A good sign: Novelist Larry Brown--one of our finest fiction writers, if not the most well-known--tells powerful, straightforward stories wrung artfully from the pith and bedrock of human experience. His sixth novel, Father & Son, a good-versus-evil parable set in small-town Mississippi, is now being touted as his best and should provide for stimulating reading tonight at the Tattered Cover Book Store, 2955 E. 1st Ave. Brown appears and signs copies of the book at 7:30; for details call 322-7727.
Tune up: Two of the region's most accomplished classical-music ensembles kick off their respective seasons tonight, each with a touch of fire and flare. Tonight at CU-Boulder's Macky Auditorium, the Boulder Philharmonic opens with international star Pepe Romero, a virtuoso Spanish classical guitarist with one impassioned foot planted firmly in sultry flamenco traditions, as guest soloist. Romero, who comes from a family of guitarists, will exhibit his Iberian flash on "Concierto de Malaga," a work composed by his talented father, Celedonio Romero; for tickets, $9 to $31, call 449-1343. Opening its season tonight with a sparkly black-tie gala (cocktails, auction and dinner beginning at 5:30; post-concert dessert and dancing at 10:30), the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, led by conductor Marin Alsop, steps back in time for Radio Rhapsody, a fun re-creation of a 1930s radio broadcast complete with big-band music and commercial jingles. Scheduled at 8:30 tonight, 7:30 tomorrow and 2:30 Sunday at Boettcher Hall, 14th and Curtis in the Plex, the nostalgic program features the dance music of Denver big-band leader Paul Whiteman. For concert-only tickets, ranging from $5 to $38, call 986-8742 or 830-TIXS; or call 595-4915 for concert-inclusive tickets for tonight's gala, $120 to $250.
Put it on: The only problem with shopping at this year's Wearable Art Extravaganza III, opening tonight at the Art of Craft, 1736 Wazee St., is one of practicality: The one-of-a-kind apparel displayed is almost too pretty to wear, as deserving of space in your curio case or fine-art collection as it is worthy of covering your back. But what the hell! Reach out and touch the stuff of dreams--hand-painted silks, finely woven shawls, chic chapeaus, fanciful recycled textiles and gorgeous accessories, including scarves, ties and leather handbags--at an opening reception tonight from 6 to 9, or come back and check out the inventory on the sly, through November 3. After all, you only live once, so why not wear it well? For information call 292-5564.
Hot time in the old town: If the Colorado State Fair's cows, pigs, bucking broncs and country music weren't enough to entice you down south on I-25 this summer, Pueblo's Chile y Frijole Festival might just do the trick. Commencing tonight with a street dance beginning at 7, the fest continues through the weekend, featuring an authentic 1840s El Pueblo Trading Post, nonstop entertainment, chile cooking and jalapeno-eating contests, more dancing and a harvest-season farmer's market, all at 1st and Grand streets, smack in the middle of downtown Pueblo. Admission is free (Fandango street-dance tickets on Friday and Saturday nights, $5); for additional information call 1-800-233-3446.
Arts and crafts: Though it often seems like a different continent, Boulder is less than an hour's drive from Denver; it's a fun and different place to go in a short period of time. So take a vacation and make a cultural weekend of it. Start out by treating your eyes to Open Studios '96, a monster self-guided tour of artist studios throughout the area (including some stunning mountain sites). A spiral-bound directory/catalogue--available for $10 at the Tattered Cover in Denver, the Ideal Market in Boulder or the Boulder Library Gift Shop--leads you on the excursion, which includes a diverse sampling of 105 sculptors, woodworkers, glassblowers, weavers, jewelers, photographers and other fine artists. In addition, one work by each artist will be on display at the Boulder Public Library, 1000 Canyon Blvd., through September 29. Open Studios begins today from 11 to 5 and continues tomorrow and next weekend; call 444-1862. Later, you'll be all ears at the Boulder Blues Festival, a two-day blues-a-thon serving up a good helping of national and local acts. The festival begins tonight with 7:30 and 11 p.m. shows at the Fox Theatre, 1135 13th St., Boulder, featuring genre-tripper Taj Mahal, whose concerts double as tuneful lectures in American ethnomusicology, and local artist Mary Flower. Flower also kicks off tomorrow's free Blues Blast at 11 a.m. in Boulder's Central Park. After her set, an ongoing sampling of Colorado blues and gospel musicians continues through 6 p.m.; the music wraps up tomorrow night at 8 at the Boulder Theater, 2030 14th St., with a disparate pair of stylish guitarists--urban electric specialist Duke Robillard and country blues traditionalist Keb' Mo'. Call 830-TIXS for evening concert tickets, $17.85 for Saturday or $15.75 for Sunday; a special $29 two-night ticket can also be purchased by calling 637-8934, ext. 4.
Art for art's sake: If representational art is your cup of tea, some of the nation's best examples--by over seventy painters and sculptors from across the country--go on display at the Artists of America invitational exhibition and sale, opening with a patron party tonight at 6:30 at the Colorado History Museum, 1300 Broadway. The black-tie-optional gala, which offers collectors a first opportunity to buy exhibition works, costs $135; the show opens to the public tomorrow and continues at the museum through October 27. Also debuting this weekend is the Denver Art Museum's brand-new Adventures in Art education center, offering state-of-the art education facilities for children and adults. A flurry of activities are scheduled today and tomorrow in conjunction with the opening, including drop-in hands-on projects for families, live music, and the first viewing of Have You Ever Seen a Rainbow at Night?, a new museum exhibition of artworks by Navajo children. Admission to the museum, located at 100 W. 14th Ave. Pkwy., is free all weekend; call 640-4433.
Truth or Dar: Any folk fan worth his or her salt can't miss an opportunity to see Dar Williams, a natural talent widely considered to be this year's model in the original acoustic-music world. She's no flash in the pan, though--her impressive pipes, mild politicism and contemporary songwriting chops have all had something to do with her overnight vault into the public eye. Williams struts her stuff tonight at the Bluebird Theater, 3317 E. Colfax Ave.; another contender for the folkie limelight, Richard Shindell, opens the show at 8. Tickets are $11 to $13; call 1-800-444-SEAT.
High style: There's no secret to Tony Bennett's enduring popularity--he sings, he swings, and he's one cool dude. Bennett will perform tunes from Here's to the Ladies, a recent CD tribute to his female vocal compatriots, as well as those Tony Bennett standards we all know and love, in posh surroundings at the Buell Theatre, 14th and Curtis in the Plex, tonight at 8. From "Fly Me to the Moon" to "I Left My Heart in San Francisco," that makes for one smooth catalogue of hits. Admission is $32.50 and $40; call 830-TIXS.
Be here now: You live here, for better or worse--so do you know which Denver bands are best? The Westword Music Awards Showcase makes it easy by showing off over three dozen top-notch nominees at LoDo venues tonight beginning at 6. The admission price--five bucks for your carte blanche wristband--not only entitles you to hear the best, but also authorizes you to vote for your personal favorites. See the insert in this issue for a complete schedule, or call 296-7744 for more details.
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Dark shadows: Stark images in black and white, augmented by gritty plots and sultry sirens, provide the fuel for the Boulder Public Library's Streets of Darkness: The World of Film Noir, a celebration of the dusky, stylized cinematic genre that's inspired entire generations of filmmakers since its genesis in the 1940s. Tonight's 7:30 offering, Charles Vidor's Gilda, stars Glenn Ford as the protagonist and sex symbol Rita Hayworth as the dame; future screenings, which continue on Monday nights through the end of November, include such enduring classics as I Wake Up Screaming, Night and the City and Force of Evil. The BPL Auditorium is located at 1000 Canyon Blvd., Boulder; admission is free. Call 441-3197.
Ready to rumble: Even the most curmudgeonly detractor of musical theater has to reserve a soft spot for West Side Story, the jazzy, sophisticated, award-winning resetting of Romeo and Juliet in modern times created by composer Leonard Bernstein with librettist Arthur Laurents, lyricist Stephen Sondheim and choreographer Jerome Robbins. Tony falls for Maria, and the Jets take on the Sharks once again when a new touring version pulls into town, beginning tonight at 8 at the Buell Theatre, 14th and Curtis in the Plex. Performances continue daily except Mondays, through October 6; for showtimes and tickets, ranging from $15 to $50, call 893-4100 or 830-TIXS.
Doig in: If you still think of Montana as a big, empty rectangle of nothing on the U.S. map, you obviously haven't read Ivan Doig, an author whose lyrical works are steeped in Big Sky's prairified heart and soul. Doig--whose acclaimed recent book Bucking the Sun is centered on the building of the Fort Peck Dam--appropriately appears as the Center of the American West's 1996 Distinguished Lecturer tonight at 7 at the Denver Athletic Club, 1325 Glenarm Place. His talk, "Makings: Trying to Put the West Together," will explore how writers of the West incorporate historical events in their works. Admission to the lecture is free and open to the public; for information call 492-4879.
Sneak peek: Here's a sure antidote for the mid-week blahs--Denver Delivers, a benefit for the Volunteers of America Meals on Wheels for People With AIDS program, offers a full evening of LoDo art and eats for a blanket 25-buck donation. A well-rounded smattering of downtown restaurants joins forces with galleries for the event, during which participants can wend their way from place to place, schmoozing and perusing, between 5 and 9, filling up all the while on a variety of soups, salads, appetizers, wine, microbrews and other wet stuff. Begin and end your gallery waddle at the Tattered Cover LoDo, 1628 16th St., or Wynkoop Brewing Company, 1634 18th St. (both will provide coffee, dessert and beverages). To purchase tickets in advance, call 297-0408.