Two years ago, Marah sold out. The rootsy Americana band from Philadelphia -- led by brothers Dave and Serge Bielanko, championed by writer Nick Hornby, and pals with Bruce Springsteen -- packed up the accordions, banjos, and harmonicas that guided its 2000 slice of street life, Kids in Philly, and went to hell. More accurately, it went to Ireland and Wales with Oasis producer Owen Morris to make Float Away With the Friday Night Gods, a bombastic, overreaching shot at rock stardom. It bombed. Critics hated it; fans loathed it.
"It was an album we had to make," says Serge Bielanko. "We'd made two albums in the same spot in Philadelphia, surrounded by streets we grew up on, and we had to get away and do something different somewhere else. It was time for a loud, glossy guitar record."
Now it's time to get back to their roots. On the new 20,000 Streets Under the Sky, Marah is back in comfy Philly territory. "These are street songs," Bielanko says. "But it's not just Philly. It's London, it's New York and the other places we've spent time." Marah is at the Beachland Tavern (15711 Waterloo Road) at 9 p.m. Thursday. Tickets are $8 (advance) and $10; call 216-383-1124. -- Michael Gallucci
Film fest under the stars.
Only an indie filmmaker living in Tokyo could dream up I Was a Japanese Ace Frehley, a 15-minute documentary about Kiss fans in the Land of the Rising Sun, screening at Saturday's Overlook Park Shorts Film Festival. Among the 25 movies being shown is The Propeller Guy, "a spoof of the Scottish actor and stuntman who hits the propeller when the Titanic sinks in James Cameron's [movie] Titanic," explains co-organizer Frank Revy. Overlook is billed as the city's only outdoor film festival. A 20-foot-wide screen is propped up on the Lake Erie shoreline for the dusk screenings. After the final flick, judges will award the Bertha -- named in honor of an octogenarian who lived on the street for decades before moving to North Carolina last year -- to the night's best film. Movies start at 6 p.m. at the end of Overlook Park Drive. Tickets are $10; visit www.overlookpark.com. -- Cris Glaser
Zoo fete keeps the animals humming.
Who knew that polar bears are Bob Marley fans? Cleveland Metroparks Zoo's special-events coordinator, Jamie Carpenter, for one. At Friday's Twilight at the Zoo (which includes food, drinks, and music), Carpenter will position 16 bands -- playing jazz, disco, and more -- throughout the park. "There are some animals that have sound sensibilities," she says. "You have to be real careful where you place everybody." For example, koalas despise loud music. And the polar bears indeed dig that reggae sound. "They're always sitting right on the edge, jammin'," Carpenter says. "They bob their heads to the music all night long." The party runs from 7 p.m. to midnight at the zoo, 3900 Wildlife Way. Tickets are $55 and $65; call 216-635-3324. -- Diane Sofranec
S21: The Khmer Rouge Killing Machine reunites survivors and the guards who tortured them at a Cambodian prison during Pol Pot's reign in the '70s. Ultimately, it's a solemn, engrossing look at detachment from evil: None of the guards admits wrongdoing (1.7 million people were killed); they were just following orders, they claim. It shows at the Cleveland Cinematheque (11141 East Boulevard) at 7:30 p.m. Friday and 9:55 p.m. Saturday. Admission is $8; call 216-421-7450. -- Michael Gallucci