Gosh-Darn Funny 

Cathy Ladman's cuss-free comedy at Hilarities, Thursday-Saturday

Cathy Ladman is a rare comedian who doesn't need obscenities to be funny. Like Jerry Seinfeld, Ladman (also a New York Jew) finds humor in the quirks of everyday life. "Personal relationships are the things that fascinate me most, especially the parent-child relationship," she says. "[Blue comedy] isn't the kind of stuff that I find the most interesting. If you took somebody's act and took out all the expletives, you'd see there's something less there." Ladman got her start in the early '80s doing open mics in New York. After an acclaimed HBO performance, her career skyrocketed, and she moved to L.A. to be closer to movie and TV gigs (she had a role in Charlie Wilson's War and played a recurring character on Caroline in the City). Ladman — who's working on a new stage show called Does This Show Make Me Look Fat?, about her eating disorder — says this weekend's performances mark her first local appearances in more than a decade. She and co-headliner Diane Ford perform at Hilarities (2035 E. 4th St., 216.241.7425, pickwickandfrolic.com) at 8 p.m. Thursday, and 7:30 and 10:15 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Tickets: $20-$23. Jeff Niesel


Don Quixote

Given the state of dance in Cleveland, we don't get to see many stories told via classical ballet these days. If you don't plan on taking a trip to Russia anytime soon, you can get a fix at the Cedar Lee Theatre, which is showing high-def video productions featuring the Kirov Ballet. Don Quixote — with music by Ludwig Minkus and starring Vladimir Ponomarev, Olesia Novikova and Leonid Sarafanov — screens at 7 tonight, and 2 p.m. Sunday at the Cedar Lee (2163 Lee Rd., Cleveland Hts., 216.321.5411, clevelandcinemas.com). Tickets: $15. Michael Gill



A festival of church choirs brings to mind a community-theater production of Jesus Christ Superstar or some other sub-par production with robes. But Jubilation is different. Some of the most ambitious and refined church choirs in the region gather over the next two nights, when WCLV-FM104.9, the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist and Akron's T.S. Good Church Organ Company present the final competitive rounds of the church-choir festival. Choirs from Avon Lake UCC, Westlake United Methodist Church and First Church in Oberlin UCC perform tonight. Tomorrow, St. Josaphat Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral, St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Canton and Epworth-Euclid United Methodist Church present their choirs. A panel of judges will award the winners $1,000. Performances start at 8 p.m. at St. John the Evangelist (1007 Superior Ave., 216.771.6666, saintjohncathedral.com). It's free; no ticket required. Gill

L.A. Guns

No matter what your opinion of cock-rocking bands like L.A. Guns, you have to admire the fervor with which they indulge in instrument-as-penis metaphors. The kind of sleazy raunch-rock perpetrated on audiences since Steven Tyler's hideous maw first opened is one of the abiding glories of rock 'n' roll. Few art forms are as free to revel in excess and ridiculousness as rock music, and few things are as essential to the history and trajectory of rock as ridiculous excess. L.A. Guns are nothing if not ridiculous and excessive. With albums like Cocked and Loaded and a co-founder named Tracii Guns, it's hard to mistake this band for anything other than a glorification of the absurd. Music like this is akin to a hot, greasy burger from a hot, greasy diner on the bad side of town. Everyone can appreciate a fine meal — the delicate flavors and elegant presentation of a four-star restaurant represent one of life's unparalleled experiences. But every once in while, everybody needs a sloppy pile of dripping and bloody meat shoved unceremoniously in their face. That's L.A. Guns. There are currently two versions of the band: Guns' and the one that will be at the Hi-Fi featuring singer Phil Lewis and drummer Steve Riley from the band's most successful incarnation. Ground Zero open at 7 p.m. at the HiFi Club (11729 Detroit Ave., 216.221.4747, thehificoncertclub.com). Tickets: $10. — Nicholas Hall

Robin McKelle

With only two CDs under her belt, Berklee grad and Thelonious Monk Vocal Jazz Competition finalist Robin McKelle has already generated buzz among critics and fans. The aptly named 2008 release, Modern Antique, finds McKelle exploring Great American Songbook fare with the smoldering angst and desperate exuberance of Etta James and the cooler confidence of Nancy Wilson. She also turns Steve Miller's "Abracadabra" into a big-band swinger, lays down a faithfully soulful version of Nina Simone's social protest "Go to Hell" and closes with a wistful, if somewhat pedestrian, self-penned weeper called "Remember." But McKelle's true calling card is her singing, and, unlike some of her jazzy contemporaries, she avoids slipping into soft rock. Equipped with a can't-miss sense of timing, McKelle sends her wise, smoky voice over the trickiest big-band hurdles and lands with a gymnast's grace. She'll step out from the din for this show, performing in an intimate trio setting that'll no doubt give her voice more room to stretch and experiment. That's good news for fans of jazz singing. The show starts at 8 p.m. at Nighttown (12387 Cedar Rd., 216.795.0550, nighttown.com). Tickets: $20. — Matt Marshall

Gavin Rossdale

Ah, 1994, how full of promise you were. With music fans gravitating toward anyone in flannel wielding a crunchy guitar, the mid-'90s were kind to Bush's Gavin Rossdale and his rugged good looks and vaguely dark, superficially edgy grunge. Then everyone seemed to figure out that Nirvana was the exception, not the rule, and that most of the imitators weren't very good. The grunge bubble burst, and frontmen like Rossdale were left foundering in search of a new direction. Rossdale's next band, Institute, bore a striking resemblance to his old one. Though short-lived, Institute did foster one spark in Rossdale that had been buried: In all the grit and gravel of Bush, it was hard to notice that Rossdale was a pretty good singer. Now that he's on his own, he makes it clear on his debut solo album, Wanderlust, delivering songs with clean production and simple melodies that showcase his vocals. If he can shed the last remaining trappings of his grunge shadow, Rossdale just might have a fine career ahead of him. Endless Hallway open at 8 p.m. at House of Blues (308 Euclid Ave., 216.523.2583, hob.com). Tickets: $24.50 advance, $28 day of show. — Hall


Electric Six

Electric Six may be best known for goofy songs like "Gay Bar" and "I Buy the Drugs." But over the course of five albums, they've proved their durability with raucous sex-soaked tunes that latch onto new wave, disco-punk and bar-rock before tearing them all to shreds. Singer Dick Valentine initially comes off like the sort of guy at the bar who women avoid and men mock, but his over-the-top showmanship reveals itself as a throwback to the days when rock 'n' roll was gloriously excessive. This is music with an ironic wink that works surprisingly well, thanks to choruses big enough for stadiums and Guitar Hero-worthy riffs. Living Things and Hot Cha Cha open at 9 p.m. at the Grog Shop (2785 Euclid Heights Blvd., Cleveland Hts., 216.321.5588, grogshop.gs). Tickets: $10 advance, $12 day of show. — Matt Whelihan

Evil Dead: The Musical

Sam Raimi's Evil Dead films revel in the sort of campy zombie vibe that makes so many horror flicks from the '70s such a kick to watch. That playful spirit is front and center in the stage version of this musical amalgamation by George Reinblatt, made with the Spider-Man director's blessing. Beck Center artistic director Scott Spence has a keen eye for theatrical hits, especially musicals based on cult films. In Evil Dead: The Musical, five college students break into an abandoned cabin and unwittingly unleash evil. Before long, they're singing "All the Men in My Life Keep Getting Killed by Candarian Demons." It opens at 8 p.m. in Beck Center's Studio Theatre (17801 Detroit Ave., Lakewood, 216.521.2540, beckcenter.org) and runs through June 14. Tickets: $17-$28. — Gill

Tres Versing the Panda

Bree Bodnar's Tres Versing the Panda poetry festival gathers a bunch of old-school Cleveland poets for a weekend celebration of mouth-music subtitled "Three Days of Poetry Soiree in May." Bodnar's connections run deep in the poetry publishing world, so she snagged a wide group of poets to perform. It all begins at 6 tonight at the Barking Spider (11310 Juniper Rd., 216.421.2863, barkingspidertavern.com). Ben Gulyas, Jim Lang and Wesley Eisold are among the readers who'll be accompanied by musicians Travis Catsull and Dirk Michener. A series of poets (including Alex Gildzen, Jeremy Gaulke and Jack McGuane) will pay tribute to the late Cuyahoga County Poet Laureate Daniel Thompson at 1 p.m. tomorrow at his memorial plaque (75 Public Square). Visit greenpandapress.blogspot.com for more info on the fest. Gill

Urban Bright

There aren't many neighborhood-centered arts organizations as well-connected to Cleveland's working artists as Art House. Kids from a half-dozen Cleveland Metropolitan Schools were paired with well-known local artists and performers (including Kristen Cliffel, Liz Maugans and Shelly DiCello) in Art House's after-school program. Urban Bright features the work that came out of their time together. It's on display from 4-6 p.m. at Art House (3119 Denison Ave., 216.398.8556, arthouseinc.org). — Gill   


Dr. Sketchy

The original Dr. Sketchy is New Yorker Molly Crabapple, who posed the question "Why can't drawing naked people be sexy?" in 2005 and answered it with cabaret-meets-life-drawing outings. At the time, she was 22 and working as an artists' model. These days, the Dr. Sketchy concept has spread around the country, while Crabapple has landed illustrations in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal and even some Marvel comics. Local disciples Jason Tilk and Aaron Erb host Dr. Sketchy's Drink and Draw sessions around town, typically at bars, where models sit for three rounds spanning a minute to 10 minutes. You can't take pictures, and you can't paw the models, but at that pace, you'll likely get some drawing practice. Tonight's session features model Fantastic Fred, a girl who wears superhero costumes. Appropriately, it takes place from 7-11 p.m. at Carol and John's Comic Book Shop (17448 Lorain, 216.252.0606, cnjcomics.com). Fee is $10. Gill


The word "eulogies" has bad connotations — heartbreaking speeches, funerals, dead people — evoking feelings contrary to the ones a new band might want to impress upon potential fans. Yet, the L.A.-based indie-rock group Eulogies isn't all gloom and doom. Peter Walker's lyrics can get weighty at times, but the rest of the band keeps the toe-tapping tunes pretty sunny. Simple bass lines, melodic guitar and spacious drumming lighten up the mood. Walker says that his songs allow him to say things folks usually save for, um, eulogies. "How to Be Alone" begins sparsely with four chords, but as the guitar expands into a rip-roaring feast of sound, Walker gets serious about getting through life all by himself. Like most of Eulogies' songs, it grows to a swelling point and contracts just in time for the ending. The foursome recently released Here Anonymous, so expect to hear plenty of new material at this show. The Dears and Great Northern are also on the 8 p.m. at the Grog Shop (2785 Euclid Heights Blvd., Cleveland Hts., 216.321.5588, grogshop.gs). Tickets: $10, advance, $12 day of show. — Danielle Sills

Mayhem Poets

Kyle Sutton, Scott Raven and Manson Granger trace their roots as a poetry performance company to an open mic called Verbal Mayhem started by Sutton and another student at New Jersey's Rutgers University in 2000. The Mayhem Poets' mix of social awareness and verbal virtuosity led to gigs on The Today Show as well as a steady touring schedule. They perform at 11 a.m. at the Ohio Theatre (1501 Euclid Ave., 216.241.6000, playhousesquare.com). Tickets: $10-$20. Gill

Works in Progress

Since the end of last summer, Zygote Press's monthly Works in Progress sessions have given artists on-the-spot feedback from other artists and critics — the sort of conversation that's routine in graduate school but hard to find after that. Today, the Akron Art Museum's director of curatorial affairs Barbara Tannenbaum — who's organized more than 50 exhibitions, including A History of Women Photographers — critiques work by local artists. It starts at 1 p.m. at Zygote Press (1410 East 30th St., 216.621.2900, zygotepress.com), and it's free. Gill

Link Wray Tribute

My older brother was in high school when Link Wray's "Rumble" hit the airwaves in 1958. He told me, "Man, when you hear that guitar, you just wanna rumble!" Chalk it up to the moral corruption for which rock 'n' roll was famous. Or maybe there was something extra in those distorted chords and that sleaze-drenched drumbeat that scored a dead-center hit to the teenage zeitgeist. In any case, the D.C.-based axeman scored a hit on both sides of the Atlantic. The tune's menacing noir overtones got it banned on many radio stations. "Rumble" is also widely regarded as the song that gave birth to the power chord. Wray, decidedly edgier than contemporaries like the Ventures and Duane Eddy, would inspire generations of punks, headbangers and psychobillies up to his death in 2005. There's hardly a guitarist in the rock universe who doesn't credit him as an influence. Highlighting this tribute are Wray's longstanding backups the Raymen (led by Ed Cynar, Wray's bass man from the early '60s) and gonzo Southern roots-rocker Webb Wilder, whose just-released album More Like Me shows its share of lineage to Link. Stuck in Gear, Wraygun and Topcats also play 7 p.m. show at the Beachland Ballroom (15711 Waterloo Rd., 216.383.1124, beachlandballroom.com). Tickets: $20. — Duane Verh

Samantha Crain and

the Midnight Shivers

Oklahoma native Samantha Crain made her recording debut in 2007 with the EP The Confiscation. It was billed as "A Musical Novella," flashing some premature preciousness. It also carried weighty song titles like "In Smithereens, the Search for Affinity," even as its five tracks were melodically slight. All of this early and seemingly misplaced self-confidence makes far more sense with just one listen to Crain's full-length debut, Songs in the Night. The 22-year-old Crain and her band give far more life to her songs this time around, tearing through the Americana-tinged "Long Division" and "Get the Fever Out" with Uncle Tupelo-like fervor. Crain's singing continues to stand out on cuts like "Devils in Boston," a nifty hellhound-on-my-trail trick that Crain pulls off with aplomb. The progression from the over-reaching EP to a streamlined and punchier album provides plenty of evidence that Crain's learning curve is steep. She opens for Thao and the Get Down Stay Down and Sister Suvi at 8:30 p.m. at the Beachland Tavern (15711 Waterloo Rd., 216.383.1124, beachlandballroom.com). Tickets: $8 advance, $10 day of show.

Chris Drabick


The Crystal Method

The Crystal Method, pioneers of the big-beat electronic-dance scene in the 1990s, kicked off their first tour in five years with a thrilling performance at last month's Coachella festival. In the past, they were likely to share the stage with other genre heavyweights like the Prodigy and Fatboy Slim. This year, they played alongside the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and M.I.A. Their latest album, Divided by Night, features a wide array of collaborators — including Matisyahu, New Order's Peter Hook and Meiko. "Drown in the Now," the first single, sounds more contemporary than most of their big-beat oldies, which they're sure to slip into the mix at this show. It starts at 8 p.m. with Danger opening at House of Blues (308 Euclid Ave., 216.523.2583, hob.com). Tickets: $22 advance, $25 day of show. — Lois Elswick


The Hot Seats

When the Hot Seats travel outside the U.S., they're often asked "Are you hillbillies?" and "Do you ever shave?" But they don't mind. The Virginia-based quintet is too busy spreading bluegrass cheer to worry about such questions. With a sense of humor that might outweigh the number of instruments they play, the members of the Hot Seats don't take anything too seriously. (They used to be called Special Ed & the Shortbus.) The guys furiously strum high-speed fiddle, mandolin, washboard, banjo and guitar for some great old-timey music with bluegrass and vaudeville influences. The zany Zappa-style jokes are a bonus. "Sleepover Party" exemplifies the Hot Seats' fun-loving mockery. They giggle and gossip about Mel Gibson as if they were preteens at their first sleepover. Not everything is a joke — the music is first-rate, and it'll have you spinning your partner 'round and 'round in no time. And be sure to check out multi-instrumentalist Aaron "Admiral Admirable" Lewis' humongous beard, which answers that whole shaving question. One Dollar Hat open at 9 p.m. at the Beachland Ballroom (15711 Waterloo Rd., 216.383.1124, beachlandballroom.com). Tickets: $8. — Danielle Sills

Lady Sovereign

There's no doubt hip-hop is a male-dominated genre. In recent years, it seemed like the only female rappers who broke into the mainstream were the ones who showed some skin: Lil' Kim, Trina, Foxy Brown. It's been a while since Queen Latifah and Salt-N- Pepa displayed a more positive female image. Luckily, Lady Sovereign — a 23-year-old British rhymer — has made a name for herself without compromising her morals or style. In 2005, after some success in the U.K. grime scene, she scored the unlikely chance to freestyle for then-Def Jam CEO Jay-Z. He signed her on the spot. Sov's 2006 single, "Love Me or Hate Me," proudly proclaimed her refusal to play into rap's stereotypes. Her new album, Jigsaw, is more electro than hip-hop, and her vocals are often sung, rather than rapped. Even if you don't dig her tunes, she's proof that not only can girls rap, they can do so on their own terms. Chester French and Hollywood Holt open at 8 p.m. at the Grog Shop (2785 Euclid Heights Blvd., Cleveland Hts., 216.321.5588, grogshop.gs). Tickets: $15. — Eddie Fleisher


Bonnie "Prince" Billy

Like some old Appalachian folk tale, Will Oldham continues to creep out of the woods nearly every year with a new album of eerie and autumnal country rock. He hasn't lost a step over the past two decades, penning poignant folk songs (more than 15 albums' worth) under pseudonyms like Palace Music, Palace Brothers and his current Bonnie "Prince" Billy moniker. His latest album, Beware, continues where 2006's The Letting Go started anew, with large instrumentation, big backing harmonies and epic-sounding songs — a contrast to his past cannon of skeletal, low-fi, gothic country records. Beware is big and beautiful, but it's also slow as hell. Oldham sings and actually looks like an ancient tortoise (his grizzled, bald head adorns the album cover). Plus, it sounds just like every other Oldham album. But it still includes mesmeric and haunting material, with upbeat tunes like "Beware Your Only Friend" melding seamlessly with somber anthems like "Death Final," making it perfect for rainy day ruminations or a lazy sunny afternoon. Lighting Dust opens at 9 p.m. at the Beachland Ballroom (15711 Waterloo Rd., 216.383.1124, beachlandballroom.com). Tickets: $16 advance, $18 day of show. Keith Gribbins

Das Rheingold

Street theater has birthed some magnificent things over the past few years, including La Fura dels Baus. Coming off the streets of Barcelona, the company is best known for mega-shows that mix music, dance, acrobatics and technology. They typically draw crowds of 25,000 in their hometown. Shortly after the turn of the millennium, La Fura dels Baus began to dabble in opera and technology: They were the first company to use video teleconferencing as an element of art. Their production of Wagner's Das Rheingold screens in high-def video at the Cedar Lee Theatre (2163 Lee Rd., Cleveland Hts., 216.321.5411, clevelandcinemas.com) at 7 p.m. Tickets: $20. Gill

Kings of Leon

Before they became boozing, drugging and model-boinking cover boys, Kings of Leon were backwoods preacher's kids (and a cousin) who didn't hear a Rolling Stones song until they were 18. Or so the story goes. As more and more details of their supposedly secluded upbringing emerge, the more suspicious they become. We believe that the siblings' childhoods were governed by a maniacal man of God who stressed that rock 'n' roll was the devil's music. And we believe that the boys were home-schooled and raised on old-fashioned (and kinda hillbilly) values. But the Kings record for the same label that tried to give Kelly Clarkson a makeover a couple years ago. So how much of their back story is fabricated? It's hard to believe that the Stones-y struts all over their fourth album, last year's Only by the Night, weren't even on the guys' radars seven or so years ago. Either way, it's a persuasive record, their best since their 2003 debut Youth and Young Manhood and the first where Caleb Followill doesn't mumble the lyrics. Praise the Lord! Kings of Leon play Time Warner Cable Amphitheater at Tower City (1887 W. 3rd St., 877.522.4822, livenation.com) at 7:30 p.m. Tickets: $42. — Michael Gallucci

Richard Lloyd

If talent recognizes genius, then even the best will go unappreciated by many. Guitarist Richard Lloyd knew Jimi Hendrix through his friend Velvert Turner, whom Hendrix was teaching guitar. That musical spark would propel Lloyd through a musical career that's yielded the proto-punk band Television and five solo albums. His distinctive guitar style (sleek, sonorous and wiry) offered a fine counterpoint to former bandmate Tom Verlaine's more florid playing. With just two albums, Television produced a guitar vocabulary that would influence many subsequent artists — from the Pixies and Sonic Youth to the Strokes. Lloyd has played with many other artists, including Matthew Sweet, John Doe and Cleveland's Rocket From the Tombs, whose last album he produced. Perhaps fired by that old-school punk sound, he followed up the jazzier guitar pop of 2001's The Cover Doesn't Matter with last year's The Radiant Monkey, on which he played every instrument but drums. It's his most hearty, fibrous rock effort since his Television days, and he's never sounded better vocally. Television drummer Billy Ficca is part of his Sufi-Monkey Trio (along with Keith Hartel on bass) that will be with him at Now That's Class (11213 Detroit Ave., 216.221.8576, myspace.com/nowthatsclass). Home and Garden and the Exploding Lies open at 9 p.m. Tickets: $7. — Chris Parker

Speak From the Heart

"When I first heard alumni of the Women's Voices Project speak, I was awed by their powerful poetry, compelling stories and willingness to speak from the heart about their personal experiences," says David T. Hill, pastor of First Church in Oberlin. "These voices need to be heard again and again, for they speak not only of pain and loss, but of resistance, empowerment and transformation." That's right up Cleveland Public Theatre's alley. For years, CPT has made art out of the struggles of at-risk children and men living in transitional housing. Tonight, CPT presents Speak From the Heart, readings of new work by the Women's Voices Project in collaboration with the Elyria YWCA. Under the guidance of CPT education director Chris Seibert, the ladies worked with actors to improvise and tell stories based on their own circumstances. Showtime is 7 p.m. at First Church (106 N. Main St., Oberlin, 216.631.2727, cptonline.org). It's free. Gill


Remember the industrial-goth band Vast? What about the electro-garage-rock band Vast? Did you hear the acoustic indie-rock band Vast? Or what about John Crosby's folk and country records? Whatever name or genre this Austin-based multi-instrumentalist plays under, you can pretty much expect delicate, haunting melodies with dark, melancholy atmospherics. Over the past 11 years, Crosby has moved from major label to his own indie company. His masculine yet vulnerable vocals have opened up to a range of styles and inflections, but every song is still about the same thing: love. In this sense, Crosby is a singer-songwriter, using every color of the palette to reveal hidden hues and seductive shades. Music — like love, life and pretty much everything else — is cyclical, so it's no surprise to hear him returning to electronics on Bang Band SiXXX, Vast's latest EP. The band's live show is as eclectic as the music — sometimes there are DATs and a load of musicians; sometimes it's just Crosby with an acoustic guitar and a couple of friends. Into the Presence, Chloroform and Cleveland's alt-rockers Townhouse Suite kick things off at 7:30 p.m. at the Agora Theater (5000 Euclid Ave., 216.881.6700, clevelandagora.com). Tickets: $15. Nick DeMarino

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