This Week's Day-by-day Picks

THU 14
You pretend you're joking around, trying to be funny by singing "The Greatest Love of All" at karaoke. But your friends can tell by the spirited way you grind out, "They can't take away my dignity!" that you're serious about this singing thing. So why not take a crack at becoming the next Axis Idol? Every Thursday in July, Axis/Radius, 7340 East Indian Plaza in Scottsdale, hosts a singing competition, starting around 11 p.m. The weekly winners will compete in the finals on August 4, with the grand prize winner nabbing a trip for two to Hollywood that includes lunch with a music agent, round-trip airfare, and hotel accommodations for one night. To compete, drop off a singing demo at Axis/Radius, or call 866-649-8873.

FRI 15
Whenever the former front man of a legendary, defunct rock band tours solo, fans always pine for resurrections of the old band's songs. Some singers say no, but not Robert Plant, who makes a stop at the Dodge Theatre, 400 West Washington Street, on Friday, July 15. The voice of Led Zeppelin has a new band (Robert Plant and the Strange Sensation) and a new album, Mighty Rearranger, but he's packing his 2005 tour sets with Zeppelin songs, including "Babe, I'm Gonna Leave You," "No Quarter," "Black Dog," "Heartbreaker," "Misty Mountain Hop," "When the Levee Breaks," and "Whole Lotta Love" (the latter usually serves as the encore). Plant's also been performing the Jimi Hendrix classic "Hey Joe," Donovan's "Season of the Witch," and Tim Buckley's "Song to the Siren," in addition to material off the new album, like the single "Shine It All Around." Hear the rest of the music menu live at 8 p.m. Tickets cost $26.50 to $69.50. Call 602-379-2888 or visit www.ticketmaster.com.

SAT 16
The competition between police officers and firefighters is a phallacy. All that talk of whose gun is bigger than whose hose means nothing in the face of heroic, charitable chili-makin'. On Saturday, July 16, we'll see who has the biggest, uh, peppers, when the Glendale Police Department goes head-to-head with the Glendale Fire Department in the Guns & Hoses Chili Cookoff at the Village at Arrowhead Shopping Center, 20050 North 67th Avenue in Glendale. While the departments protect and serve chili, Maria Woodward and the Spicy Salsa Band will pump out steamy songs. Sounds like all-around hot stuff, but you can cool off during the cookoff with free ice cream and bottled water. The contest starts at noon, with entertainment until 2 p.m. A donation of two cans of non-perishable food for Westside Food Bank gets you in. Call 480-664-3004.

SUN 17
Athletes in amateur sports play for the love of the game, the thrill of victory, and -- in the case of those competing in the Copa Tecate National Soccer Tournament Playoffs in Phoenix -- big wads of moola. Tecate beer will hand out more than $19,000 in cash and prizes to the top four teams, with the top team netting $10,000. Matches started in February, and now 3,600 teams have been whittled down to 22 in the fourth round of the playoffs -- and Phoenix's own Atlas Florencia is one of them. On Sunday, July 17, we've got the home team advantage in playoff games against Chivas Denver, Albuquerque's A1 Pools, and El Paso's Alta Vista. Cheer on the Atlas Florencia from 9 to 11 a.m. at El Gran Mercado, as they push toward the August finals in San Diego. El Gran Mercado is located at the 35th Avenue Swap Meet, 35th Avenue and Buckeye Road. Admission is free. Call 866-266-5919 or visit www.copatecate.com.

MON 18
When Matt Brown set up the weekly "Outer Grounds" live art event at The Lofts, 420 South Mill Avenue in Tempe, he knew he wanted to do something different from other events that feature live painting. "The other live art events, they're only doing hip-hop," says Brown. "They don't think about the other types of music artists like." So Brown brought in DJs from Swell Records to spin all sorts of tunes, from electronica to reggae, while the artists do their thing. Different artists attend each week, and on Monday, July 18, graffiti artists Nick and Tyson will transform blank canvases into colorful montages. The artists usually sling paint from 9 until 11 p.m. There's no cover, but feel free to buy some art, since "the bar's not giving us anything for [painting]," says Brown. "We're doing it for free." Call 480-967-8188.

TUE 19
The members of St. Croix-based roots reggae band Bambú Station consider themselves "performers of conscious music." With songs that address the Amadou Diallo case, the African AIDS epidemic, and the young street thugs of the Virgin Islands, Bambú Station makes thought-provoking messages of its mellow island grooves. On Tuesday, July 19, the band rails (in a down-tempo, subdued way) against the world's ills at the Sail Inn, 26 South Farmer Avenue in Tempe. "We come to offer our thoughts, to bring information to the misinformed and to offer suggestions to resolve our dilemmas," the band writes in the liner notes of its 2003 CD, One Day. Bambú Station will also offer tracks from its latest album, Talkin' Roots II(Mt. Nebo Records), when it takes the stage at 9 p.m. Admission for the band's "only Arizona appearance" costs $10. Call 480-921-1775.

WED 20
Barcelona restaurant, 15440 Greenway-Hayden Loop in Scottsdale, likes to give its patrons choices. For example, during the chic eatery's weekly WOW: Wines on Wednesdays event, guests can choose any of Barcelona's bottled wines from southern Spain and Portugal for half off the regular list price. A live flamenco guitarist will play a variety of palos(flamenco musical styles), of which there are more than 50, not to mention Barcelona's vast food menu, which includes everything from rack of lamb to Alaskan halibut (entrees cost anywhere from $19 to $59). Take your picks from 4 to 11 p.m. Reservations recommended. Call 480-603-0370.

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