I know it's early in the year to start casting Best Song of the Year ballots; we've got like 10 months of creative entries to go. But as a favorite redneck slogan once commanded me, No Fear! I'm doing it. The Shins' "Sea Legs," off their new album, Wincing the Night Away, is about as lovely and perfect a song that will ever emanate from your speakers. Hear it live tonight probably at the Fillmore Auditorium (1510 Clarkson St., Denver), where The Shins will play, preceded by Viva Voce and The Giranimals. The show starts at 8, and tickets are $25; visit livenation.com or call the theater at 303/837-0360. MS
"I'll get you, my pretty! And your little cow too!" Yes, that says cow. In the 1902 musical stage version of The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy toted, um, led, around a cow because Toto was thought to be too small to be seen from the balcony. The Damon Runyon Repertory will be sticking with a more conventional version of the classic. (You know, filled with talking scarecrows, flying monkeys and munchkins.) Catch the show at 7 p.m. at the Runyon Theater (611 N. Main St., Pueblo). It's also showing at 7 p.m. tomorrow, and Feb. 23-24. Sunday matinees are offered at 2 p.m., Feb. 18 and 25. Tickets run $10-22; with dinner, $32. For more, call 719/564-0579 or visit runyontheater.org. KA
What's your neighbor doing with 10 pounds of andouille sausage? Let's hope he's taking part in the Mumbo Jumbo Gumbo Cook-Off, kicking off today's Carnivale festivities in Manitou Springs. The cook-off, featuring professional and amateur divisions, starts at 11 a.m. at Manitou's Soda Springs Park, and you can get two tastings for a buck for as long as the gumbo lasts. At 1 p.m., the Carnivale parade will leave from the park, and anyone who wants to walk needs just a costume. The following prizes will be given: best kid's costume; best musical costume; judge's choice; and, finally, best use of theme, which this year is "With a Little Help from my Friends." Manitou's Chamber of Commerce is happy to answer any questions; call 685-5089. KW
Maybe it's time to read Frederick Douglass' autobiography again. Fred Morsell has been so inspired by the story of Douglass' escape from slavery and his first years of freedom that he's performed as the writer, orator and abolitionist for almost 20 years. At 2 p.m. today, the Pikes Peak Library District brings the accomplished actor to town in honor of Black History Month. Come to East Library (5550 N. Union Blvd.) to see Morsell take Douglass from his childhood on a plantation to his growth into a 19th-century hero. It's free; visit ppld.org for more on this program, and other Black History Month happenings. KW
Everybody is a little tired of the two-party political system, but there is nowhere to turn. Wait, is that ... it is! Ralph Nader's in Denver to sign and discuss his new book, The Seventeen Traditions. You probably know Nader from recent presidential elections, or from the more than 100 civic organizations he has founded or organized. Nader will appear at 7:30 tonight at the Tattered Cover LoDo (16th and Wynkoop streets, Denver). His book will be available for purchase but the event is free. Call 303/436-1070 or visit tatteredcover.com for more information. CS
STAND! Now start heading towards the CC campus. Have a seat and listen to Rebecca Tinsley present "Never Again? Why Genocide Happens in the 21st Century. " The event will take place in the Bemis Great Hall (920 N. Cascade Ave.) and is sponsored by the student group STAND (Students Taking Action Now: Darfur). Tinsley, a humanitarian and journalist for BBC News, will discuss her experiences in Sudan and how the conflict fits into a modern historical perspective. The talk begins at 7:30 tonight and is free to all, and if you want to know more, call 389-6607. CS
According to its Web site, the nationally touring, St. Louis-based Bottoms Up Blues Gang has averaged 275 shows a year over the past five years. My guess is that kind of commitment involves quite a dedicated support network of dog walkers, cat feeders and plant waterers. And, geez, how do you ever get through a gallon of milk before it spoils if you're never home? Ask them how they do it between 9 and 1 tonight at Southside Johnny's (528 S. Tejon St.). Admission to hear the band's Delta blues, soul, jazz and R&B fusion is gratis; call 444-8487 for more. MS
This week's 7 Days contributors: Kirsten Akens, Matthew Schniper, Colin Stroud and Kirk Woundy.