New Year's Eve out on the town, with its crushing crowds, drunken debauchery and sold-out clubs, isn't for everyone. That must be why so many music venues tend to celebrate on the eve before the Eve, offering a test run with the next night's headliners. And while the stroke of midnight won't be quite as spectacular, for people who really love these bands, it will still be a night to remember (not to mention one they can remember). Here are some of the area's holiday double-dippers: At the Bluebird Theater, 3317 East Colfax Avenue, Colorado favorite Slim Cessna's Auto Club happily proffers more of the same beloved hillbilly-rock-gone-awry that's made it so famous in these parts. Munly and the Lee Lewis Harlots open at 9 p.m.; for tickets, $11, call 303-322-2308 or log on to www.nipp.com. That other homegrown variety, Boulder-spawned Leftover Salmon, returns to its birthplace this week for a four-night stand of trademark bluegrass music, including tonight's show at 9 p.m. at the Fox Theatre, 1135 13th Street in Boulder. Tickets are $22.50; snag yours by calling 303-447-0095, or go to www.foxtheatre.com. And the region's Deadheads will certainly think they've died and gone to heaven when the Dark Star Orchestra leads up to the New Year by channeling Jerry and the guys tonight at 9 p.m. at jam-band central, Cervantes' Masterpiece Ballroom, 2637 Welton Street. Tickets are $20; call 303-297-1772 or go to www.quixotes.com.
Friday, December 31
The big night is here, and by far the hardest part of figuring out how to spend it is deciding what not to do. Truly, if you can't find an event that suits you on these Night & Day pages, peruse our New Year's listings at www.westword.com and you'll see what we mean. So many parties, so little time. On the other hand, you can't go wrong with this show, a Boulder Theater New Year tradition steeped in musical excellence and good, clean fun: The Sam Bush Band returns to the Boulder music hall tonight at 9 p.m., with banjo ace Béla Fleck and the exemplary all-girl bluegrass band Uncle Earl special-guesting on a bill that's as down-home as it is spaced-out. The Boulder Theater is at 2032 14th Street; for tickets, $43, call 303-786-7030 or visit www.bouldertheater.com.
Saturday, January 1
We know you're out there: folks who retire at 10:35 on New Year's Eve and wake the next morn unbleary and ready for anything. While half the city is nursing a mass hangover and putting off resolution-writing until a later hour, a hardy cross-section of citizenry will be slogging through swamps and wandering the wetlands for the Urban Denver Christmas Bird Count, an annual bird-watchers' tallying extravaganza that requires a bit of previous knowledge and very sharp eyes from its bird-loving participants. Count leader Hugh Kingery will oversee fifteen groups of volunteers covering areas along the Platte River, from the city's northern limits south to Mississippi Avenue, and west to Buckley Field and the Rocky Mountain Arsenal. For details, call Kingery at 303-814-2723.
Families can test the waters of 2005 during a well-scheduled Family Fun Day, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Wildlife Experience Museum, 10035 South Peoria Street in Parker. Along with the museum's usual art and natural-history exhibits, interactive displays and iWERKS Theater large-format films, visitors can enjoy arts-and-crafts activities, storytelling, games, face-painting and special wildlife presentations geared especially toward families. Family Fun Day takes place at the museum on the first Saturday of every month; for admission prices and information, call 720-488-3300 or log on to www.thewildlifeexperience.com.
Start the year on a literate note when Capitol Hill Books, one of the region's last great independents and a true urban cornerstone, celebrates its silver anniversary with a look back at past accomplishments and a toast to the future during its annual New Year's Day open house. Between noon and 4 p.m., owner Valarie Abney and staff will serve up homemade soups and breads, giveaways and special discounts to the tune of guitarist Jerry Barlow's Celtic melodies, with New Year fortune-telling and a book signing by offbeat Denver historian Phil Goodstein adding to the entertainment. Here's to 25 more! Capitol Hill Books is at 300 East Colfax Avenue; for more information, call 303-837-0700 or visit www.capitolhillbooks.com.
Another of the town's cultural provocateurs -- Pirate: a Contemporary Art Oasis, one of Denver's first cooperative galleries -- will celebrate its longevity with the 25th Anniversary Show, a splendid and informative retrospective of works by Pirate members past and present. It promises to be an amazing underground-Denver history lesson, and we can only imagine what the party will be like at tonight's opening reception, 7 to 10 p.m. at 3659 Navajo Street, on the same northwest Denver corner that the gallery's called home for most of its 25-year marathon run. The exhibit stays up through January 16; call 303-456-6058 for details.
Sunday, January 2
Old-fashioned fun can be had, courtesy of the Boulder Friends of Jazz, during today's Dixieland Jazz and Swing Jam Session, from 2 to 5 p.m. at the Tri-City Elks Lodge, 525 Main Street in Louisville. Guest director and trumpeter Lance Christensen and the BFJ rhythm section welcome all musicians interested in tootling along on stage with a regular stable of trad-jazzers (the lodge holds monthly jam sessions), while non-musicians dance along or simply listen. Admission is $7, free for musicians; for information, call 303-449-5930.