Queen of the roost: Once upon a time, all she wanted to do was have some fun, and she did--but former back-up singer Sheryl Crow has come full circle to settle comfortably on a music-business pedestal reserved for few artists, especially female ones. Now she's running her own show--writing the songs, fronting the band and selling a heck of a lot of albums. And in concert, Crow's a crowd-pleaser--not just cute, but classic and gutsy, too, with sharp lyrics and the tone of someone who's been around the block. When she does her smart-girl thing tonight at Red Rocks amphitheater, Crow should be a match for the spectacular surroundings. Opening act Wilco--Jeff Tweedy's good-natured country-rock bar band turned Seventies pop-music jukebox--gives Crow ample support from the git-go, along with songsmith Michael Penn. The show starts at 7; for tickets, $22.50 or $25, call 830-TIXS.
Chow, baby: Last chance to kick back, folks, and there's no better way to do that than with the incredible edibles, round-the-clock free music and myriad activities available at the annual Festival of Mountain and Plain...A Taste of Colorado, the outdoor summer party to end them all. The Labor Day weekend fest features an endless parade of late-summer pleasures--food from over fifty area restaurants, an art market, a kids' carnival midway, living-history demonstrations and every kind of music imaginable, made by local and national acts (Richard Marx, Dave Koz, Loverboy, Maria Muldaur and 10,000 Maniacs are the festival's headliners)--spread out all over Civic Center Park, smack dead in the middle of Denver at Broadway and Colfax, beginning at 11 daily, today through Monday. Live a little: Admission is free, so you can save your pennies for the feast. Call 478-7878.
Celebrity cyber: Back in the dark ages--say, around 1981--author William Gibson coined the term "cyberspace," ushering in the language of a future that appears to have now arrived. These days, virtual reality is a way of life, and like it or not, we're probably not that far from getting those chips implanted in our brains, just like they were in Gibson's groundbreaking 1980 sci-fi noir, Neuromancer, no doubt penned by firelight in a cave somewhere before half the world was plugged into a mainframe. The prophetic author's latest, Idoru, digs into hypermedia--sort of a futuristic cyber-cousin of the MTV generation--with the usual dark effect; Gibson will appear tonight at 7:30 at the Tattered Cover Book Store, 2955 E. 1st Ave., to discuss and sign the book, now out in paperback. Call 322-7727 for more information.
Live on arrival: Every new hip generation has to have someone to represent its youthful angst. The group coming of age these days is Live, an East Coast quartet with a gift for songwriting that reflects the inner agony of its constituents better than most. If that sounds dreary, then maybe the music isn't for you, but the thousands who've shelled out for Live's best-selling CDs can't be all wrong. For them, it won't be a downer at all when Live electrifies Red Rocks tonight at 7, with help from openers Luscious Jackson and Jimmie's Chicken Shack. All seats are $22.50 (plus the usual seat taxes, service charges and such); call 830-TIXS. And put on an anguished face.
Matters of art: Uh-oh. Did your brain forget to come back from that vacation? Give it a boost--remind it that art never takes a week off. While you went fishin' this summer, local galleries continued to pump out fresh exhibits designed to keep you out of the dog-day doldrums. Well, summer's almost over and it's Saturday afternoon--what are you waiting for? Exercise your options--and your mind--and take in some culture:
In LoDo, the Robischon Gallery, 1740 Wazee St., has gathered together a fine passel of artists whose works are based either on narrative or architectural themes. The resulting show, Stories, is a not only a play on the title, but also a cosmopolitan blend of the word's dual meanings as well as abstract and representational images. The show features Lydia Buzio's sculptural wood wall pieces, an installation from Don Stinson, surreal works from Colorado artists Wes Hempel and Jack Balas, and Barbara Kruger's large-scale lithographic series among its varied offerings. The exhibition ends September 6; for information or gallery hours call 298-7788.
If you're heading down the Broadway corridor looking for fine art, make a point of stopping before you're too late. Abstraction is the focus at Rule Modern and Contemporary, 111 Broadway, where contemporary works by Sean Hughes, Bruce Price and Christina Snouffer hang through tomorrow; a catch-all show by gallery artists including Herbert Bayer, Roland Detre, George Rickey, Sushe Felix and many others also wraps tomorrow at the nearby Inkfish space, 116 S. Broadway. For information call Rule, 777-9473, or Inkfish, 715-9528.
ILK, an artist-run gallery working out of two different spaces, pays homage to its gurus with a Mentors Show, opening tonight at 554 Santa Fe Dr. Fifteen ILK members each invited an admired artist to exhibit work in the show, giving new insights into the inspirational power of influences. A reception takes place from 7 to 11; the gallery is normally open from 7 to 10 Fridays and from 1 to 5 Saturdays and Sundays. Call 615-5725.
And at the Arvada Center, 6901 Wadsworth Blvd., no less than three thought-provoking shows are currently on display. Clark Richert's take on minimalism, Unfolding the Vacuum: A Series of Painted Diagrams, works on the simple premise of building something--in this case, layered dimensional images built up particle by particle--from nothing. In the center's Lower Galleries and surrounding outdoor grounds, sculpture primarily in steel by Russell Beardsley, Andrew Libertone, Robert Mangold and Carl Reed will stand together for STEEL: Nature and Space, a delicious walk-around for people who like to look at more than one side of the story. Then Taos Today: Contemporary Taos Artists looks south for a thoroughly modern, curated view of work being done in and around the northern New Mexican artists' enclave. The Richert and sculpture shows can be viewed at the center through November 16, while the Taos exhibit closes September 28; call 431-3939.
Double shot: You don't have to be Superman to compete in today's Colorado Summer Biathlon at Snow Mountain Ranch near Winter Park, but it would help for you to be able to run and shoot. The event, a 5K run split by two target-shooting stops, is open to all--in fact, even though experienced biathletes will compete, beginners are especially welcome, and equipment will be provided. Prior rifle certification is required for race-day registration; for those not so authorized (in other words, if you know you can run but aren't so sure you can shoot), a free, mandatory certification clinic takes place at the ranch at noon Saturday, August 30. The main event begins today at 11; the race-day entry fee is $18. Call 315-5981 for additional information; for general info on summer biathlon events, call 1-802-862-0360. Snow Mountain Ranch is 75 miles west of Denver on U.S. 40 between Winter Park and Granby.
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On the wall: Are you too old for the drive-in but not quite ready to settle in with a VCR for the rest of your life? The Boulder Almost Free Outdoor Cinema series melds the best of both worlds: the strange communal camaraderie and B-movie fare of the drive-in with the homey informality of couch-potatoville. Films are projected outdoors on the wall behind the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art (proceeds benefit the museum), with a crowd gathering breezily at dusk in the parking lot, 1450 14th St., Boulder, on lawn chairs and other furniture brought from home. Costumes are encouraged, as are comments from the peanut gallery, and awards are given for originality. Tonight's screening pairs a silent classic, Nosferatu the Vampire, with live, weird music provided by Arkestra Pirata--not a bad deal at all for your $5 donation. Silent-cinema buffs will want to return next Saturday, when the series throws a Charlie Chaplin Festival with local musician Art Lande at the keyboard. Ice cream, popcorn and sodas are available at the site, and alcohol, smoke, cars and pets are all prohibited, making this a swell summer's-end family outing. Call 443-2122.
Fruits of labor: Weather willing, you'll get both blue skies and a good, long whiff of pure mountain air at the Gold Hill Inn's Labor Day BBQ, a relaxed afternoon fandango featuring unceremonious patio ambience, a mouth-watering menu that includes pan-fried catfish, jambalaya, red beans, corn on the cob and more, and a melange of Cajun and folkie-girl-group elan provided by the Colorado Cajun Dance Band, the rip-roaring Zukes of Zydeco and the harmonizing, thrift-shopping Velveeta Sisters to keep things lively. The fun takes place from noon to 5; admission is $10 for the music only ($10 additional if you plan to pig out). Take Sunshine Canyon west from Boulder to reach rustic Gold Hill. For details call 443-6461.
Spouting off: Everybody's got an opinion, but only Larry the Cable Guy has the guts (or stupidity) to voice one about practically anything. This week he invades Larimer Square for five days, during which you can bet he'll be venting hilarious political incorrectness from the perspective of a redneck cable installer who sees the world through beer-colored glasses. Larry performs tonight at 8 at the Comedy Works, 1226 15th St. For information on prices, tickets and times, call 595-3637.
3Four on the floor: They didn't write the book of love, but they certainly had a hand in penning the book on doo-wop: Street-corner music, already a rich byproduct of urban American culture, lives on in the sound of the Persuasions, an a cappella wonder that preserves one of the greatest and most fundamental rhythm-and-blues traditions with its astonishing harmonies and vocal pyrotechnics. The amazing thing is that there are only four Persuasions, and they travel light, with only their lovely voices to carry the rhythm and melody. The group performs tonight at 8 at the Bluebird Theater, 3317 E. Colfax Ave.; for tickets, $9, call 322-2308 or 830-