Wallflowers: Denver galleries have the nicest way of getting off to a fresh start each year, with a blooming garden of local art showcases opening all over town in January; this is traditionally the time when members of the area's cooperative galleries get together for a mass strutting of stuff. Denver's alterna-granddaddy, Pirate, 3659 Navajo St., leads off the year with a prodigious seventeenth-anniversary group show, while CORE New Art Space, 1412 Wazee St., welcomes the very first LoDo First Friday of the year with its own members' show; and a venue that falls somewhere in between those two grassroots salons, Spark Gallery, at 1535 Platte St., follows suit. All three galleries hold receptions tonight from 7 to 10; Spark's show hangs until January 12, while those at Pirate and CORE continue for an extra week, through January 19. Chances are good that some of their neighboring galleries will also get into the act; call individual venues for information.
Stage flights: Galleries aren't the only places emphasizing local artists this month--the city's wee stages abound with fertile and off-the-wall offerings designed to properly alter perspectives and stretch horizons, in keeping with the advent of a brand-new year.
The Mercury Cafe, 2199 California St., currently presenting an extended run of the sketch-comedy performance Two Women, No Mascara, is one such cultural beehive. Mascara--an hour-and-a-half-long run-on collision of zany characters, songs and comedic whatnot performed by a pair of very funny local women, Nina Berezina and Lisa Wagner--plays the Merc at 7 tonight and again on January 11 and 18; tickets are $10 at the door. Call 294-9821.
Still another enclave of the avant-garde, the Bug Performance and Media Art Center, 3654 Navajo St., continues to hang bravely by a thread in a world overrun by sports bars and pool halls. There, something called Random Axe of Rhyme--a monthly mixed bag of music, theater, dance, comedy and spoken word with multimedia trio Jafrika, poetic troupe Open Rangers and a revolving selection of guest poets--is performed at 8 the first Saturday of every month. Tonight's installment in the wonderfully plastic and ongoing cultural confection (participants say no two shows are alike) features bards Patricia Sanders-Hall and Robert Ferriter along with the regular cast members; for tickets, $8 ($6 members), call 477-5977.
CityStage Ensemble, a respected little dramatic troupe, holds its own tonight at the Theatre at Jack's, 1553 Platte St., with a continuing world-premiere run of Reading the Mind of God, Pat Gabridge's thought-provoking play about seventeenth-century astronomers Johannes Kepler and Tycho Brahe. Special tonight, though, is a free post-performance Kepler and Tycho Star Party, complete with outdoor telescopes for stargazing, an indoor astronomy slide show and steaming hot chocolate for all--cast, crew and party-goers alike. Admission to the play portion of the evening is $12 ($10 seniors and students); call 433-8082 for reservations, and pray for a cloudless night.
Chuck up: The hell with the holidays! Nothing says they're over better than the Great Fruitcake Toss, a new event catching on annually with jocular good humor in the touristy town of Manitou Springs. At last year's inaugural toss, the dense, uneatable baked goods were, among other things, slung from slingshots and set loose dangling from weather balloons; this year, one can only assume the sky's the limit. Or beyond. It all begins at 11 a.m. in Manitou's Memorial Park and is strictly B.Y.O.F.; your $5 entry fee helps benefit Westside Cares, a local nonprofit agency assisting families in crisis. At least you'll know your noble fruitcake went down for a good cause. For additional information call 1-800-642-2567.
Blues in the face: Some folks who've heard, but have never seen, blues traditionalist Keb' Mo' in action might assume he's eighty years old and spends his time rocking on a porch somewhere, as gnarled up as a well-aged tree trunk. A walking, talking tribute to the definitive blues pioneers, Mo'--a fairly young fella actually dubbed Kevin Moore--may not be the original artifact, but he's no disappointment, either. The talented wolf in old man's clothing not only reproduces the primitive slide-guitar riffs and cracked vocals of early country bluesmen, but he also writes and sings up a storm of more up-to-date personal material. So get a life; he's entitled. Moore--that's Mo' to you--appears for a two-night stand at the Fox Theatre, 1135 13th St., Boulder, with a tasty new electric band in tow, beginning tonight at 9. Tickets are $16.80; call 447-0095 or 830-TIXS.
Hands across the desert: You find the darnedest things at the Mizel Museum of Judaica. The museum's growing Bridges of Understanding exhibition, which already explores rituals and customs from a diverse rainbow of cultures, is gaining a new facet: Muslim Nations, a section focusing on rites of passage specific to an often-misunderstood environment, opens today with a family-oriented celebration intermingling food, dance, music and garb of the Middle East, as well as examples of Hebrew and Arabic calligraphy and guided tours of the exhibit. Admission to the event, which takes place this afternoon from 2 to 5, is free; for details call 333-4156.