Stellastarr* admits that the asterisk at the end of its name doesn't really mean anything. It just looks cool. "It was something we did when we started out," explains singer Shawn Christensen. "We didn't think much of it. We wanted [our name] to feel like one word, and we felt it was helpful."
Stellastarr* also wants you to know that, despite the numerous tales band members have told over the past year, its name has nothing to do with a 14-year-old Lolita-like acquaintance. "It doesn't matter whether the stories are true or false," Christensen says. "At the end of the day, it's the only name we could agree on."
See, Stellastarr* just likes fucking with you. The New York-based quartet makes '80s-influenced new-wave music that hums as often as it howls. After buzzing around indieville for a good chunk of last year, its self-titled debut album was picked up by RCA in the fall, prompting yet another spate of road work for the band. "We get energized playing live," Christensen says. "But we also get bored onstage." Stellastarr* is at the Grog Shop (2785 Euclid Heights Boulevard in Cleveland Heights) at 9 p.m. Wednesday. Tickets are $8; call 216-241-5555. -- Michael Gallucci
Rockin' the Campus
Ben Folds goes back to school.
FRI 4/2 Ben Folds would rather sell EPs on his website than have a record label push for "Album-of-the-Year-Rolling-Stone-bullshit," as he calls it. Since October, the 37-year-old North Carolina native has been doing just that, issuing a couple of five-track discs that showcase the quirky, piano-driven pop tunes that made him an alt-rock hero in the late '90s with his trio, Ben Folds Five. Folds has a new solo album due this summer, and several songs from the EPs will show up on it. To get fans in the mood, he's kicking off a college-campus tour at John Carroll on Friday. Expect some new songs, as well as favorites like "Brick" and "Underground." Folds is at JCU's Tony DeCarlo Varsity Center (20700 North Park Boulevard in University Heights) at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20, available by calling 216-397-1886. -- Cris Glaser
Jail to Yale
Charles S. Dutton talks about prison and film.
Charles S. Dutton's life reads like a movie: He quit school and bounced around reform institutions before landing in jail at age 17 for killing somebody in a street fight. When he was released, he attended the Yale School of Drama. Since then, he's appeared onstage (his big break came in Broadway's Ma Rainey's Black Bottom), in the movies (he recently directed the Meg Ryan stinker Against the Ropes), and on TV (he starred in his own sitcom, Roc). He's at Weathervane Community Playhouse (1301 Weathervane Lane in Akron) Saturday, fielding questions at 11:30 a.m. (admission is free, but reservations are required) and discussing his life at 7:30 p.m. (tickets are $25). Call 330-836-2626 for more info. -- Michael Gallucci
Howl at the Bassoon
SAT 4/3 Classical music doesn't get more accessible for kids than it does in Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf. Maybe it's the story, which Charlotte Blake Alston narrates in Saturday's Cleveland Orchestra performance. Or maybe it's the way the oboes and tubas ably leap from scene to scene, menacing one minute, then playful the next. It starts at 11 a.m. at Severance Hall, 11001 Euclid Avenue. Tickets are $10 to $23; call 216-231-1111. -- Michael Gallucci
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