Mainstream jazz, trad jazz, fusion jazz, big band jazz, Django jazz, there's lots to choose from in downtown Detroit this weekend. But the omissions shout volumes, and if you want to hear music that echoes Ornette Coleman or the Chicago radicals of the '60s or the European free jazz scene, you'll take your ears elsewhere. You can wait for Ann Arbor's Edgefest in October, or catch the Respect Sextet at the Kerrytown Concert House. Unafraid to be caught caterwauling, this New York combo invites comparison to the Either/Orchestra, and they're one of the few groups you'll find covering Misha Mengelberg's "Hypochristmutreefuzz" and stretching it out at that. 8 p.m. at 415 N. Fourth Ave., Ann Arbor; 734-769-2999.
Chrysler Arts, Beats & Eats
FUN FOR ALL
The focus is many-tiered when it comes to the Arts, Beats & Eats Festival in downtown Pontiac. Devoted to food, music and street fair fun, organizers of this family tradition say "boo!" to esoteric offerings and "yahoo!" to good old-fashioned get-togethers. There's tons to do for the kids, including juggling workshops, a visit from Rosco the Clown, animal balloon workshops, illusionists and much more. As for tunes, there'll be national acts running the genre gamut, including the sweethearts of Music Row, SHeDaisy; stadium rockers .38 Special; reggae's beloved son Ziggy Marley and the guy whose horn sound-tracked the '70s, Chuck Mangione. Noteworthy locals include Latin-infused R&B gal Lola Morales (a must-see), the Deadstring Brothers, Judy Harrison & High Impact, the Troubadours, the Hard Lessons and others. In downtown Pontiac, visit artsbeatseats.com for detailed lineups.
Friday & Saturday 1 & 2
The Nightmare Before Christmas
Only filmmaker Tim Burton could take on the most sacred of the sugared-up holidays and mash it up. In the animated musical, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Halloweentown's much-loved Pumpkin King, aka Jack Skellington, stumbles across Christmastown and decides to lend a hand. When his well-intentioned-but-spooky methods of spreading Christmas cheer backfire, Burton-esque entertainment ensues. Original songs and score by The Simpsons' music dude, Danny Elfman. As part of the midnight movie series at the Main Theatre, 118 N. Main St., Royal Oak; 248-263-2111.
Friday & Saturday 1 & 2
Back to School Backpack Drive and Urban Groove picnic
Norm Talley and Aaron-Carl are two legendary figures in Detroit's internationally acclaimed, but locally undervalued, house scene. They're also nice guys eager to lend a helping hand. This weekend at two locations, the house heads from the Urban Groove crew are throwing a Back to School Backpack Drive for needy students. At Proof (2001 Woodward Ave., Detroit) on Friday, Talley and Carl will kick the drive off with music from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. Without skipping a beat, the party moves to Belle Isle on Saturday for Urban Groove's first of a planned annual picnic series. They say to bring your own eats, grills, beverages and dancing shoes and they'll supply the beats with house DJs, 1 to 9 p.m. Expected to perform is an all-star lineup including Bruce Bailey, Delano Smith, DJ Surgeon, Reggie Harrel, Shortround, Talley, Carl and more to be announced. The party sponsored by Transmat Records will be held at Shed 19. For more info go to dmaurbangroove.com
Hamtramck Labor Day Festival
FUN FOR ALL
That it's a tradition is one small reason why the Hamtramck Labor Day Festival is a must-do. In fact, it's the fest's multi-culti atmo, old-school carnival milieu and eyebrow-raising assemblage of local music acts that make it worthy of salutation. Music spotlights include a one-off reunion show from '90s rock outfit, Hoarse, plus the Saltminers, the Muggs and Hamtown heroes the Polish Muslims. In downtown Hamtramck, visit hamtramckfestival.com for detailed lineups.
The creative forces behind the experimental music-cum-performance art extravaganza called Noise Camp are among the brightest this city has ever known: For more than a decade, artist-musicians Davin Brainard, Dion Fisher and Warn Defever have set standards, started trends and raised bars in the downtown music and art scene and Noise Camp is an annual culmination of their forward thinking. This year's events have moved to the Contemporary Art Institute of Detroit, where the vast grass parking lot offers considerably more outdoor space for performance and activities. At 5141 Rosa Parks Blvd., Detroit; 313-899-2243.
Does anyone remember when Dennis Miller was the coolest guy on TV? Once not so long ago he was the king o' snark who ruled the SNL Weekend Update desk with a smartass smirk and an unruly, rock 'n' roll mane. Known for his "rants" and his arsenal of obscure references, he was the hipster's comic of choice. But that was then. A political shift to bitter conservatism saw his popularity plummet harder and faster than Dom DeLuise doing a double-gainer off the high board, exiling Miller to the cable news ghetto. His HBO show is but a memory now, and he belly flopped on Monday Night Football. But fair is fair and we're willing to bet the Ponderosa that, as a stand-up, Dennis still has the chops. Just be sure to bring an encyclopedia. At DTE Energy Music Theatre, Clarkston; 248-645-6666.Eve Doster is the listings editor of Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org