Three decades ago Alex Haley's Roots stirred African-Americans with the prospect of following family trees from Anywhere, USA, through the plantation and the slave ship to a welcoming village in the Motherland. Saidiya Hartman's Lose Your Mother is a sort of latter-day rejoinder, a knot of contemporary complexities to Haley's simple (and disputed) yarn. She finds slave castles to be unsettling vacation spots where tourists and hosts both gloss over the insane arithmetic of the human trafficking that separated their ancestors and now weirdly brings them together. Or does it? Hartman's book is part memoir, part biography, part history and wholly engrossing. The Columbia University historian reads from and discusses her book at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, at the Charles H. Wright Museum, 315 E. Warren, Detroit; 313-494-5800. Also at noon Thursday in the WSU English Department Conference Room, 5057 Woodward, Room 10302, Detroit; 313-577-2321.
A band's musical evolution especially in rock 'n' roll typically equals larger sounds, heavy-handed production and, if you're lucky (or unlucky), some experimentation. But for Low, evolution means something altogether different: It means slithering backward toward the primordial ooze. It means aching and fright. Their latest SubPop Records release, Drums and Guns, employs the Duluth, Minn., band's signature dark themes and variations, but this time, the bewitched vocals echo from somewhere much more cavernous and lonesome, as if both feet and six inches of dirt were already in the grave. At 8 p.m. at the Magic Stick, 4120 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-833-9700. With Loney, Dear and Charlie Parr; $14.
Drummer Gerald Cleaver has wowed New York musician and critics' circles over the last decade. He's cut a couple dozen discs and played with cats from Ray Bryant to Miroslav Vitous. He's garnered print praise, including ink from The New York Times' Nate Chinen for ably bridging the gap between "inside" and "outside" styles. Back in town, he'll team up with saxophonist Andrew Bishop, guitarist Ryan Mackstaller and bassist Tim Flood, all wily fans of leap-frogging that inside-outside chasm. At Bohemian National Home, 3009 Tillman St., Detroit; 313-737-6606. In a similar vein this weekend at Boho on Sunday, March 15: Amazing Anthony Braxton band alums Taylor Ho Bynum (trumpet), Mary Halvorson (guitar) and Tomas Fujiwara (drums).
The last thing Cass Corridor needs right now is another empty building. And while it has long been a favorite hangout for Wayne State students, electronic music lovers and the scenester-elite, Jumbo's bar also known as the green cinder block building on Third Street is feeling the Man's squeeze. Not ones to accept handouts; Jumbo's has decided to host a benefit that's equal parts fundraiser and party. Expect music, cheap drinks and oodles of neighborly love. We're all feeling the pinch these days ... why not pay some generosity forward. 6 p.m.-2 a.m. at Jumbo's, 3736 Third St., Detroit; 313-831-8949.
Chaplin's The Immigrant
Often considered one of the finest in the Chaplin catalogue, everyone should experience this still-hilarious silent film as audiences did when it first screened in 1917. Accompanied by the Windsor Symphony Orchestra, the film will be set to an electrifying orchestral score, and then followed by a selection of blockbuster movie music such as Maurice Jarre's "Theme from Lawrence of Arabia," Bernard Herrmann's "Theme from Taxi Driver," and John Williams' "Harry Potter Suite" and "E.T.: Adventures on Earth." At 8 p.m., Saturday, April 14 and 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, April 15, at the Chrysler Theatre, 201 Riverside Dr. E., Windsor; 519-973-1238.
The Fringe Festival
They call it "fringe" music because it rarely adheres to everyday conventions of melody, instrumentation and format. More likely, fringe music is what keeps the modern musical engine chugging. These is-it-music-or-is-it-noise subgenres push boundaries, ultimately redefining what's listenable and what's not. The same goes for all types of artistic mediums. This week, some of the most progressive of the ilk hit Detroit's Music Hall. The event, dubbed The Fringe Festival, is headlined by Cranbrook Academy of Arts' Elliot Earls, whose ahead-of-the-curve outsider art has made him somewhat of a local hero. The 30-hour multimedia production's sure to confound, obscure and, maybe, move things forward. Consider it immersion therapy. At the Music Hall, 350 Madison Ave., Detroit. Call 313-963-7622 or visit detroitfringefestival.com for further details.
The Pythian Games: An Art Battle
ART/FUN FOR ALL
Art's ain't competitive. Not until there's moola involved, anyway. Enter the Pythian Games, an "art-off" of sorts, where 15 local artists will have three hours to create their own interpretation of a yet-to-be-disclosed theme. At the third hour, attendees will vote for their fave among the creations and the winning artist will receive a cash prize. Now, that's a cool way to support artists not on trust funds. Begins at 8 p.m. at the Cadieux Café, 4300 Cadieux, Detroit; 313-882-8560. Admission is $3.
In many ways a referendum on the political strife in Northern Ireland in the early 1980s (when the play first opened), Brian Friel's Translations uses a backdrop of British colonialism to illustrate the dire importance of diplomacy and communication in politics. Set in County Donegal in 1833, a rural Irish-speaking community where British engineers have begun an "Ordnance Survey of Ireland" which would map the country and standardize (anglicize) the place names an entire community struggles to maintain its identity and mother tongue. Opens Friday, April 13 at the Hilberry Theatre, 4743 Cass Ave., Detroit; 313-577-2972. Runs until May 19.
Eve Doster is the listings editor of Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org