Versatile bluesman Taj Mahal hasn't had much trouble finding an audience since he first toured and recorded with the likes of Eric Clapton and the Rolling Stones in the late 1960s. But other, less savvy musicians know the classic hard-luck stories they're singing all too well. There's so many of them, in fact, that they now have their own charity: The Music Maker Relief Foundation for forgotten blues artists. Taj plays a benefit concert in support of the foundation tonight at 9 p.m. at Fat Fish Blue, 21 Prospect Avenue. Also on the bill are slide guitarist Mudcat and some of those lesser-knowns, including harmonica player Neil Pattman, street singer Cootie Stark, and guitarist Beverly Watkins. Admission is $10; call 216-875-6000.
Looks like the new Bad Epitaph Theater Company will have to sidle up to Shakespeare, simply because there is no front and center at the Brick Alley Theatre, where they'll be performing Hamlet this weekend. The audience sits on either side of the stage, so alas, poor Yorick and the rest of the cast must either think diagonally or constantly move in a big circle (which works well for sword fights, not so hot for deathbed scenes). Some of the players may look familiar: director David Hansen started Bad Epitaph after leaving Dobama's Night Kitchen last year, bringing along many of the actors and writers he worked with there. Pared down to three hours, sans some of the sixteenth-century inside jokes, the production runs Friday, Saturday, and Sunday through May 2. Tonight's performance is at 8 p.m.; admission is $10, $7 students and seniors. At 4051 St. Clair Avenue; call 216-556-4490 for more information.
One mass-murdering millionaire might seem like plenty, but two of them turn up in Silver Gorilla, the third outing by Boston power-pop quartet The Gravel Pit. "American Trilogy," a song series on the CD, is a sort of "Battle Hymn of the Pent-up Republic," with hummable ballads about two rich brats--one made up, one biblical--who paint the town blood-red. Disturbing subject matter aside, the Gravel Pit is actually rather pleasant, delivering melodic yet rough-edged tunes that falter only occasionally, when the song gets lost in repetitive chord changes. They'll kick up the dirt at 10 p.m. at the Grog Shop, 1765 Coventry Road in Cleveland Heights. Admission is $6; call 216-321-5588.
All that's missing is the tequila worm at Fiesta Mexicana, the Cleveland Museum of Art's family celebration in conjunction with the Diego Rivera retrospective. Things get shaking at noon with drop-in arts and crafts workshops based on Mexican designs and murals, music by a strolling mariachi band, Latin-American storytelling, and puppetry. The free party continues until 4:30 p.m., with a 1:30 p.m. dance performances by Ballet Folklorio and Tom and Susana Evert. At the Cleveland Museum of Art, 11150 East Boulevard; call 216-421-7340.
Planning a gay wedding can be especially tough--you've gotta worry about blind-drunk Uncle Wesley falling into the cake and find an organist willing to play "Here Comes the Bride" twice. Hmm, maybe Uncle Wesley could get the organist drunk . . . To help things run a little smoother, the Lesbian/Gay Community Service Center of Greater Cleveland is hosting its second annual Celebrate! Cleveland Marriage Expo '99. With gay-friendly caterers, ministers, florists, bakers, and dressmakers, it's a lot like a hetero bridal show, but with more attorneys, political activists, and financial planners to navigate couples through skads of same-sex marriage legislation. The free expo starts at 1 p.m. at the Glidden House Hotel, 1901 Ford Drive in University Circle. For more information, call 216-522-1999.
Hear some writing that didn't turn up five minutes ago at the bottom of a coffee pot, when U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky reads from his latest work, The Figured Wheel: New and Collected Poems 1966-96. Pinsky's best known as the director of the Favorite Poem Project--a series of public readings starring Congress members and cab drivers--and as the definitive translator of Dante's The Inferno. He's also one of the foremost poets today writing in a narrative style that owes as much to essay as to lyric. And hey, he's an Indians fan and "ardent New York Yankees hater," having grown up in a New Jersey town where the Brooklyn Dodgers ruled. He'll read at 5:30 p.m. in Case Western Reserve University's Strosacker Auditorium, 10900 Euclid Avenue. The reading is free; call 216-368-4440 for more information.
If a tree falls on the dance floor, and nobody's around, does it register on the sound board? The Athens, Georgia, band Macha attempts to answer these and other open-ended questions tonight, when it makes its first appearance in Cleveland at the Grog Shop, opening for labelmates Jets to Brazil and Euphone. Macha has a boatload of influences--trance, Indonesian folk music, all-night drumming circles in Brazilian rain forests and Tallahassee strip malls--but they're kin to no one, sounding simultaneously like a leaf zigzagging to the ground, a telephone repair worker climbing a pole, and an empty soup can rolling down a deserted street. Plus they're almost danceable. They'll trip your trigger on hammered dulcimer, zither, vibraphone, and more tonight at 10 p.m. at the Grog Shop, 1765 Coventry Road in Cleveland Heights. Admission is $6; call 216-321-5588.
Nashville comedian Faye Woodruff, "The Grandma from Hell," spent three very full days in the slammer last year, after she took her night's pay from the cash register behind the bar at a Mississippi club. Though less than thrilled with her orange jumpsuit, she worked the cellblock crowd--and chatted up the male guards, finding them as delectable as dessert squares in TV dinners. Recalls Granny, 60, of her captors: "I sez, 'Where y'all been all my life? I been lookin' for you and the Budweiser frog with that long tongue.'" She'll bring her now-clean record and dirty mind to Hilarities Comedy Club, 1546 State Road in Cuyahoga Falls. Tickets are $5; call 330-923-4700.
Glass artists rarely escape the prettiness inherent in their medium, no matter how they elongate or mutate it. Likewise, the 27 Ohio artists in Reflections in Glass don't shatter any boundaries between fine art and craft, but they do manage to have some fun while exploring the possibilities of their material. Among the show's highlights: "Fishbone Breakfast," a mixed-media diagram of the digestive process by William Teschner that incorporates steel, thread, and hash-browned potatoes; Richard Harned's gallery of wrought-iron chandeliers that, filled with glass candles, reflect rather than generate light; and marbles based on the patterns of animal skins by Mark Matthews. The show is at the Akron Art Museum, 70 E. Market St., through June 6. Admission is free, and hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily; call 330-376-9185.
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