Thrills for the week

August 28
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.

August 29
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.

August 30
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.