Since his 2002 debut, Sha Sha, Ben Kweller has gained a reputation as a precocious indie kid able to fashion endlessly exuberant and seemingly effortless hook-heavy pop treats that are impossible not to adore. Now on his fourth release, Changing Horses, the Texas native has traded in the upbeat bop for a down-home twang. The full-blown country disc comes complete with slide guitar, honky-tonk rhythms and plenty of pedal steel, as well as more lyrics that hint at the tear-in-your-beer side of life. But despite the apparent sea-change in sound, Kweller still offers up the thing that will always keep his fans coming back for more: catchy-as-hell tuneage. With the Watson Twins at St. Andrew's Hall, 431 E. Congress, Detroit; 313-961-8137; all ages.
FROM THE MILES DAVIS FINISHING SCHOOL
On his website, Sco dispenses advice for jazz-star aspirants: "Be different; stand out with your own voice." Which is about right for a guy who works from a blue-hued guitar-tone palette as distinctive as they come. His early '80s gig with a resurgent Miles Davis band gave him a spotlight that he's never surrendered, collaborating over the years with folks from Pat Metheny and Bill Frisell (two of his current guitar-star peers) to Herbie Hancock to Lee Konitz and (yes) Phil Lesh. His current trio joins him at the musically hip with bassist Matt Penman and drummer Bill Stewart. At 8 p.m. at Max M. Fisher Music Center, 3711 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-576-5111; tickets $19 and up.
SCOUT TUFANKJIAN BOOK SIGNING
Scout Tufankjian was the only independent photographer to capture President Obama's entire campaign — from before he announced his intention to run for the presidency through to the election-night celebration in Grant Park. The result was more than 12,000 images of Obama and his followers — from quiet moments sleeping on the bus to record-breaking crowds at rallies across the country. More than 200 of the photos have been compiled in the book Yes We Can: Barack Obama's History-Making Presidential Campaign, a tome that says as much about the American people inspired by Obama as it does about the man himself. Tufankjian will sign copies of her work at 6 p.m. at Macy's Somerset, 2752 W. Big Beaver Rd., Troy; 248-816-4000.
ZORA IS MY NAME!
CHRONICLER OF CULTURE
Zora Neale Hurston was an author and anthropologist who catalogued and preserved the traditions, dialect and culture of the South, specifically Southern African-Americans, through both fiction and nonfiction works. A prominent figure during the Harlem Renaissance, Hurston's works fell out of favor with both academics and critics and she died in obscurity. A 1975 article by Alice Walker titled "In Search of Zora Neale Hurston" renewed interest in Hurston, who is now considered one of the pre-eminent African-American authors of the 20th century. This musical rendering of her life was adapted by venerable actress, writer and activist Ruby Dee. At 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays, through March 1, at the Bonstelle Theatre, 3434 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-577-2960; wsushows.com; $15.
THE BAD SEED
PIGTAILS & BLOODLUST
Who Wants Cake? presents its self-described "campy and newfangled" version of Maxwell Anderson's 1954 thriller, The Bad Seed. The play tells the story of Rhoda Penmark, a sociopath whose murderous tendencies are well-established by the age of 8. When Rhoda's mother discovers her daughter's true nature, she must decide whether to protect Rhoda or her potential victims. Makes temper tantrums look like a breeze, no? At 8 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays and Mondays and 3 p.m. Sundays, through March 16, at the Ringwald Theatre, 22742 Woodward Ave., Ferndale; 248-545-5545; whowantscaketheatre.com. The show's billed as a "lowbrow, low price production" with tickets only $15 Friday-Sunday and just $10 on Mondays.
THE 5 SENSES MASQUERADE
The last event in 555 Gallery's current space, The 5 Senses Masquerade is an artistic exploration of the five senses, featuring interactive and multimedia artworks, installations, performances and music, as well as some sensory enhancing removals and deconstructions. Unable to afford the new price of the building, the folks at 555 are forced to pick up and move for the fourth time in seven years, despite the dollars and volunteer hours put into rehabbing the space (time and money that is gone but not forgotten, according to the 555 crew). For the last hurrah, guests are encouraged to get into the spirit by designing their own masks, but a few masks will be available for purchase at the door. At 8 p.m.-midnight at 555 Gallery, 4884 Grand River Ave., Detroit; $15 advance tickets available at 555arts.org, $20 sliding scale at the door.
COUNTDOWN TO PACZKI DAY
A family-friendly wind-up for Fat Tuesday, Countdown to Paczki Day features a paczki bake-off, polka music from Misty Blues, traditional Polish dancers and free paczki (!), of course. The fest will also include two new events: a paczki toss (all the flavor, none of the calories) and the Paczki Express bakery bus tour. The carbo-fat loading takes place at 11 a.m.-3 p.m. at the Hamtramck Town Center Parking Lot (corner of Joseph Campau and Holbrook). For the lowdown on this and Paczki Day's gut-busting and drunken debauchery, visit downtownhamtramck.com.
UNTIL THE VIOLENCE STOPS
Until the Violence Stops is a two-week fest taking place throughout metro Detroit to raise awareness about the issue of violence against women and girls. While the event includes a self-defense class and a self-defense workshop, the main focus of the festival is how art can bring public recognition to the issue, as well as create a safe space where women can share their stories. The festival includes spoken word performances, theater works and a film festival. Highlights include Anyone of Us: Words from Prison, a work that utilizes narratives by incarcerated women; Necessary Targets, a play that addresses how women's lives are affected by war; and the festival finale, The Vagina Monologues. Proceeds from events will be donated to various local organizations that work to end violence toward women. For complete details including dates and locations visit utvsdetroit.org.
TINSELTOWN OR BUST
So far, Hollywood's forays into Detroit have not included any of the pizazz that glossy mags feed on like so much gruel to a hypnotized, star-gazing public. But La Dolce Vita's First Annual Oscars Party changes all that. Guests can expect red carpet treatment — complete with paparazzi — muscular dudes painted gold (hello, Oscar!), couture swag, an ice sculpture liquor lounge, drink specials, delicious eats, dancing — music courtesy of DJ La Femme — and the awards ceremony plastered on big screens. At La Dolce Vita, 17546 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-865-0331. No cover, but dinner ranges from $15-$30 per person with a portion of the proceeds going to a local charity; reservations recommended.
GENDERS LP RELEASE
REVISITING A DRUM MACHINE
It's been more than two years since Detroit art-punk anarchy duo Genders played a show, but the time was not wasted. More than a year and a half was spent compiling music for 13 Moons, the new 13-disc set which features 14 hours (narrowed down from 24 on cassette tapes) of the group's minimally-rendered otherworldly sound (think drum machine, synth, disembodied vocals). The show is also the kick-off event for Genders' new label, Holographic Resonance (plans for local releases are in the works), and the boys have also started a new social networking site for local artsy types, newdetroitstyle.com. The hiatus not spent in vain ends at PJ's Lager House, 1254 Michigan Ave., Detroit; 313-961-4668; with Jamie Easter performing as Deep in the Peanut and Idee Fixe.
HUGHIE LEE-SMITH RETURNS
REVISITING A MASTER
Hughie Lee-Smith first exhibited at the Detroit Artists Market in 1947 and was an active member of market life through much of the mid-20th century. His career spanned more than 50 years, and much of the beginning was shaped during his time in Detroit, where he graduated from Wayne State and earned the Detroit Institute of Arts Founders Prize in 1953. His works are known for their depiction of racial and urban isolation and desolate landscapes, and can be viewed both as thought-provoking social commentary and deeply affecting personal reflections. A gallery talk takes place Saturday at 4-6 p.m. At the Detroit Artists Market, 4719 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-832-8540; exhibit on display through Feb. 28.