There's a dusty crease where the wide-open range of the Western Slope meets urban sprawl, where cow-tipping is almost a spectator sport, where boot-scootin' cattle ranchers power-lunch with city slickers. The place is Loveland, Colorado. The Sweetheart City is also the home to the state's only alternative-country-music label, Big Bender Records. The imprint celebrates its third anniversary tonight with the release of four new recordings and a showcase of some of its most popular high-altitude artists at the Spring Roadhouse Showcase, hosted by Denver's Soiled Dove. Morris Beegle, president of Hapi Skratch Records, founded Big Bender in 2001 with Southbound, the debut release from Denver's popular Railbenders. According to Beegle, the label's distribution network services about 150 Colorado acts, including Wendy Woo, Yo, Flaco! and Brethren Fast. "We are a one-stop service shop for bands," says Beegle. "We provide people with a full menu of services, and they might pick the number-31 special."
Big Bender Records gives shelter to alternative country's true-grit rockers. Their new-grass roots and outlaw twang are too hard-driven for commercial labels, but they still manage to stomp out a solid following in cowtowns across the West. "There's a lot of solid interest now," says Beegle. "It's kind of neat to be in the local music scene and see it take off."
The Spring Roadhouse Showcase will feature the Railbenders, the Honky Tonk Hangovers, Buckskin Stallion and Oakhurst, as well as an acoustic performance by the emcee, Big Bender recording artist (and Westword contributor) Marty Jones. The event promises to rev up some Front Range born-and-bred whup-ass. "The Showcase is the perfect chance to catch the best bands in Colorado playing roots, roadhouse and real country-flavored music," says Beegle. "It's going to be a true celebration of the new alternative-country movement happening right here in the Rockies."
So dust off your boots and shoot straight for the Soiled Dove, 1949 Market Street, where the hootin' and hollerin' starts at 8 p.m. Call 303-299-0100 or visit www.bigbender.net for more information. -- Kity Ironton
Black Broadway highlights Big Apple hits
Bask in the bright lights and brilliant sounds of New York City's most famous street when the national touring production of Black Broadway struts into town for a weekend engagement at the Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities. "It's a celebration of Broadway hits that most people will recognize," says center spokeswoman Valerie Hamlin. "It definitely promises to be an entertaining evening."
Starring theater veterans C.E. Smith and Monica Patton, Black Broadwayis a musical medley featuring more than fifteen memorable hits from a dozen jazz and blues musicals, including Porgy and Bess, Ain't Misbehavin', St. Louis Woman, Smokey Joe's Cafe and Jelly's Last Jam.
"It's mostly about the music, but they will also do some scenes, some dancing and share some black-theater tidbits," says Hamlin. "They're going to cover a lot of favorite musicals, both old and new. We're trying to reach out to a new audience with this engagement."
The Arvada Center is located at 6901 Wadsworth Boulevard. -- Julie Dunn
Varla's No Lady
Jeffery Roberson -- aka Varla Jean Merman -- may be one of the country's best female impersonators, but he's no lady. He'll prove it tonight with the latest version of his one-woman club act, Under a Big Top, a bawdy revue that combines the best and the weirdest from circus, magic, carnival and freak shows.
Buxom diva Varla Jean, who made Cheez Whiz a household name, plans a tribute to the Bearded Lady, an "operatic tour-de-force medley" and a trapeze act. All of these are sandwiched into a multimedia revue crammed with new songs and videos. (Ah, but can they top her past hits, such as the video of the six-foot-two redhead shopping for a "Hello Kitty" toaster in Tokyo, or her saucy rendition of "Talk to Your Genitals," a ditty sung to the tune of Dr. Dolittle's "If I Could Talk to the Animals"?)
Varla will make three star turns at the Phoenix Theatre, 1124 Santa Fe Drive: at 7:30 p.m. Friday and at 7:30 and 9:30 p.m. Saturday. Tickets are $30 in advance and $35 at the door. For more information, log on to www.theatregroup.org. -- Karen Bowers
A new CD brings out junior crooners
At most record-release parties, the only ones singing are members of the band -- but the opposite will be true when Sing Along With Putumayo receives its local launch this afternoon. The disc is being issued in conjunction with Putumayo World Music, a label known for importing sounds from around the globe. In this case, though, the artists are homegrown, and the accent's on blues, roots and acoustic grooves. Participants include Arlo Guthrie, Taj Mahal, Guy Davis, Rhonda Vincent and longtime Denver favorite Tim O'Brien, who checks in with a jaunty rendition of "Man Gave Names to All the Animals." Unlike a lot of children's music, which is treacly enough to cause severe earaches on contact, Sing Along should inspire both kids and adults to join in. Participants at today's event will receive complimentary copies of the disc's lyrics booklet and can sign up for a raffle, with CDs and accompanying activity kits as the prizes.