Critters Buggin: Let's be blunt: New Bohemians, as a concept, warranted maybe five minutes of Andy Warhol's industry-standard quarter-hour of fame. Still, the musicians who backed up neo-hepkitten Edie Brickell were generally excellent. Two of 'em, drummer Matt Chamberlain and bassist Brad Houser, prove it with this loosely configured Seattle ensemble specializing in bedrock grooves, from funk to trance to world. The Critters return for a concert on Thursday, March 20, at Gibson's, 410 South Mill in Tempe. Sparkler, M.I.R.V., Fred Green, and Honey Bucket share the stage. Showtime is 8 p.m. The cover is $5. For details call 967-1234 or 966-6093.
Cactus League Baseball: The boys of spring are back for this year's slate of preseason games, which continues daily, through Friday, March 28, at stadia Valleywide. For this week's schedule and other details, see the "Cactus League Baseball" subsection in the Sports listing.
La Traviata: Arizona Opera concludes its 26th season with Verdi's great work, based on Alexandre Dumas' novel La dame aux camelias about the flame of passion and the flame retardant of tragedy among the salons of Paris. Soprano Sujung Kim enacts the role of star-crossed courtesan Violetta. The show is sung in Italian with English surtitles. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 20; 7:30 p.m. Friday, March 21; 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 22; and 2 p.m. Sunday, March 23, at Symphony Hall, 225 East Adams. Tickets range from $14 to $56, available at the opera's box office and Dillard's; call 266-7464 or 503-5555.
"A New Dawn in the Desert": Tours of the revamped exhibits and refurbished trail system at Desert Botanical Garden, 1201 North Galvin Parkway, in Papago Park, are scheduled Thursday, March 20; Friday, March 21; and Saturday, March 22. They step off at 11 a.m. and 1 and 3 p.m., and are included in the regular entry fee. A "grand opening" celebration is slated for 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday, March 23, and includes entertainment and discounted admission prices. The facility's annual Spring Landscape Plant Sale is on Saturday and Sunday (see below). For details call 941-1225.
New Orleans Klezmer All-Stars: Eastern Europe goes Big Easy? A bar mitzvah at that signature Nawlins bar named Tipitina's? Traditional Jewish wedding strains--underscored by that keening, galloping clarinet--mated with second-line rhythms? It had to happen. Well, no, it didn't, but you'll be glad it did when you're on the dance floor at the Rhythm Room capering about to "Mazel Tov Cocktail," "Mo White Fish," "Would Be Hungarian" and other tracks from this sextet's like-buttah new disc, Manichalfwitz. Fellow New Orleans act Royal Fingerbowl opens at 9 p.m. Thursday, March 20. The cover is $7.50. The club's at 1019 East Indian School; call 265-4842.
Bloodhound Gang: The Philly-based Gang has a number of strikes against it. It plays intentionally offensive, sample-heavy white-boy rap. It's huge on the frat-house circuit. Gang leader Jimmy Pop Ali idolizes Howard Stern, and goes to great lengths--and depths--to emulate the king-hell schmuck of all media. Of "Lift Your Head Up High (And Blow Your Brains Out)," one of the centerpiece tracks on the band's new disc, One Fierce Beer Coaster, Ali says, "Since there's a population problem, I figure the more [people] that go out the better." All of that said, B Gang is one superfine crew--wildly funny, fetchingly fearless and, in its boorish way, even poetic. "Lift Your Head Up" is a delirious, bone-rattling delight, as is the Gang's cover of Run-D.M.C.'s "It's Tricky." Nerf Herder shares the bill on Friday, March 21, at Nile Theater, 105 West Main in Mesa. The all-ages show starts at 8 p.m. Call 649-2766.
Stieglitz Loves O'Keeffe: Stacy Keach stars as photographer Alfred Stieglitz and Margot Kidder portrays painter Georgia O'Keeffe in Lanie Robertson's play about the artists' storm-tossed relationship. Performances, narrated by the playwright and directed by Arizona State University's Daniel Irvine, are scheduled at 8 p.m. Friday, March 21; 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, March 22; and 2 p.m. Sunday, March 23, at Scottsdale Center for the Arts, 7380 East Second Street. Tickets are $30 and $34, available at the center and Ticketmaster; call 994-2787 or 784-4444.
"Taste of Arizona": Comestibles are the main course at this event, but the highlights are gratis concerts by Gen X staple Matthew Sweet and one of the popster's distant relations, '70s icon Edgar Winter Band. Also on the agenda: carnival rides and games, a vintage-auto show and displays by a number of the Valley's pro-sports squads. Hours are 4 to 11:30 p.m. Friday, March 21; 11:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Saturday, March 22; and 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday, March 23, at Tempe's Rio Salado Festival Grounds, located across from Sun Devil Stadium's north side. Sweet performs on Friday, Winter's group on Saturday. Admission is free, but fees are charged for rides and tastings. Call 230-9488.
Laurie Lewis and the Grant Street Band: Newgrass fiddler/vocalist Lewis isn't in the same league as Alison Krauss--few living bluegrass artists are--but Laurie's in the general neighborhood. San Francisco-born Lewis has a strong, supple voice and a deep commitment to traditional music, which has won her the usual critical acclaim and lack of public recognition. Laurie and band perform Friday, March 21, at Tempe's First United Methodist Church, 215 East University. Showtime is 8 p.m. Tickets are $12 in advance, $14 at the door. Call 893-3328.