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Pearl Jam and Band of Horses at the Q on Sunday

Without the plodding ruminations and self-serious space fillers that have weighed down Pearl Jam albums ever since they got all serious, last year's Backspacer turned out to be their most vibrant set of songs since 1994's Vitalogy. Producer Brendan O'Brien who worked on four Pearl Jam albums during the decade they mattered  returns, spraying a classic-rock finish on top of a sturdy batch of tunes. Best of all, Eddie Vedder is back to shredding his vocal cords, reserving his solemn low growl for a couple of Backspacer's heaviest cuts. The rest of the band plays along, supplying thundering drums, chunky guitar riffs, and songs with fist-raising power chords. For the first time since grunge went the way of trip-hop and electronica, Pearl Jam sound like they mean it. Their show at the Q Sunday will be a mix of Backspacer tracks plus plenty of old favorites. Be sure to get there early. There's no telling how openers Band of Horses' twangy indie-rock will play for Pearl Jam's adrenaline-spiked audience (be warned, Band of Horses covered Chicago on their last tour), but they're worth catching all the same. Cease to Begin (from 2007) is one of the decade's best albums; their third album, Infinite Arms, comes out on May 10. Showtime is 7:30 p.m. Sunday at Quicken Loans Arena (One Center Court, 888.894.9424, livenation.com). Tickets: $69. Michael Gallucci

Wednesday, May 5

Frightened Rabbit

Slow and steady might not be the expected career trajectory for a band called Frightened Rabbit, but that's the course charted by this Glasgow foursome. Formed in 2004 by brothers Scott and Grant Hutchison, the band self-released its debut album, Sing the Greys, in 2006. After a much-buzzed South by Southwest showcase in 2007, stateside bloggers picked up on them. They kept up the momentum with Midnight Organ Fight in 2008, streamlining their resolutely Scottish approach (think of them as a poppier version of fellow Scots Arab Strap but with the Shins' melodic sense). Frightened Rabbit's superb stage show was documented on the 2009 live record Quietly Now!, a pretty ballsy move for a band with only two albums. Their latest, The Winter of Mixed Drinks, is an ambitious work, stretching the group's sound with echoes of U2's big-rock rattle and hum. The rousing "Swim Until You Can't See Land" and "Living in Colour" prove that slow and steady has most certainly won the race for Frightened Rabbit. They play the Grog Shop (2785 Euclid Heights Blvd., Cleveland Hts., 216.321.5588, grogshop.gs), with Maps and Atlases and Our Brother the Native opening at 8 p.m. Tickets: $13 advance, $15 day of show. — Chris Drabick

Shelby Lynne

When Shelby Lynne takes the stage of the Beachland Ballroom (15711 Waterloo Rd., 216.383.1124, beachlandballroom.com) tonight, she's bringing an intimate collection of new tunes with her. The sultry Southern songstress — who wowed listeners with I Am Shelby Lynne, following five albums and a decade of obscurity — is touring behind Tears, Lies, and Alibis, a set of largely downbeat originals. Although tracks like "Rains Came," "Old Dog," and "Alibi" are relatively animated, the overall tone of the album is bleak and lonely. Lynne's smooth voice is seductive, and arrangements featuring the cream of Muscle Shoals musicians give the album integrity but not sufficient muscle to keep it engaging. Still, Lynne's narrative talents shine in the wistful, lovely "Something to Be Said" and "Old #7," which should take a place on the shelf of all-time great drinking songs. Despite questionable pacing and a sparseness that keeps it from blasting off, there's honesty and character to burn on Tears, Lies, and Alibis. And it's good that Lynne is writing again after Just a Little Lovin', her 2008 homage to Dusty Springfield, a similarly underappreciated pop icon. Opening for Lynne on this acoustic tour will be Findlay Brown, a British singer known for "Come Home," which you may have heard in MasterCard commercials. Showtime is 8 p.m. Tickets: $26. — Carlo Wolff

Thusday, May 6

Cleveland Orchestra

You're probably familiar with Carl Orff's song cycle Carmina Burana, a collection of songs written by students and priests that satirizes the church and celebrates a life of debauchery. Its most popular song, "O Fortuna," can be heard in just about every corner of pop culture — from movies to music, including a recent appearance in Glee (it evoked the supernatural hatred between Will Schuester and Sue Sylvester). If you want to hear the piece in full, and without the distraction of some overblown narrative, you're in luck: Cleveland Orchestra's director of choruses, Robert Porco, leads the ensemble this weekend. They'll be joined onstage by a chorus. Performances are at 8 p.m. tonight, tomorrow, and Saturday at Severance Hall (11001 Euclid Ave., 216.231.1111, clevelandorchestra.com). Tickets: $40-$106. Michael Gill

Wanderlust:

A History of Walking

Ever since his New York-based theater ensemble disbanded in 2007, Matthew Earnest has taken his cross-disciplinary style of adaptation to venues around the country as a freelance director. He's been through Cleveland before (his adaptation of Peter Pan won raves three years ago), but this time he's premiering a version of Rebecca Solnit's 2001 book Wanderlust: A History of Walking. The play starts with a team of scientists examining the bones of a 3.2 million year-old ancestor who walked upright. Before it's all over, Earnest will explore the art of walking as it pertains to transportation, exercise, and (with civil-rights marches and AIDS Walks) political statements. Wanderlust: A History of Walking opens at 7:30 tonight with performances through May 29 at Cleveland Public Theatre (6415 Detroit Ave., 216.631.2727, cptonline.org). Tickets: $10-$21. Gill

Friday, May 7

Converge

Ever since Converge hit their stride with 2001's Jane Doe, the Massachusetts quartet has been cutting a swath of destruction encompassing the extreme metal and punk scenes. Last year's Axe to Fall is the most recent and obvious example. Their albums may arrive less frequently these days, but with each one Converge continue to refine their sound, adding nuances to their brutality and technicality. The cluster of riffs and beats on Axe to Fall is cohesive, leaving listeners wanting more, even as they run to the store for a super-sized package of Q-tips to clean blood from their ears. Converge manage to make the redundancies and simple repetition of rock music both abrasive and charming. And say what you want about the violence in the pit or the palpable stench of adrenaline in the air at their live shows — these guys always captivate and entertain. Best of all, Converge have become more technically adept over the years, without resorting to longwinded, pretentious drivel. In the days of post-everything rock, that's a rare trait, and one that deserves your attention. They play the Grog Shop (2785 Euclid Heights Blvd., Cleveland Hts., 216.321.5588, grogshop.gs). Black Breath, Lewd Acts and Above This Fire kick things off at 7 p.m. Tickets: $12 advance, $14 day of show. — Nick DeMarino

History Paintings

Stow-based painter Neil MacDonald's landscapes usually involve disaster of one kind or another — from plane-crash sites to Chernobyl's wasteland. MacDonald has exhibited at SPACES, the Akron Art Museum, and Youngstown's Butler Institute of American Art. But one of his steadiest supporters is Shaheen Gallery, which opens an exhibit of new work, History Paintings, tonight. The centerpiece is the ginormous "The Battle of Lepanto (After Vicentino)," which is made up of a bunch of tiny squares, each revealing a facet of the overall scene's destruction. The show opens with a reception from 7-9 p.m. and continues through June 11 at Shaheen Gallery (740 W. Superior Ave., 216.830.8888, shaheengallery.com). Admission is free. Gill

Grant-Lee Phillips

Grant-Lee Phillips has been surfing the waves of cult stardom for a while now. He spent the '90s fronting Grant Lee Buffalo, who opened for Pearl Jam and R.E.M. They broke up at the end of the decade, and Phillips started crafting solo albums — beginning with 2000's Ladies Love Oracle — which showcase his dream-pop croon and moody tunes. Spurred by the birth of his daughter, last year's lovely Little Moon stands as his most upbeat outing (the leadoff track, "Good Morning Happiness," is a delightful ray of sunshine). Phillips has a theatrical streak that separates him from most melancholy singer-songwriters. His 2006 acoustic covers album re-imagined some of his favorites '80s tunes by the Pixies, New Order, and the Cure. And he served as Stars Hollow's wandering troubadour on The Gilmore Girls. The L.A.-based Phillips also has been involved in the city's alternative-comedy scene. Be sure to track down his R-rated musical collaboration with Margaret Cho on YouTube. He plays the Beachland Tavern (15711 Waterloo Rd., 216.383.1124, beachlandballroom.com) at 7:30 p.m., with the Winter Pills opening and sitting in with Phillips. Tickets: $15. — Michael Berick

Saturday, May 8

Sue Foley and Peter Karp

Letters can be powerful things. They are often personal, sometimes revealing, and — in Sue Foley and Peter Karp's case — the inspiration behind their new album, He Said, She Said. They began exchanging letters after collaborating on a song, which was never released. They turned their correspondence and e-mails into a set of songs about touring musicians' loneliness and isolation, including the powerhouse blues duet "Treat Me Right" and the gentle love ballad "Lost in You." Foley and Karp play the Winchester Tavern (12112 Madison Ave., 216.226.5681, thewinchester.net) at 9 p.m. Tickets: $15. — Ernest Barteldes

Mick Taylor

Of all the guys who have had to fill infrequent gaps in the Rolling Stones' roster over the band's 47-year history, no one's had a tougher time than Mick Taylor. Not only did Taylor represent the first change of personnel in the Stones' classic lineup, he also had to fill the permanently departed shoes of the immensely loved Brian Jones. Taylor's tenure with the Stones was both hugely successful (he played on some of the Stones' biggest and best albums, including Sticky Fingers, Exile on Main St., and Goat's Head Soup) and wildly contentious (he quit in 1974 after one too many dust-ups with Keith Richards). However you judge his impact on the Stones' legacy —many fans rank his period with the band the best — one fact is certain: Taylor is one of rock's most supple and melodic guitarists. He was a member of John Mayall's Bluesbreakers at age 17, a Stone at 20, and a solo artist and consummate session player at 26. Taylor's skills encompass blues, jazz, and pop, and his amazingly fluid style has backed up Bob Dylan, the Grateful Dead, and Little Feat. Forty-plus years after he changed the Stones' chemistry, Taylor remains one of world's greatest guitarists. He performs at 8 p.m. at the Kent Stage (175 E. Main St., Kent, 330.677.5005, kentstage.org) at 8 p.m. Tickets: $30-$40. — Brian Baker

Sunday, May 9

Leatherface

It's impossible to overlook the effect Hot Water Music have had on contemporary punk. From Gainesville to Green Bay, you can hear their influence in hoarse-voiced frontmen, detailed basslines, and thick, competing slabs of guitar. Yet, all these idiosyncrasies — the gruff vocals, intricate rhythms, and ability to mesh pop-punk with D.C. post-hardcore — were old hat for Leatherface by the time Hot Water Music even hit the scene in the mid-'90s. Formed in Thatcher-era England, Leatherface take smart, scrappy punk and add fuzzy, disgruntled layers to it. The group's songs aren't just raw and emotive; they're dense and intricate. Melodies appear through the haze of gravelly musings, while guitar lines crawl over each other. Theirs is a gritty and compressed sound that transcends, despite its limitations. It's also a sound that has worked its way into modern punk consciousness. Leatherface play Now That's Class (11213 Detroit Ave., 216.221.8576, myspace.com/nowthatsclass) at 9 p.m. The Casting Out, Ninja Gun, the Fucking Cops, and Two Hand Fools open. Tickets: $5. Matt Whelihan

Mother's Day

Sure, you could take Mom to brunch on Mother's Day, but that's so unimaginative. There are plenty of alternatives. You could take her fishing from 9 a.m.-noon at the Hinckley Metroparks Reservation — equipment, bait, lessons, and even a one-day license are provided for a $10 fee (clemetparks.com). For Motorcycle Mamas, the Mother's Day Romp on the Strip heralds the opening of the Geneva-on-the-Lake summer season (visitgenevaonthelake.com). But for the historically minded (or those looking for something family-friendly and informal), there's no more appropriate gathering than the third annual Mother's Day Peace Party at the India Cultural Garden (1190 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., 216.383.1684, clevelandpeaceaction.org), since Mother's Day was first celebrated by women's peace groups, often linking mothers who'd lost sons on both sides of the Civil War. A coalition of local peace groups will provide refreshments, free family photos at the Gandhi statue, crafts for kids, and performances by the Hindu Heritage School. The free event runs from 2-4 p.m. Anastasia Pantsios

Monday, May 10

Sheep Shearing

Sheep shearing is more complicated than it looks — there's even a world championship that New Zealand usually wins. But you don't need to book a flight down under to see skilled shearers relieve sheep of their winter coats. Twice a day — starting today and running through May 31 when, presumably, all the sheep will be summer-ready — Lake Farmparks (8800 Chardon Rd., Kirtland, 440.256.2122, lakemetroparks.com) offers visitors a chance to see giant slabs of thick wool deftly removed from the surprisingly laidback animals. City slickers can also get close to all kinds of livestock, check out some tractors, watch milking demonstrations, and learn about composting. Lake Farmpark is open every day from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Admission: $6 adults, $4 kids 2-11. Pantsios 

Tuesday, May 11

Local Natives

This L.A. quintet is all about the spirit of collaboration. They share everything: a house, songwriting duties, and album design. They've been touring steadily and making a name for themselves ever since their 2009 South by Southwest gigs (they played nine shows). They're big in Europe, where they've been compared to Vampire Weekend, Arcade Fire, and Fleet Foxes. Indeed, their debut album, Gorilla Manor, carries an Afropop influence similar to Vampire Weekend, their high-energy choruses often recall Arcade Fire, and their harmonies dip from the same well that inspires Fleet Foxes. But the expertly crafted "World News" and "Camera Talk" show that the band is adept at melding their influences into a crafty whole. Openers Suckers, from Brooklyn, are riding some blog buzz as they prepare to release their debut album, Wild Smile, next month. So get there early. The show starts at 8:30 p.m. at the Beachland Ballroom (15711 Waterloo Rd., 216.383.1124, beachlandballroom.com). Tickets: $10 advance, $12 day of show. Drabick

Willie Nelson

Country Music: The simple, straightforward title of Willie Nelson's latest album says it all. It marks the first time Nelson has collaborated with famed producer T Bone Burnett, who chose the classic songs and traditional numbers that make up this impressive collection. Burnett also handpicked the musicians, many of whom played on Robert Plant and Alison Krauss' Grammy-winning Raising Sand. With its heavy reliance on mandolin, banjo, fiddle, and pedal steel, Country Music is country in its purest form, worlds away from the glossy brand of rocked-up country that now rules the airwaves. In a world where something as mundane as carpooling the kids becomes lyrical fodder for a country song, Nelson takes us back to a time when country music explored darker themes. Consider Nelson's poignant reading of Bob Wills' "Gotta Walk Alone," where he gives voice to a man whose friends have all left him. From the harmonica-pumped "Freight Train Boogie" to the Hank Williams ballad of godly devotion "House of Gold" (one of a handful of spirituals on the album), this is straight-up country in the hands of two masters of the craft. Nelson plays the Akron Civic Theatre (182 S. Main St., Akron, 330.253.2488, akroncivic.com) at 7:30 p.m. Tickets: $49.50-$59.50. Tierney Smith

"Reclaiming Holocaust Art: Past, Present & Future"

"Provenance," or the history of ownership, is a big deal in the art world. And establishing ownership of art that was stolen decades or generations ago is a hot issue these days, with nations demanding the return of artifacts excavated in the 19th century. One of the most emotionally charged disputes has to do with ownership of artworks taken by Nazis from Jewish owners — or left behind as they fled — during World War II. With many of the original owners dead, and the pieces long since sold to museums and their value having skyrocketed, interests clash, with the horror of the Holocaust always lurking in the background. A panel of experts — DePaul professor Patty Gerstenblith, Plain Dealer critic Steve Litt, and lawyer Howard Spiegler, who has represented families who want their items back — will talk about the ongoing impact of this tragic chapter in history during "Reclaiming Holocaust Art: Past, Present & Future." It starts at 7 p.m. at the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage (2929 Richmond Rd., Beachwood, 216.593.0575, maltzmuseum.org). Admission is $10. Pantsios

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