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Short List: Week of August 6 - 13

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A few years ago, Alberto Almarza began making a kind of art he (actually his young son) named pok. Hand-working clay, using hand-mixed glazes and firing his creations without electricity or gas, he crafted intriguingly primitive works from tiny pots to evocations of human mummies. He exhibited them partly through fellow Carnegie Mellon art student Ally Reeves' Mobile Museum project, bringing art to neighborhoods via bicycle. It's in the spirit of both projects that Almarza created this weekend's Pittsburgh Visionary Arts Festival. It's a new open-air showcase for local artists in any medium -- whether self-taught or merely left-of-center -- who have an unconventional approach and a unique aesthetic. It's also for artists whom you wouldn't just stumble across, unless you were in the habit of haunting cutting-edge galleries. With help from the Sprout Fund, Almarza corralled dozens of artists for a three-day stint in Schenley Plaza. Familiar names like Mike Budai, Lowry Burgess, Vanessa German, Mr. Imagination and Laura Jean McLaughlin are joined by such folks as Curt Sell, whose religiously infused work is created with discarded glass melted by focused sunlight. Other contributors include art collectives Encyclopedia Destructica and Unicorn Mountain and noted local "outsider art" curator Pat McArdle. There are also nightly performances by the large-scale experimental sound collective HiTEC. Plus, you can meet the artists at their booths, some of which will host demonstrations or activities like "scribbler" Connie Cantor's "yoga scribbling," featuring actual yoga instructors wielding pencils. Even Almarza, for his part, doesn't know everything that will happen. "I've told the artists to surprise me with their ideas," he says. "I think a lot of them have been keeping the information from me!" Bill O'Driscoll Noon-9 p.m. daily, Fri., Aug. 7-Sun., Aug. 9. Schenley Plaza, Oakland. Free. www.pghvisionaryartsfestival.com

 

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Thu., Aug. 6 -- Stage

While those who don't know history might be doomed to repeat it, a new production of The History Boys is welcome indeed. The acclaimed comedy by the fabulous Alan Bennett follows eight young British students gunning for Oxbridge and the teachers who have competing ideas about getting them there -- and indeed about the very purpose of education. A staging by Pittsburgh Irish & Classical Theatre, which opens tonight, features Canadian actor Bernard Cuffling (in his U.S. stage debut), Sam Redford, Linda Kimbrough and PICT favorite Martin Giles. Eight young actors portray the lads; Andrew S. Paul directs. Bill O'Driscoll 8 p.m. Continues through Aug. 22. Charity Randall Theatre, Stephen Foster Memorial, Forbes Avenue at Bigelow, Oakland. $17-46. 412-394-3353 or www.picttheatre.org

 

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Thursday Aug. 6 -- Rock

There was a time when Pittsburgh had its own panda-themed band (Fangs of the Panda, now defunct). Now we settle for imports -- and we've got two this week. One is Panda Riot, a Chicago-based shoegazey synth-rock band, which plays tonight at Kopec's. (The other, Bloody Panda, plays Monday; see below.) Panda Riot mixes fuzzed-out space-rock sounds a la Spacemen 3 with borderline-twee pop in the vein of synth bands like My Favorite. Opening is the similarly space-inclined local Aydin. Andy Mulkerin 9 p.m. 3523 Penn Ave., Lawrenceville. $5. 412-682-0892

 

You probably don't need to be told that a buncha crazy-ass bands are playing at Gooski's. But with warm summer nights beckoning you outside, rather than into a smoky rock 'n' roll cave, a reminder is probably in order. Tonight, locals Dark Lingo and Tusk Lord are back after adventures on the road, and supporting two out-of-towners. Chicago's Cacaw plays murderous, chaotic psych-rock with female vocals, while Portland, Ore.-based Ghost to Falco consists of a rotating lineup of musicians, built around Eric Crespo's eerie songs and unsettling soundscapes. Aaron Jentzen 9 p.m. 3117 Brereton St., Polish Hill. $6. 412-681-1658

 

Fri., Aug. 7 -- Art

A familiar face brings something new to the East End art scene. Artist and curator Lauri Mancuso, formerly of Dorothy 6 (in Braddock), Paint & Body (Wilkinsburg) and other edgy galleries, tonight opens The Nerve, an art and performance space. Located literally beneath the Bloomfield Bridge, the industrial space hosts Gary Future's Annex Space, a new collective of sculptors and painters from Virginia Commonwealth University's graduate program. Mancuso's longtime collaborator Edgar Um Bucholtz will book Nerve performers; tonight's DJ set is by Fuck Telecorps and Jacob Ciocci. BO 6-11 p.m. Exhibit continues through Aug. 30. 5000 Dargan St., Bloomfield. Free. 412-951-0622 or laurimancuso@msn.com

 

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Fri., Aug. 7 -- Words

Title your first book Ecology of a Cracker Childhood (1999) and you've got our attention. So much the better if it's an acclaimed memoir of growing up in your father's junkyard in an environmentally wasted corner of rural Georgia, if it explores how ruined ecosystems ruin people, too. Janisse Ray remains an author, naturalist and activist whose achievements include helping protect Georgia's Pinhook Swamp. Ray gives a talk and reading titled "Nature, Community, and the Life We Dream" tonight at Chatham University. BO 7:30 p.m. Mellon Board Room, Chatham campus, Shadyside. Free. 412-365-1264

 

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Fri., Aug. 7 -- Stage

In Undercroft Opera's spin on Donizetti's classic Elixir of Love, Nemorino is a limo driver, Adina a Hollywood actress. Boy meets (or rather covets) girl during a red-carpet premiere. Outclassed, Nemorino does the only thing he can: sees a traveling guru about a love potion. Undercroft's singers and musicians all hail from Pittsburgh. Elixir, sung entirely in English, is on for three shows this weekend at Oakland's Synod Hall. Andrea Bullard 8 p.m. Also 8 p.m., Sat., Aug. 8 and 2 p.m., Sun., Aug. 9. 125 N. Craig St., Oakland. $17-27 ($12 Students). 412-422-7919 or undercroftopera.org

 

Friday Aug. 7 -- Rock

While some of its baroque weirdness may show up occasionally in popular bands like System of a Down, prog rock is no longer the flavor of the week in mainstream rock. But locally, the dedicated niche audience for the complex guitar-based stuff has found annual refuge in the Pittsburgh Progressive Rock Festival. The fest -- featuring IQ, King's X, Persephone's Dream and several more -- takes place Saturday and Sunday at the Pepsi-Cola Roadhouse. Tonight there's a pre-party featuring locals The Mandrake Project, at Hard Rock Café. AM Pre-party: 9:30 p.m. ( Station Square, South Side; $10). Festival: 11 a.m.-11:30 p.m. daily Sat., Aug. 8, and Sun., Aug. 9. (565 Rt. 18, Burgettstown; weekend passes are $95-195). www.3rprogfest.com

 

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Cincinnati's Bad Veins just released their self-titled debut on the Dangerbird label -- atmospheric pop swathed in lush orchestration, with grainy, dramatic vocals reminiscent of The Walkmen if played through a phone line. Live, this duo is accompanied by "Irene," a 1973 reel-to-reel tape machine, the better to handle the mellotron parts and whatnot. Tonight's show at Garfield Artworks, organized by CP contributor Manny Theiner, also features Minneapolis indie-rockers Now Now Every Children. It all gets started at after this month's Unblurred gallery crawl. AJ 10 p.m. 4931 Penn Ave., Garfield. $7. All ages. 412-361-2262 or www.garfieldartworks.com

 

Sat., Aug. 8 -- Nutrition

Breastfeeding isn't simply the best thing for infants in "normal" times. During emergencies, whether house fires or earthquakes, the practice can also help prevent illness (breast-fed babies are healthier) and serve as a backup food supply. Those are some of the messages of this year's World Breastfeeding Week, marked locally with a Family Day at Joseph-Beth Booksellers. The event, sponsored by La Leche League of South Hills, includes a benefit book fair, a coffee social, childrens' storytime and lots of helpful info. BO 10 a.m.-noon. 2705 E. Carson St., South Side. Free. 412-381-3600

 

Saturday Aug. 8 -- Festival

Umoja African Arts Company has made a tradition of its annual African Arts in the Park festival. The fifth festival, held at West Park, features all manner of African and African-American art forms, from traditional stilt-walkers, puppets and drum performances to blues bands and spoken-word workshops. A children's hut features face-painting and the like, and vendors offer food and crafts. AM 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Also 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Sun., Aug. 9. Allegheny Commons, North Side. Free. 412-471-1121 or www.africanartsinthepark.org

 

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Mon., Aug. 10 -- Rock

Architeuthis, the nearly mythical genus of giant deep-sea squid, can be rather elusive: The first photos of a live one appeared only in 2004. The San Francisco band Giant Squid, by contrast, is slightly easier to locate. It is, in fact, on tour, and bringing its slightly spooky brand of proggy heavy rock -- replete with prominent cello -- to Howlers Coyote Cafe tonight. The band is supporting its album The Ichthyologist, released this year on Translation Loss. With Bloody Panda, Grayceon, Chrononaut. AM 3509 Liberty Ave., Bloomfield. $8. 412-682-0320

 

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Thu., Aug. 13 -- Words

Born from writer George Dawes Green's wish to revive the honesty and energy of back-porch storytelling, The Moth series quickly became a phenomenon in New York City. Each event brings literary figures together to spin stories sans notes. Tonight, as part of the American Shorts series, visiting comedian Tom Shillue hosts Moth favorite Boris Timanovsky and locally based poet Terrance Hayes, plus another New York 'teller TBD, for 'Burgh-themed tales at Pittsburgh Opera. AB 7-9:30 p.m. 801 Penn Ave., No. 1, Strip District. $20. 412-622-8866 or wyep.org

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