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February 19
Amazing grace: No one these days gets closer to the wellspring of bluegrass than Del McCoury, a veteran of Bill Monroe's Bluegrass Boys whose only professional wish is to keep the Monroe flame burning forever. For McCoury, that's a family affair: When the guitarist with the high, lonesome voice performs, he's flanked by talented sons Ronnie and Rob on mandolin and banjo. And as a unit, the McCoury clan turns on the passion and virtuosity in a way old Bill must really appreciate up there in Hillbilly Heaven. The circle remains unbroken tonight at 8 when McCoury and band play at the Boulder Theater, 2030 14th St., Boulder; for tickets, $15.75, call 786-7030 or 449-6007.

February 20
Major hangups: Periods, styles and cultural icons clash with thrift-store kitsch and visual panache in the side-by-side works of Jeff Starr, Matt O'Neill and Eric Zimmer, all of whom wreak havoc with art and pop history. The artists connect--each in his own way--in Love Agenda, a joint exhibition opening with a reception tonight from 6 to 9 at Rule Modern & Contemporary, 111 Broadway. The show continues through April 3; call 777-9783.

Western stars: The way folks are mixing things up these days, it's getting hard to tell country from punk rock. But that's not necessarily a bad thing. The Old 97's will put just the right amount of rebel twang into their stage show tonight at 8 at the Bluebird Theater, 3317 E. Colfax Ave.; for tickets, $6, call 322-2308 or 830-TIXS.

A little more trad but no less finger-poppin' good is San Diego's jumpin' retro dance trio the Hot Club of Cowtown, sharing the bill with Denver's own Dalhart Imperials at a Western Swing Hoedown at the 15th Street Tavern, 623 15th St. Wear your best vintage togs; the music starts at 10 p.m., and admission is a mere $5. Call 455-8408.

February 21
In the snow: Not even the staunchest non-skier has to let his or her muscles rot during winter--there are other ways to stretch them when the drifts reach chest-deep. Snowshoeing, a sport growing in popularity by the minute, is something almost anyone can at least try during the Winter Trails Weekend taking place in and around Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park. Park staff will be on hand to keep adventurers abreast of weather conditions and safety tips, and an equipment demo will introduce the gear. A multitude of guided snowshoe hikes start from Hidden Valley Snow Play Area, Glacier Basin Campground and Bear Lake between 9 and 4 today and 9 and 1 Sunday. Some of the hikes require advance reservations; for information or to book a hike, call 1-970-586-1223.

Meanwhile, things run hot and cold today at the Aurora Reservoir Fire and Ice Festival, a big mess of dead-winter outdoor events under one banner. Center stage--or center lake, actually--is a free ice-fishing competition open to anyone who has the gumption to cut a hole in the ice and toss a line in the reservoir; that's today between 6:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. Other activities, including snowshoeing, ice skating, toboganning, hayrides, dogsledding and much more, will keep everyone else busy from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Fishermen--and the rest of you--will have no trouble keeping warm: Heated tents, flaming barrels and a bonfire will all be open and raging for those in need of a hand- or foot-warming; hot chocolate and a red-hot Chili Challenge ($1 for five sampling cups) will provide some inner heat. You'll find the reservoir two miles east of Gun Club Road on Quincy Ave.; call 690-1286.

Get out your handkerchiefs: Coy gypsy girl sticks it to lovesick army boy--if you don't understand the libretto, that's all you really need to know about Bizet's beloved and soapy opera Carmen. The impassioned music and swirling pageantry take care of the rest. Opera Colorado stages the red-hot musical tale of love and revenge beginning tonight at 7:30 at the Buell Theatre, 14th and Curtis in the Plex; additional performances take place February 24 and 27 and March 1. For tickets, ranging from $15 to $119, call 830-TIXS.

February 22
Life is a cabaret: The Robert E. Loup Jewish Community Center's continuing cultural series The Beautiful and the Banned plays a double-header tonight, with a new exhibit, Left/Right: The Nazi Attack on Modern Art, opening at 7 in the Singer Gallery, and a concert, Decadence! Weimar Cabaret, Paris Jazz and Dada, with the Colorado Chamber Players, following at 8 in the center's Shwayder Theater. The art exhibit, composed of work designated entartete kunst (or degenerate art) by the Nazis, as well as emigre artworks inspired by the genre, features paintings, drawings, sculpture and photography by a who's-who roster of artists from both sides of the Atlantic, including Joseph Albers, Herbert Bayer, Max Beckmann, Wassily Kandinsky, Emil Nolde, Kathë Kollwitz. The concert highlights cabaret songs by the likes of Erik Satie, Arnold Schoenberg and Darius Milhaud. The center is located at 350 S. Dahlia St.; to reserve concert tickets, $8 to $10, call 321-8297.

Teach your children: Teams of local high-school students are polishing up their pan-African chops for today's final rounds of the Colorado P.A.N.D.A. Games, a Jeopardy-like event taking place from 2 to 5 at St. Cajetan's Events Center on the Auraria campus. The lucky winners, who must correctly answer questions on subjects ranging from African geography to African-American literature, will bag trophies and scholarship money. The games are open to the public; admission for spectators is free.

February 23
Let the good times roll: Welcome Fat Tuesday with a flair tonight at the Colorado Dance Festival Mardi Gras Eve Party, a CDF fundraiser with all the right N'awlins-style elements. From 6:30 p.m. to midnight at Redfish New Orleans Brewhouse, 2037 13th St., Boulder, the CDF will serve up authentic Creole cuisine and dance music with the Zukes of Zydeco; more uncustomary fare includes a traditional Dixieland funeral parade led by members of the Frequent Flyers Dance Theatre, an art-mask auction and fanciful custom face-painting by artiste Mysto the Magi. No one says you have to wear a costume, but then again, you might feel naked without one; to reserve tickets, $25, call 442-7666.

Spinal tap: Got a bone to pick? Give it a rest--the indescribable gumbo that is Fishbone will turn you right side out again. The eclectic L.A. combo, still partying after more than ten years in the limelight, brings its potent blend of punk, funk, ska, rock and anything else you could possibly ask for to the Fox Theatre, 1135 13th St., Boulder. Hip-hoppers 2 Skinnee J's open for the 'bones at 9; admission to the all-ages show is $12.75. Call 443-3399 or 830-TIXS.

February 24
In the food: Get ready to loosen your belts--Great Chefs of the West is back, in all its overstuffed glory. Hooray for Hollywood!, this year's culinary benefit for the National Kidney Foundation, features edibles from Jax Fish House, Mel's Bar and Grill, Starfish, Strings, European Cafe and plenty of other local chow temples, as well as samples of liqueurs and microbrews. Cocktails and a flashy silent auction kick things off at 5:30 at the Marriott City Center, 1701 California St.; the food fest begins at 6:30. Admission is $75; call 713-1523, ext. 17, for reservations.

February 25
Put a lid on it: Comedy's high priest of pot Tommy Chong, who cracked up the counterculture with wacky self-created characters such as Blind Melon Chitlin, Harry Palms and Laid Back Lenny, says: "No way!" Unlike his cleaned-up former partner, Cheech Marin, who now runs with glamour boy Don Johnson on prime-time television, Chong sticks doggedly to the material that made him famous. He brings his fun-loving and gently topical style to the Comedy Works, 1226 15th St., for shows at 7:30 and 9:30 nightly, today and tomorrow. General-admission seating is $17.50 ($20 reserved); call 595-3637.


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