MLK Commemorations: In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday, January 19, lots of activities are planned around the Valley. Examples: The annual Phoenix MLK Breakfast will be held from 7 to 9:30 a.m. Friday, January 16, at Phoenix Symphony Hall, 225 East Adams, and on Civic Plaza Deck. This year's theme is "Community Spirit: Giving the Gift of You." Tickets, available at the Phoenix Civic Plaza Box Office and at Dillard's, are $35 each. (262-7272, 503-5555.) An "International Cultural Education Faire," featuring ethnic and cultural displays from all over the world, follows the breakfast on the Plaza Deck; admission to the faire is free. A candlelight ceremony at 6:30 p.m. Sunday, January 18, at Symphony Hall is likewise free. Tempe's Essential Theatre performs an evening of improvisational "playback theatre" called Stories of Struggle in honor of Dr. King at 8 p.m. Saturday, January 17, at Phoenix College's John Paul Theatre, 1202 West Thomas. Tickets are $12. (897-6711.) Arizona State University West, 4701 West Thunderbird in Glendale, hosts a variety of free events beginning with a campus march on Tuesday, January 20--which includes a re-creation of the "I Have a Dream" speech, delivered by faculty member Charles St. Clair--and continuing through Friday, January 23; call 543-3421 for other events.
Merle Haggard: Known as the "Okie From Muskogee"--though actually born to an Okie family in Bakersfield, California--Haggard is one of the true legends of country music. He did time in San Quentin for attempted burglary, was inspired to perform professionally when he saw Johnny Cash play there, and was later pardoned by then-governor Ronald Reagan. Although his signature tune has become a right-wing anthem, it is said to have been intended ironically--it suffered much the same fate that later befell Springsteen's "Born in the USA." In any case, it's only one of the many great songs of this redoubtable honky-tonk man, who will take the stage at 7:30 p.m. Friday, January 16, at the Celebrity Theatre, 440 North 32nd Street. Scotty Freel and the Lickety Split Band opens. Tickets are $22.25 and $35, available at the theatre or at Dillard's. 267-1600, 503-5555.
Bebe Miller Company: This dancer and choreographer, who made a hit with Gammage Auditorium audiences when she soloed there two years ago, returns to that venue with her racially and ethnically mixed troupe at 8 p.m. Friday, January 16, at Mill and Apache in Tempe. Tickets, available at Gammage box office or at Dillard's, are $12, $18 and $24. But dance buffs for whose blood that's too rich have a cool alternative: From noon to 1 p.m., you can bring a brown-bag lunch to Gammage and watch Miller's company rehearse, gratis. 965-3434, 503-5555.
Paul Galbraith: This world-renowned Brit strums classical (Bach, Brahms, Haydn, Schubert) on an ax of his own design. Inspired by the Renaissance instrument known as the Orphereon, Galbraith's guitar has eight strings on a slanting bridge, allowing for greater range and sound quality. He's also added an acoustical box for the guitar to rest on while he plays it vertically, almost like a cello. Both the instrument and the player have won effusive praise from the likes of the Guardian, London's Sunday Times and Classical Guitar Magazine, which called Galbraith "the best guitarist of his generation." He takes the stage at 8 p.m. Friday, January 16, at Kerr Cultural Center, 6110 North Scottsdale Road in Scottsdale. Tickets, available at the Kerr box office or at Dillard's, are $13 or $15. There's also a "Coffee at Kerr" at 10:30 that morning, at which Galbraith will discuss and demonstrate his techniques over morning refreshments; this event is free, but reservations are required. 965-5377, 503-5555.
The Harry James Orchestra: The late maestro's band plays on with this show, immodestly but perhaps not unjustly called a "Big Band Salute to the Music That Won World War II." Conductor Fred Radke leads the gang in "Sleepy Lagoon," "I Had the Craziest Dream," "It's Been a Long, Long Time," "Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe" and that great ode to unquestioning optimism, "Accentuate the Positive," which, out of the wartime context, sounded so oddly sinister as the theme of the film L.A. Confidential. Vocalists will include the Lancers, and Marilyn King of the King Sisters. There are two performances, at two different venues: first at 8 p.m. Friday, January 16, at Chandler Center for the Arts, 250 North Arizona Avenue, then at 2 p.m. Sunday, January 18, at the Sundome, 19403 R.H. Johnson Boulevard in Sun City West. Tickets are $16, $26 and $32 for the Chandler show, $11, $18 and $20 at the Sundome. 786-2680 (Chandler Center), 975-1900 (the 'dome), 503-5555 (Dillard's).
New Year Swing Jam With Frankie Manning: Frankie must have been swinging so hard that he didn't notice that New Year's is over already. The 83-year-old hoofer, veteran of the 1920s dance troupe Whitey's Lindy Hoppers, teaches his moves starting at 7 p.m. Friday, January 16, at Horizon High School, 5601 East Greenway Road in Scottsdale. It's followed by a dance party at 9 p.m. featuring Indigo Swing. Manning's classes and dances continue throughout Saturday, January 17, and Sunday, January 18. $125 gets you the whole weekend, space permitting; individual classes and dances are $15 and $10, respectively. 223-9493.
Vikki Carr: There are those who insist that, considering her background, Carr's singing is "too whitebread." But with numbers like "It Must Be Him," the former Florencia Bisenta de Casillas Martinez Cardona of El Paso, Texas, makes whitebread brassiness sound plenty sexy to us. Carr performs at 8 p.m. Saturday, January 17, at the Celebrity Theatre, 440 North 32nd Street. Tickets, available at the Celebrity and at Dillard's, are $25 ($27.25 the day of the show) and $40. 267-1600 (Celeb), 503-5555 (Dillard's).
Mark Twain Tonight: Character actor Hal Holbrook's captivating one-man theater portrait of the most essentially American of great writers is a memorable experience. Holbrook ("Deep Throat" in All the President's Men, among many other roles) has done the piece nearly 2,000 times since 1954, and has been adding to it all the while, so that he now has more than 12 hours' worth of material to draw on, making each show unique. Holbrook channels Twain at 8 p.m. Saturday, January 17, at the Sundome, 19403 R.H. Johnson Boulevard in Sun City West. Tickets are $12, $18 and $24. 975-1900, 503-5555.
High Noon Wild West Collectors Show and Auction: Lovers of things Western--of both the authentic and the Hollywood variety--will find much to drool over at the eighth annual edition of this show, one of the widest assortments of Western Americana and cowpoke collectibles ever to be crammed 'neath one roof. It's scheduled for 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, January 17; and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, January 18, at Mesa Centennial Hall, 201 North Center. The auction, featuring pricey rarities like Tom Mix's Stetson, another Stetson given by Dustin Farnum to Buck Jones, and even a pair of chaps (eeewwww!) owned by Jones, starts at 5:30 p.m. Saturday. Admission is $5, which covers both days. 644-2560.
Fine Art Photography Benefit: The work of Michael Hays, who calls his dramatically lighted studies of human figures "Edgescapes," is featured in this exhibition which opens at 7 p.m. Saturday, January 17, with simultaneous receptions at the Higher Ground Cafe, 1032 South Terrace in Tempe, and at Gallery 1020 at the Mat Corner: 1020 South Mill in Tempe (we're told the artist will run back and forth between the two venues). Sales from the reception will benefit the Y-Me Breast Cancer Network. The display will continue through Monday, February 2. 829-8687, 966-2055.
Harlem Globetrotters: "Sweet Georgia Brown" is still the team's theme song, and an interactive mix of hot hoops and silly sight gags is still its raison d'etre. When last we saw the itinerant court jesters, however, the competition had stiffened--slightly: The hapless Washington Generals had given way to the comparatively competent International All-Stars. Matches are scheduled at 1 and 7 p.m. Saturday, January 17, at America West Arena, 201 East Jefferson. The National Cheerleaders Association will perform pregame and halftime shows. Tickets range from $7 to $75, available at the arena. 379-7800.
Ray Price: This east Texas native and Grand Ole Opry vet is one of the quintessential '50s-style sad cowboys--among his hits are the crying-in-your-beer classics "Heartaches by the Numbers" and "Make the World Go Away." He commences his lamentations--maybe with a few happy tunes, for variety--at 3 and 7:30 p.m. Sunday, January 18, at the Red River Music Hall, Mill and Washington in Tempe. Tickets range from $18 to $22.50. 829-6779, 503-5555.
Creed: Its current album, My Own Prison, suggests that these guys may have, so to speak, piloted their sound out of the stone temple--and lead vocalist Scott Stapp sounds more than passingly like Eddie Vedder. But the title single is getting some airplay. The band takes the stage at 8 p.m. Monday, January 19, at Gibson's, 410 South Mill in Tempe. The Tea Party, and Subrosa share the all-ages bill. Tickets are $8.50 in advance from Ticketmaster, $10 the day of the show at Gibson's. 784-4444, 967-1234.
Rent: This modern spin on La Boheme is the first musical since A Chorus Line to win both a Pulitzer Prize and a Tony Award. Written by the late Jonathan Larson (he died at the age of 36, just hours after the show's New York dress rehearsal) and directed by Michael Grief, the show explores the struggles of an artist's community. Opening performances are 8 p.m. Tuesday, January 20, and 8 p.m. Wednesday, January 21, at Gammage Auditorium, Mill and Apache in Tempe. Tickets, at Gammage or Dillard's, are likely to be tough to get, but if they're available, they'll be $20 to $47. 965-3434, 503-5555.
The Jesus Lizard: What began as an atonal noise band--veteran of the 1995 Lollapalooza tours and two consecutive Reading Festivals in England--has been known, over the years, to incorporate actual melodies, vocals and textures without sacrificing its essence, which is not the way these things generally go. The Divine Saurian crawls up onto the stage at 8 p.m. Wednesday, January 21, at the home of all things loud, the Mason Jar, 2303 East Indian School. Tickets are $11, available at Ticketmaster and at the Jar on the day of the show. Stanford Prison Experiment, and Hillbilly Devilspeak share the bill. 784-4444, 956-6271.