Fierce, fabulous and utterly fatuous, Lady Gaga is topping the charts with her mish-mash of '80s beats and '70s glam. A songwriter-for-hire for candy popsters such as Britney Spears, the Pussycat Dolls and New Kids on the Block (NKOTB, say it ain't so!), Lady Gaga went solo in '08 with her debut effort The Fame, a vaulting send-up — some say ironic, some sincere — of celebrity inanity. Her first headlining tour has been filling up venues across the country (locally, demand bumped the show from the Crofoot to the roomier Royal Oak Music Theatre) and is an eye-popping spectacle of hypersexual costumes, outrageous props and hot male dancers, with the music provided by a single DJ. In short, it's fluff, but damn is it fun. With White Tie Affair and Chester French at the Royal Oak Music Theatre, 318 W. Fourth St., Royal Oak; 248-399-2980; $20; all ages; doors at 8 p.m.
CLEVELAND JAZZ'S ANSWER TO ...
Like his numerous counterparts in Detroit, Ernie Krivda is a local musician with a national reputation, the locale in Krivda's case being Cleveland. He toured with Quincy Jones in the 1970s and recorded for New York-based Inner City Records then, and for such national outfits as Koch and Cadence after that. A big bandleader and big-sounding instrumentalist in any ensemble, his admirers include comic artist-music critic Harvey Pekar, who dubs Krivda "one of the best tenor saxmen in the world." Krivda's stint at the Dog actually begins three weeks of live recording in the club for the CIMP label. Krivda's followed by Ellen Rowe and the Paul Keller-Steve Richko team over the next two weeks. Shows at 6, 8:30 and 10:30 p.m. No cover Wednesday, Thursday or for the 10:30 weekend shows. Dirty Dog Jazz Café, 97 Kercheval, Grosse Pointe Farms; 313-882-5299.
RA RA RIOT
Ra Ra Riot honed its exuberant chamber pop playing basement frat parties on the campus of Syracuse University before releasing the critically lauded debut LP The Rhumb Line last year. The disc provides danceable pop with a dramatic twist thanks to the swooping sound of the violin and cello and the sweetly earnest vocals of singer Wesley Miles. The overall effect is joyous melancholy — a reminder that life may be bitter, but it can also be oh so sweet. With Passion Pit and Cut Off Your Hands at the Blind Pig, 208 S. First St., Ann Arbor; 734-996-8555; blindpigmusic.com; $12 advance, $14 day of show.
KEEPER OF THE LATIN-JAZZ FLAME
Some of Ray Vega's most important former employers have left the jam session. Mario Bauza, one of the architects who first figured out how to cross the forward momentum of American jazz with the rhythmic cross-currents of Latin music. Gone. Ray Barretto, whose group New World Spirit garnered Grammy nominations with Vega in the trumpet chair. Gone. Tito Puente, whose Grammy-winning orchestra Vega played with. Gone. Vega is not only still carrying the torch, but bringing his own group to Detroit for the first time. At 8 and 10 p.m. each night; $20 in advance, $25 at the door. At Jazz Café at Music Hall, 350 Madison Ave., Detroit; 313-887-8501.
ELIXIR OF LOVE
LOVE POTION NO. 9
Michigan Opera Theatre kicks off its spring season with an appropriately ebullient tale, Gaetano Donizetti's Elixir of Love. Set in Napa Valley in the early 20th century, the opera tells the story of the lovesick peasant Nemorino, whose unrequited love for the beautiful and engaged landowner Adina causes him to do all sorts of crazy shit, such as purchasing love elixir from a swindling salesman (d'oh, it's actually wine!) and joining the military in order to make enough cash for yet more elixir. But in the end, Nemorino's persistent foolishness pays off, and Adina breaks her engagement to be with him. Yet more proof that alcohol is really the only love potion you need. At 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday, at the Detroit Opera House, 1526 Broadway, Detroit; 313-965-4052; $29-$121. An additional performance takes place Saturday, April 4 at 7:30 p.m.
RALLY ROUND THE SOUND
The local jazz community had a shock with last week's reports that the beloved Baker's Keyboard is on the ropes after years of stability under John Colbert and Juanita Jackson. The recession plus water-bill woes, plus fallout from the city's "improvements" to Livernois Avenue, have amounted to a triple whammy — and a wakeup call to jazz lovers. Special 75th anniversary activities May 1-4 will hopefully provide a shot in the arm. Meanwhile, Saturday's gig was on our calendars already because saxophonist Skeeter Shelton and his group Spectrum Four are more inclined to late-Coltrane and other incendiary inspirations than the usual performers on that hallowed stage. At Baker's Keyboard Lounge, 20510 Livernois Ave., Detroit, 313-345-6300.
BY GARY GRIMSHAW AND LENI SINCLAIR
It has been whispered about for years, but now it's true: Gary Grimshaw and Leni Sinclair — the internationally famed artist and photographer, respectively— are collaborating on a book called (what else?) Detroit Rocks! Yup, Grimshaw's work, from fliers and posters to albums and magazines, and Sinclair's lovely, moment-capturing photographs will be collected in one heady volume, set to contain many little-known or never-before-seen pieces from the last four decades. Remember: This duo has witnessed and documented scores of moments that contextualized Motor City rock 'n' roll — from the Grande Ballroom to the White Panther People's Party to the '67 riots. But first, for Detroit Rocks! — a book project overseen by the nonprofit Detroit Artists Workshop — to happen, some dough and awareness need to be raised, hence this free art-show and dance party. Both Grimshaw and Sinclair will be there showing, selling and signing poster art and photographs. DJ JR will kick out the jams. At 8 p.m. at the Corktown Tavern, 1716 Michigan Ave., Detroit; 313-964-5103.
THE VON BONDIES
What's left to say about Jason Stollsteimer and the Von Bondies now? Nevertheless, it seems that every time MT weighs in on this "controversial" band, someone gets upset and there are "repercussions." But, hell's bells, people — the "incident" happened years ago, and it's really time for everyone to grow up and move on. The Von Bondies recently released a terrific, new wave-ish album with Love Hate & Then There's You. Our music editor wrote that it could be filed between Weezer and Los Angeles' highly underrated Tsar, stylistically speaking, calling it an album the VBs can be proud of within the annals of Detroit rock 'n' roll, especially from the last several years. The quartet recently wowed 'em at SXSW in Austin, Texas, where most people don't know or care about all the stupid "controversy," delivering what Stollsteimer has termed their best gig there yet. So this is another homecoming show from what was once one of Detroit's most promising new bands. So what's not to like? Either dig it or Shut The Fuck Up. At St. Andrew's Hall, 431 E. Congress, Detroit; 313-961-6358. With Nico Vega.
UMMA GRAND REOPENING
EYE CANDY, OF THE CULTURAL SORT
After nearly three years of renovation and remodeling, the University of Michigan Museum of Art is reopening its brand-spanking-new doors to the public with a 24-hour celebration. Kicking off Saturday at 6 p.m., the big event will feature a variety of student performances, special guests talking about their favorite works, a late night dance party, a midnight show courtesy of Ghostly International and the Ann Arbor Film Festival, early morning yoga and Tai Chi, games, dance performances, poetry and more. Phew! The UMMA will also feature three new exhibits, as well as more than three times as much art from its global collections and more than double the gallery space. At the University of Michigan Museum of Art, 525 S. State St., Ann Arbor; 734-763-UMMA.
HIP HOP, 19TH CENTURY STYLE
By painting portraits of young, African-American men in the style of the Old Masters of the 18th and 19th centuries, artist Kehinde Wiley reconceptualizes both contemporary hip-hop culture and African-African masculinity. Wiley's models — often not professionals, but people he approaches on the street — are placed in the poses of soldiers and royalty — brandishing swords on horseback or sitting on thrones, but still decked out in baggy jeans and basketball jerseys — on canvases that are adorned with rococo swirls and flourishes. It's a juxtaposition that places young African-American males in a heroic light, both countering negative stereotypes and offering a view of the African-American body that is often ignored in fine art. Wiley will discuss his work in a talk entitled "Re-presenting the Black Male Body in Art" at 2 p.m. at the Detroit Institute of Arts, 5200 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-833-7900; dia.org.
GROWING GREEN LIVELIHOODS
GREEN IS THE NEW ECONOMY
Growing Green Livelihoods is a panel discussion made up of local and international speakers to discuss the effects of free trade and the potential for building an equitable and sustainable global economy through environmentally friendly jobs both at home and abroad. Speakers include Jesús León Santos, whose land renewal program in his native Oaxaca, Mexico, used indigenous methods to transform depleted soil into viable farmland, and Saundra Williams, president of the metro Detroit AFL-CIO. Learn how to save the world, cynics be damned! From 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at IBEW Local 58 Union Hall, 1358 Abbott St., Detroit. The panel is free but call 202-548-6593 to reserve your spot.