Here's a history lesson for the eccentrics. New York's Piñataland is a five-piece violin, tuba, accordion, guitar and drum ensemble. Their raison d'etre is to draw inspiration from all-but-forgotten events of the past 200 years. "Ota Benga's Name" recalls the tragic story of a young African pygmy who found himself living in the Bronx Zoo in 1904, and "Flying Down to Moscow" is a Cold War tribute to Mathias Rust, the West German teenager who landed his small plane in Red Square in 1987. Piñataland has been featured on NPR's All Things Considered and prefers to perform at unusual venues like the Thomas Edison Historic Site in West Orange, N.J. (where they demonstrated wax cylinder recordings). At the Cadieux Café, 4300 Cadieux St., Detroit; 313-882-8560. With Royal Pine.
ISSUES & LEARNING
In one of his imaginative essays, Derrick Bell sent Thurgood Marshall and other civil rights-era lawyers back in time to argue against accepting slavery in the U.S. Constitution. In another, which became an HBO special, aliens offered white America gold and more in exchange for all the black folk. Dedicated to illuminating the nature of American racism by any meditation necessary, the noted litigator, law professor and author delivers this year's Damon J. Keith Lecture at the Wayne State University Law School at 6:30 p.m. in the Spencer M. Patrich Auditorium. The lecture, "The Civil Rights Lawyer's Role in a Time of Mortal Crisis," is free. Call 313-577-6530.
The most laconic of comics, Steven Wright performs sets that are like a joke gun. Blam-blam-blam. Punchline-punchline-punchline. Calm, deliberate and desert-dry, nearly every sentence out of the man's mouth contains both setup and payoff. Whether performing in a film or a stand-up routine, Wright's dangerously deadpan shtick is the opposite of long-winded. It is without wind. Before you even figure out what's funny about one of his absurd lines, such as, "I've got some powdered water, but I don't know what to mix it with," he's already moved on. A whole night of Wright will probably be profoundly perplexing and hilarious as all hell. Who doesn't enjoy a beautiful wreck every now and then? 7:30 p.m. in the La-Z-Boy Center at Meyer Theater, Monroe County Community College, 1555 S. Raisinville Rd., Monroe; 734-384-4272.
The Grid Squid
It sounds more like the stuff of an Alice Cooper concert, but the latest exhibit at the Cranbrook Academy's Forum Gallery falls under the "fine art" rubric. Curators purport that their newest offering, Grid Squid, has "monsters, ghosts, wizards, black magic and weird noises." What featured artists Mark Sengbusch and Jeffrey Matthews have done here is turn themselves into modern cavemen, harnessing primordial shapes and energies from the dark side of humanity. Opening reception is Friday, Oct. 13, at 39220 Woodward Ave., Bloomfield Hills; 248-645-3300. A live performance by Orthodontics is scheduled.
It'd be sufficient to inform you that he was a central figure in Howlin' Wolf's backup band and a guitarist for Muddy Waters. But lest you think Hubert Sumlin is just a blip on the screen, you should know that Rolling Stone named him one of the top 100 guitarists of all time, having helped to shape the sound of such seminal axmen as Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Keith Richards, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jimmy Page. At 6:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. at the Detroit Institute of Arts, 5200 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-833-7900.
Friday & Saturday 13 & 14
Martha Graham Dance Company
Just like a Greek goddess in one of her renowned dances, defying the gods, legs splayed, torso close to the ground, dancer and choreographer Martha Graham's spirit has transcended time. But Graham's way to change the shape of dance history wasn't easy. She rejected classical ballet where women are en pointe, corseted and carried about by a man. In fact, in the 1948 piece "Diversion of Angels," she epitomized womanhood and eroticism. With native Detroiter and former Graham dancer Janet Eilber at the helm as its new director, the company has a new lease on life. Graham's modern dance classics "Diversion of Angels," "Appalachian Spring" and "Lamentation" will be performed this weekend, along with "Prelude and Revolt," seven dances charting Graham's emergence. At 8 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 13, and 1 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 14, at the Power Center, 121 Fletcher St., Ann Arbor; 734-764-2538 or 1-800-221-1229. Check out metrotimes.com online for a Web exclusive.
Reel Pride Michigan Film Festival
Streetwise hustlers. Bi-curious teenage girls and their sultry professors. Amnesiac French-Canadians. That's right: It's time for another week of challenging, fabulous and insightful films brought to you courtesy of the Reel Pride Michigan Film Festival. Over the years, the queer-themed fest has seen its turnout grow, and judging by the schedule, this year promises to do the same, The opening film (Friday, Oct. 13, 8 p.m.) isn't a campy comedy, but the erotic hustler drama Boy Culture, which co-stars Darryl Stephens of the Logo Network's gay soap Noah's Arc. (Stephens will be in attendance at the after-party immediately following the screening.) Adding to the higher-brow themes on display during the fest: Amnesia The James Brighton Enigma (Saturday, Oct. 14, 11:15 a.m.), a sort of gay, French-Canadian take on Memento. If camp and attitude are what you like, there's, Bam Bam and Celeste (Sunday, Oct. 15, 7 p.m.) the long-awaited starring debut of defiantly bisexual comedian Margaret Cho, and the midnight flick this year is the aptly named, tongue-in-cheek horror spoof Creatures from the Pink Lagoon (Saturday, Oct. 14, midnight). All movies are showing at the Main Art Theatre (118 N. Main St., Royal Oak; 248-263-2111). A complete schedule is at reelpridemichigan.com.
Word of the Day: eproctophilia A fetishistic attraction to human flatulence, usually men attracted to women's farts. Sure, you could have lived a perfectly fulfilling life without knowing the definition of this word, but we say knowledge is power. And speaking of power, Ohio's Grafton makes its way to Detroit this week for a sternum-cracking exercise in hard rock. Though Grafton's crunch-and-kill sound is more pleasant than a snoot-full of egg farts, it's equally shocking to the system. At Northern Lights Lounge, 660 E. Baltimore St., Detroit; 313-873-1739. Cuckold to open.
Thollem McDonas, Jon Brumit and Rent Romus
Cecil Taylor, Don Pullen, Borah Bergman. In a bigger space we'd explain how they differ from American-born, Prague-based pianist Thollem McDonas (or why he also reminds us of George Winston). In what's available here, we'll just anoint him a likeminded keyboard pummeller, a guy who likes to splash and splatter gobs of sound and sweep you up in his energy. He dug the way his last Bohemian National Home gig, a solo show, went so much that he put it out as a record. This time he's back with the simpatico saxophonist Rent Romus and percussionist (and found-object player) Jon Brumit, who are incendiary together on the recent release Bloom on Edgetone records. At the Bohemian National Home, 3009 Tillman St., Detroit; 313-737-6606.
Ever since the O Brother Where Art Thou movie soundtrack party-crashed the American pop music scene, suburban appreciation of all things hillbilly has become customary. And while you might not know his name, Jerry Douglas was an important part of the slightly bizarre sea change: He's the dobro player for Alison Krauss and Union Station (featured heavily on the O Brother soundtrack), and though his six-stringed instrument is the least familiar, it's definitely the most haunting. Check out his solo stuff at the Fox Theatre, 2211 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-471-6611.
Lights, Camera, Auction
Abandoning an unwanted child was so much more of a romantic lark in the old days. In 1928 the Sheridan Theatre in Pittsburgh found a baby on its doorstep, note pinned to her shirt. They adopted the street urchin, and named her Catherine Variety Sheridan. "Variety - The Children's Charity" was born. You can show you care for the kids too when Variety's Detroit Tent 5 holds its annual Lights, Camera, Auction event. Get your schmancy on at the fundraiser catered by such institutions as Birmingham's Townsend Hotel. The auction includes items ranging from Detroit Tigers memorabilia to gift baskets and artwork. As if that weren't enough, a top-secret sneak preview of an upcoming movie is included. The event raises cash to buy bikes for hundreds of needy kids this holiday season. At 6 p.m. at the Emagine Theatre, 44425 W. 12 Mile Rd., Novi; 248-258-5511.Eve Doster is the listings editor of Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org