heart-shaped piece depicting giraffes), a golden "Baroque Creature Wreath" (covered with fancy fruits and crawling bugs) and many others. For tickets call 436-9449. Meanwhile, the Arvada Center Holiday Art Market sets up for another year, featuring a huge hodgepodge of fine art and handmade crafts--watercolor landscapes, handwoven teddy bears, porcelain teapots, African doll pins and much more. The market opens today and continues through December 23 at the Arvada Center, 6901 Wadsworth Blvd. Call 431-3939 for hours and information. And folk-music lovers will have no problem finding something worth listening to at Swallow Hill's Holiday Music Market, beginning this evening from 5 to 9 and wrapping up Sunday. Along with an extensive new and used selection of folksy CDs, tapes and records ranging from bluegrass to children's titles, the sale features songbooks, T-shirts, funny little things like harmonica earrings and fine things like hand-knit sweaters. Swallow Hill is at 1905 S. Pearl St.; call 777-1003 for information.

The dark end of the street: Since we're all touched by our share of angst, no matter what demographic we fall into, tonight's musical alternatives should keep everyone happy--or, as the case may be, morose. Whatever the interpretation, an evening with the Jesus and Mary Chain and Mazzy Star, starting at 8 at the Ogden Theatre, 935 E. Colfax, will surely take many a moody, hypnotic, yet stunningly angst-satisfying turn. Tickets are $16.50; call 830-2525 or 290-TIXS. And the same holds true when Freedy Johnston, whose alternately sad/cynical and sweet/innocent songs are racking up critical kudos at an astonishing pace, holds forth at 9 up the street at the Bluebird Theater, 3317 E. Colfax, before an audience with fewer nose rings but just as much deep-seated ennui. Tickets are $8; call 322-2308 or--you guessed it--290-TIXS.

Saturday November 19 Affirmative auction: More art--about a hundred works by Colorado artists including Darrell Anderson, Dale Chisman, Martha Daniels, Tony Ortega and Mark Sink--goes on the block tonight at the Colorado Lawyers for the Arts Benefit Art Auction, taking place at the Colorado History Museum, 1300 Broadway. Beginning with silent bidding at 6, the evening progresses through a light buffet to the live bidding at 7:30. Admission is $15 in advance, $20 at the door; call 722-7994 for information.

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