This Week's Day-by-Day Picks

Thursday, April 15
Funny thing about Kevin Pollak: His dramatic films (The Usual Suspects, A Few Good Men) have met with serious success. Yet -- while he's among the most successful standups on the circuit -- his comedies (The Wedding Planner, Juwanna Mann) tend to be, well, laughable. Pollak gets the last laugh, we're sure, this weekend at the Tempe Improv, 910 East University. He kicks off a four-night stand with an 8 p.m. show Thursday, April 15. Call 480-921-9877 for tickets, $15 and $18; see www.kevinpollak.net for more information.

Friday, April 16
Sycamores (white folks, that is) are welcome at ASU's 18th Annual Spring Competition Pow Wow, so branch out and head to the arbor (dance arena) at the university's Band Practice Field, Sixth Street and Rural in Tempe. Tradition takes motion Friday, April 16, with a gourd dance at 5:30 p.m. and grand entry at 7. Emphasizing footwork, athletic ability and originality, the competition -- with categories for men, women, teens, kids, "Tiny Tots" and "Golden Age" warriors (50-plus) -- continues through Sunday, April 18. Admission is $5 for adults, $2 for students, and free for kids under 6 and seniors over 60; a three-day pass is $10. See powwow.asu.edu for details.

Saturday, April 17
Now this is our idea of garden variety: some 250 specialty beers flowing in the beer garden at this weekend's Southwest Festival of Beers. Part of the Scottsdale Culinary Festival -- and adjacent to the Great Arizona Picnic -- the even greater beer fest is expected to draw 4,000 folks for drinking and dancing at Scottsdale's Civic Center Plaza, Second Street and Drinkwater. The boozing -- it's for charity, of course -- begins at noon Saturday, April 17, and Sunday, April 18. Also on tap: nutritionally bankrupt party food, "cooking with beer" demonstrations, and drinking music from The Rave (1 to 6 p.m. Saturday) and The Dave Dodt Band (1 to 5:30 p.m. Sunday). Enter the beer garden of Eden (event organizers tout it as "a beer lover's paradise" -- and we can't argue) for $5. Admission includes a souvenir mug, and proceeds benefit children's arts and education programs. For more information or advance tickets, see www.scottsdaleculinaryfestival.org or call 480-945-7193.

Sunday, April 18
Forty bands plus eight DJs times 12 venues? Somehow, it adds up to a measly seven bucks. Rise to the equation -- and support local music -- this Sunday, April 18, when the ninth annual New TimesMusic Showcase melds debauchery and democracy. Listeners vote for Showcase champs in 10 categories: hip-hop, punk, indie, Americana, hard rock, hardcore, turntablist, eclectic, club DJ and blues/jazz, while a write-in vote names the act "most likely to make it big." The New Times roll at 6 p.m. at venues lining Mill Avenue in downtown Tempe; the event culminates with a 10:25 p.m. show at Hayden Square. Wristbands are available at all Showcase venues and www.phoenixnewtimes.com; a portion of ticket sales supports Phoenix Body Positive's HIV and AIDS awareness efforts. Call 602-744-6531 or see the Web site for a map and schedule.

Monday, April 19
Capocuoco Boyardee gets canned this Monday, April 19, when Sur la Table's Classes for Confident Cooking series serves up an "Italian Sampler From the Four Seasons Hotel and Resort." Simon Purvis and Alessandro Cartumini -- executive chef and executive sous chef at Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale -- visit the culinary shop's classroom to demonstrate their mastery of modern Italian cuisine -- and their gourmet vocabulary. On the menu: sautéed langoustines (small lobsters) with spring zucchini blossoms, cherry tomatoes and basil ragout; potato gnocchi with morel mushroom, radicchio Treviso and root vegetables; veal osso buco with Gorgonzola polenta and gremolata (lemon zest, chopped garlic and parsley); and panna cotta ("cooked cream") with balsamic-baked peaches. The class gets cooking at 6:30 p.m. at the Scottsdale store, 7122 East Greenway Parkway. Registration is $50; call 480-998-0118 to reserve a spot.

Tuesday, April 20
God gave rock 'n' roll to us, so it's only fitting that we should use it for good (say, alleviating human suffering) rather than evil (selling Cadillacs . . . it's been a long timesince we've seen a band pimp such an unlikely product). Get down for the greater good this Tuesday, April 20, at a Benefit Concert for Hospice of the Valley. Organized by high school sophomores Perry Allen and Kayde Dedolph, the event's local lineup includes the a cappella soul sounds of Sharise Wagner, KT Jones, and Kira Powell; ska by Captain Squeegee and the Soap Suds; and pop/rock from Confetti Dynamo, Echoelectric, Adam Panic, and the man with the plan, Perry Allen himself. Offering not only rock 'n' roll (though we like it), the benefit also features fine lines, with poetry readings by Sean Ross and Alix Dewald, and fine art, with works for sale by Jenny Ignaszewski. The concert rocks and rolls in the dough from 7 to 11 p.m. at downtown Phoenix's Paper Heart, 750 Grand Avenue. Admission is $10; see www.thepaperheart.com or call 602-262-2020 for details.

Wednesday, April 21
Think a lone voice can't make a difference? To take not-so-poetic license with a Paul Simon lyric, we need to discuss much. Just get off your can, man . . . and get yourself a copy of MoveOn's 50 Ways to Love Your Country: How to Find Your Political Voice and Become a Catalyst for Change. Local activist Robert Scott Curry discusses the collection of call-to-action essays -- illustrating "the power of the individual to effect change, with tips and resources to turn inspiration into action" -- Wednesday, April 21, at Changing Hands. "A catalyst for a new kind of grassroots involvement," MoveOn's nationwide network of 1.7 million online activists works "to bring ordinary people back into politics." Amend the law of inertia (a citizen at rest tends to stay at rest) at 7 p.m. at the bookstore, 6428 South McClintock in Tempe. Call 480-730-0205 or see www.changinghands.com.

 
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