Acclaimed fantasy author Neil Gaiman will kick off the Cleveland Public Library’s 2009-2010 Writers & Readers series Sunday, 2 p.m., at the Cleveland Public Library’s Lake Shore Facility (behind the Memorial-Nottingham Branch), 17109 Lake Shore Blvd. Gaimain wrote the Sandman graphic novels, the New York Times young-adult bestseller The Graveyard Book, and the novel that became the movie Coraline. Call 216.623.2800 for more information. All Writers & Readers events are free and open to the public. Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis. Gaiman books, including his new short young adult novel Odd and the Frost Giants, will be available for sale.
Click the pic for the trailer of Graveyard Book, which won a Newbery Medal and has been on the New York Times bestseller list for 51 weeks straight. Gaiman has said via his Twitter account (@neilhimself) that if it's there for a full year week, then everybody gets pie. This week's sales aren't in, but if you're going to cash in on the pie offer, this is probably your best chance. — D.X. Ferris
The Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage (2929 Richmond Rd., 216.593.0575) combines ancient tradition with contemporary environmental concerns at its Sukkah Raising and Fall Harvest Celebration happening from 4-6 p.m. today. The festival of sukkot honors the years Jewish people wandered in the wilderness on their way to the Promised Land. During the seven days, the devout live in a homemade hut called a sukkah. Guests are invited to help raise and decorate a sukkah booth and enjoy fall fruits, cider and other refreshments. The modern twist: There’ll be “eco-kosher” proponents promoting healthy food choices and sustainable agriculture. It’s free and open to the public — Jewish or not — and takes place on the lawn next to the museum. — Anastasia Pantsios
Appalachian string music can seem mighty monochromatic. But this wasn’t always the case. The all-black Carolina Chocolate Drops learned much of their traditional Piedmont repertoire from North Carolina fiddler Joe Thompson, who’s known as the last black traditional string-band player. The Drops’ Rhiannon Giddens, Dom Flemons and Justin Robinson trade tight harmonies and traditional instruments, ranging from snare, banjo, fiddle and guitar to bones, jug and kazoo. It could be a gimmick, but they’re fine players with a sense of history and humor, which comes out in their energetic performances and inspired song choices. Indeed, once you get past the reinvigorating vibrancy of their old-timey sound, you’re struck by their charisma and stage presence. While traditional songs predominate, the group isn’t above overhauling a modern classic, like its beatbox-banjo-fiddle cover of Blu Cantrell’s “Hit ’Em Up Style,” which showcases Giddens’ lithe and powerful vocals. The Drops are supporting their second album, last year’s Heritage, a French import whose distribution has unfortunately been limited. Words can’t do them justice; seeing is believing. The show starts at 8 p.m. at the Kent Stage (175 E. Main St., Kent, 330.677.5005). Tickets: $15 advance, $20 day of show. — Chris Parker
You have every reason to hate these Brooklyn-based hipsters. They’ve got the tousled style of a thousand indie bands before them. Their music meshes dance-floor euphoria with garage-rock psychedelia. Plus, they’re Brooklyn-based hipsters. But on their debut album, Rewild, the quintet manages to pull a few hooks out of the detached sounds buzzing around it. Like many of their contemporaries, Amazing Baby pack more method than meaning into their songs, grooving along complacently until something breaks up their stupor. But some cuts — like the sunny “Headdress” and the stomping “Pump Yr Breaks” — come close to living up to all the hype the band has generated over the past eight months. Three years from now, you’ll probably listen to Rewild as much as you listen to Cold War Kids these days. But for a little part of 2009, they mattered. So catch them while you can at the Beachland Tavern (15711 Waterloo Rd., 216.383.1124) at 9 p.m. with the Entrance Band and Safari opening. Tickets: $10. — Michael Gallucci
Streetlight Manifesto represent everything that made the third-wave ska revival great: a tight, flashy horn section; uptempo arrangements full of frenetic energy; punky guitars and vocals; a slight hardcore edge. What they blessedly lack is the watered-down, formulaic ska-light pap that rode the heels of that wave onto the radio dial in the mid-’90s. Thanks to singer Tomas Kalnoky’s rough edge, the band has retained a strong dose of punk, which plays well against the tight and cleanly orchestrated music. The horn lines, in particular, are lean, muscular and creatively arranged. While the band clearly falls into many of third-wave ska’s formulas, it’s not because it lacks originality; there’s real love there for the choppy, offbeat guitars and the bright pop of brass. Without these elements, the music would cease to be what it is in the first place: a portable party machine for sweaty inebriates, unmoved by matters of faddish popularity. Another reason this show’s a must-see: After this tour, the band is taking a year-long hiatus and will then cut back its touring schedule. !OUTERNATIONAL! and Broadway Calls open at 8 p.m. at the Agora Ballroom (5000 Euclid Ave., 216.881.2221). Tickets: $16. — Nicholas Hall