"Nobody ruins my birthday except me," states Leo Kottke via e-mail. The musician, you see, turned 56 on the same day planes crashed into the Twin Towers. And with each anniversary since, Kottke continues to thank his lucky stars. "It's great to be alive," he writes. "One year in Beverly Hills, the property owners were painting all their lawn jockeys white. Rickie Lee Jones and Tom Waits rode out in his old convertible to liberate the lawn jockeys. They got one lawn jockey in the car, decided it was too heavy and quit. That's living." Funnier than a haircut from a drunken barber, Kottke could square off with comic Steven Wright in a deadpan duel any day. As unpredictable with words as he is with a six- or twelve-string guitar, the reclusive, baritoned picker from Minnesota has been dazzling folksters for over three decades while giving the world's best luthiers a reason to court his endorsement.
Regarding the tragic theft of his beloved "dream guitar" (a twelve-string Gibson B-45), Kottke remains heartsick. "It doesn't matter what guitar you're playing if you know how to play," he notes. "And that's basically true. But you shouldn't try to play a doorknob. And the Gibson was my nightmare guitar: You don't know what you've got 'til it's gone."
When it comes to his forthcoming (and umpteenth) release, Try and Stop Me, the fingerstyle virtuoso knows exactly what he has. "The music is solo guitar with one vocal included -- a labor song from the '30s about taking over the banks -- that I recorded with Los Lobos," Kottke reveals. "I don't want a bank, but I would like the winner of the popular vote to sit in the White House. What a radical concept."
Wishful thinking aside, Kottke seems able to wax philosophic about anything -- from his partial hearing loss in the Navy's submarine reserve to mysterious fingernail clippings that show up in the mail. In his most recent Internet posting ("Sadness," from March of 2003), the raconteur meditates on the similarities between boredom and depression.
"'Sadness' was my half-assed vote for the maligned virtues of sadness, and my 'no' vote for the lunacy of pretense," Kottke writes. "You don't carry sadness around in a wheelbarrow like it's your long-lost self. Someone told me once that if you want to expand your consciousness, which is a good way to cheer up, you have to narrow your perspective. Do that well enough and you can play a doorknob."
Kottke performs with Ben Arnold at 7 p.m. tonight as part of the e-town radio broadcast at the Boulder Theater, 2032 14th Street. For more information, call 303-786-7030 or log on to www.bouldertheater.com. -- John LaBriola
Joel and Tharp get Movin' Out movin'
Movin' Out, the smash Broadway musical that teamed up five-time Grammy winner Billy Joel with legendary director and choreographer Twyla Tharp, is moving into to the Denver Center for the Performing Arts -- for a brief visit, that is. "This is definitely one of the hit shows of the year," says Jenny Schiavone, a spokeswoman for the performing arts center. "It's a must-see."
With characters straight from Joel's lyrics, including Brenda and Eddie of "Scenes From an Italian Restaurant" and Judy from "Why Judy Why," Movin' Outfollows five lifelong friends as their lives span two decades. Their trials and tribulations are told through two dozen Piano Man classics, including "It's Still Rock and Roll to Me," "We Didn't Start the Fire," "Uptown Girl," "Big Shot" and "Pressure" -- with absolutely no dialogue.
"It's a revolutionary type of Broadway show in that it is all dance; it's all Twyla Tharp's vision," says Shiavone. "It's just so cool to see her dance set to Billy Joel's music. It's extremely inventive."
Opening tonight at 8 p.m. in the Buell Theatre, 14th and Curtis streets, the Denver engagement of Movin' Outwill run through June 6. Ticket prices range from $25 to $65 and can be purchased online at www.denvercenter.org or by calling 303-893-4100.
Notes of Nostalgia
Harmony, a thirteen-year-old Colorado chorale, is singing a novel tune. For the first time, the fifty-member community chorus is staging a full-length musical. Harmony will perform Letters Home: A Portrait of the Forties at 2 and 8 p.m. today in the Gates Concert Hall in the Newman Center for the Performing Arts, 2344 East Iliff Avenue. Written by Littleton's Kelley Zinge, the show features singing and jitterbugging to a score of World War II staples fused with Zinge's original compositions. The story is set during World War II and follows the correspondence between an American disc jockey and his same-sex love interest, a pilot. Although the work is upbeat and comical, artistic director William Loper says the production is also timely. "With the controversy of gay marriage on the horizon, this show is very relevant and poignant."
Tickets for Letters Home: A Portrait of the Fortiesare $16 to $21 and available at the Newman Center box office and all Ticketmaster outlets. Call 303-871-7720 or visit www.harmonychorale.org for more information."This show will make you laugh and cry," assures Loper. "Letters Home has everything in it a great musical should have." -- Kity Ironton