Jeff Black is one of the best American singer-songwriters you've never heard. His songs have been covered by Waylon Jennings and Blackhawk (who took his "That's Just About Right" to the top of the country charts), among others. His latest album, B Sides and Confessions, is totally acoustic -- perfect for getting to the heart of his intimate work. Onstage, the Nashville-based Black is a commanding performer, despite the fact that he spends most of the time hunched over a piano, relating detailed portraits of people on the move, in search of hope and happiness. (Occasionally, they find one or the other.) Black opens for Tom Rush at the Beachland Ballroom (15711 Waterloo Road) at 8 tonight. Tickets are $18 and $20, available by calling 216-383-1124.
Friday, May 9
Cedar Point starts another season today, and with it comes yet another roller coaster: Top Thrill Dragster. The park's 16th coaster boasts a top height of 420 feet and speeds upward of 120 mph. The Dragster does the usual loops-hills-and-turns thing, then climbs to its apex and . . . free falls into a 270-degree twist. Sounds absolutely terrifying. It's also one for the record books: Top Thrill Dragster is the world's tallest and fastest roller coaster (a distinction previously held by Cedar Point's Gemini, Magnum, and Millennium Force). The park, at One Cedar Point Drive in Sandusky, is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. today. Call 419-627-2350 for times through September 1. Admission ranges from $21.95 to $43.95.
Saturday, May 10
The Pro Football Hall of Fame has caught Ohio's bicentennial fever with "Best of Yesterday and Today," weekly autograph sessions featuring hall of famers with Ohio connections. Today's signing includes former Browns Dante Lavelli (who was born in Ohio) and Bobby Mitchell. It takes place from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Hall of Fame (2121 George Halas Drive in Canton). Admission is $12. Call 330-456-8207 for more information, including upcoming autographers. The series runs through May 24.
Sincerity Forever kicks off Convergence-Continuum's second season, and like the group's unconventional stagings of Quills and The Unseen Hand last year, it promises to be thoroughly unclassifiable. "It's about a normal town with right-thinking people and the two visitors that show up and are kind of screwing things up," explains director Clyde Simon. "These visitors are mystic furballs that corrupt [the citizens'] right-thinking ways." Sincerity Forever's author, Mac Wellman, "writes about the monumental strangeness of life," says Simon. "It doesn't have a surprise ending; it has a surprise beginning. It's really funny and very vague; it's very much about real life and how absurd it can be." Sincerity Forever runs through June 7 at the Liminis (2438 Scranton Road). Show times are 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Tickets are $9 and $12, available by calling 216-687-0074.
Sunday, May 11
The sounds of My Morning Jacket are as impressive as they are haunting. Jim James, leader of the Louisville quintet, surveys the American landscape from an unsteady ledge, looking down on a prairie of influences and disciples. Like the Flaming Lips and Mercury Rev, My Morning Jacket messes with your mind in the subtlest of ways: an out-of-tune instrument here, a fractured melody there. And James's voice -- think Neil Young at his most fragile -- floats above it all, always on the verge of drifting away. Live, My Morning Jacket also channels the Allman Brothers and any number of Southern rockers by pumping up the volume and letting their long, unruly hair flow. They're at the Grog Shop (1765 Coventry Road in Cleveland Heights) at 9 tonight. Tickets are $12, available by calling 216-241-5555.
Monday, May 12
State of Eight: A Bicentennial Tribute to Ohio's Presidential Legacy looks at the impact of a wholly unlucky group of guys: Four of them died in office, either by illness or assassination. "That's not a very good percentage," understates Allison Sharaba, operations manager at the James A. Garfield National Historic Site. State of Eight will keep the focus on the more positive aspects of their terms. "Their lives, military history, and First Ladies are also included," Sharaba says. It's at the Garfield site (8095 Mentor Avenue in Mentor) through June 30. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $5 to $7. Call 440-255-8722 for more information.
Tuesday, May 13
The Cleveland Museum of Art's Points of Light: Sato Tokihiro Photographs features 12 black-and-white pics that reveal Sato's penchant for manipulating his work with penlight and mirror, to reflect sunlight into the camera lens during long-timed exposures. A prelude to the museum's upcoming History of Japanese Photography exhibit, Points of Light is fascinating contemporary stuff. It's at the art museum (11150 East Boulevard) through July 2. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday, and 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday and Friday. Admission is free; call 216-421-7340 for more information.
Wednesday, May 14
Dave Chappelle recently landed his own show on Comedy Central. It's often hit-or-miss, but he's still a pretty funny guy. Chappelle got his start in the unfunny Robin Hood: Men in Tights, got his big break in The Nutty Professor, and is best known for starring in the drugged-out Cheech and Chong update Half Baked, which he also wrote. He can play a wide range of characters, which always serves him well onstage. Chappelle's at the Improv (2000 Sycamore Street) tonight for three shows, at 7, 9, and 11. Tickets are $37. Call 216-696-4677 for more information.
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