Wildwood flower: Merle Haggard, a champion himself of the common salt of the earth, once called Iris DeMent "the best singer I've ever heard." One reason is because there are few singers--or songwriters--truer or more untainted than DeMent, whose first gig was in a church choir. Her heartfelt, country-tinged tunes have grown tougher over time, but they still come through with an unspoiled sense of honesty. DeMent puts some of that newfound punch into songs from her latest album, The Way I Should, with help from her band, the Troublemakers, tonight at 7:30 at the Bluebird Theater, 3317 E. Colfax Ave. For tickets, $14 in advance ($15 day of show), call 830-TIXS.
A funny thing happened on my way to the end of the story: Here's one comedian who will never beat you to the punch: Fidgety standup Jake Johannsen makes a point of going out of his way for a nice, long, oral walk in the woods--where he might discover a flying saucer full of aliens or a problem toaster or a vegetarian girlfriend--before ever even considering putting a wrap on his hilarious yarn. It's a shtick guaranteed to make you a little nervous, but the chuckles induced are antidote enough. Johannsen meanders around today through Sunday during several sets at the Comedy Works; admission ranges from $12 to $17.
Also stopping in later this week at the Larimer Square club is Louie Anderson, another standup boasting national recognition--in this case, for his sad-sack reminiscences of childhood and beyond. The big-time comic, a television and cartoon star who's gotten plenty of laugh leverage out of poking fun at his own big-time girth, performs at 8 p.m. Monday and Tuesday; tickets are $25.
The Comedy Works is located at 1226 15th St.; call 595-3637 for reservations and information.
Lost horizon: Imagine a better world. But first, consider the building in which it resides--in this one, you step through the door into a splendidly detailed Moorish fantasy. Inside, there's music. Art. Magic. Wine. Hearty brews. Food. Dancing. As you ascend into this heavenly place, the mood changes on each level. There's jazz on one floor, the ragin' Zukes of Zydeco on another, and strong coffee and artsy conversation when you get to the top. Cigars? You've got 'em--in a tent outside where you can puff stogies to your heart's content without blowing smoke in the face of anyone who doesn't want it there. Believe it or not, the name of this Shangri-La is Artopia '97, and it can found right here in Denver, tonight at 8. Billed as a "one-night celebration of sensual stimulation," Artopia takes place at the new Eulipions Cultural Center at 18th Ave. and Sherman St.; for advance tickets, $15 (they're $20 at the door), call 777-6887 or drop by Jax Fish House, LoDo's Bar and Grill or any Diedrich Coffee shop.
Just folk: Folksinger Tom Paxton found his calling a long time ago, back in the 1960s. His songs, classics in the mold of "What Did You Learn in School Today?" and "The Last Thing on My Mind," are so representative, they've become the very fabric and vernacular of the American folk-music movement, as instantly recognizable as anything floating around in the public domain. But Paxton isn't lost in the irrelevant past--his newer songs, which can be heard tonight at the Oriental Theater, 4335 W. 44th Ave., continue to deal with up-to-date concerns. Canadian performer Connie Kaldor opens for Paxton at 7; for tickets, $13 to $15 ($5 for children), call 1-800-444-SEAT.
Cody of the West: Buffalo Bill, historical figure and beloved showman of the Wild West, is scheduled to make an appearance today at the annual Buffalo Bill Cody Birthday Celebration being thrown at the Buffalo Bill Memorial Museum on Lookout Mountain. So is Buffalo Bill. And who'll be standing right next to him? Buffalo Bill.
What's going on? For the 151st anniversary of Cody's birth, a whole gang of flowing-haired, mustachioed lookalikes who've turned up at similar celebrations over the years will get together to help cut the cake. Presiding over the festivities will be main man Colonel Al Huffman, the museum's official Buffalo Bill impersonator. But that's not all: Along with the aforementioned refreshments, there'll be buffalo-chip-throwing contests for children and adults, miniature horse rides, Western movies, and live music and rope tricks.
The rootin'-tootin' revelry begins at noon and ends at 4; the museum is a thirty-minute drive from downtown Golden at exit 256 off I-70. Admission is free; call 526-0744.
Make me an opera: You got your kids tickets to the opera? Now, there's a fairy tale. Perhaps that's why Opera Colorado opted to present Humperdinck's operatic treatment of Hansel and Gretel--because you've got to start them early, or you'll never manage to win the little Metallica disciples over from the dark side. The fully staged production, sung entirely in English, is really for everyone, so bring the family: Tickets for the opera, showing at 2 today and 7:30 February 25 and 27 at the Teikyo Loretto Heights Theater, 3001 S. Federal Blvd., are $30 (student and senior discounts available); call 830-TIXS for advance reservations.
Food, glorious food: We all like to eat, and we're not about to change. That's why the annual Great Chefs of the West food-and-wine event is one of the easiest fundraisers you'll ever attend. You fork over your admission, then you're ready to forklift the grub right into your mouth. For $65, you'll be treated to a smorgasbord of entrees and desserts from 23 fine metro-area restaurants and caterers, who will offer everything from grilled polenta cakes with sausage to chocolate pancakes with rum sauce tonight from 5:30 to 9 at the Denver Marriott Tech Center, 4900 S. Syracuse St. Now stop drooling and call 713-1523 for reservations, pronto. Then you might consider fasting. Proceeds benefit the National Kidney Foundation of Colorado.
What hath Garp wrought? Author John Irving won our hearts long ago with his 1978 blockbuster novel The World According to Garp. And fans agree that the same kinds of oddball characters who peopled Garp and ensuing, equally eccentric tomes continue to show up regularly in Irving's newest works--such as the recently published Trying to Save Piggy Snead and work-in-progress A Widow for One Year. The best-selling novelist appears tonight at 7:30 at the Central Library, 14th and Broadway, where he'll speak and read portions from the unfinished piece as guest of the Denver Public Library Friends Foundation. Admission to the talk ranges from $12 to $17; call 640-6192.
You oughta be in pictures: The town hasn't yet settled down from this Motherwell hoopla--and with good reason. Not only is the Denver Art Museum the proud owner of a major acquisition of Motherwell works, but the Robischon Gallery in LoDo continues to exhibit prints by the influential abstract expressionist through mid-March. Appetite whetted, the arts community can now enjoy An Evening of Film About Robert Motherwell, tonight at 7 at the Acoma City Center, 1080 Acoma St., in a former church located a couple of blocks south of the museum. Included on the program are films exploring Motherwell in interviews, the context of the New York School movement of which he was part, and the artist as a printmaker collaborating with poet Rafael Alberti. Tickets for the evening are $5 ($3 students); for details call 623-2349.
For Shaham: Great music is often the focus of CU-Boulder's recurring Artist Series, and tonight's offering follows through with that directive magnificently. Renowned violinist Gil Shaham--born in Illinois and trained in Israel--strikes some classical connoisseurs as a fiddler possessing all the passion and style of a young Itzhak Perlman. When he performs in duet with his 21-year-old sister, pianist Orli Shaham, it's icing on the cake, leaving a brilliant aura around the music that only a tuned-in pair of siblings can produce. The close-knit duo performs in a recital of works by Dvorak, Beethoven and Korngold tonight at 8 at Macky Auditorium, located on the CU-Boulder campus; tickets are $10 to $30. Call 492-8008.
The smell of the war paint: The Colorado Authors Lecture Series presents authors Jean Afton, David Halaas and Andy Masich, who give a slide-enhanced lecture, Cheyenne Dog Soldiers, tonight at the Colorado History Museum, 1300 Broadway. Offered in conjunction with the museum's current exhibit of the same name, which features a fascinating cache of colored drawings by Cheyenne warriors from around the time of the infamous 1869 battle at Summit Springs, the lecture begins at 7; call 866-4686 for tickets, $5 ($4 Colorado Historical Society members), and reservations.