THRILLS

Wednesday August 3 Fair of the day: There's nothing like a good old country fair for a dose of plain folks, good eats and rip-snorting entertainment, from buckin' broncs and tractor pulls to a sweet helping of country music. You'll find these mundane charms at the Adams County Fair and Rodeo, opening today for five days--filled with all of the above, plus a carnival, visual arts and multicultural performing-arts pavilions, children's events, animal judging, exhibits and much more. Performers throughout the week include Highway 101, Patrick Preston Roller and Bonnie Nelson & the Stateside Express. It all takes place at the Adams County Fairgrounds, one mile west of U.S. 85 on 124th Ave.; exhibit hours are 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, with things wrapping up at 5 p.m. on Sunday. Fair admission is free, but some events and performances require tickets ranging in price from $6 to $7.50. For details call 659-7838 or 659-3666. And if that's not enough for you, there's always the Boulder County Fair, opening Friday in Longmont. For information about that fair, call 772-7170.

Thursday August 4 The body eclectic: You can't exactly call Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown a bluesman, although he does play the blues, nor can you pin him down as a Texas jazz swinger--not when he cuts loose on the fiddle with an out-there version of "Unchained Melody." Whatever he is, the Gate--who is fluent on both guitar and violin--has every American music idiom at his beck and call, and he whips each one off with idiosyncratic panache and a very cool Western wardrobe. Brown holds forth tonight at 9 at the Fox Theatre, 1135 13th St., Boulder. To reserve tickets, $7.35 apiece, call 290-TIXS.

A ball of yarns: A weekend of stories, workshops, social events and more stories is on tap at the Rocky Mountain Storytelling Festival, beginning tonight and ending Saturday in Palmer Lake. The event, headlined by Estefanita Martinez of the San Juan Pueblo in New Mexico, Lafayette tale-teller Pam Faro, Denver author and award-winning yarn-spinner Angel Vigil and many others, kicks off at 7:30 p.m. with Ghost Tales Under the Stars, taking place on the town's Village Green. Events continue throughout the next two days, culminating each night with a storytelling concert. Admission to all festival workshops and events ranges from $40 to $55 per person ($125 family); tickets are also available for single days or evening concerts. Palmer Lake is located off I-25 on Highways 18 or 105; for further information call 1-719-481-3202.

The stuff of dreams: You'll have no trouble believing Lush guitarist Emma Anderson when she says her songs come to her in her sleep. Not when you connect that statement with the British band's sound--a striking, wholly unsoporific onslaught of breathy vocals, shifting atmosphere and sheer texture provided by Anderson and bandmate Miki Berenyi that seems like it could come only from the deep subconscious. Lush will lay that sound on thick tonight at the Ogden Theatre, 935 E. Colfax Ave. Tickets to the 8 p.m., all-ages show are $14; call 830-2525 or 290-TIXS.

Friday August 5 Airto lift: Innovative Brazilian percussionist Airto and facile six-octave vocalist Flora Purim are the heart of Fourth World, a jazz-fusion group with an unstoppable beat that also includes guitarist Jose Neto and keyboardist Gary Meek. Airto, a one-man band who revolutionized the way percussion was used in electric jazz, will preside--as he did in the past with Miles Davis, Joe Zawinul and Chick Corea--on shekere, bata, berimbau and other tongue-twisting instruments, as well as on a more well-known arsenal of drums and shakers, tonight at 8 at the Boulder Theater, 2030 14th St. in downtown Boulder. To purchase tickets, $15, call 786-7030 or 290-TIXS.

Triple decker: A trio of interesting shows, all exploring the collision of language with art, opens tonight at the Boulder Art Center, 1750 13th St., Boulder. The first, Word, is a major effort that includes works by John Buck, Ed Ruscha, Red Grooms, David Hockney, Jenny Holzer and other text-oriented visual artists, and it studies the various ways in which words are used in art--to make political statements, express social commentary, educate or be seen in a purely visual light. Complementing the exhibit on a more personal scale are Clare Forster: Unique Books, a collection of the artist's books, and Travel Pictures, Gary Sweeney's rib-tickling essays on Americana. The shows open with a reception from 5 to 8 p.m. and continue through October 2. Call 443-2122.

Pour on the salsa: There's far too little of it in the Denver area, where norteno, banda and south-of-the-border pop usually dominate the bustling Latin music scene. But Denver's spectrum will take a giant leap tonight when salsero Tony Vega, a premier Latin singer who has worked in recent years with pianist Eddie Palmieri, performs with his own orchestra at the Holiday Inn, I-70 and Chambers Rd. Expect an audience dressed to the nines and ready to rumba. Admission to the 7 p.m. dance extravaganza, also featuring DJ Rico Power, is $18 in advance ($25 at the door); call 360-9757 for ticket information.

Saturday August 6 Python pipers: The name doesn't seem so weird once you realize it was borrowed from an old Monty Python bit. And the music--a bittersweet blend of ringing pop backdrop and introspective lyrics--isn't the least bit weird, not on any count. Santa Barbaran band Toad the Wet Sprocket, which recorded its first album for a mere $650, has survived fame and an MTV push with grace and smarts; the new album, Dulcinea, is, if anything, pared down and honest in delivery. The sparkling quartet will appear tonight at the Ogden Theatre, 935 E. Colfax, for an evening enhanced by these fresh tunes. Tickets for the 9 p.m. concert are $15; call 830-2525 or 290-TIXS for yours.

Sunday August 7 Space is the place: Sci-fi and horror nerds won't be out of place at the ZOWIE Show, but they won't be alone, either. They'll be there to shake hands with television actor Dirk Benedict (Battlestar Galactica and The A-Team) and scream queen Linnea Quigley (Nightmare on Elm Street 4 and Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers), but the rest of us will be there to mull the show's tables, laden with collectible toys, comics and science-fiction-related goodies. And the kids will be there for the Monster Museum, featuring life-size replicas of movie creatures and animatronic monsters of every ilk. Anyone can blast off at the show from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. at the Holiday Inn, I-70 and Chambers Rd. Admission is $4 (children under ten free); call 722-0530 for further details.

Monday August 8 Man on the streets: Denver historian Phil Goodstein is at it again--and his latest tome, Denver Streets: Names, Numbers, Locations, Logic, will clear up all your questions about how our avenues got their monikers and what they might have been called in the first place. Goodstein, who leaves no stone unturned and no gutter unnamed, will be signing copies of the book--which lists at $16.95 but will be available for a bargain price of $15--from 5 to 7 this evening at the DeVine Cafe, 2033 E. Colfax Ave. He'll also appear at the Capitol Hill Ramada Inn, at Colfax and Marion St., on August 13, and at the Castle Marne, 1572 Race St., on August 18--your last chances to snatch up the volume at the special price. For further information or mail orders, call 333-1095.

Tuesday August 9 Creative anachronism: Crescent City wunderkind Harry Connick Jr. released his first major recording at the age of eighteen--an album marked by swinging vocals and fine musicianship all firmly anchored in the Forties, when songs were songs. Since then, the loping, drawling pianist, who was lucky enough to have grown up playing with the best musicians of New Orleans, has topped the charts, won awards, been in the movies and gotten back to his roots. He'll show you how tonight at 7:30, when he appears with his slick new six-piece band, Funky Dunky, at Fiddler's Green, 6350 Greenwood Plaza Blvd. Tickets range in price from $18 to $30; get yours by calling 290-