Wednesday February 14 Blues period: When a big band and the blues collide head-on, you can count on a full dance floor--that's the main objective of Roomful of Blues, a Rhode Island-based combo with a revolving membership of great musicians. Over 25 years after guitarist Duke Robillard first formed the group (Robillard's gone on to a solo career, ably replaced by new axman Chris Vachon), Roomful is still blasting out an irresistible mixture of urban blues and rock that impels listeners to get out there and cut a rug. So, go on--wear each other out. Take your valentine to Soapy Smith's: The Larimer Square hangout at 1317 14th St. starts heating up about 9:30 this evening. Tickets are $10; call 534-1111.
Voice of America: Perhaps no one person sums up the stripped-down, glossless mystique of the early Sixties folk movement better than Joan Baez, dark-eyed and silver-throated spokeswoman of the pre-Beatles underground. Baez hung out with Bob Dylan, sang at Woodstock and over the years has epitomized leftist ideals, expressing herself--and her generation--in the purest of voices. That voice, a ringing, forthright soprano like no other, will bring back memories tonight at the Paramount Theatre, 1621 Glenarm Pl., when Baez appears in concert. Dar Williams, a new favorite on the folk circuit, opens for Baez at 7:30; to purchase tickets, $17 or $20, call 534-8336 or 830-TIXS.
Heart and soul: How to romance a valentine? Let us count the ways. Some prefer to do it with bubbly, and there's no better place to do that than at a Domaine Chandon Valentine's Dinner like the one hosted tonight by the Fourth Story Restaurant and Bar, perched atop the Tattered Cover Book Store, 2955 E. 1st Ave. Fifty-five bucks a head gets you a fancy repast, a fountain of sparkling wine and a great view; for information call 322-1824. You couch potatoes might prefer a bubbly bath, but before you begin to fill the tub, how about a live serenade by a barbershop quartet? Order up a singing valentine from the Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barber Shop Quartet Singing in America by calling 238-0285, 233-5837 or 233-0092; the cost is just $30, but hurry--quartet availability is limited. A funkier--and cheaper--evening can be had at the Mercury Cafe, 2199 California St., where the Mercury Motley Players will bring back the comedy Lovers and Other Strangers, an annual Valentine's Day occurrence, tonight at 7. Tickets are $5; dancing to the Climb follows the performance. The folks at the Merc say they'll also be serving enchanted food and love potions in the dining room--how will you ever know what that means if you don't go try it out? Call 294-9258 for information and reservations.
Thursday February 15 A matter of degrees: Filmmaker Marlon Riggs, highly praised for controversial documentaries on racism and homophobia, died last year of AIDS-related ailments, but not without leaving behind a thoughtful last work. Black Is...Black Ain't, awarded the Sundance Film Festival Filmmaker's Trophy in 1995, explores social divisions imposed within African-American culture through the use of personal statements, historical perspectives and artistic expression. The film will be screened tonight at 7 and 9 in Muenzinger Auditorium, CU-Boulder campus, in conjunction with Black History Month events; it will also be aired at 9 p.m. February 22 on KRMA-TV/Channel 6. Admission in Boulder is $3.50; for details call 492-6431.
Friday February 16 The twang shall meet: Winter doldrums can be controlled--all you really need is a good kick in the butt. At the Mid-Winter Bluegrass Festival, an annual weekend event in Fort Collins, that kick comes from a wallop of music as fresh as a bubbling mountain spring (try to find one of those in Colorado in the dead of February). Headlining the fest--which begins tonight at 7 and continues all day Saturday and Sunday at the Holiday and Plaza Inns, I-25 and Hwy. 14--are Grand Ole Opry stalwarts the Osborne Brothers (legendary for their bluegrass standard "Rocky Top"), along with top national grass acts Lost and Found and Blue Highway. Contests and workshops round out the schedule; for tickets and information call 1-970-482-0863.
Be here now: That Kenny Be--the Westword cartoonist is really just a nice, unassuming draftsman trapped in a wicked satirist's body. And at home in his spare time, the ever-precise Be has created a spectacular diorama, "Homes on the Range," complete with three-dimensional origami houses, a mountain skyline and a floating cloudscape of fantasy doodles. The work will be displayed along with paintings by Sandra J. Toland in the joint show Cookies and Anchovies, opening tonight at Zip 37, 3644 Navajo St. Meet the artists at a reception from 7 to 10; the show continues through March 3. Call 477-4525.
Saturday February 17 The family that sings together: Though Arlo Guthrie--the young upstart responsible for spinning that marathon musical yarn "Alice's Restaurant" into a gentle Sixties antiwar treatise--has gone completely gray, he still exudes a boyish simplicity and the kind of innate wisdom that never ages. The wavy-haired Guthrie, who grew up surrounded by the music of his father, folk legend Woody Guthrie, and pals like Leadbelly and Pete Seeger, has now passed down the tradition to his children, who often perform with him on stage and recorded material alike. He'll have son Abe in tow tonight when he appears at 8 at the Boulder Theater, 2030 14th St., Boulder; for tickets, $15.75 in advance ($16.80 day of show), call 786-7030 or 830-TIXS.
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Sunday February 18 Bear with us: Why a P.A.N.D.A.? Funny you should ask--it stands for the Pan-African Nurturing and Development Association, and no bamboo will be needed at the tenth annual Colorado P.A.N.D.A. Games. This College Bowl-style competition focuses on Afrocentric knowledge and is designed to instill African-American youths with pride in their heritage. Teams from area high school and various community groups will compete for scholarships and other honors--testing their mettle on questions about black food, authors, inventions, history and more--beginning with preliminary rounds today from noon to 6 at the St. Cajetan's Center, 1190 9th St. on the Auraria campus. Final rounds continue next Sunday from 2 to 5 p.m.; admission is free.
Monday February 19 Get in lion: This isn't New York or San Francisco, but that doesn't mean you can't ring in the Chinese New Year among friends. Colorful lion dancers will provide the entertainment, but the main attraction at the Twin Dragon Chinese Restaurant's annual Chinese New Year Celebration will certainly be the food, to be heaped tonight on communal tables for all to enjoy. Twin Dragon, at 3021 S. Broadway, promises cuisine culled from several Chinese provinces. Seating is limited and reservations are required; dinner is $35 per person. Call 781-8068.
Tuesday February 20 Animal dreams: The subject of a fascinating profile by neurologist Oliver Sacks, Temple Grandin, an autistic woman who distinguished herself as an assistant animal-sciences professor at Colorado State University, has now written her own memoir. Grandin, who says her autism has helped her better understand the animals she works with, will speak and autograph copies of the book, Thinking in Pictures, tonight at 7:30 at the Tattered Cover Book Store, 2955 E. 1st Ave. For additional information call 322-7727.
Let the good times roll: The problem with Fat Tuesday is that it falls on a Tuesday, and in Denver, that could cause one to get all dressed up and have no place to go. But the Mackey Gallery, 2900 W. 25th Ave., not only will throw a party tonight, it'll also provide a showy backdrop by presenting Mardi Gras '96, an annual group exhibit of Mardi Gras-inspired works. This year's version features more than sixty artists' visions of their patron saints; it opens tonight at 8 with a costume contest, Cajun food and music by the Johnny Long Band and continues through March 23. You're also invited to put your own saint on display, but it must be delivered beforehand; call 455-1157 for information. Party admission is $5.