What to do in Philly this week.
Wednesday, May 5
Murder By Death
These Hoosier gothics explore the fetid corners of rural Americana, telling hard-drinking, hard-bitten stories about love, personal history and brown liquor. There’s a cello on hand for extra emotional pull, played by the very lovely Sarah Balliett. There's a certain amount of regret in the lyrics, yet credit singer Adam Turla for mental toughness. These songs are not all about crying in your Jameson’s Irish Whiskey. A mordant sense of humor perks things up (one song from new album Good Morning, Magpie is called “You Don’t Miss Twice When You’re Shavin' with a Knife”) as well as rambunctious, drum-pounding rhythms. Death may be inevitable, but it’s seldom pursued with this much style. -Jennifer Kelly
9pm. $13-15. With Ha Ha Tonka + Linfinity. Johnny Brenda’s, 1201 N. Frankford Ave. 215.739.9684. johnnybrendas.com
An Evening Without Woody Allen
Woody Allen’s last two decades have been marked by sex scandals, business struggles and a continual decline in quality of work. But being funny, not so much. It wasn’t always that way, of course, and in the ’60s and ’70s he was churning out hysterical stories and essays like it was going out of style (which sort of proved to be true). While much of that material has long been available in various book forms, 1812 Productions brings it to the stage with An Evening Without Woody Allen revisiting that heyday with a three-person show comprised of some of the best of Allen’s early written work. The performance, curated and directed by Jennifer Childs, focuses on essays and short stories like “A Brief But Helpful Guide to Civil Disobedience” and the classic “The Whore of Mensa.” -Aaron Passman
Sometimes the most lasting art concepts burst into an artists’ mind whole, all at once, ready—practically begging—to be shared with the universe. It happened in 1965, when Keith Richards busted out of deep-hangover sleep, ripped out the riff to Satisfaction into a tape recorder, then passed out again. It happened to Antonio Romero Monge and Rafael Ruíz in 1992, when, inspired by a hot flamenco dancer wildly shaking her hips, they wrote, “Give your body some joy, Magdalene, ’cause your body is for giving joy and good things too” in the melody that has since tarnished the dance floor at countless weddings. The only thing they changed about the Macarena was changing the name Magdalene to Macarena—which means changing it basically from shorthand for sexy slut to wholesome girl—and poof, true art was born and given to Spanish duo Los del Río. Now, local hip-shakers can give their bodies some joy and perhaps glimpse YouTube fame by showing up to synchronize with mass Macarena flash dance (nee mob) at the Piazza. Remember: Hips don’t lie. You don’t need a refresher. -Tara Murtha
Thursday, May 6th
Minus the Bear
Back when they emerged in the early ’00s, Seattle’s Minus the Bear got a kick outta naming their songs “Thanks For The Killer Game Of Crisco Twister” and “Get Me Naked 2: Electric Boogaloo” and so on. Thing is, though, even when their presentation was goofy, the quintet always seemed to take their music—a blend of post-hardcore, proggy math-rock, and ambient/glitch-rock, with smooth vocals eerily reminiscent of Jawbox’s J. Robbins—quite seriously. Sonically speaking, they’ve lightened up dramatically on new album Omni, with slinky R&B-inflected soul-pop and dance-funk infiltrating the mix. Sometimes MTB even resembles ’80s-era Hall & Oates. Sans mustaches and shoulder pads, of course—wouldn’t wanna get that goofy! -Michael Alan Goldberg
7:30pm. $18.50-$21. With Everest + Young the Giant. Trocadero, 1003 Arch St. 215.922.LIVE. thetroc.com
Tony Gangi and the Olde City Sideshow
Tony Gangi didn’t run off and join the circus when he was a kid. His time with the sideshow arts happened much later, when stuffing things up his nostrils could no longer be explained away by childhood fixations. In fact, he waited until he earned his bachelor’s degree before traipsing off to Coney Island’s Sideshow School, a trial by fire and shattered glass where everybody’s the class clown. Tonight, Gangi performs with the Olde City Sideshow, a local collective of conjurers and contortionists who’d just as soon hang Christmas ornaments from their eyelids as do the standard cup and ball vanishes. Why a book shop and not a boardwalk tour? Gangi is promoting Carny Sideshows: Weird Wonders of the Midway, a collection of mystical musings and interviews with the likes of Penn Jillette and dozens of sword swallowers, fire-walkers, and the freakiest freaks under the big top. -Paul F. Montgomery
Friday, May 7
Gravedigger: The Plays of Mark Borkowski
You can take a boy out of Fishtown, but … you know the rest. Mark Borkowski has been trying to get Fishtown out of himself for years. The native of Tilton Street has found some success as an actor and playwright in New York, writing about his fucked-up childhood. After drug abuse and unnamed certain traumas, Borkowski had a nervous breakdown at 20 years old, at which point he learned to gives names to the voices in his head, and put them down on paper. Some of those voices can’t be removed from Philadelphia, like a couple who have been kicked out of every restaurant in the neighborhood because they keep pushing food into a photo of their dead child, and a loquacious Kensington gravedigger who is haunted by digging 3x3s for children. That last one was published by Smith and Krauss as one of the best one-acts of 2009. Three Borkowski shorts will be put on the boards at Walking Fish, each staged by a different director, including Borkowski himself. -Peter Crimmins
8pm. $12-$15. Through May 23. Walking Fish Theatre, 2509 Frankford Ave. 215.427.WALK. walkingfishtheater.com
The Moveable Voice, The Moveable Self
The voice is an incredibly flexible instrument that most of us only have a vague idea how to play well. Identifying the many applications and effects of the voice is just one of the topics addressed in The Moveable Voice, The Moveable Self, a free public lecture and demonstration from renowned director, actor, teacher and vocal virtuoso Jean-Rene Toussaint. A pioneer in vocal instruction and theory, Toussaint (who credits as his inspiration such legendary theater artists Jerzy Grotowski and Antonin Artaud) specializes in the unique relationship between the voice, body and mind. In Moveable Voice, he explains the development of his groundbreaking vocal approach “Stemwerk,” which seeks to reconnect a person with their so-called “primitive voice.” The lecture will be followed by a demonstration from Toussaint of a variety of astonishing voices including harmonics, multi-tunes, inhaled sounds and the aurally wondrous Tibetan throat-singing. -J. Cooper Robb
7:30pm. Free. Ukrainian League, 800 N. 23rd St. 215.627.1883. pigiron.com
Kentucky-born singer/songwriter Dawn Landes has moved on to Brooklyn, but the countrified traces of her roots haven’t left her music. On her new album Sweet Heart Rodeo, there’s still plenty of buoyant acoustic picking, walking bass patterns and harmonica swells to go around. After the driving electric guitar opener, “Young Girl,” the album largely takes a turn to the delicate acoustic playing and sweetly enchanting vocals that have characterized the chanteuse’s style on songs like “Little Miss Holiday” and the quaint ballad, “Money in the Bank.” Onstage, Lande’s constant smiling matches her playful exuberance, backed by multi-instrumentalists Ray Rizzo and Josh Kaufman. This time around, she’s opening for husband and fellow acoustic crooner Josh Ritter. -Kevin Brosky
9pm. $20. With Josh Ritter & the Royal City Band. Theatre of the Living Arts, 334 South St. 215.922.1011. livenation.com.
Saturday, May 8
Open House at Papermill Arts
Fishtown and Kensington artists worried about being gentrified out of affordable art spaces (Piazza, cough cough) have brand-new options just a little further north at the Papermill, a restored building near the Somerset El stop that’s billing itself as the heart of Kensington’s newest art community. Studios start at 130 square feet and are available for $100 a month, though artists can rent entire floors, too. In addition to studio spaces, a theater will be built inside that is already scheduled to host Fringe Festival performances. All interested parties and partiers can check out the space in a grand opening that will feature performances by Univox, Camp Woods Comedy Troop, Jay Dance Company and Potential Movement dance company. At the party, interested artists can grab a piece of chalk and mark off their desired space; then building owner Wulfhart Management Group will custom-build it for them. Building owners have all kinds of plans to make connections in the local community also, so if you were looking for a new artistic home, now might be the time to get in on the ground floor. -T.M.
1pm. Free. Papermill Arts, 2823-43 Ormes St.
Braving the New World
The future is dark for us all, and there have been plenty of warnings. Aldous Huxley, George Orwell and various ad campaigns for ultra-strong chewing gum have presented us with the impending reality, a world in which we are all watched, forced to conform and discouraged from individuality by punishment of disappearance and torture. Despite their critical acclaim and widespread readership, the underlying predictions in these novels have gone largely unheeded, and it’s about time someone translated this foreboding message into a language we can all understand. The Rebecca Davis Dance Company, the folks who dramatized the story of Enron, bring their newest production to Suzanne Roberts Theater. Braving the New World brings together elements of classic dystopian novels of the 20th century, encrypting the plight of classic characters in the movements of modern players. -Abdullah Saeed
6pm and 8pm. (Also on May 7.) $8-$11. Suzanne Roberts Theater, 480 S. Broad St. 215.985.0420. rebeccadavisdance.com
Eaglesmith’s music blows like an arctic wind across the plains, stark and chilling. His country-folk paeans possess a harrowing ache like Springsteen’s Nebraska. Relentless as the Southern Ontario winters where he grew up, his earnest plainspoken verse flays pretense to reveal the heart’s indomitable truths, be they the anguished religious fervor of 2008’s gospel-tinged Tinderbox or fortunes and hope receding like twilight in Milly’s Café. Ever the contrarian, Eaglesmith’s forsaken the alt-country that’s generally characterized him for 30 years as too hipster-infected in favor of Cha Cha Cha, a dance album. “I just did an important record,” he says. “I’ve had enough of me, haven’t you? Let’s dance now.” -Chris Parker
Sunday, May 9
It’s impossible to tell if American Mud, a local indie play that sets out to satirize stereotypes of women in politics and “the public reaction” to them, is going to be tongue-in-cheek or palm on forehead. The main character, Adamaris, has been “genetically engineered to possess intelligence, ambition, lethal sex appeal and the skin of a rhino,” a hodgepodge of Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton. Adamaris is offset by a young idealistic bohemian who drops out of school to literally get on the bus for the cause. Neill Hartley, the director, says it’s not a political play. Jackie Ruggiero Jacobson, the writer, says, “Sexism is not a sexy topic, but I think it has the potential to be a ridiculous one.” Is it called Mud because it’s so unclear? American because it’s cocksure anyway? We’ll have to see it to find out. Gerre Garrett, celebrated member of The Waitstaff, cameos as the ghost of Susan B. Anthony. -T.M.
Calendar: Sept. 2-9