Ben Sidran--the same Ben Sidran who played alongside Steve Miller and Boz Scaggs in an early rendition of the Steve Miller Band, the same Ben Sidran who holds a doctorate in American studies, and the same Ben Sidran who's written definitive books about jazz musicians and documentary movie soundtracks and owns his own record label--has, over the years, forged ahead musically while coming full circle personally. The upshot of that journey is the Ben Sidran Quartet, a sort of jazzed-up return to Sidran's Jewish roots. He brings the group, along with local success story Nelson Rangell, to perform outdoors for the Robert E. Loup Jewish Community Center's Sounds of Summer--Music Under the Stars series. The center is at 350 S. Dahlia St.; the concert starts at 7 p.m. on the terrace. For tickets, $12 to $14 (box dinners can be reserved in advance for an additional $5 to $8), call 321-8297.
The annual Denver Rock N' Rhythm-Billy Weekend--fast becoming a summer tradition in Denver--revs up again today for another go, with a deluge of cool apparel, retro 'dos, finger-popping sounds and swingin' dance steps trailing in its poodle-skirted wake. Round-the-clock rock will be provided by an international roster of artists--including headliner Joe Clay, the Netherlands' Ranch Girls, Germany's Ike and the Capers, Sweden's Eddie and the Flatheads, and homegrown artists such as the Horton Brothers, Dave Stuckey and His Western All-Stars, the Sugar King Boys, the Dalhart Imperials, and Mr. Booker and the Swingtette, among others. The fun starts tonight at 6:30 at the Holiday Inn DIA, I-70 and Chambers Rd.; tomorrow's lineup includes a fashion show, a hot-rod display and dance classes and wraps up with another great night of live music. Admission is $35 in advance for a two-day pass (or $20 daily at the door); for more information call Big K Productions, 455-8408.
Next time you're huffing and puffing your way up some mountain pass on your 387-gear streamlined high-tech road bike decked out in those second-skin, fluorescent-yellow microfiber togs, think about the bicyclists of yore, who had to make do with far more basic equipment, whatever the terrain or temperature. The Buonpane Collection, a series of black-and-white archival photographs taken in the 1930s and '40s during the Tour de France, ought to jog your memory nicely. They go on display today at the David Uhl Gallery, 1261 Delaware St. A reception takes place tonight from 5 to 10, and the exhibit continues through July 24; for details call 534-3309.
"One big happy" is an apt description for PHAMALy, Denver's own troupe of physically handicapped actors. This summer the spunky outfit presents The Boy Friend, a musical of the Roaring Twenties with one of those cute mistaken-identity plots that reads like a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta with a Jazz Age beat. It's a cheerful romp that the PHAMALy members promise to attack with the usual elan. The Boy Friend opens tonight at 8 at the Space Theatre, 14th and Curtis in the Plex, and continues through July 26 (including audio-described performances on July 11, 16, 19 and 25); admission ranges from $12 to $15. Call 575-0005 for showtimes and reservations.
There's plenty of pomp and circumstance at the Colorado Renaissance Festival, but there's also lots of plain old fun--really old fun. The annual affair, spread out on the grounds in Larkspur, features all things sixteenth-century, from costumed minstrels and charging jousters to working artisans and vendors hawking those jolly Henry VIII turkey legs for your gnawing pleasure, every Saturday and Sunday through August 2. This weekend has been deemed Wine Revelry Weekend, meaning there'll be an overabundance of free samples and community grape-stomping, to boot. But if you're a kid, fear not: You can still amuse yourself with games or at a petting zoo or crawling about in a two-story maze. To reach the festival, drive south on I-25 to Exit 173; gates open at 10 a.m. and close at 6:30 p.m. daily. Admission is $6 to $12.95 (children under five admitted free); call 1-303-688-6010 or log onto www.coloradorenaissance.com.
Here's a great way to improve your horse sense: The High Prairie Farms Equestrian Center hosts a Hands-On Horses Day at noon today in conjunction with the annual Rocky Mountain Classic Grand Prix, a competition that puts champion jumpers through their paces beginning at 3. Before the main event, you can get up-close and personal with thirty breeds of horseflesh and talk with breeders in the barn, stroll among booths manned by animal-welfare organizations or watch horse-care and riding demos. The center is located at 7522 S. Pinery Dr., Parker, and tickets are $10 (children eleven and under and seniors admitted free); call 841-5550.
When it's too hot to sleep, we suggest going to the movies--the only downside to basking in the dark and cool is the task of finding a movie that will keep you awake. To aid and abet, midnight shows are hoppin' every Friday and Saturday night all summer long at the Mayan Theatre, 110 Broadway, where two eye-opening series--Festival Hong Kong and The Terror Train--are guaranteed to send your adrenaline level off the map. This weekend's acrobatic Hong Kong offering, Dragon Inn, pits a band of upright martial-arts heroes against a depraved eunuch, while the horror bill is filled by the super-violent Cemetery Man. Also playing is The Beyond, Lucio Fulci's gory horror classic, Italian style. Programs change weekly through August 22; call 744-6796.
If you're gonna do the lazy summer Sunday thing, you'd better do it right. A good place to start--or end, to be exact--is in front of the Denver Municipal Band, which plays its old-fashioned mixture of Broadway tunes, soft symphonics and marching-band favorites tonight at 7:30 in Washington Park. Did we forget to mention that it's free? Call 322-8608.
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You've got to love a guy with a record called Man From Mars. The man is none other than blues guitarist Smokey Wilson, and he's the real thing, following in the footsteps of such mentors as Elmore James, Jimmy Reed and the inimitable Howling Wolf. Spend your stormy Monday with Wilson beginning at 8 at the Soiled Dove, 1949 Market St.; for tickets, $7 in advance ($8 day of show), call 830-TIXS.
A drive up to Golden will reap glorious rewards for diehard baseball fans when former Kansas City Monarch Byron Johnson reminisces tonight at 7 at the Golden Pioneer Museum, 923 Tenth St. He'll be there to kick off a free lecture series in conjunction with the museum's current exhibit, The History of Negro League Baseball, on display through the end of August. Future talks take place July 29, August 4 and August 18; call 278-7151 for details. And for the needle-and-thread set, the nearby Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum, at 1111 Washington Ave., Golden, gets into the act, too, with Grand Slam!: 20th Century Baseball Quilts. The exhibit of 33 quilts, which includes fiber-art chest protectors by Indianapolis artist Anne McKenzie Nickolson and Missourian Clara Rothmeir's monumental work featuring appliqued and embroidered images of her favorite players accompanied by 325 actual autographs, remains on display through August 29; call 277-0377.
A little piece of entertainment history comes together with sweeping panache when actor Christopher Plummer hits the stage of the Auditorium Theatre, 14th and Curtis streets, in the title role of Barrymore, William Luce's colorful and humorous portrait of John Barrymore. Plummer, who took a Tony in 1997 for his Broadway portrayal of the legendary stage great, delves smartly into the part. Barrymore opens tonight at 8 and continues nightly except Mondays through August 2; for tickets, ranging from $20 to $55, call 893-4100 or 830-TIXS.
Still looking for ways to beat the heat? How about taking off your clothes, or at least most of them? Beatniks Bagels, 2775 Pearl St., Ste. 105, in Boulder, is hosting a Naked Lunch Contest daily through August 8, which will culminate with the selection of a grand-prize winner. All you have to do is show up for a bagel and a schmear in a creative state of undress (nothing obscene should be showing) and get your picture taken; in keeping with the cafe theme, Beat-culture motifs will gain you points with the judges. For details, call 786-7966.