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A & E
Weekend Hotlist, 02/15/02

Friday, February 15, 2002

By Scott Mervis, Post-Gazette Weekend Editor

What a country!

Pittsburghers can partake of the more sophisticated pursuits this weekend -- notably, the full trifecta of the ballet, opera and symphony.

But -- yee-ha! -- we also have hillbillies and monster trucks.

Mind you, the latter are two distinct cultures. The monster truck folks do not want to hear fiddles and mandolins, they want Metallica and Skynyrd. As for the hillbillies, they're looking a good deal more like ex-punks gone to hayseed, and fat tires are not generally among their interests.

Now, to be a good hillbilly, you need a hill, of course, and they've found one on Polish Hill, where the Warsaw Tavern and Donny's Place are both opening their doors to The Shiners and Bushwhackers.

The Shiners are the more accomplished of the two, having spun off from the Richmond band Dirtball. Wes and Jyl Freed work in the Southern Gothic style, spinning tales of heartbreak and woe that are knee-deep in the bluegrass but delivered with a raw intensity that's more Violent Femmes than Del McCoury. Adding to the Shiner string section is Pittsburgh's own Erin Snyder (Opek 15, Feral Family), who became friends with the Freeds when they came here with Dirtball. They already had a bass player, so, she says, "Wes said why don't you learn how to play the fiddle? So I did, I practiced really hard."

Snyder is also a member of the Bushwhackers, which she says started as "a goofy all-chick cover band and might morph into a real band." She's joined by the two female Deliberate Strangers -- "Torchy" Vargo and "Scratchy" Hutter -- plus "Crazy Legs" Corrigan (Polish Hillbillies) and "Jinx" Ketter. The bands are at Donny's Place (412-682-9869) tonight and the Warsaw Tavern (412-683-4418) tomorrow. Both shows at 10 p.m.

The Polish Hill-billy alert extends to Cleveland's Cowslingers, turning up at the Warsaw with a brand of cowpunkabilly that's fast, loud and out of control. They play three sets starting at 10 tonight.

Monster attack

It's a short trip down Bigelow Boulevard to the Monster Jam, but let's hope these guys stay off the streets. The monster truckers go into a Mellon Arena mercifully vacated by the Penguins and first dump mud all over the place. Then, they ignite their 1,500-horsepower engines and hit the dirt for races and freestyle events. Two of the monsters, Grave Digger and Black Stallion, are celebrating their 20th anniversaries (bring cake!) with heats against the likes of Radical Rescue, Gunslinger, Ragin' Steel and Eradicator. When they rest, watch out for the Cannon Lady, Moto Sky Fly Jump and no-rules Quad Wars. Times are 8 tonight and 2 and 8 p.m. tomorrow. Tickets are $18 to $22; $10 kids. Call 412-323-1919.

Finer things

Anyway, back to the Cultural District. With the rare instance of the Pittsburgh Opera moving to the Byham, the stage is set for the Opera, the Pittsburgh Ballet and the Pittsburgh Symphony to all perform the same weekend. The Opera is doing "Street Scene". The Ballet is extending Valentine's Day with the romance and humor of "Coppelia" at the Benedum today through Sunday (412-456-6666). And Mariss Jansons and the PSO are joined by violin star Gil Shaham.

Flying the flag

It wouldn't be outrageous to say that the average American under 35 has seen more red, white and blue since Sept. 11 than they saw their entire lives before that. Now the Olympics is generating a whole new flurry of Old Glory. Tapping into the moment, the Senator John Heinz Pittsburgh Regional History Center steps up to add 200 more to the collection with the American Flag Festival. The exhibit, opening tomorrow, unveils original flags and reproductions from the American Revolution to the present, including rare flags from the various wars. You can also read facts about the history of the flag, and kids can test their abilities on a flag challenge course. As for those flags that are blowing around on the car antennae, some of them, folks, are looking pretty tattered. If you bring them to the History Center, they will be properly retired by the Boy Scouts of America. The exhibit runs through March 2. Call 412-454-6000.

Pure percussion

The Manchester Craftsmen's Guild marches to the beat of a different drummer with a special performance tonight by Jamey Haddad, who is, among other things, the percussionist for Paul Simon's global orchestra. Haddad will demonstrate the sound of the clay Udu Drum to tie in with the MCG's exhibition of work by master drum maker Frank Giorgini. While you're there you can also view the photos of Charles Moore, who chronicled the Civil Rights era for Life magazine. The exhibitions are up through Tuesday. Haddad's performance is tonight at 7, following a 5:30 p.m. dinner with family activities. It's all free. For details, call 412-322-1773.

The art world

The Pittsburgh Center for the Arts' announcement this week that it was laying off its curator of exhibitions should make for an interesting conversation piece at two openings this weekend. The first is "Watercolor Plus," an exhibition by the Pittsburgh Watercolor Society that uses other techniques to expand watercolor in water media. Tomorrow, the Craftsmen's Guild of Pittsburgh presents "Contemporary Torchworking," juried by Amy Morgan of Morgan Contemporary Glass and featuring a variety of glass from more than 30 artists. Both receptions are 5:30 to 8 p.m. They'll be up through March 24. Call 412-361-0873.

On the South Side, the Brew House whips up a Members Exhibit with a mix of media from the likes of Rick Bach, Pat Barefoot, Susan Constanse, George Davis, Rob Long, Kelly Orbanic and Alison Zapata. Reception is from 7 to 10 tonight. Call 412-381-7767.

Guitars and stuff

Are there still guys at guitar shows with big hair and spandex pants playing Winger riffs? Find out at the 8th Greater Pittsburgh Guitar Show, Sunday at Palace Inn in Monroeville. In addition to guitars both new and beautifully vintage, there will be other instruments, tapes, CDs, music books and accessories heretofore hard to find. Hours are 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is $8. Call 412-264-8000.

The Graffiti Rock Challenge is on a roll at Rosebud. So far, two rounds, two sellouts. Advancing were jam band Esquevez and alt-country rockers SodaJerk. Round 3 is tonight with Top Ten Idols, Gutterfly, Happy Accidents and Rake. Admission is $7.

Also in the clubs, Further Seems Forever, a really good emo-core band from South Florida, plays Club Laga tonight at 7 ($10). Los Angeles veterans Concrete Blonde are at Laga tomorrow. The Living Daylights , a funky jazz trio from Seattle, play a free show at 8 tomorrow night at the Underground Restaurant at Forbes and Morewood avenues on the CMU campus. And Moondog's in Blawnox hosts a Charity Jam for the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank with Cherylann Hawk, Jezebel Johnson and the Powers Run Band at 10 tomorrow. Admission is $5. Call 412-828-2040.

Finally, if you just want to take it easy, head for Music for Mt. Lebanon and the soothing sounds of Roger Williams, who scored the No. 1 hit "Autumn Leaves" in 1955 and remained an easy-listening star straight through the Beatles era. Now 76, he plays with his quintet at Mt. Lebanon High School at 8 tomorrow. Tickets are $15 and $20. Call 412-531-8588.

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