Thursday October 5 Mug shots: If you reel dizzily at the thought of more than 1,000 foaming brews all tapped together in one big room, steer way clear of the Great American Beer Festival. But if you're like the rest of us, line up! The annual event, this year expanded to three suds-soaked evenings, takes place from 5:30 to 10 tonight through Saturday at Currigan Exhibition Hall, 14th and Champa streets. Inside, you'll work your way from one single-ounce taste to another, sampling ales, lagers, bocks, stouts and other styles offered by more than 300 breweries. Admission, $22 in advance or $25 at the door, includes tastes, a commemorative glass and a handy program guide that not only describes every festival brew, but also gives tasting tips and a glossary of terms. A limited number of reduced-price $12 tickets will be offered for designated drivers who chauffeur their tipsy friends to and from the event. Call 447-0816 or 830-TIXS.
What a scream: What once seemed like a very good Patti Smith imitation has mutated into a riveting act of brilliance: When P.J. Harvey--looking like a slithering cabaret diva--hits the stage tonight at CU-Boulder's Macky Auditorium, she'll spew poetry, gender-driven observations and sly epithets, all against a raucous, cranked-up musical backdrop. Countering Harvey's performance perfectly is Californian Ben Harper, a twentysomething skateboarder and gutsy, understated songwriter who plays slide guitar with the spiny prowess of a sixtysomething Delta bluesman. The inspired double feature gets under way at 7:30 p.m.; for tickets, $20, call 830-TIXS.
Friday October 6 Tubal migration: Boston performance artist Joseph Wilson, as much a part of the television age as he is an assailant of it, explores the tube's encroachment on American culture twenty--count 'em, twenty--ways when he stages Pigs Feet and Marble Skies tonight and tomorrow at the Bug, 3654 Navajo St. See Wilson's comedic collection of short pieces, which vary from "TV Baby" (featuring a bawling monitor) to "Bullhorn Prayer" (exactly what it sounds like) at 8 each evening; admission is $10 ($6 students, seniors and members). For reservations and information call 477-5977.
Out of this world: Modern Chinese art has evolved from a hybrid of classic Asian and European realist styles to a distinct genre indicative of the Western-influenced Chinese culture that sprouted in the aftermath of the Cultural Revolution. Works by two artists from the Central Academy of Art in Beijing, Chao Ge and Xie Dongming, are featured in A Renaissance of Realism: Recent Oil Paintings From the People's Republic of China, opening tonight at the School of Art and Art History Gallery in the Shwayder Art Building, 2121 E. Asbury Ave. on the DU campus. A reception will be held from 5 to 9 this evening; the show continues through the end of the month. For information on gallery tours call 329-6417.
Saturday October 7 Oh boy! Of all the "New Dylan" contenders who've passed in and out of the rock-and-roll canon, one of the best--and probably the least Dylanesque--is John Prine, a consummate songsmith whose poetic, sometimes goofy tunes have their way with your heartstrings. The unique, gnarly-voiced Prine makes a rare appearance to promote his Howie Epstein-produced disk Lost Dogs and Mixed Blessings (recorded on his own Oh Boy label and appropriately sporting John Callahan cover art depicting winged dog angels flying over a graveyard) tonight at 8 at the Paramount Theatre, 1621 Glenarm Pl. Included in the $21 admission price are road-worthy openers The Delevantes; call 830-TIXS for tickets.
Cymbalist: The guys behind the traps rarely seem to become frontmen, but postbop jazz drummer Jerry Granelli--who performed as a sideman to Ornette Coleman, Vince Guaraldi and Denny Zeitlin and in a brilliant improvisational trio with Ralph Towner and Gary Peacock--does it with exemplary and contemporary style. On his new album, News From the Street, Granelli takes a cue from pal Bill Frisell (a sideman to Granelli on the recording, along with a horde of other acclaimed jazz guitarists such as John Abercrombie, Pat Metheny and John Scofield), turning an eclectic batch of tunes by John Hiatt, Gatemouth Brown and Jimi Hendrix, among others, into startling overnight standards. On the road now with his young band of Berliners, UFB, Granelli will perform at the Naropa Institute, 2130 Arapahoe, Boulder, tonight at 8. Admission is $10; call 546-3538.
The right side of the tracks: LoDo is where it's at, like it or not, and in order to show you why, the Lower Downtown District, Inc., is throwing a major LoDo Open House. To make certain you're fortified for the day's events, start off with a carbo-heavy pancake breakfast prepared by celebrity flapjack flippers; chow down for $5 ($2.50 kids under twelve) from 7 to 10 a.m. at 17th and Market streets. Then you'll be ready for shopping at sidewalk sales thrown by area retailers and art galleries; a gaggle of tours--guided and self-guided--including an annual LoDo Loft Tour (11 a.m.-5 p.m., $8); Art in the Streets and Art in the Alleys, during which local artists paint bus benches and outdoor wall murals, respectively (10 a.m.-5 p.m., in various locations); a children's sidewalk chalk-drawing project (10 a.m.-5 p.m., 16th and Wazee); and flower-box judging honoring those inner-city gardeners who make do in windows and on verandas (5 p.m., 16th and Wazee). Wrapping it up from 5 to 7 will be a free outdoor screening of On the Waterfront on the wall of the Wireworks Lofts, 14th and Wazee streets, complete with popcorn and soda vendors. But bring your own chairs. Free open-air trolleys will provide transportation between events throughout the day; for information call 698-4677.