Thursday, December 18, 2008

Steppin' Out During the Holidays.

The year is coming to a close and people are starting to firm up their holiday plans. Things get strange around town during this time. First of all, you never know who you might run into. That element of surprise adds an extra touch of entertainment for those of us who have lived in the city for a long time. Folks make their annual trips to see their relatives, and cast about aimlessly whenever they get a night to themselves. If you have a favorite spot, expect its flavor to be (at least) subtly altered during the next week-and-a-half. There will likely be a lot of unfamiliar faces. Some will be a bit disconcerted by what they see as a strange invasion, but I always enjoy this time of year for its relative unpredictability.

Another phenomenon during the holidays is the urge for the Burgh's visitors to get away from family members that they find a bit difficult to connect with. Feelings such as impatience tinged with guilt and other strange ingredients can make people act especially odd once they make their temporary escape. Along with the energy many people bring to reunions with old friends, such factors can add a surreal sense to one's evening. Familial recovery seems to be a prevailing motive for venturing out in the first place. When night-crawlers get out of their comfort zone, they can act pretty weird. Expect to see a lot of effusive melodrama, along with the usual panoply of oblivious revelers.

As far as specific tips, I don't have much to offer you for this weekend. A band called "Paramount Styles" is playing down at the 31st Pub (Friday @ 9PM, $8). Apparently it features the frontman from the now defunct 90's indie-grunge/post-punk outfit Girls vs. Boys. I saw that band on the second stage of some long-past Lollapallooza. I enjoyed them as well as the other acts that performed that day (which included the Flaming Lips). Opening up for this new outfit are the Karl Hendrick Trio and something called Broughtons Rules (a group that reportedly combines former members of both Don Caballero and Blunderbuss). Overall this seems like an interesting bill. I don't go see much live music anymore, but I'm considering this event.

Meanwhile, the Zombo Gallery is rolling out its opening reception (Friday, from 6-11PM) for a "Ukulele Show". Not only will there be live entertainment from the region's greatest players of this seemingly silly little instrument, but Pittsburgh visual artists have actually customized their own undersized string objects as well. Perhaps you aren't acquainted with the extraordinary range of music styles that can emanate from the ukulele. If so, you and I are in the same boat. Still I can tell you that I have seen local musician Liz Hammond strut her stuff with one in hand, and I don't mind suggesting that it was worth the trouble. God only knows what others are capable of with these things.

On Saturday, the only art-related event I can recommend is an opening reception at Panza Gallery (6-9PM, 115 Sedgwick Street in Millvale) for painter Jack Baker and his new series, entitled RoBodyCa. I got a recent sneak preview of some of the artist's work while waiting for one of the establishment's weekly figure drawing sessions to begin. This stuff is alien and faintly disturbing, employing an odd amalgamation of cubism and sci-fi illustration to portray disjointed naked women. Baker's palette is exceptionally cold, adding to the discomfort invoked in the viewer. It's not necessarily in the spirit of Xmas, but it certainly is seasonal. Temper the joy and then go have a drink.

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