This Week's Day-by-Day Picks

 Thursday, June 5
Tucson-born comedian Pablo Francisco, best known as one-third of The Three Amigos (with fellow funnymen Freddy Soto and Carlos Mencia), hits the road for a one-man tour coming to the Tempe Improv this weekend. While he's already got plenty of fans from years of performing in the Valley, first-timers to his show will be dazzled by Francisco's skills, from hilarious sound effects to dead-on impersonations. He performs at 8 p.m. nightly from Thursday, June 5, through Sunday, June 8, with additional 10 p.m. shows on Friday and Saturday. For tickets, $20, contact the box office at 480-921-9877. The Improv is located at 930 East University in Tempe.

Friday, June 6
Modified Arts' latest gallery exhibition, opening Friday, June 6, features new works by two up-and-coming local artists, Jennifer Urso and David Dauncey. Urso, a member of the eye lounge collective, creates small, abstract works on paper using photo transfer, pencil and acrylic. Dauncey, who paints surreal portraits surrounded by dripping text, describes his art undertakings as "a trying, sometimes rewarding habit . . . usually laced with tumult, vexation, amazement and periodic spasms of gooseflesh." We're sure he'd love to hear how his viewers react to them. The exhibition continues through June at Modified, 407 East Roosevelt. Call 602-462-5516 for more information.

Saturday, June7
"Stare Down," the 49th Rage in the Cage event on Saturday, June 7, sounds like it'll be more of a full-on rumble, with an incredible mixed martial arts fight card of a dozen different action-packed matches. The lineup also includes a titillating new twist, the Miss RITC Contest featuring the bodacious Arizona Dream Girls. Since it's Fan Appreciation Night, too, the first 500 folks to buy advance tickets from the Celebrity Theatre Box Office get a free tee shirt. Tickets are $15 and $25; call 602-267-1600 to purchase. Doors open at 6 p.m. for the 7:30 p.m. fight at Celebrity, 440 North 32nd Street. A pre- and post-fight party, open to ages 18 and up, will be held at Landsharks Billiards, 1112 East Apache in Tempe.

Sunday, June 8
If you didn't get a chance to get out of town for Memorial Day weekend, here's another excuse for a road trip: the June Bug Blues Festival in Payson. Bring blankets to relax in the grass for boogie, blues and blues-rock on Saturday, June 7, and Sunday, June 8. Now in its 10th year, the musical bash features a dozen acts over the two days, headlined both evenings by the Alex Maryol Band. Saturday's concert runs from 3 to 9:30 p.m.; tickets are $12. Sunday's festivities take place from 12:30 to 5:30 p.m.; tickets are $10. Admission for those age 18 and under is $5 either day, and free for kids 5 and under, accompanied by an adult. Following the festival, area clubs bring more live blues to folks who just don't want the party to end. June Bug happens at Rumsey Park, located a block west of Beeline Highway on McLane Road in Payson. To find out more, call 1-928-472-7393.

Monday, June 9
If your idea of bartending skills is limited to tilting your glass to keep your beer from foaming up, then you'll be stunned by the abilities of local bartenders at the first Best Bartender Contest. Skyy Vodka sponsors the showdown, with preliminary rounds at 9 p.m. Monday, June 9, and again June 16. Personality, originality and flair are just as important as speed and accuracy in this competition to find the Valley's top cocktail talent, who juggle bottles, shakers and glasses with total finesse. The winner from the finals on June 23 gets an all-expenses-paid trip to the Skyy World Flair Bartending Championship this September in Florida. The contest takes place at Next, 7111 East Fifth Street in Scottsdale. Call 480-970-NEXT (6398) for more information.

Tuesday, June 10
On September 11, 1973, Isabel Allende went into exile from Chile after a military coup and the death of president Salvador Allende Gossens, her uncle -- a tumultuous episode that she admits helped turn her into a writer. But the devastation of September 11, 2001, shocked Allende into the realization that although she made the U.S. her home, Chile was still her homeland. Her latest book, My Invented Country: A Nostalgic Journey Through Chile, is a memoir describing those events, as well as memories of her family, life in Chile, and experiences that shaped her as a novelist. Allende shares her story at a special reading and signing hosted by Changing Hands Bookstore at 7 p.m. Tuesday, June 10, at the Evelyn Smith Music Theatre, located at the intersection of Mill Avenue and Gammage Parkway on the Arizona State University campus in Tempe. Tickets are $15, or $8 with the purchase of My Invented Country, available at Changing Hands, 6428 South McClintock in Tempe. Call 480-730-0205 for further information.

Wednesday, June 11
It takes plenty of guts to get on stage and perform, but nothing less than nerves of steel are required when you're delivering your own creative efforts to an audience full of strangers. Some of the Valley's best (and most fearless) performance poets gather every week for a verbal smack down at Essenzaslam, the long-running poetry slam at Essenza Coffeehouse. Admission is free for those who want to sit back and enjoy the rhetorical ride, and it's only a buck to join in the slam. The action starts at 8 p.m. Wednesdays at Essenza, 1350 South Longmore in Mesa. To find out more, call 480-461-0445.

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