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Get Out! Skye Captains 

Mastodon at the Beachland Ballroom on Saturday, May 2, leads this week's events picks

It's fitting that Mastodon's new album, Crack the Skye, is their most spacious. On 2004's Moby-Dick-inspired Leviathan, they covered the sea; on 2006's Blood Mountain, they went by land. As its title implies, Crack the Skye is all about the big blue atmosphere above us. Of course, it isn't just about that, since no Mastodon album really stays in one place. But most of Skye's seven songs thematically and musically float above ground. It's the Atlanta band's most adventurous record, a sonically exhilarating trip through prog, roots (dig that banjo!), traditional rock and metal 13-minute closer "The Last Baron" is as epic as music gets these days. It's an awakening of sorts, after frontman Brent Hinds' coulda-been-fatal head injury a couple years back (he drunkenly picked a fight after the MTV Video Music Awards and lost) and the band's own grappling with the hipster-metal tag. No matter how you classify them, Mastodon is one of the best bands in America right now. Kylesa and Intronaut open at 8 p.m. at the Beachland Ballroom (15711 Waterloo Rd., 216.383.1124, beachlandballroom.com). The show is sold out. Michael GallucciTHURSDAY, APRIL 30

Chain and the Gang/Mahjongg

Hide the coffee, because this jittery crew's already wired. Chain and the Gang frontman Ian Svenonius has titillated the hipster masses for two decades with his irreverent agitprop and social commentary, leading Nation of Ulysses, the Make-Up and Weird War through a variety of pilfered and reconstituted styles. His latest project includes writhing, minimalist punk-funk with a trashy strut. Though a tad self-conscious even by Svenonius' standards ("Interview With the Chain Gang"), it gets by on its subversive insouciance and coy wit. Even more engaging are Chicago art-punks Mahjongg, whose disjunctive, experimental angularity achieves an odd coherence through a chaotic blend of electro-addled world-beat and wiry post-punk shudder. It's quite rhythmic without necessarily being danceable, boasting a sputtering pulse and noisy, spasmodic aesthetic that suggests !!! getting it on with Aphex Twin in the bathroom of an Algerian disco. It's obviously unhinged, but it's surprising difficult to look away. The Hive Dwellers open at 9 p.m. at Musica (51 E. Market St., 330.374.1114, akronmusica.com). Tickets: $9. — Chris Parker

Cleveland Orchestra

Paul Chihara is a multifaceted composer whose work has appealed to movie and TV directors, dance companies and big orchestras that explore contemporary music. His credits reflect not only his versatility, but also his prolific output: He's scored more than 100 films and television programs, served as composer-in-residence at the San Francisco Ballet and worked with foundations (Guggenheim, Fulbright, NEA) and world-class symphonies (Boston, London, Los Angeles Philharmonic). This weekend, the Cleveland Orchestra presents Chihara's When Soft Voices Die, a work for viola and orchestra, featuring principal violist Robert Vernon. Juxtaposed with the new work are a couple of familiar ones: Mendelssohn's "Scottish" Symphony No. 3 (a kind of memoir in sound based on the composer's travels, with one movement in traditional Scottish style) and Richard Strauss' Till Eulenspeigel's Merry Pranks, a tone poem based on a German folk hero. Jahja Ling conducts. Performances are at 8 tonight, tomorrow and Saturday, and 3 p.m. Sunday at Severance Hall (11001 Euclid Ave., 216.231.1111, clevelandorchestra.com). Tickets: $31-$110. — Michael Gill

Gourds

The greatest thing about Austin is its diverse music scene. A quarter of a city block's worth of bar-hopping will expose the average fan to folk, pop, Americana, Tex-Mex, country and rock. Of course, you could just settle into a single venue, catch an evening with the Gourds and hear the same stylistic range without all the walking. With a trio of formidable songwriters, the Gourds throw genres around like AIG laying out bailout bonuses, playing them all with astonishing aptitude and obvious affection. You might hear bits of Doug Sahm, Randy Newman, NRBQ, John Hiatt, Elvis Costello and a dozen other sonic benchmarks on the Gourds' latest album, Haymaker!, but by the time you've pinned the tail on the musical donkey, they'll be onto something new and fantastic. The Orange Mothers open at 8 p.m. at the Beachland Ballroom (15711 Waterloo Rd., 216.383.1124, beachlandballroom.com). Tickets: $15. — Brian Baker

Amos Lee

Since releasing his first EP in 2004, singer-songwriter Amos Lee has notched up achievements that take most musicians a lifetime to collect. He's toured the U.S. and Europe with Norah Jones, shared the stage with John Prine and appeared on just about every late-night talk show around. He's also opened for Bob Dylan. Lee's recent Last Days of the Lodge is a stellar mix of rock and R&B that's the culmination of his short career. Produced by Don Was, the album has an edge, thanks in part to veteran session guys like Doyle Bramhall Jr., Spooner Oldham and Pino Palladino helping out. It's apparent from the opening track, "Listen" (which could pass for a Ben Harper song with its inspirational lines about "angels falling" and other cataclysmic events), that Lee has upped the ante. He plays the Kent Stage (175 E. Main St., Kent, 330.677.5005, kentstage.org) at 9 p.m. Tickets: $20 advance, $25 day of show. — Jeff Niesel

What You Will

Mark Krause won this year's Dorothy Silver Playwriting Competition for his play What You Will, which gets a staged reading at 7:30 tonight as part of Cleveland Play House's Fusion Festival. The story focuses on a trio of adult sisters as they gather to hear the specifics of their deceased father's confusing will. Charles Kartali directs readers Tracee Patterson, Maryann Elder, Elizabeth Ann Townsend, Dorothy Canepari, Alan Zeilinger and Jan Wolf at the Play House's Studio One Theater (8500 Euclid Ave., 216.795.7000, clevelandplayhouse.com). Tickets: $10. Gill

FRIDAY, MAY 1

Artist Archives

Member Show

Three dozen artists are represented in the Artists Archives of the Western Reserve's 11th annual members show this year. Up for grabs are paintings, sculpture, drawings, photos and more. One of the perks of being a member of the Artists Archives of the Western Reserve is that it looks after members' art after they die. Living artists will be on hand tonight to talk about their work at the opening reception, which runs from 6-8:30 p.m. at the Artists Archives of the Western Reserve (1834 E. 123rd St., 216.721.9020, artistsarchivevs.org). The show runs through June 4. It's free. — Gill

Verb Ballets

It takes a rare mix of talents to merge choreographed dance with live jazz. The spontaneity of the improvised music throws the dancers a real curve, since they have to figure out how to put together movement with sounds that are reinvented on the spot. In the Groove and Over the Top premiered six months ago at the East Cleveland Public Library's Greg L. Reese Performing Arts Center. This weekend, choreographer Dianne McIntyre (a native Clevelander whose work has won her a Guggenheim fellowship as well as steady gigs with various Broadway shows) leads Verb Ballets' performance of the piece as part of the Fusion Festival. Dancer Telly Fowler and the Evidence Dance Company join members of Verb for this dramatic, playful and spontaneous work. Musicians include vocalist Mariama Whyte, pianist Drene Ivy, drummer Rob Hubbard and bassist Glenn Holmes. Also on the program: Verb dancer Michael Medcalf's apparently random "Brownian Movement" and the late Ulysses Dove's "Vespers," which was created for the Alvin Ailey company and recently acquired by Verb Ballets. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. tonight and tomorrow at the Cleveland Play House's Bolton Theatre (8500 Euclid Ave., 216.795.7000, clevelandplayhouse.com). Tickets: $18-$25. Gill

Raised Voices

Last year, Wendy Partridge and Susan Vincent put out a call for Raised Voices: Artists' Books for Troubled Times, which opens at Zygote Press tonight. Thirteen artists submitted work, and more are on loan from local collectors Bill Busta and Eric May. Some of the artists address "really big issues," says Partridge — like the authors of Warm, a collaborative book by KSU and German students. It's "an abecedarian where each artist takes a letter and uses it to address global warming," she says. Melissa O'Grady's cloth pop-up work deals with environmental collapse. "Something about the combination of the bright children's-book form and the subject makes me want to cry," says Partridge. Another book, with pages sewn to look like abstract quilts, explores Israel, the West Bank and Gaza's changing borders, "a place that has been torn apart at the seams and continually stitched back together." Raised Voices kicks off with a reception from 6-9 p.m. at Zygote Press (1410 E. 30th St., 216.621.2900, zygotepress.com). It's free. — Gill

Love You More

Than You Know

The gravity of the title Love You More Than You Know could only be underscored by the numbers. This new book, which is subtitled Thoughts of Ohio Mothers on Sending Their Sons and Daughters to War, collects the stories of 45 Ohio moms who talk about their feelings of having a child enlist in the military, called up for duty and facing mortar fire while staving off boredom and heat. Editors Janie Reinart and Mary Anne Mayer will discuss their book —which comes out today — at Joseph-Beth Booksellers (24519 Cedar Rd., Lyndhurst, 216.691.7000, josephbeth.com) at 7 p.m. It's free. Gill

SATURDAY, MAY 2

Cajun Sushi Hamsters

What's in a name? Despite their goofy moniker, the Cajun Sushi Hamsters are actually a longstanding science-fiction writers' group and workshop. Likewise, S. Andrew Swann (born Steven Swiniarski) has published 18 adventure novels like Forests of the Night, Fearful Symmetries and Dragons of the Cuyahoga. Swann will read from his work at the Hamsters meeting at Mac's Backs Books (1820 Coventry Rd., Cleveland Hts., 216.321.2665, macsbacks.com) at 7 tonight. The group's founder, Mary Turzillo, and NASA scientist and sci-fi writer Geoff Landis will also talk. It's free. Gill

Deckwreckers

After a recent interior design turned the adjacent Mullens Bar into an "art bar," Pop Shop Gallery owners Rich Cihlar and Jeff Hulligan are all ready to unveil a second space, the (Art)ificial Gallery. Cihlar says it will be "geared toward national and seasoned artists [and] complementing the Pop Shop, which supports local and up-and-coming artists." First up is Deckwreckers, a group show featuring skateboard decks as canvases. Or, as Cihlar refers to it, a "hand-picked collection of tasty artwork slathered onto hundreds of layers of wood-veneer goodness." It happens from 6-9 p.m. at (Art)ificial Gallery (17020 Madison Ave., Lakewood, 216.227.8440, whatisartificial.com). It's free. — Gill

SUNDAY, MAY 3

Evening of Classical Music and Art

According to his biography, painter Seth Chwast can't cross the street by himself. Diagnosed with autism as a child, he doesn't talk much either. But since taking an oil-painting class at the Cleveland Museum of Art in 2003, when he was 20, Chwast has found a way of expressing himself. It not only gives him a way of relating to the world, but it's drawn the world to him via a steady stream of exhibits and sales, including gigs at galleries in Ecuador and the Cayman Islands and an appearance on The Today Show. His paintings are both representational and abstract, often including animals and roller coasters. The Mandel Jewish Community Center opens a retrospective exhibit of his work tonight at its annual Evening of Classical Music and Art, with a performance featuring musicians from the Cleveland Institute of Music and Cleveland Orchestra. On the program: works by Bach, Ravel, Mozart, Brahms, Mendelssohn, Fauré and Tchaikovsky. The exhibit opens at 6 p.m. (and continues through May 26); the concert begins at 7:30 at the Mandel JCC Stonehill Auditorium (26001 S. Woodland Rd., Beachwood, 866.546.1358, clevejcc.org). Tickets: $12-$22. Gill

MONDAY, MAY 4

Gojira

France's young extreme-metal pioneers have come a long way since their 2001 jaw-dropping debut Terra Incognita. Back with a new album, The Way of All Flesh (which features cameo by Lamb of God's Randy Blythe and engineering, mixing and mastering by former Machine Head guitarist Logan Mader), Gojira continue to mess around with the sound of traditional metal. With their intricately played death/math-metal, Gojira consistently prove they're one of the best bands working onstage and in the studio these days. Having supported and blown away the likes of Dimmu Borgir and In Flames on past tours, they return to town with their first headlining show tonight. Finally! We get to savor a full Gojira performance in all of its mind-blowing glory. The Chariot and Car Bomb open at 6:30 p.m. at Peabody's (2045 E. 21st. St., 216.776.9999, peabodys.com). Tickets: $15 advance, $18 day of show. Hannah Verbeuren

TUESDAY, MAY 5

Apparition of the Eternal Church

While making Apparition of the Eternal Church, director Paul Festa asked several dozen people to react spontaneously to Olivier Messiaen's 10-minute blast for solo organ from which the film takes its name. Messiaen composed the piece early in his career, in 1932, when the composer was 24 years old. It's an ecstatic work, a vision of the apocalypse rendered in sound. Festa's movie is built around interviews in which he asked musicians, music scholars, artists, actors, filmmakers and authors (most of whom were hearing the work for the first time) to describe Messiaen's piece. Subjects include Juilliard String Quartet founder Robert Mann and drag star Jackie Beat. The film is the final event in Oberlin College's celebration of the 100th anniversary of the composer's birth. A screening follows a musical introduction and performance of Messiaen's Visions de l'Amen by pianists Robert Shannon and Haewon Song at 8 p.m. at Finney Chapel (90 N. Professor St., Oberlin, 440.775.8169). It's free. — Gill

Fastball

Fastball is one of those bands you know you've heard of, but you just can't put your finger on them. Then someone mentions that one song, and things start to click. Pretty soon, you find yourself lost in a reverie of hazy personal association, looking back fondly on the end of the century, remembering people and parties you haven't thought about in a decade. While few bands start out aspiring to become a semi-forgotten time-warp of half-recalled nostalgia, it almost seems fitting for the creators of "The Way," itself a romanticized homage to the notion of reverie and recaptured youth. Though the song may well overshadow the band in our collective consciousness, Fastball aren't content to dwell in the temporary glory of their musical past. They recently released their fifth album, Little White Lies, a solid, guitar-driven record that, while unlikely to elicit adulation from alt-rock-radio festival attendees, establishes Fastball as one of the most competent and assured purveyors of classicist pop. Allen Ilg and the Bailouts open the show at 8 p.m. at Musica (51 E. Market St., Akron, 330.374.1114, akronmusica.com). Tickets: $12. Nicholas L. Hall

An Evening With Patti Lupone

and Mandy Patinkin

Since the last time Mandy Patinkin and Patty LuPone appeared onstage together, children have been conceived, graduated college and even earned masters' degrees. They costarred in Evita — he as Che Guevara, she as the title character — on Broadway from 1979 to 1983. Patinkin says their new stage show, An Evening With Patti Lupone and Mandy Patinkin, is a pastiche of scenes and songs that tell the story of two people — "from the first time they meet to the passage of time in their lives." It opens at 7:30 tonight at the Palace Theatre (1615 Euclid Ave., 216.241.6000, playhousesquare.com). Performances run through May 17. Tickets: $10-$55. Gill

Meet Mary Lou Ferbert

Mary Lou Ferbert's watercolor renderings of industrial landscapes and market-stall produce inspired author Elizabeth McLelland to note that Ferbert "pays homage to the perfection that exists in the commonplace." But that's not quite what's going on in Book of Hearts, a collection of personal hand-painted valentines that spans 20 years. Celebrating her family history and the people who matter most in her life, the book is way more intimate than her usual subject matter. Ferbert will sign copies of her book (available for sale at the event) at 7 p.m. at Lakewood Public Library's Main Auditorium (15425 Detroit Ave., Lakewood, 216.226.8275, lkwdpl.org). It's free. Gill

Quire Cleveland With City Music

Worlds collide at this collaboration starring two relatively new music ensembles. The Johnny Appleseed of local classical music, CityMusic Cleveland (citymusiccleveland.org), teams up with a cappella choir Quire Cleveland to perform Franz Schubert's Mass No. 2 in G Major at a half-dozen locations around town over the next few days. Founded last year, Quire Cleveland is a 16-voice ensemble led by Peter Bennett, an Oxford- and Cambridge-educated organ and conducting scholar. These days, he teaches at Case Western Reserve University. The collaboration — featuring Mozart's "Jupiter" Symphony, No. 41 in C Major, and conducted by City Music director James Gaffigan — plays a bunch of churches this week: 7:30 tonight at Fairmount Presbyterian Church (2757 Fairmount Blvd., Cleveland Hts., 216.321.5800); 7 p.m. tomorrow at St. Vitus Church (6019 Lausche Ave., 216.361.1444); 7:30 p.m. May 7 at St. Mary Church (320 Middle Ave., Elyria, 440.323.5539); 8 p.m. May 8 at St. Noel Church (35200 Chardon Rd., Willoughby Hills, 440.946.0887); 7:30 p.m. May 9 at the Shrine Church of St. Stanislaus (3649 E. 65th St. in Slavic Village, 216.341.9091); and 7:30 p.m. May 10 at Rocky River United Methodist Church (19414 Detroit Rd, Rocky River, 440.331.7676). They're all free. — Gill

The Sounds

When they debuted at the turn of the century, the Sounds were labeled a gimmick band. But nearly 10 years later, they're releasing their third album and still going strong. When they dropped Living in America in 2003, there were a number of groups paying homage to the kitschy synth-dance tones of the '80s, but the Sounds took the concept a little further. The Swedish band rocked like it had unearthed its instruments and songwriting know-how from a time capsule buried at Ridgemont High. So go ahead and make your Blondie references. The Sounds succeed because they're unafraid to fully embrace — rather than just casually nod toward — the new-wave/punk/pop songs that dominated the airways 25 years ago. Hey Champ opens at 10 p.m. at the Grog Shop (2785 Euclid Heights Blvd., Cleveland Hts., 216.321.5588, grogshop.gs). Tickets: $15. Matt Whelihan

WEDNESDAY, MAY 6

The Killers

A couple of years ago, the Killers ventured outside their gaudy Las Vegas home and headed to the surrounding desert for Sam's Town. It was very big and very extravagant, and owed a huge debt to U2 and Bruce Springsteen. The band must have been torn over the lukewarm response to the record, because on its third album, Day & Age, the Killers return to their new-wave dandy roots, which they flashed on their hit debut, Hot Fuss. There are plenty of glitzy dance-pop moments on Day & Age, but you'll also hear some Sam's Town-style widescreen panoramic views of America. It's all kinda messy, goofy and occasionally downright baffling. But the Killers have always been a product of their Las Vegas environment, so it's no big deal that their music sounds so artificial and insincere. And as much as frontman Brandon Flowers wants to be Bruce or Bono, he isn't. He's a gawky pop star raised on Duran Duran, struggling with his mostly out-of-reach ambitions. Like many other Vegas workers, the Killers are putting on a show. And at times, it's a mighty grand one. The show starts at 7:30 p.m. at Time Warner Cable Amphitheater at Tower City (1887 W. 3rd St., 216.241.5555, livenation.com). Tickets: $42.50. Gallucci

Obscura

Technical death-metal bands frequently get so fixated on technique that the human element disappears, and the music becomes a blur of impossible-to-count rhythms and guitar solos that sound like videogames exploding. German quartet Obscura retains its essential humanity by combining genre trademarks like intricate, high-speed drumming, downtuned riffage and growled vocals with heavy doses of progressive rock and even jazz-fusion. Their bassist plays a six-string fretless on many sections of the band's second album, Cosmogenesis, and he's astonishingly high up in the mix. This melodic progressivism has been somewhat controversial in death-metal circles, but coupled with Obscura's use of clean vocals, it makes them that rare extreme music act that could conceivably have some appeal outside the genre. If you like Atheist, Death and Necrophagist, you'll like Obscura; if you like Mahavishnu Orchestra and Return to Forever, you might like Obscura too. Graves of Valor and Abysmal Dawn open at 7 p.m. at Peabody's (2045 E. 21st St., 216.776.9999, peabodys.com). Tickets: $8. Phil Freeman

WEB ONLY:

FR 5/1

The Thermals

They may have started on a whim, but the Thermals are serious business these days. Hutch Harris' songwriting progressed dramatically between 2003's lightweight and lo-fi debut More Parts per Million and 2006's anti-religion screed The Body, the Blood, the Machine. In the meantime, this Oregon, group has shifted from side project to full-time group. Their new and ambitious Now We Can See includes lots of nods to our collective environmental neglect, even if the idealism behind "At the Bottom of the Sea" and "When I Died" is even more convoluted than that found on its somewhat messy predecessor. Still, "How We Fade" and the title track are melodically clear and tightly played. Plus, the Thermals sure know how to make a bummer sound like a great time. The Shaky Hands and Point Juncture open at 9 p.m. at the Beachland Ballroom (15711 Waterloo Rd., 216.383.1124, beachlandballroom.com). Tickets: $12. Chris Drabick

SU, 5/3

James Morrison

You might not know this British blue-eyed soul singer, but back home he's become sort of a national sensation, thanks to his pain-inflected songs, natural charm and gritty voice. His 2006 debut Undiscovered topped the charts overseas. Over here, it sold somewhat respectably, enough that Morrison was able to parlay its success into collaborations with Jason Mraz and Nelly Furtado (who appears on his 2008 album Songs for You, Truths for Me). Morrison is clearly influenced by Al Green, Van Morrison, Otis Redding and especially Stevie Wonder. His lyrics tell of broken hearts and unrequited love, but in real life, he's a pretty happy guy: He and his longtime girlfriend became parents last year. Diane Birch opens for Morrison at 8 p.m. at House of Blues (308 Euclid Ave., 216.523.2583, houseofblues.com). Tickets: $19.50-$25. Ernest Barteldes

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