This Week's Day-by-Day Picks

Thursday, January 29
There could hardly be a better match-up to usher in 2004 for Rage in the Cage fans: Homer "The Rock" Moore versus Vince "The Bull" Lucero, two formidable fighters who haven't faced off in almost two years. The mixed martial arts cage fighting card also features Bryan "The Machine" Pardoe against Mike "The Viking" Rainieri, Cory Timmerman against Lemuel Vincent, and Hans Marrero fighting Tommy Gouge. Also new for the new year is the event's venue, Graham Central Station at 7850 South Priest in Tempe. Tickets are $20 for general admission and $30 for VIP seats; the first 300 fans get a free tee shirt. For details visit www.rageinthecage.com.

Friday, January 30
Like Pop Art forebear Andy Warhol, who exalted the lowly Campbell's soup can from grocery store to gallery wall, post-Pop painter Burton Morris renders familiar images -- Uncle Sam, M&Ms, King Kong -- with blazingly colored precision. While his paintings are usually found in private collections, Morris' commercial work is quite accessible; projects have included a splashy redesign of the Perrier bottle and the official 76th Academy Award commemorative poster. And if you've ever watched an episode of Friends -- who hasn't? -- you've surely spotted one of his bold works hanging on the cafe wall. This weekend, Thomas Charles Galleries kicks off its grand opening at Kierland Commons with an exhibition of Morris' latest paintings that runs through February 29. The artist himself will be on hand for the opening reception, from 6 to 10 p.m. Friday, January 30, as well as from 1 to 4 p.m. and 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday, January 31, and noon to 3 p.m. Sunday, February 1. Kierland Commons is located at the northeast corner of Scottsdale and Greenway roads in Scottsdale. Call 480-556-0100 to find out more.

Saturday, January 31
Usually, a strong latte with sugar is what we crave when we need a pick-me-up from Lux Coffee Bar. But on Saturday, January 31, the central Phoenix hangout offers another jolt, something even hotter: live belly dancing from Ava Fleming and the Black Opal Dance Company. Starting at 8 p.m., the troupe's 12 dancers -- all knockouts -- perform an exciting mix of both classical Egyptian and contemporary belly dances. If the combination of caffeine and choreography isn't enough to get you wired, you'll have to check your pulse. Admission is free at Lux, 4404 North Central. To find out more, visit www.avafleming.com or call 602-502-6909.

Sunday, February 1
Glorious, sunny skies, blooming flowers and warm temperatures -- only in Arizona can you kick off springtime this early in the year. To celebrate exactly that, the Desert Botanical Garden launches its spring concert series, Music in the Garden, on Sunday, February 1, with live blues from the Big Pete Pearson Band. Starting at noon every Sunday through March (except March 21), the event features live entertainment from top Valley musicians in the serenely exotic desert surroundings of the garden's Ullman Terrace. Upcoming dates feature the Guitar Brothers (February 8), Trinidad Calypso (February 15), the Charles Lewis Quintet (February 22), the Swingtips (February 29), the Blaise Lantana Quartet (March 7), the William Eaton Ensemble (March 14), and Mex-Sal (March 28). General-admission tickets are $10 for members, $16 for nonmembers, $8 for kids ages 3 to 12, and free for those younger. Advance purchase is recommended; call 480-941-1225 or visit www.dbg.org for information. The garden is located at 1201 North Galvin Parkway.

Monday, February 2
Back in the days before movies came with state-of-the-art sound effects and a Top 40 soundtrack -- heck, before they had any sound at all -- a theater's organ accompanist provided the effects and music that complemented the onscreen action. Luckily, the art form still survives in the Valley, thanks to organist Ron Rhode (best known for his performances at the Orpheum Theatre), who plays along to Silent Comedy Shorts featured at GateWay Community College on Monday, February 2. The 6 p.m. screening includes All Night Long from 1924, starring Harry Langdon as a former World War I soldier who reminisces about his war days with his former sergeant, and The Rinkfrom 1916, a roller-skating romp starring Charlie Chaplin. Admission is free at the Health Careers Education Auditorium on the GateWay campus, located at the intersection of 40th Street and Washington. For further details, contact Donald Hall at 602-286-8730.

Tuesday, February 3
Every musical subculture has a core of purists who insist on historical accuracy in both style and sound. If you've lately seen crowds of twentysomethings dressed to the hilt in 1950s fashions, then you'll know that the rockabilly world is especially prone to this. So on Tuesday, February 3, the hot-rod crowd will be shakin' all over when Deke Dickerson and the Ecco-Fonics perform an electrifying show of rockabilly's finest. But Dickerson, the guitar genius who rode his wave to fame with the legendary surf rock group Untamed Youth, offers more than a literal take on the retro bible; his brand-new release, Deke Dickerson in Three Dimensions, includes rockin' R&B and swingin' hillbilly tunes as well. Opening the night's bill is MC Booty Slappa, who claims to be the world's first rockabilly rap artist -- orthodox he's not. Showtime is 9 p.m. at the Rhythm Room, 1019 East Indian School. Tickets are $6. For more information, visit www.rhythmroom.com or call 602-265-4842.

Wednesday, February 4
Curious about classical music but worried you'll have to rent a tux to see a concert? Relax -- the Phoenix Symphony offers a low-stress way to experience classical that's both informative and informal: the Classical Connections series. (And the only tuxedoed folks will be in the orchestra.) Led by associate conductor Robert Moody, each presentation combines discussion and performance of selections on a chosen theme. Starting off the series at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, February 4, is an upbeat musical history lesson titled "From Bach to Rock" at the Orpheum Theatre, 203 West Adams. A casual question-and-answer session follows the concert. Tickets are $20 each or $50 for the entire three-part series. To purchase, visit www.phoenixsymphony.org or call the box office at 602-495-1117.

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