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It must really suck to be a harp player. There's no eating, unless you're prepared to immediately brush your teeth, because you might get chewed-up nastiness stuck in your harmonica. No drinking, as you have to keep your mouth dry. Therefore, say goodbye to Chapstick, and those kissable lips you dreamed of for so long. Can't get drunk; you have to be focused to fully utilize your throat muscles. Groupies tend to go for the guys with the big guitars, and it's hard to impress your friends when the techniques you've mastered have names like tongueblocking.

Still, when a truly talented blues harp player takes a solo, assists a vocalist or aids and abets a guitarist, people take notice. The melodies produced by those 10 little holes can sound like a freight train, a Hammond B-3 or a moaning woman, depending on the song. A good player seems like he never breathes, he just blows and blows and blows until his ears say enough, and the intricate collection of notes and rhythms hangs over the audience like a heavy lace curtain. That's about the time people start screaming like wildcats and demanding more.

Luckily, Colorado has managed to land three truly kick-ass harp players -- Steve "Homeboy" Williams, "Magic" Dave Therault and new kid in town, Mark Jackson. These guys are each walking encyclopaedias of blues harp knowledge, generous and professional players, exceptional performers and generally just good people. The three have played together, but this weekend's Pikes Peak Big Harp Blowdown and All-Star Harmonica Summit places them all on the same stage backed by promoter Joe Sciallo's band, The Mighty Burners. The combined talent (and personalities) will be an indescribable treat for the ears and eyes, and you will walk away jaw hanging like a codfish.

This is just the first in a series of "best of" nights that Sciallo plans to put on. Check out

www.pcisys.net/ ~jsciallo/blowdown.html for more information about the event and the performers.

-- Kristen Sherwood

capsule

Pikes Peak Big Harp Blowdown

These boys know how to blow  Magic Dave Therault, Mark Jackson and Steve Homeboy Williams
  • These boys know how to blow Magic Dave Therault, Mark Jackson and Steve Homeboy Williams

Encore! Theatre, 10 Old Man's Trail in Manitou Springs (formerly Tajine Alami)

Friday, March 22, 9 p.m. to 1 a.m.

Tickets: $4. Call 471-PLAY.

21 Thursday

The Business of Art Center has seen beyond this bloody wretched weather and into a bright new land of poppies, and lawn gnomes. The new show is Seeds of Change, an art exhibition celebrating gardens. The show is matched with a series of educational workshops for the do-it-yourselfer that stretches into April -- check the listings for more info or call 685-1861. Anyway, the opening reception is today from 1 to 8 p.m. in the Livery/Manitou Art Theater/Garage/Annex/Coachhouse -- whatever the new building is called next to the BAC -- at 515 Manitou Ave.

22 Friday

Encore! Theatre opens their new production tonight at the Dinner Theatre, 10 Old Man's Trail in Manitou Springs (formerly Tajine Alami). Play On is a comedic play-within-a-play, so it's safe to assume you'll get two laughs for the price of one. Tickets are $20 for the show only, $36 plus tax includes meal. Make reservations by calling 471-PLAY. The show runs Fridays and Saturdays, with dinner at 6 p.m. and the show at 7 p.m., through May 11.

The vindication of the hippies is underway in downtown Colorado Springs, where the Utopia Caf has taken root at 116 E. Bijou St. For years, the free-spirited hippie was segregated from the clubs and parks in the center of the old town, gathering instead in Manitou and certain West Side enclaves where their unique bongo music and interesting concepts of free love were gamely tolerated. But now, thanks to a surge in popularity of bohemian lifestyles, patchy pants, hand-blown glass and "jam" bands, the remaining members of area communes have begun to demand acceptance from downtown citizens, organizing and congregating at the Utopia.

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This allows us an exciting glimpse into the rituals of the hippie, from their colorful vestments and language, to their intricate art and mating dances. For three dollars one can gain entry into tonight's bacchanal with West Coast band Local Zero at 9 p.m. (There's a rumor that they may play Saturday, too.) Direct further inquiries to 633-1080.

Project 12:01 gets all angsty with their Gothhas at Industrial Nation, 2106 E. Platte Ave. They appear with Machinegun Symphony and Solitary Sinners at 9 p.m.

23 Saturday

www.twistedhumor.com

Local screenwriter Luke Gheen has created his first stage play, which will be performed this weekend at Pulpit Rock Church, 301 Austin Bluffs Pkwy. Now, let me tell you, this particular church is well known for their innovative attempts at holy coolness -- live music, youth group raves -- so this play will probably appeal to the GenX Jesus in all of us. The Middle Cross tells the story of the crucifixion from a new perspective at 5 p.m. and 7 p.m., then again on Sunday at 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. The show is recommended for ages 8 and up and child care is available. Admission is free. Call 598-6767.

One is dressed in black; one is dressed in white. Who will be the champion? Atomic Elroy is catapulting his performance art in the spotlight once more with I am the Antiartist, in which the Artist and the Antiartist battle each other at Chaos Studios, 802 N. Weber St. As Elroy says, "It is believed that combining these elements is akin to the same reaction as having matter and anti-matter in the same space." Bwa ha ha! Admission is a suggested donation of $5 and the match begins at 8 p.m. Call 634-5429.

Don't knock the whittlers -- in doing exhaustive research for this piece, I learned that woodcarving one of the earliest art forms and has been used to record history worldwide. Look, working with your wood rocks. The Pikes Peak Whittlers have long known the pleasures of woodturning and scroll sawing, and are ready to present the outcome of their long, laborious hours at the annual show, sale and competition this weekend at the Shrine Club, 6 S. 33rd St. Admission is $2; children under 12 are free with an adult. Call 577-9282. The show is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. today and from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday.

Man, he still looks good. Willies on the road again  a makes a pit-stop just for us on Wednesday.
  • Man, he still looks good. Willies on the road again a makes a pit-stop just for us on Wednesday.

26 Tuesday

What kind of anger drove the poor man? Was it a woman? Was it drink? Was it religion? What kind of shocking trauma could have made Steven Scott rip open a piano and enlist his students into beating the wires with savage grace, so many years ago? This horrible flash in history has been long forgot, but Scott's delirium produced a well-respected form of performance music in the end. His Bowed Piano Ensemble, with soprano Victoria Hansen Clamp, will perform Scott's new work, Paisajes Audibles (Sounding Landscapes), in this evening's anniversary concert in Colorado College's Packard Hall, on the southwest corner of Cascade and Cache La Poudre. The 7:30 concert is free. Call 389-6607.

27 Wednesday

Willie Nelson is so hot. I have this picture of him from the early '80s, where he's wearing flared Levi's and old skool Adidas -- Good Lord. He's aged a lot, sure, but the man is still a nice-looking piece. And for someone who's played "On the Road Again" probably 30,000 times, the old pothead has managed to keep his music from getting boring and stale, even after being Rob Thomafyed on his last album, Great Divide. Willie is coming here to support the new release tonight at 7:30. The show is at the City Auditorium, 221 E. Kiowa St., and tickets are $29.50 to $32. Call 520-9090.

-- Kristen Sherwood

Quick Jabs

As a kitsch connoisseur in a world replete with your average crap, imagine my joy when I heard that the world's tackiest television network, Fox, would once again be lowering its already subterranean standards to bring America the first installment of celebrity boxing. Celebrity boxing? Surely the celebrities won't really box, I thought. Well, I was only half wrong, because they did box, but they were just barely celebrities. Here's the bill:

Danny Bonaduce (Danny Partridge) vs. Barry Williams (Greg Brady)

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Robert Van Winkle (Vanilla Ice) vs. Todd Bridges (Willis)

Tonya Harding vs. Paula Jones

That's right! And you were watching West Wing. Hah!

Danny, theoretically free from the chains of substance abuse, yet still appearing insane, landed many left jabs to the thickly padded head of Greg Brady. Greg, who looked like he'd been doing "a lot of reading lately," did a decent job keeping his hands up, and did land a couple of silly looking hooks. He got beat.

Then it was time to see the only interracial battle of the evening. This was between Todd "Boom-Boom" Bridges and Rob "Bi-Polar" VanWinkle, aka, Vanilla Ice -- the choice of the additional moniker threw me off, as I'm sure it did countless other Fox watchers across the country. I mean, I'm as bi-polar as it gets, and I don't have to be in a manic phase to know that "Vanilla Ice" is plenty of nickname for anyone.

This fight was good. Willis showed Vanilla the dark side of show business, and the dark side of his hand, as he repeatedly bitch-slapped Ice's grill. This fight went all three rounds and was a close judge's decision for Willis who threw his hands in the air and waved 'em like the only thing he cared about was the gratuitous dot.com ad scrawled on his back. (Both Bonnaduce and Harding sported similar body billboards.)

Well, the main event was the ladies. Poor Paula Jones. Known only as one of Bubba Bill's many willy girls, she didn't have a chicken's chance at Popeye's to fry ice skating's No. 1 thug, Tonya Harding. By round two, a Paula Jones was turning her back and sort of skipping around in circles being hit in the back of the head by a clearly remorseless Harding. I enjoyed the very pregnant pause after the announcer declared, "Paula Jones goes down!!!" ... But nobody jumped on that one.

All in all this show was a lot better than the Iron Chef but not quite as good as Celebrity Fear Factor, which is on a classy network, like NBC.

--Marc Huebert

capsule

Encore presentation of Celebrity Boxing

On Fox, channel 21

Thurs., March 21, 7 p.m.

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