His and Hersh: The personal and idiosyncratic visions of Kristin Hersh lie in a brilliant heap at the high end of the alternative music spectrum. Whether on her own or with Throwing Muses, as she is this evening at the Bluebird Theater, Hersh intertwines folk, punk and dreamy, poetic sensibilities with guileless skill. The results can be breathtaking. Craig Ross, a Storyville dropout whose strange debut CD Dead Spy Report seems informed but not ruled by the ghost of Marc Bolan and the spirit of Ray Davies, opens the show at 9 p.m.; for tickets, $10, call 830-TIXS. The Bluebird is located at 3317 E. Colfax Ave.
Garden party: If classics among the roses seem an appropriate way to acknowledge summer's end, Theater in the Gardens is the way to go. As if to order, the critically favored Compass Theatre Company descends into the Denver Botanic Gardens outdoor amphitheater, 1005 York St., for four nights of family-style repertory performances. Compass opens tonight at 7:15 with Edmond Rostand's tale of a long-nosed lover, Cyrano de Bergerac, and continues at the same time tomorrow night with Shakespeare's fanciful A Midsummer Night's Dream; the sequence will repeat on September 4 and 5. Admission is $13 ($11 DBG members); picnics and blankets are welcome. To reserve tickets in advance call 777-3836.
Chow, baby: Food, glorious food--and we mean tons of grub--it's the main focus of the Festival of Mountain and Plain...A Taste of Colorado, a sprawling and enormously popular Labor Day weekend tradition for hungry metro-area citizens not eager to brave holiday traffic heading out of town. The annual event at Civic Center Park, Colfax Avenue and Broadway, this year features chow for the masses--from ethnic treats to gourmet tidbits--prepared by fifty area restaurants, along with six stages of continuous entertainment, carnival rides, kids' activities and cooking demonstrations. Mouth starting to water? Just keep these simple words of advice in mind: Pace yourself. Admission to the Taste, taking place from 11 to 11 today through Sunday and from 11 to 9 Monday, is free (food tickets are available for purchase inside the gates); for more information call 478-7878.
Eclectomatic: Garrett Dutton, aka G. Love, is a lot like most other pop musicians--he plays what he grew up with, then gives it a twist. It so happens that the main man in G. Love & Special Sauce grew up with Run-D.M.C. and the Beastie Boys on the blaster. But the Philly native also took a side trip into the down-home, Delta strain of blues preserved by the likes of John Hammond (see Saturday). That kind of eclecticism isn't hard to twist, after all, easily explaining how the funky, bluesy, rootsy rap Love now records might have evolved. You'll have two chances to listen tonight at the Fox Theater, 1135 13th St., Boulder, where Love appears at 7 and 10--the first show is an all-ages affair. Tickets are $12.60; call 447-0095 or 830-TIXS.
A Front Range companion: The fans of Garrison Keillor are a fierce bunch whose radios have for years been tuned religiously on Saturday nights to public radio's resurrected A Prairie Home Companion. And it's no wonder: A deadpan exemplar of the word "wry," Keillor has a singular way with the tall tale and an old-fashioned, provincial wit that borders on--and sometimes plunges into--sentimentality. All this serves as a sort of a warning: When Keillor appears tonight at Fiddler's Green, 6350 Greenwood Plaza Blvd., with a forty-piece orchestra and conductor Philip Brunelle backing him up, the staunch are certain to turn out in legions. If you count yourself among them, get your tickets now. Admission is $22.50 for lawn seating and $27.50 reserved; call 830-TIXS. Concert proceeds benefit public television station KBDI/Channel 12 and Colorado Public Radio station KCFR/90.1 FM.
The pitter patter of little feet: Anyone old enough to locomote--that includes inching, crawling, toddling, falling over and running--is eligible to participate in today's All Kids Run '96, a series of mini-marathons designed for children ages twelve and under being held this morning on the State Capitol's west lawn, just a hop, skip and jump away from A Taste of Colorado. Races, which vary from the 26.2-foot Diaper Derby to a four-lap, mile-long sprint for older small fry, take place between 9:30 and 11 a.m.; an obstacle course, petting zoo, karaoke booth, El Jebel Shrine clowns and other activities and entertainment will be available for kids before and after their heats. Hitch up yer kneepants, kids: Race day registration, $10 per child (funds benefit the Leukemia Society of America), begins at 8 a.m.; for information call 293-8300.
All blues: You could say that the family tree of blues has Robert Johnson for a trunk--certainly the seminal bluesman and mysterious wanderer, who died in 1938 but left a running legacy that hasn't yet played itself out in American music, provided the support for a lot of the tree's branches. Some of his most resolute archivists gather together tonight at Chautauqua Auditorium, 900 Baseline Rd., Boulder, for A Tribute to Robert Johnson, an evening that's part musicology lecture and part raw Delta gutbucket in the Johnson tradition. Featuring archival bluesman John Hammond, country blues traditionalist Rory Block and Robert Jr. Lockwood, Johnson's adopted son and an accomplished jazz-influenced blues musician in his own right, the tribute begins at 8; for tickets, $17 to $22, call 440-7666 or 830-TIXS. A more urbane and electrified brand of the blues can be heard this weekend in the mountains at the Village at Breckenridge Blues Festival, a two-day event featuring top blues artists, including harp blowers Charlie Musselwhite and Junior Wells, guitarists Elvin Bishop and Robben Ford and formidable shouter Koko Taylor. Gates to the Village's mountain arena, located in Breckenridge at the base of Peak 9, open at noon today and tomorrow; for weekend passes, $20-$25 (or $12-$15 daily), call 830-TIXS or 1-970-453-3131 for information. Concertgoers can also enjoy the Gathering at the Great Divide arts and crafts fair, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily through Monday at the Bell Tower Mall parking lot; call 1-970-547-9326.
Barr hopping: Here's an easy way to answer the call of the wild. A series of introductory Barr Lake Nature Hikes will be offered throughout the day today at the state recreation area known for its wildlife. Located at 13401 Picadilly Rd., seven miles southeast of Brighton, the park features grassland, wetland and lake habitats, all of which will be noted during the 50-minute hikes, taking place hourly from 9 to 11 a.m. and at 1 and 2 p.m. Once you're familiar with the history and ecology of the park, a return trip on your own will be a piece of cake. Admission is free, though a $3 daily pass or annual pass is required for all vehicles entering the park. Call 659-6005.
Fire on the mountain: Lucky for you, all those designer stomach acid remedies have gone over-the-counter--they're available in great variety just in time for today's Famous Flamethrowers High Altitude Chili Cookoff, a lip-scorching regional qualifying competition celebrating its eighteenth year at Winter Park Resort. Winning chilis and salsas, judged by expert panels, go on to the World's Championship Chili Cookoff in Reno this October; a 12:30 p.m. Fraser Valley Tasteoff offers laymen such as yourself an opportunity to also slurp and pass judgment on locally made Grand County concoctions. To further ensure a good time for all, several side contests will take place, including a Shoot'N'Holler Competition for noisy people and a Jalapeno Eating Contest for people with big mouths and high hopes. Fees are $25 per entry per division or $65 for those entering all three divisions--red, green and salsa. Taste-off tickets, good while supplies last, are 25 cents each. For information call 780-6564 or 1-970-726-1564.
Outdoor life: Yet another holiday tradition--this one a grade-A rustic adventure in the mountains--returns this afternoon at the woodsy Gold Hill Inn, up yonder above Boulder in the town of Gold Hill. The annual Labor Day BBQ and Dance Party, a sure thing featuring smoked apple-cider brisket and rainbow trout to eat and the Alleygators and Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen to dance to, begins at noon and wraps up at 5, giving you plenty of time to stuff yourself, dance like a fool on the inn's patio and hightail back to town before sundown. Tickets are $10 for music and $10 for food (put ten and ten together...); call 443-6461 for information.
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Four by eight: Eight-string guitarist Charlie Hunter, a virtuoso acid-jazzer who's tired of the acid jazz label, calls the music on his latest CD, Ready... Set...Shango!, which features a familiar funky groove against a more traditional jazz backdrop, "antacid jazz." We can only hope that the brew hasn't lost its fizz when the Charlie Hunter Quartet performs tonight at 8 at the Fox Theater, 1135 13th St., Boulder. Tickets are $10.50; call 447-0095 or 830-TIXS for yours.
Signed, sealed, delivered: Actress/director Emma Thompson chose Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility, and children's book author Judy Blume inscribed the kiddie classic Madeline. And what do you suppose Dave Barry, Johnny Cash or Richard Gere consider a good--nay, inspiring--read? Find out at the Celebrity Book Auction, during which the favorite books of more than 100 famous people, complete with personalized autographs and inscriptions, go on the block to benefit the Rocky Mountain Book Festival. Host Greg Moody of KCNC-TV/Channel 4 oversees the proceedings, beginning at 6:30 at the Wynkoop Brewing Company, 1634 18th St.; for tickets, $10, call 273-5933.
Clear shots: In direct antithesis to popular, stereotyped portrayals of African-Americans in the 1920s and '30s, photographs collected for the touring exhibit A True Likeness: The Black South of Richard Samuel Roberts, 1920-1936 depict both a struggling black underclass and the emergence of an educated middle class. Often compared to famed Harlem photographer James Van der Zee, Roberts took contemplative yet striking, Rembrandt-lit portraits exposing a depth of grace and humanity in his carefully posed subjects--black citizens of Columbia, South Carolina, where he kept a studio for the sixteen years preceding his death. The show opens tonight at the Andrew J. Macky Gallery, located in Macky Auditorium, 17th St. and University Ave. on the CU-Boulder campus, and continues through September 18. Call 492-8423 for details.