One can only imagine how Donovan felt in 1990 when he heard that a hip noise band from Texas called the Butthole Surfers was releasing a semi-satirical version of his psychedelic classic "The Hurdy Gurdy Man." But maybe he wasn't all that freaked out; although the venerable songwriter is best known for oldies such as "Sunshine Superman" and "Mellow Yellow," Donovan's output during the late '60s and early '70s merged folk, mysticism, beat poetry and sheer weirdness -- and influenced left-of-center acts such as the Surfers on through to some of today's indie stars, including Joanna Newsome and Devendra Banhart. Born in Scotland in 1946, Donovan Leitch was a scrawny, polio-stricken kid who loved superhero comics and Buddy Holly. By his late teens, he was already a huge success in England. But it wasn't until the release of the Sunshine Supermanalbum in 1966 that Donovan assumed the stature of cultural icon, defining the psychedelic revolution with a string of stunning albums. During subsequent decades, he drifted away from the rock mainstream and into obscurity. Over the past few years, though, he's experienced a renaissance; now a cool figure to name-drop and emulate, he put out Beat Cafein 2004 to generally positive reviews. This year has seen the release of a four-disc retrospective called Try for the Sun, as well as the publication of his biography titled, aptly, The Hurdy Gurdy Man. Forty years into his career, Donovan remains a songwriter of perennial and universal appeal. Which is more than you can say for the Butthole Surfers.
Donovan gets trippy tonight at 8 p.m. at the Boulder Theater, 2032 14th Street in Boulder Admission is $35, $45 for reserved seating. For tickets and information, visit www.bouldertheater.com or call 303-786-7030. -- Jason Heller
Cratchit Comedy The Denver Victorian Playhouse gets Scrooged. FRI 11/25
Producer/director Wade Wood means no disrespect to Charles Dickens and his beloved Yuletide classic, A Christmas Carol. Indeed, the very popularity of this annual saga is what allowed Wood to stage Christopher Durang's Mrs. Bob Cratchit's Wild Christmas Binge in his revived Denver Victorian Playhouse. After all, renditions of A Christmas Carol flood not only stages, but also the silver screen -- including a cartoon starring the visually challenged Mr. Magoo. "How many times can you hear Tiny Tim say, 'God bless us, every one'? I think people get sick of it after a while," Wood says.
So instead of telling that tale, Wood transformed the 75-seat basement theater at 4201 Hooker Street into a vehicle for folly -- not jolly. "There's something to offend just about everyone in this play," he says, adding that if audiences are looking for Scrooge's redemption in this play, they'd better keep looking. The producer hopes that in the spirit of the season, Denverites will embrace Binge, which opens tonight at 7:30 p.m. and is currently slated to run through Sunday, December 18. (The run could be extended.) For tickets, $18 to $20, call 303-433-4343. -- Ernie Tucker