The Old 97's/The Gourds: Both of these Texas outfits crank out curious, likable hybrids of folk, country and rock. The 97's, based in Dallas, are touring behind their Elektra release Too Far to Care. As for the Austin-based Gourds, any band that titles a song "I Ate the Haggis" deserves some sort of credit. Playing in support of their Munich disc Stadium Blitzer, the Gourds open the show for the 97's at 8 p.m. Thursday, February 5, at Gibson's, 410 South Mill in Tempe. Tickets are $7. 967-1234, 784-4444 (Ticketmaster).
Trinity Irish Dance Company: The Chicago Sun-Times described this lot as "The Rockettes of Irish Dancing." Smile when you say that. Three-time winner of the World Championships in Irish Dancing in Dublin, the company serves up enough sassy jigging, reeling, Ceili dancing, quadrilling and so on to make Michael Flatley roll his eyes. Presented by Southwest Dance, Trinity takes the stage at two Valley venues this week: first at 8 p.m. Thursday, February 5, at Chandler Center for the Arts, 250 North Arizona Avenue; then at 8 p.m. Friday, February 6, at the Orpheum Theatre, 203 West Adams. Tickets range from $18 to $28. 786-2680 (Chandler), 262-7272 (Phoenix Civic Plaza), 503-5555 (Dillard's).
"Africa! A Sense of Wonder": This impressive display concludes Sunday, February 8, in the Steele Gallery of the Phoenix Art Museum, 1625 North Central. The exhibit offers "new ways of looking at the art of Africa" and includes about 80 sub-Saharan objects that date from the 16th to early 20th centuries and range from the sociocultural to the fanciful. Drawn from the extensive collection of Valley resident Richard Faletti and family, "Africa!" was co-curated by Mary Nooter Roberts and Allen F. Roberts. Various related in-gallery presentations and performances are scheduled this week: Yoruban dancer, actress and storyteller Remi Ogunsile performs at noon and 7 p.m. Thursday, February 5. A family workshop for ages 7 and up titled "Kasing, Kasing: Rattles of West Africa" is presented from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, February 7. From 2 to 3 p.m. Sunday, February 8, the native South African music and dance troupe Harare (Swahili for "let it be") provides the exhibition with a finale performance. The rattle workshop costs $15 and requires preregistration (257-2102); the other events are free with museum admission. 257-1880, 257-1222.
King Lear: This is it--a bona fide biggie, near the top of any sensible short list of the true masterpieces of world drama. Shakespeare's stormy tragedy of the doting old ruler who chooses the worst imaginable method for dividing up his kingdom among his three daughters is a terrifying vision of the world--a place where family members engage in vile plots against each other; where minor quarrels erupt into hideous and irrational violence; where small errors in judgment lead inexorably to catastrophe; where fools are sensible and kings are mad. Yet, paradoxically, the play keeps offering us reasons to live, and to be kind to each other. Obie Award-winning director (and former New Times contributor) Marshall W. Mason directs the show. Opening performances are at 7:30 p.m. Friday, February 6; 7:30 p.m. Saturday, February 7; 2 p.m. Sunday, February 8; and 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, February 11, at the Paul V. Galvin Playhouse at Arizona State University's Nelson Fine Arts Center, 10th Street and Mill in Tempe. The run continues through Saturday, February 21. Tickets are $12, $6 for students and seniors. 965-6447.
King Norris Band: A very different sort of king from Lear, this New York-based electric-blues-rock crew is fronted by Fred Norris, a regular on the Howard Stern show who has also written and performed with Leslie West, Ray Davies, Ozzy Osbourne, and Roger Daltrey. The band takes the stage at 8 p.m. Friday, February 6, at The Bash on Ash, 230 West Fifth Street in Tempe. Tickets are $16, $18 at the door. 966-5600, 784-4444 (Ticketmaster).
The Heiress: This stage adaptation of the Henry James novella Washington Square opens just in time to compare to the current film by Agnieszka Holland. This telling of the marital fortunes of poor Catherine Sloper, the plain daughter of a rich New York physician, opened on Broadway in 1947 and was made into a like-titled 1949 William Wyler film with Olivia de Havilland and Montgomery Clift. David Wheeler, who directed Al Pacino in Richard III on Broadway, helms the Arizona Theatre Company production, which stars Anne Torsiglieri as Catherine, Ken Ruta as Dr. Sloper and Robert Parsons as Morris Townsend, Catherine's handsome suitor. Opening performances are at 8 p.m. Friday, February 6; 8 p.m. Saturday, February 7; 1 and 7 p.m. Sunday, February 8; and 8 p.m. Wednesday, February 11, at Herberger Theater Center, 222 East Monroe. Tickets range from $19.50 to $32.50. The run continues through Saturday, February 21. 252-8497, 503-5555 (Dillard's).
Nunsense Jamboree: If King Lear or The Heiress are a little too lightweight for you this weekend, consider this meaty second sequel to the ever popular Nunsense. Its full title is Sister Amnesia's Country Western Nunsense Jamboree, and it stars Georgia Engel--a regular visitor to the homes of Nickelodeon-viewing insomniacs as Georgette on The Mary Tyler Moore Show--as the heroine, who at long last realizes her dream of becoming a country-western star. Sister and pals take the stage at 8 p.m. Friday, February 6; 8 p.m. Saturday, February 7; and 2 p.m. Sunday, February 8, at the Sundome, 19403 R.H. Johnson Boulevard in Sun City West. Tickets are $16, $22 and $28. 975-1900 (the 'dome), 503-5555 (Dillard's).
Hoop Dance Winners Exhibition Performance: World champion Derrick "Suwaima" Davis, teen champ Ginger Sykes and youth dancer Nakota LaRance jump through hoops at this exhibition at 1:30 p.m. Friday, February 6, at the Heard Museum, 22 East Monte Vista. Davis and his colleagues will then defend their titles in a competition held from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, February 7; and the same hours Sunday, February 8. The exhibition is free with Heard admission; tickets for the competition are $3, $2 for seniors and kids 13 to 18, $1 for kids 4 to 13, free for kids younger than 4. 252-8840.
Arlo Guthrie: The most admirable understatement to come from the stage of Woodstock may have been Guthrie's, when he surveyed the crowd and remarked approvingly, "Lotta freaks." Guthrie is best known for "Coming In to Los Angeles," his superb cover of Steve Goodman's "City of New Orleans," "Inch by Inch," "Alice's Restaurant" and the "Alice's Restaurant Massacre," the song's accompanying monologue against the Vietnam-era draft. His mingling of a warm, oddball comic sense with a folk-activist sensibility has held up well--the "Amazing Grace" with which he customarily closes his shows can still put a lump in the throat. He takes the stage at 8 p.m. Saturday, February 7, at Valley Art Theatre, 509 South Mill in Tempe. Tickets for the all-ages show are $27 in advance, $28 the day of the show. 503-5555 (Dillard's), 829-6668.
Arizona Bike Week: How did Arlo put it? "I don't wanna pickle/I just wanna ride my motorsickle." Thousands of cyclists from around the country will swarm upon the Valley for this nine-day motorcycle fest, which will encompass more than a dozen events at venues ranging from Phoenix to Scottsdale to Glendale to Avondale, and as far away as Tucson. The kick-start is the "Lizard Rock Ride," departing Kruse International Auction ParkWest on Saturday, February 7; the grand finale is an all-day party (benefiting St. Mary's Food Bank) on Sunday, February 15, at the Post Time Sports Bar & Deli, 1768 West Bell. For specifics on what comes in between, and where, call 970-3757.
Arizona Renaissance Festival and Artisan Marketplace: The 10th annual "re-creation" of a medieval village is about as authentically medieval as an episode of Xena: Warrior Princess, and thank heaven--few of us would be up for plague rats, street urination and neighbors for whom bathing is an annual event at best. Much better to enjoy the ersatz company of this fest's cast of royals, peasants, thespians, equestrians, maidens fair, rogues, jousters, etc. New attractions this year include giant Punch and Judy puppets, a comedy troupe called Fool Hearty, and a stilt-walker called "The Treeman." The fest kicks off from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, February 7, and continues at those hours every Saturday and Sunday for eight consecutive weekends through Sunday, March 29. It's also open on Monday, February 16, in celebration of Presidents' Day. The festival grounds are located off U.S. Highway 60 east of Apache Junction. Tickets are $12, $5 for children ages 5 to 12, available at Fry's stores; they're $1 more at the gate. Kids under 5 get in free. 1-520-463-2700.
ASU Chamber Orchestra: Conductor Timothy Russell leads the ensemble in "A Celebration of Music, Art and Literature." The program includes "Voices From the Gallery" by Stephen Paulus, a musical tour of 11 famous works of art with an accompanying text by Joan Vail Thorne. Also on the bill are "Music From a Midsummer Night's Dream," composed by Felix Mendelssohn when he was a whelp of 17, and Peter Schickele's orchestral suite "Thurber's Dogs," a celebration of the famed satirist's canine doodles. The show starts at 3 p.m. Sunday, February 8, at La Sala, located in the University Center Building on the Arizona State University West campus, 4701 West Thunderbird in Glendale. Tickets are $10, $8 for seniors and $5 for students. 543-2787.
Theatre Workshop: In the style of European "reader's theatre," Actor's Workout, Inc., presents a "holding book" performance, rehearsed no more than three times, of The Naked Eye, a screenplay by Phoenix College professor Marty Etchart. AW artistic director Mary Daisy directs the work, which begins at 7 p.m. Monday, February 9, at room C102 of Phoenix College, 1202 West Thomas. Admission is free. 631-9251.
The Ben Folds Five: The piano-bass-drums trio from Chapel Hill, North Carolina--so named because "it sounds better than the Ben Folds Three," says baby-grand man Folds--plows a deep furrow about midway between roots and alt. In fact, the BFF sounds a bit like a Gen X version of the Band with its wonderfully mangy, occasionally transcendent stuff. See the story on page 93. Be sure to request the Five's twangy, tongue-in-cheek take on Oasis' "Champagne Supernova." The group performs at 8 p.m. Monday, February 9, at Club Rio, 430 North Scottsdale Road in Tempe. Tickets, available at Ticketmaster, are $15. 784-4444, 894-0533.
Waddie Mitchell: Says the "Buckaroo Poet" Mitchell: "We didn't have electricity and that meant we didn't have TV. We had darn poor radio too. So that meant we did the strangest things at night . . . we talked to each other." The cowboy raconteur, who has toured internationally and been given the coveted title of "cowboy poetry kingpin" by Country American, yarns away the evening at 8 p.m. Tuesday, February 10, at Kerr Cultural Center, 6110 North Scottsdale Road in Scottsdale. Tickets are $13 and $15. 965-5377 (Kerr), 503-5555 (Dillard's).
The Pat Metheny Group: The veteran gentle-jazz strummer and his posse, touring behind their Warner Bros. release Imaginary Day, perform at 8 p.m. Wednesday, February 11, at Union Hall, Sixth Street and Van Buren. Tickets are $26 and $31. 253-7100 (UH), 503-5555 (Dillard's).