Wednesday February 22 Be bop: Tonight may mark a first--we're willing to bet there's never been a collaboration between an orchestra and a Denver cartoonist. But when Tom Blomster's Mostly Strauss Orchestra tunes up for tonight's Freedom Concert, it'll be Westword's own artiste-about-town, Kenny Be, providing the visuals. Be's series of Denver scenes--combining elements of Frank Lloyd Wright, George Crumb and Where's Waldo?--features a pen-and-inked rush of local landmarks, cars and musical staffs masquerading as streets. Blomster, along with composers Dick Williams, Debra Schmit-Lobis and Samuel Lancaster, created arrangements to Be's cartoon scores, and the whole thing will be presented, along with a slide show, as The Denver Song: Suite for Cars. The concert, which also includes a run-through of Copland's Lincoln Portrait narrated by Denver Public Schools vice-principal-about-town, Ruben Perez, takes place at 7:30 at Gove Middle School, 4050 E. 14th Ave. Admission is free; call 322-6526 for information.

Thursday February 23 High Noon: Virtual reality takes a giant leap into the mainstream in Vurt, the acclaimed debut novel by author Jeff Noon. Drawing on the cyberpunk legacies of Burgess's A Clockwork Orange and William Gibson's Neuromancer, Noon injects his futuristic work with black humor and a honed literary sense that propels the narrative far beyond the confines of sci-fi. Noon will read from his book and sign copies tonight at 7:30 at the Boulder Book Store, 1107 Pearl St., Boulder (447-2074), and tomorrow night, also at 7:30, at the Tattered Cover LoDo, 1628 16th St. (436-1070).

Friday February 24 Great Scots: Few bands can get away with the old/new instrumental composite of bagpipes, fiddle and synthesizer, but Scotland's Battlefield Band has been doing it for 25 years, regularly mixing ancient musical traditions with modern sounds. The pipes will keen tonight at 8 at the Cameron Church, 1600 S. Pearl St., courtesy of the Swallow Hill Music Association. Tickets are $14 ($12 Swallow Hill members); call 777-1003.

The bard association: Like the state bird or fish, the poet laureate is a symbol that probably won't change the way we live in Colorado--but we haven't had one since the venerable Thomas Hornsby Ferril died in 1984. That's a long time for a state to go unrepresented by verse; it's time Colorado fed the meter. A group of area poetry movers and shakers, including Boulder mainstay Jack Collum, poetry-calendar editor Catherine O'Neill and authors Luis Alberto Urrea and Patricia Sanders-Hall, gather tonight at 7 at the Denver Press Club, 1330 Glenarm Pl., to give their Eight Reasons for a Poet Laureate. They'll eloquently support their arguments with readings from both Ferril's and their own works. Admission to the event, a benefit for O'Neill's Poiesis, is $5; call 571-5260 for details.

Roots revisited: David Johnson's film Drop Squad--a comic fable in which an ambitious black ad exec maneuvering the corporate ladder gets his priorities straightened out by a self-appointed Pride Squad--sneaks into the Bluebird Theater, 3317 E. Colfax, for a three-day run in conjunction with Black History Month. The Spike Lee-produced confection, starring Eriq LaSalle, Vanessa Williams and Nicole Powell, shows at 7 tonight and tomorrow and at 2 on Sunday. For additional information call 322-2308.

Saturday February 25 Box tournament: When the arts-and-crafts set meets a covey of intrepid jokers today for the KBCO Downhill Cardboard Derby, they'll all look pretty much the same--goofy yet determined. A flotilla of creative crafts--built of nothing but cardboard, paper, string and adhesives and manned by silly, sometimes costumed folks--will make like toboggans today at noon at the Arapahoe Basin Ski Area. Then, around 3, when the slippin' and slidin' wraps up, the awards ceremony and partyin' down will commence. The entry deadline is past, but half the fun is just being there: Sideline cheers are requisite. May the best carton win. For information call 694-6300.

Beat generation: It's hard to classify a Renaissance-man percussionist like Pete Escovedo, but first and foremost, it's Latin rhythms that provide the heartbeat of his music. He's worked behind an entire phone directory's worth of musicians who toy with those rhythms--from Carlos Santana and Stephen Stills to Mongo Santamaria and Tito Puente--and in the process, he not only passed the beat on to his chart-climbing daughter, Sheila E., but managed to produce his own fine body of work. Sporting credentials like those, Pete and his smoking-hot orchestra should have no problem filling the cozy Bluebird Theater with a big, bad sound when they hit the stage tonight at 8. The Bluebird is located at 3317 E. Colfax; for tickets, $20-$22, call 322-2308.

Sunday February 26 In bounds: Founded in 1960 by poet and Senegalese leader Leopold Senghor, Le Ballet National du Senegal performs exuberant and authentic traditional West African dances with the same hard discipline and sheer agility demanded of any other classical ballet troupe. They'll do just that, backed ably by an ensemble of Senegalese musicians, this afternoon in Boulder. The program, called Pangols in reference to a tribal word that defines man's relationship to his environment, begins at 4 p.m. in Macky Auditorium on the CU-Boulder campus. Admission ranges from $6 to $20; for reservations call 492-8008.

Monday February 27 There's music in them thar hills: The film's name says it all--High Lonesome describes bluegrass music perfectly. Next time you listen to an old Bill Monroe cut, you'll hear that thin, piercing and spiritually driven call of the backcountry, and you'll know exactly how it works. The movie, which opened Friday and continues for a one-week run at the Mayan Theatre, 110 Broadway, documents the American genre's evolution, featuring nonstop music from progenitors like Monroe, Ralph Stanley and Jimmy Martin to today's keepers of the flame--Alison Krauss, the Seldom Scene and Sam Bush. See the documentary through Thursday; call 744-6796 for showtimes.

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