Despite sounding like a full band, the Conversation is more like a monologue for Texan Jared Putnam, who gets a little help from some friends on his second album, last year's Blue. Mixing hooky pop and adult-alternative sounds, Putnam (who plays almost everything but percussion on Blue) writes such songs as "Lost Pines," "The Sun," and "About the Weather." But he never gets all hippy-dippy with his lyrics. Rather, he muses on love and life, while his acoustic guitar strums out a rhythm that feels, well, natural. Putnam's assembled a band for a nationwide tour that brings the Conversation to the Hi-Fi Club (11729 Detroit Avenue in Lakewood) at 9 tonight. Tickets are $5. Call 216-521-8878 for more info.
Friday, June 3
Hot town, summer in the city! Sparx Street Beats kicks off its season-long dance-and-music fest today. Every Friday and Saturday through September 17, musicians, dance troupes, and performance artists entertain and possibly annoy the hell out of people on downtown sidewalks. Many of the performances are tied into local artists' new shows, so it's like getting a free sneak peek at some of the summer's best productions. Look for the minstrels from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Friday at Public Square and Playhouse Square and from 7 to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday in the Warehouse District. Call 216-426-7335 for more info.
After 19 years, Rockin' on the River has bragging rights as the longest-running outdoor music series in Northeast Ohio. This season (which wraps on September 4) includes performances by Abbey Road (a Beatles tribute band), Zoso (a Led Zeppelin tribute), and Captain Fantastic (an Elton John tribute). This week includes music by Harlow, a Journey -- what else? -- tribute band. Get ready for some lovin', touchin', and squeezin' from 5 to 11 p.m. on River Front Street in Cuyahoga Falls. Admission is free. For more information, visit www.rockinontheriver.com.
Saturday, June 4
There's nothing like Lorain Speedway to get our engines revved on a Saturday night. In addition to all the paint-trading, NASCAR-sanctioned race action that happens every week on the 3/8-mile track, today is Kids' Day, which means that Junior Jeff Gordons can revel in some lap dreams. There's a Big Wheel Race, a coloring contest, face-painting, an autograph session with the drivers, and an appearance from Checkers the Clown. Doors open at 4 p.m. for festivities; start your engines at 7 p.m. at Lorain Speedway (Route 58, south of Route 113, in Amherst). Admission is $12, free for kids under 12; call 216-447-7888.
When their flaky mother leaves them behind, four fatherless children are left to fend for themselves in the heart-rending Japanese film Nobody Knows, which is based on a true story. The oldest and most responsible kid is a 12-year-old boy, whose rare moments of childhood play (hanging out with friends, participating in a baseball game) are fraught with guilt. Afraid of being separated and placed in foster families if they're discovered, the siblings spend most of their days hiding out in an increasingly grubby apartment, with little money to support themselves. While it's a beautiful film, in the end, Nobody Knows will leave you wornout and torn. It's at the Cleveland Cinematheque (11141 East Boulevard) at 7:15 tonight and 8:45 p.m. tomorrow. Admission is $8; call 216-421-7450. See Film for a review.
Sunday, June 5
It's easy to tag Charlotte Martin as a Tori Amos clone. The goth imagery, the piano flourishes, the kinda kooky vocal phrasings -- the young singer-songwriter has it all. But her latest album, last year's On Your Shore, is also a sensitive, atmospheric work that reveals a musical depth marinated in stylish theatrics (betraying Martin's school days as a classically trained opera singer). She's been on the road for quite some time now, and her dedication has paid off with a supertight stage show. Martin is at the Beachland Tavern (15711 Waterloo Road) at 8 tonight. Tickets are $10, available by calling 216-383-1124.
Monday, June 6
Even though we don't like Mondays, we do like all the cool things that happen at bars on Mondays. Specials are good; many specials are even better. Highland Square Tavern not only features DJ Coyote Bill spinning tunes; there's also karaoke and free pool all night long. And if that isn't enough to make you want to raise a few celebratory Buds, it's also Bomb Night, with brain-numbing shots going for a mere $3.50. Highland Tavern Square is at 11634 Madison Avenue; call 216-472-0920.
Tuesday, June 7
Mac's Backs Books continues to collect and bring in some of the nation's finest young writers for readings and signings. Tonight's get-together includes appearances by Razorcake editor Sean Carswell, McSweeney's contributor Mickey Hess, local author-artist-musician Fred Wright, and Joe Meno, whose punk-besotted novel from last year, Hairstyles of the Damned, was one of our favorites. It starts at 7 p.m. at Mac's Backs, 1820 Coventry Road in Cleveland Heights. Admission is free. Call 216-321-2665 for more info.
Wednesday, June 8
Boy, do we love strawberries. Put 'em on shortcake, dip 'em in chocolate, mix 'em with cereal. Hell, give 'em to us right out of the ground. We don't care. Because we love strawberries. And we love the annual Kirtland Kiwanis Strawberry Festival almost as much. Now in its 45th year, the five-day fest includes rides, games, crafts, a flea market, tons of live music, and just about anything you can think of that has to do with strawberries, including daily strawberry-shortcake-eating contests. It all happens through Sunday, June 12, at Kirtland High School, 9150 Chillicothe Road in Kirtland. Hours are from 6 to 11 p.m. today and Thursday, 5:30 p.m. to midnight Friday, 11 a.m. to midnight Saturday, and noon to 8 p.m. Sunday. Admission is free. Call 440-256-1181 for more info.
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