Spirit in the Sky

Swingin' from the rafters at Appaloosa Grill

WED, 12/31

New Year's revelers may start 2004 with more than just a hangover if they party the night away at Appaloosa Grill's first annual Great Gig in the Sky. They'll probably have kinks in their necks, too, since the night will feature Denver alt-country rockers Oakhurst playing on a platform suspended in Appaloosa's three-story atrium. "It's going to be very cool, because there is a great vantage point from our third-floor bar level looking down on the band, or from the ground level looking up," says John Qualley, Appaloosa's general manager and upright-bassist for Oakhurst. "It's really going to be a different experience for the crowd; we're going to make it interactive and festive."

To ring in the New Year, Appaloosa will feature a special four-course chef's menu: Options include oyster stew, duck salad, prime rib, lobster tails and more. Dinner prices range from $25 to $45, depending on the entree, and include the evening's entertainment and a complimentary glass of champagne.

And don't be surprised if your table is suddenly serenaded by Oakhurst's five roving musicians. "We like to surprise-attack tables," says Qualley. "Whether we're playing the banjo or the drummer is drumming on the table, it always goes over really well, because you're right there. It's a really pure sound."

Appaloosa, which has been featuring live music seven nights a week since April, is also promoting its prime fireworks-viewing spot on the 16th Street Mall tonight. "Run outside and check out the 9 p.m. fireworks show, because we're going to kick off the live music right on the heels of that and roll right on into the New Year," Qualley says.

With the release of a second CD, Greenhorn, scheduled for January 9, Oakhurst has a lot to celebrate. "We're going to be some busy boys in January, traveling all over the state trying to capitalize on the excitement of this new album," Qualley says. "We're looking forward to it."

Appaloosa, located in the historic Masonic Building at 535 16th Street, is accepting dinner reservations for its three New Year's Eve seatings, which begin at 5 p.m. Tickets for Great Gig in the Sky are $5 in advance or $10 at the door. Call 720-932-1700 or go to www.appaloosagrill.com. For more on Oakhurst, check out www.porchmusic.com. -- Julie Dunn

DCPA offers a theater-goer's delight
WED, 12/31

As if choosing a New Year's Eve destination weren't difficult enough, the Denver Center for the Performing Arts is making it even harder with its ninth annual New Year's Eve Gala. For just $240 per person, you can take a trip to Heaven, or for another $35, the DCPA will take you to a state a little closer to home. Cocktails and hors d'oeurves begin at 6 p.m. in the Helen G. Bonfils Theatre Lobby, followed at 7 p.m. by the rollicking musical Oklahoma!, in the Buell Theatre, or the popular tribute to John Denver's music, Almost Heaven: The Songs and Stories of John Denver, in the Ricketson Theatre. The Ricketson audience will enjoy champagne with the cast following the performance and then join the Buell group at 10 p.m. in the Seawall Grand Ballroom for dinner, dancing and the traditional midnight countdown and champagne.

Buy your tickets before midnight and brighten your 2004 taxes: All proceeds benefit the DCPA's arts in education programs. But if the price is still a little too steep -- or if your tastes run more toward the trials of love in the 21st century -- the Garner Galleria Theater is offering a special 9:30 p.m. performance of I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change! for just $50, which includes a post-show champagne toast with the cast.

For information or to buy tickets, call 303-893-4100 or visit www.denvercenter.org. -- Marty McGovern

Bush League
WED, 12/31

In 29 years of existence, only once has Telluride tried having its Bluegrass Festival without Sam Bush. Everyone's allowed to make mistakes their first time. But the Boulder Theater is taking no such chances with it's New Year's Eve show. The legendary venue is offering up this legendary artist, along with the Mighty Squirrel, starting at 9 p.m. tonight.

While most seventeen-year-old boys are just dreaming about "making it," Bush lost his recording virginity with the 1969 album Poor Richard's Almanac and appeared later the same year at the Grand Ole Opry. Founding New Grass Revival two years later, Bush weathered multiple lineup changes, maintaining his group's quality by recruiting impressive young talents such as Béla Fleck. Much of the Revival's industry impact -- and Bush's longevity -- is the result of unheralded artistic flexibility, in which Bush deftly intermixes flavors among normally segregated genres. Improving agility with each success, the "Mayor of Telluride" consummated his mandolin reign with last year's Grammy Awards.

The Boulder Theater is at 2032 14th Street; tickets to the show are $35. Call 303-786-7030 or log on to www.bouldertheater.com. -- Catalina Soltero

Hear Them Roar
Holiday at the Zoo will soothe savage beasts
SUN, 12/28

Why wait until New Year's Eve to be a party animal when you can get a head start at today's Colorado Springs Philharmonic's Holiday at the Zoo? You can even bring the family (it's encouraged!) and wake up guilt-free the next day. The second of three family concerts, the Philharmonic show incorporates a narrator and combines Camille Saint-Saëns's conventional "Carnival of the Animals" with contemporary composer Greg Smith's wildly creative "Zoo Song." In what Philharmonic marketing director Dave Skolnick calls the "Ben-Hur of the event," the Ballet Society will dance to the music -- in animal costumes. Off stage, the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo staff will display skins and skulls of former fauna.

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