What to do in Philly this week.
Wednesday, March 24
In modern music industry terms, Basia Bulat is pretty successful—the self-taught Canadian-by-way-of-Poland folksy-pop singer has had not one but two songs picked up for car commercials. Influenced by both the Carter Family and Neutral Milk Hotel, new tracks like "Gold Rush" and "Go On" off her second album Heart of My Own pour her vocals—aggressive and tinged with a little diva melisma—over driving global drum-circle sounding percussion that gets you glimmers of Graceland if not to that old clinch mountain home or over the sea, per se. Heart's beats are fast and fiery, with an urgency much more immediate and intense than 2008’s relatively chill Oh, My Darling. We know, we know, don't let the cheesy album titles scare you. Bulat's a real-deal multi-instrumentalist with something to say. -Tara Murtha
Red Hot Patriot with Kathleen Turner
Actress Kathleen Turner lends her smoky chords to Philadelphia Theatre Company's Red Hot Patriot, a one-woman show about one hell of a woman. Patriot tells the story of Molly Ivins, the American newspaper columnist and political commentator known for her fearless barbs and playful prose. Ivins was raised under the broad Texas sky, the daughter of an affluent Houston oil man. She'd go on to spar with state legislatures and bureaucrats looking to strike it rich on the black-gold of the Arab world. A harsh critic of the conservative establishment, she retained a Southern charm that made her a hit with readers across the country until her death in 2007. Twin sisters Margaret and Allison Engel- journalists in their own right- combed through a lifetime of editorials and speeches to capture the voice of the funny and forthright American icon. -Paul F. Montgomery
7pm. $46. Suzanne Roberts Theatre, 480 S. Broad St. 215.985.0420.
Thursday, March 25
And you thought Billy Bragg and Wilco took all the good stuff. Their two Mermaid Avenue albums plumbed the depths of the Woody Guthrie archive, which his daughter, Nora, opened up for Bragg and others to do some digging. He and Wilco then wrote music to the lyrics they found. Turns out Jonatha Brooke was doing some digging of her own, and Woody's words sound a lot different coming from a pure-pitched alto than they do from a grizzled old punk rocker. Good thing, too: The Works, Brooke's musical compendium of Guthrie's lyrics, continues to reveal sides of the American music godfather we never knew, from the spurned bitterness of "You'd Ought to Be Satisfied Now" to the pubescent lust of "All You Gotta Do Is Touch Me." Time to grab that shovel again, Bragg. -Jeffrey Barg
7:30pm. $41-$55. World Cafe Live, 3025 Walnut St. 215.222.1400.
Philadelphia Union Party
This is it: The chance to say, when Philadephia's next great sports franchise was born, "I was there." Or at least, "I watched it live on TV with a bar full of other maniacs." The Philadelphia Union plays its first game in Major League Soccer Thursday night against the Seattle Sounders. For those who can't join the hundred-or-so die-hards traveling to the Pacific Northwest for the game, join the Sons of Ben (the Union's awesome fan group) upstairs at the Dark Horse Pub for unhinged screaming and cheering. This could just be a playoff season for your new favorite team, with a roster studded with U.S. national squad members, plenty of Euro flair and a very special Brazilian called Fred. Before you leave the house, remember to watch the Sons' best chant on YouTube- "Sticking to the Union," sung to the great Woody Guthrie tune. All together now? Uuuuuuuuuuunion! -Tom Cowell
Allison Miller Quartet
Just after Thanksgiving '09, drummer Allison Miller played Philly in a trio with saxophonist Ellery Eskelin and organist Erik Deutsch. Her new Boom Tic Boom is a different animal, with fellow Ani DiFranco sideperson Todd Sickafoose on bass and the esteemed Myra Melford on piano. There's a twist too: violinist Jenny Scheinman guests on one track, and the collab worked well enough for Scheinman to join full-time on the road, making Miller's project a quartet. The music has rhythmic teeth and quirks but also a decidedly melodic aspect, a sound befitting a leader who has worked with everyone from progressive reedist Marty Ehrlich to organ groover Dr. Lonnie Smith. -David R. Adler
An Evening With John Waters
Crown prince of crude, filmmaker John Waters hits Bryn Mawr to do a bit of trash talking. In his bawdy solo routine called "This Filthy World," Waters tells his lewd life story, from his origins in the muck of Baltimore, to his rise to fame and glory-holes as the grand muckety-muck of B-movie sleaze. Waters sought Divine providence in gender-bender cinema with films like Pink Flamingos and Female Trouble in the 1970s, then went on to attract big-name stars like Johnny Depp and Christina Ricci in the '90s. Somewhere along the way, art happened, and there are tales to be told. Find out just what it takes to earn an NC-17 and learn the difference between exploitation and just being advantageous. Does anything put a curl in that pencil mustache? Hop the R5 and head back to school for a one-night class of low-class hysterics. -P.F.M.
8pm. $10-$18. Goodhart Hall, Bryn Mawr College, Yarrow St. and N. Merion Ave. 610.526.5210.
Spalding Gray: Stories Left To Tell
Spalding Gray, perhaps theater's greatest monologist, passed away in 2004 from an apparent suicide. His tales, however, are brought to life in the surprisingly moving Spalding Gray: Stories Left to Tell, which runs for three consecutive evenings at the Painted Bride Art Center. Created by Gray's widow, Kathie Russo, and director Lucy Sexton, the piece features excerpts from Gray's most penetrating monologues including Gray's Anatomy, Life Interrupted and the magical Swimming to Cambodia. Performed by a core ensemble of four, the cast is augmented with a different guest performer each evening including Marty Moss-Coane, the likable and talented host of WHYY's Radio Times who takes the stage tonight. During his career, Gray was a mainstay at the Bride, performing annually until 1986 and making a final appearance in 2001. Though Gray is gone, his stories continue to provide us with an indelible picture of both the man and ourselves. -J. Cooper Robb
Absurd Commentaries:A Partiformance
Oil your hinges and warm up for an interactive celebration of kinetic energy and the complex rhythms of everyday life. With Absurd Commentaries: a Partiformance, DJ Tony East and the hoofers of Movement Brigade present a series of dance narratives that invites audiences to abandon their comfort zone and embrace the absurd. Featuring performances by Eleanor Goudie-Averill, Tim Popp, Daniele Strawmyre and Alie Vidich, the works encompass numerous genres and musical styles including hip-hop, reggae and electronic. Dancers rhapsodize the urban grind, drawing from personal experience, a friend's poetry, even Japanese ghost stories. These are lively sequences of motion and expression that speak of romantic happenstance, chance meetings of lonely-heart lovers and syncopated strangers. It's life and community and all the action verbs in between. Grab the oddest threads in your closet and come as you aren't for a discounted ticket and an opportunity to join in the festivities. -P.F.M
8pm. $10-$15. The Arts Parlor, 1170 S. Broad St. 267.467.0657.
Saturday, March 27
Chris Potter Underground
Saxophonist Chris Potter is a technical stunner but impeccably musical, with well over a dozen releases to his name and sideman credits that include Dave Holland, Dave Douglas, Paul Motian and countless others. He's recorded everything from straight combo (Unspoken) to chamber tentet (Song For Anyone), but with Underground, Follow the Red Line and most recently Ultrahang, he's pursued an offbeat sound with the Doors-ish instrumentation of solidbody guitar, Fender Rhodes electric piano and no bass. Keyboardist Craig Taborn, guitarist Adam Rogers and drummer Nate Smith (a Dave Holland bandmate) handle Potter's new turns in advanced jazz and hard funk with a fierce attack and a steady hand. -D.R.A.
Slinky Birthday Party
What walks down stairs, alone or in pairs, and makes a slinkity sound? That question was answered 55 years ago when a Philadelphia naval engineer named Richard James was working on a gizmo to measure the horsepower of a battleship. He dropped a tension spring, and the Slinky was born. The dates are as fluid as the toy, but around March 27, 1945, James and his wife started marketing the do-hickey to local toy stores. It didn't really take off until it was in Gimbel's department store at Christmas of that year. The 27th is, however, James' birthday as well as that of his son Tom-the first kid to ever play with a Slinky- who will be at the Seaport Museum for the launch of its new exhibit, "It Sprang From The River." More bizarre than the toy's invention is the inventor's downward slide into a Bolivian religious cult. But that's for another day. Now: Cake. -Peter Crimmins