Thrills for the week

August 29
His and Hersh: The personal and idiosyncratic visions of Kristin Hersh lie in a brilliant heap at the high end of the alternative music spectrum. Whether on her own or with Throwing Muses, as she is this evening at the Bluebird Theater, Hersh intertwines folk, punk and dreamy, poetic sensibilities with guileless skill. The results can be breathtaking. Craig Ross, a Storyville dropout whose strange debut CD Dead Spy Report seems informed but not ruled by the ghost of Marc Bolan and the spirit of Ray Davies, opens the show at 9 p.m.; for tickets, $10, call 830-TIXS. The Bluebird is located at 3317 E. Colfax Ave.

Garden party: If classics among the roses seem an appropriate way to acknowledge summer's end, Theater in the Gardens is the way to go. As if to order, the critically favored Compass Theatre Company descends into the Denver Botanic Gardens outdoor amphitheater, 1005 York St., for four nights of family-style repertory performances. Compass opens tonight at 7:15 with Edmond Rostand's tale of a long-nosed lover, Cyrano de Bergerac, and continues at the same time tomorrow night with Shakespeare's fanciful A Midsummer Night's Dream; the sequence will repeat on September 4 and 5. Admission is $13 ($11 DBG members); picnics and blankets are welcome. To reserve tickets in advance call 777-3836.

August 30
Chow, baby: Food, glorious food--and we mean tons of grub--it's the main focus of the Festival of Mountain and Plain...A Taste of Colorado, a sprawling and enormously popular Labor Day weekend tradition for hungry metro-area citizens not eager to brave holiday traffic heading out of town. The annual event at Civic Center Park, Colfax Avenue and Broadway, this year features chow for the masses--from ethnic treats to gourmet tidbits--prepared by fifty area restaurants, along with six stages of continuous entertainment, carnival rides, kids' activities and cooking demonstrations. Mouth starting to water? Just keep these simple words of advice in mind: Pace yourself. Admission to the Taste, taking place from 11 to 11 today through Sunday and from 11 to 9 Monday, is free (food tickets are available for purchase inside the gates); for more information call 478-7878.

Eclectomatic: Garrett Dutton, aka G. Love, is a lot like most other pop musicians--he plays what he grew up with, then gives it a twist. It so happens that the main man in G. Love & Special Sauce grew up with Run-D.M.C. and the Beastie Boys on the blaster. But the Philly native also took a side trip into the down-home, Delta strain of blues preserved by the likes of John Hammond (see Saturday). That kind of eclecticism isn't hard to twist, after all, easily explaining how the funky, bluesy, rootsy rap Love now records might have evolved. You'll have two chances to listen tonight at the Fox Theater, 1135 13th St., Boulder, where Love appears at 7 and 10--the first show is an all-ages affair. Tickets are $12.60; call 447-0095 or 830-TIXS.

A Front Range companion: The fans of Garrison Keillor are a fierce bunch whose radios have for years been tuned religiously on Saturday nights to public radio's resurrected A Prairie Home Companion. And it's no wonder: A deadpan exemplar of the word "wry," Keillor has a singular way with the tall tale and an old-fashioned, provincial wit that borders on--and sometimes plunges into--sentimentality. All this serves as a sort of a warning: When Keillor appears tonight at Fiddler's Green, 6350 Greenwood Plaza Blvd., with a forty-piece orchestra and conductor Philip Brunelle backing him up, the staunch are certain to turn out in legions. If you count yourself among them, get your tickets now. Admission is $22.50 for lawn seating and $27.50 reserved; call 830-TIXS. Concert proceeds benefit public television station KBDI/Channel 12 and Colorado Public Radio station KCFR/90.1 FM.

August 31
The pitter patter of little feet: Anyone old enough to locomote--that includes inching, crawling, toddling, falling over and running--is eligible to participate in today's All Kids Run '96, a series of mini-marathons designed for children ages twelve and under being held this morning on the State Capitol's west lawn, just a hop, skip and jump away from A Taste of Colorado. Races, which vary from the 26.2-foot Diaper Derby to a four-lap, mile-long sprint for older small fry, take place between 9:30 and 11 a.m.; an obstacle course, petting zoo, karaoke booth, El Jebel Shrine clowns and other activities and entertainment will be available for kids before and after their heats. Hitch up yer kneepants, kids: Race day registration, $10 per child (funds benefit the Leukemia Society of America), begins at 8 a.m.; for information call 293-8300.

All blues: You could say that the family tree of blues has Robert Johnson for a trunk--certainly the seminal bluesman and mysterious wanderer, who died in 1938 but left a running legacy that hasn't yet played itself out in American music, provided the support for a lot of the tree's branches. Some of his most resolute archivists gather together tonight at Chautauqua Auditorium, 900 Baseline Rd., Boulder, for A Tribute to Robert Johnson, an evening that's part musicology lecture and part raw Delta gutbucket in the Johnson tradition. Featuring archival bluesman John Hammond, country blues traditionalist Rory Block and Robert Jr. Lockwood, Johnson's adopted son and an accomplished jazz-influenced blues musician in his own right, the tribute begins at 8; for tickets, $17 to $22, call 440-7666 or 830-TIXS. A more urbane and electrified brand of the blues can be heard this weekend in the mountains at the Village at Breckenridge Blues Festival, a two-day event featuring top blues artists, including harp blowers Charlie Musselwhite and Junior Wells, guitarists Elvin Bishop and Robben Ford and formidable shouter Koko Taylor. Gates to the Village's mountain arena, located in Breckenridge at the base of Peak 9, open at noon today and tomorrow; for weekend passes, $20-$25 (or $12-$15 daily), call 830-TIXS or 1-970-453-3131 for information. Concertgoers can also enjoy the Gathering at the Great Divide arts and crafts fair, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily through Monday at the Bell Tower Mall parking lot; call 1-970-547-9326.

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