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Let me preface this week's column with a small disclaimer: Due to an intense weekend of high-altitude hillbilly-bluegrass madness at Happy Ass Ranch, coupled with the confused sorrow over the loss of the King of Pop, my brain may or may not be firing properly.

Yes, thanks be to the man named Shitty, aka John Holdaway, aka Manitou Music Farm, for bringing together an extremely impressive batch of all-Colorado folk, bluegrass and country-western bands, great sound and the splendor of nature's bounty at the third annual Happy Ass Ranch Bluegrass Festival and Jam. Indeed, a wild hippie weekend was had by all, the high point being a songwriters circle featuring Jason Miller of the Genuwines, Joe Johnson of Creating a Newsense, Mike Clark of the Jack Trades and Inaiah Lujan of the Haunted Windchimes, each taking turns leading the group. Amazing! We are truly blessed to have such great writers among us.

And as far as Michael Jackson goes, I think I'll get over it. The poor kid really died 25 years ago, so it's about time we got around to burying him.

In less depressing news: It may not be a fireworks show, but this weekend marks the 2009 Pikes Peak Arts Festival, running Friday through Sunday at America the Beautiful Park. In addition to the sale and display of work by countless local visual artists, the festival boasts an impressive musical lineup, including The Changing Colors, Edith Makes a Paperchain and Aria Tari, all on Friday night. Saturday offers a more "seasoned" blend, starting at 10 a.m. with the Skylark Rhythms, followed by BJ Estares & Randy Hawke, 21/3 (Twenty One over Three), Mango fan Django, George Whitesell & His All Stars featuring Jill Watkins, and a performance by Futureself Ignite!. Sunday's fun starts at 11 with the Glen Whitehead Quartet, the Alan Joseph Trio, the Brad Bietry Jazz Group, the Steve Draper Trio, Brazilian Jazz Project, the Front Range Small Band and the Ricky Sweum Quartet.

And lastly, due to the overwhelming success of this year's series, the Showcase at Studio Bee is now accepting applications for next year. Brought to us by a diverse partnership of local businesses and organizations including KRCC, the Cultural Office of the Pikes Peak Region, the Independent, KCME, the Gazette, Independent Records and the Pikes Peak Center, the showcase is now being expanded to include bands and musicians from not only El Paso and Teller counties, but Pueblo County as well.

Other requirements include playing "original music," having recordings of "radio quality," appealing to a "broad base of musical tastes," and being "free of any obscenities," which rules me out completely, the bastards. But if you think your band has what it takes to play one of the finest stages in town, acoustically or otherwise, submit a CD, along with the name of your band, complete contact info and a brief band history to the Pikes Peak Center, c/o Studio Bee Showcase, 190 S. Cascade Ave., CS/CO, 80903. For a complete list of requirements, as well as information on last year's showcase (which will wrap up July 16 with a rescheduled performance from Edith Makes a Paperchain and the Electric Illuminati), be sure to check out pikespeakcenter.com/showcaseatstudiobee.

R.I.P. Jacko ... Smell you later.

Send news, pics and reasons why Michael was more of a man than Adam will ever be to facebook.com/adam.leech or adam@csindy.com.

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