Beer, here: There are educational booths and video displays at the Great American Beer Festival that detail the brewing process and remind you to be conservative with the rate at which you put 'em away. But you know why you're there: because the rapidly expanding fest features samples of beers, stouts, ales and other heady concoctions served up in six-ounce cups by as many as 350 different breweries, representatives of which have gathered here to chew the foam at trade meetings and competitions. Public tasting sessions, your end of the stick, will be held from 5:30 to 10 nightly, today through Saturday at Currigan Exhibition Hall, 1324 Champa St. General admission is $25 in advance ($28 at the door); call 447-0126 to reserve tickets.
Top of the pops: Traditional jazz simply doesn't get any better than this. The Summit Jazz Festival makes a point, annually, of presenting a sensational lineup of seasoned jazzmen, and this year's roster will simply blow the Hyatt Regency Tech Center to pieces over the weekend. Several combos, including the Jim Cullum Jazz Band, the Grand Dominion Jazz Band and Denver's own Alan Frederickson Jazz Ensemble, will be joined by the stellar Dick Hyman Allstars--featuring ageless trumpeter Doc Cheatham, impeccable guitarist Howard Alden, legendary bassist Milt Hinton and others in its mix--for four separate sessions of exuberant music, beginning tonight at 7 and continuing tomorrow at 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. and Sunday at 11 a.m. Tickets range from $25 to $32 per session (or $90 for everything); to reserve seats by phone, call 779-1234. Hyman and some of his Allstars--Cheatham, Alden and reed player Ken Peplowski--also stop in today at St. Cajetan's Performance Center on the Auraria Campus, where they'll perform at 2 p.m. for students and other fans. Admission ranges from $4 to $8 (CU students free); call 556-8122.
Home bass: Multitalented Me'Shell Ndegeocello (her last name, which means "free like a bird" in Swahili, is a mouthful, but its near-phonetic pronunciation is easier than it looks) composes, sings, raps and slaps hell out of the bass, which is her primary, but not her only, instrument. Her hard-edged, funked-up, culturally centered mix of American music styles and politics has the future written all over it, but you can hear it tonight at 9 at Boulder's Fox Theatre, 1135 13th St. Come find out why critics fall at this woman's feet; for tickets, $13.25 in advance, call 1-800-444-SEAT.
Left, right, left, right: Call the fire department--sparks are gonna fly tonight when the Reverend Jesse Jackson, onetime Rainbow Party presidential candidate and a blazing orator for liberal values, and controversial Iran-Contra figure Oliver North, an upright bastion of conservatism and the American way, face off in a debate at the Auraria Campus Events Center, where an SRO crowd is expected to gather. Beginning at 8, the diametrically opposed duo will argue issues facing America as it hurtles headlong into a new century; for tickets, $7 ($4 Auraria students), call 556-3315.
On Broadway: As the gallery season gets fast and furious, so does the Last Fridays Art Walk. Put on your comfiest shoes and discover what's happening in the Broadway Arts Corridor, bounded roughly by Colfax Avenue, Pearl Street, I-25 and Santa Fe Drive. Start the self-guided tour at First and Broadway, around which a gaggle of galleries is centered, including Rule Modern and Contemporary, Manos Folk Art and, to the south, Open Press printmaking studio and the new Inkfish digs. It's simple to fan out from there--and there are plenty of little coffeehouses and restaurants along the way where you can rest your tootsies. Last Fridays is free and runs from 5 to 9 p.m.
Give it a whirl: Denver's busiest Irish music connection, Pat McCullough's Celtic Events, pulls off yet another first. Dervish, a fiddle-, flute- and accordion-based sextet from Sligo that's garnering raves across the Atlantic, debuts here tonight at 8 at Cameron Church, 1600 S. Pearl St. Tickets, $15, are available by calling 830-TIXS. It's not exactly the band's Denver premiere, though--you can also give Dervish a sample whirl during an in-store performance this afternoon at 1 at Tower Records, 2500 E. 1st Ave., Cherry Creek, being held in conjunction with the release of the band's swell new album of fresh-sounding yet traditional tunes, At the End of the Day. Admission at Tower is free, but you might want to dip into your pockets and spring for the CD; for information call 777-0502.