THRILLS

Wednesday March 8 Finn and dandy: At the heart of the updated Finnish folk sound of Varttina are the voices of four women harmonizing in the kinds of timbres that last took your breath away when sung by the Mysterious Voices of Bulgaria. But these saucy Finnish ladies have punched up the material and backed themselves up with a band that is pro-ficient not only on traditional instruments--including cimbalon, accordion, fiddle and bazouki--but on the garden-variety guitars and saxophones of modern pop music. Varttina hops on stage at the Arvada Center tonight at 8; to reserve tickets, $15 to $17, call 777-1006 or 431-3939.

Sweet surrender: Give a listen to cult hero Matthew Sweet and you'd swear you were listening to a dreamy Richard Hell meeting a healthy Tom Verlaine somewhere in the 'burbs. You might say it's all in the guitars--cathartic, ringing lines delivered on Sweet's records, with equal savvy, by Richard Lloyd or Robert Quine, who are cult heroes themselves. But then there are the songs--that crisp pop with a crunchy, fuzzed-out edge. Although Sweet is a Nebraskan, he's a fresh, lovely fix for anyone who misses the New York music scene of the late '70s and early '80s. The really old folks will even hear sounds kindly reminiscent of Buffalo Springfield--although age is certainly not a factor for enjoyment. Catch Sweet--with Lloyd and drummer Stuart Johnson in tow--tonight at 8 at the Boulder Theater, 2030 14th St., Boulder. Tickets are $15; call 830-TIXS.

Thursday March 9 Strings attached: The classical guitar has few champions more accomplished or thoroughly modern as renowned virtuoso Eliot Fisk. A student of Andres Segovia and the founder of Yale University's guitar program, Fisk elegantly interprets the genre's favorites while furthering the cause of twentieth-century classical guitar by commissioning new works by contemporary composers. He'll appear with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra for A Night in the Gardens of Spain at 7:30 tonight and Saturday in Boettcher Concert Hall, 14th and Curtis in the Plex. In addition, a shorter version of the concert will be presented during a CSO "Blue Jeans Concert" at 1 p.m. Saturday. Admission to the evening performances ranges from $8 to $33 ($4-$16.50 kids); the bargain matinee will cost you only $10 ($5 students and kids). For details call 986-8742.

Arriba!: Spicy rhythms and flashy costumes will light up the Denver Civic Theatre this week when the Colorado Latino Dance Festival returns with a second, expanded version. Groups performing this year include Grupo Sabor Latino and the Jeannette Trujillo Dance Company; special features include a presentation of the Afro-Brazilian martial art capoeira, Cuban folk dances and a tribute to the Ballet Folclorico de Mexico, as well as excerpts from Kenny Passarelli's Visiones de Mis Antepasados, which premiered at the theater last year. Performances will be held at 8 nightly today through Saturday and at 2 p.m. on Sunday; the Denver Civic is located at 721 Santa Fe Drive. To reserve tickets, $8 to $10 in advance ($10 to $12 at the door), call 595-3800 or 830-TIXS.

Friday March 10 Have a ball: Who knows who will be playing in Coors Field when the baseball season opens next month, but at least some of the LoDo galleries are doing what they can to get us all in the right spirit--in plain view of the new stadium. Jim Dow's loving photographs of American ballparks and a fabulous collection of baseball memorabilia, including Ty Cobb's corncob pipe, Ted Williams's uniform and a jaw-dropping collection of historic gloves, are all part of Batter Up, opening tonight at 7 at the MSCD Center for the Visual Arts, 1701 Wazee St. For information about the show and related tours and lectures, which continue through April 22, call 294-5207. And just down the street at CSK Gallery, 1637 Wazee St., The Big Hit Baseball Show also opens tonight, featuring a dugout-full of art inspired by the game through May 6. A reception will be held from 5 to 9; call 436-9236.

A new twist: Textural pieces formed of gessoed cotton, liquid latex, molten glass or other unexpected media have been Lynda Benglis's mainstay since she emerged to great acclaim in the '70s, and they've catapulted her into a niche not always enjoyed by controversial women artists. Lynda Benglis: Chimera, a touring exhibition of her new, serpentine ceramic works, opens tonight at the Boulder Art Center, 1750 13th St., Boulder, with a reception from 6 to 9. Also opening tonight at the gallery are shows by local artists Scott Chamberlin and Homare Ikeda. Call 443-2122 for additional information.

Saturday March 11 Support goop for kids: What is this thing called slime? And are you too old to appreciate it? The Nickelodeon Family Double Dare Live Tour--a kind of organized chaos where everyone ends up covered with the aforementioned slime, something even more noxious known as GAK and/or whipped-cream via flying pies galore--is the place to find out. The traveling version of the cable network's game show will slop and glop up the Denver Coliseum, 4600 Humboldt St., today at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Attendees can participate in games like Human Bowling and I Love Juicy; casual attire and wetsuits recommended. Tickets are $11.50 or $13.50; call 830-TIXS.

All War out: Funky multiculturalism makes for great dance music. War, a musical conglomeration of blues, soul, disco, salsa and what-have-you, is a case in point--these guys have been churning out a melting pot of grooves for twenty years or so. Led by a core of original members, the crowd-pleasing group will play tonight at 9:15 at the Bluebird Theater, 3317 E. Colfax Ave. Wind yourself up and call 322-2308 for tix; they're $15.

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