FunStuff: Charlottesville events January 26 and beyond

Alternative country
They're often billed as alt-country, but the track from the Old 97s that appeared on the 106.1 The Corner sampler a coupla years back, "Dance with Me," seems like power-pop and pretty far from Nashville. And speaking of that video, who can't identify with the nerd who wreaks havoc (at least in his own mind) on the bouncers at a snooty nightclub? On their ninth studio album, The Grand Theatre, Volume Two, they seem more thrasher than crooner. Anyway, these guys from from Dallas will have Charlottesville's unsnooty Jeff rocking this Saturday night.
January 28, Jefferson Theater, 9pm, $15/$17


Aye, capella
It may seem like a steeper than usual price point for vocal performances. However, this multi-act event also features some celebrities in the form of local students gone off to college to sing: Patriots Drew O’Donnell and Jeremy Weiss at Yale and Saint Stacey Hahn at UVA. The main act is a male group from Yale University called the Spizzwinks(?) whose 1914 launch, five years after their school's better-known Whiffenpoofs, seems to have motivated them to inject more humor into their songs and that annoying question mark into their name. Also appearing at this Saturday night vocal-fest near Hydraulic Road is UVA's female a cappella group, The Virginia Belles, with additional appearances by Albemarle High School's a cappella groups, No Fella A Cappella and The Minutemen.
January 28, Albemarle High School Auditorium, 7:30, $15/$10


What the frack
An acclaimed documentary on the controversial subject of underground fracking, Gasland, will be screened at the main library along with commentary by an activist from the Shenandoah Valley, where geologists have found rich reserves of the underground but tricky-to-extract energy. Although this film by Josh Fox earned an Oscar nomination and an Emmy victory, the state of Colorado issued a rebuttal to the film's money shot– flames from a water faucet– as merely a natural occurrence of methane. With America's natural gas reserves widely touted as a replacement for Mideast oil, this debate matters. Bruce Richie of Land, Air, Water Stewardship Action Group will speak after the film; so prepare your hard questions.
January 26, J-M Regional Library, 7pm, free


Winter cooking class
"I'm for people who are tired of serving meals without compliments," says chef Terre Sisson, whose company is offering a pair of season-appropriate Thursday night cooking classes at a popular Preston Avenue pasta shop. After a snack-and-drink welcome, attendees at the two upcoming events will be invited into the kitchen to learn the techniques. On January 26, it's soups and stews; and on February 7, it's hearty beef fare. Students will be sent away two and half hours later with a recipe packet and, it's claimed, the confidence to replicate the meal.
January 26 and February 7, Mona Lisa Pasta, 7pm, $60 per class


They might be regulars
Sorry, we're writing about this one a little early, but for your sake we're worried this Thursday-nighter will– like most or all of their prior Charlottesville shows– sell out. Although they released their first album in 1986, They Might Be Giants say they're celebrating their pearl anniversary: 30 years. That's triple the age of some of their youngest fans and half the age of some of their oldest; and this show is open to ages 14 and above. They're touring the wake of a newish album called Join Us, penned from the point of view of various loonies. "Mucking around in the mind of an unreliable narrator," says half of the duo, John Flansburgh, "is about halfway between a pleasant short vacation and self-induced mental illness, and this album is about as chock-full of that as anything we've ever done." Opener: Jonathan Coulton.
February 16, Jefferson Theater, Doors at 7pm & show at 8pm, $22/$25


Bull-riding and hit-kicking
Where else in Charlottesville are you gonna find a mechanical bull to ride? Nowhere but the Jeff this Saturday as Country radio station 99.7 FM– which calls itself the "HitKicker"– hosts a hoedown complete with line-dance instruction and prizes to top bull-riders of concert tickets to such upcoming Jefferson Theater country acts as Wanda Jackson, Rehab, and Colt Ford. Admission costs a fiver for men, but it's free for women. And you get to hang out with the 99.7 deejays. Must be age 18 or over to attend.
February 4, Jefferson Theater, 8pm, $5


Dropping in with strings
With a band name like Carolina Chocolate Drops and an album called Genuine Negro Jig, this band is not afraid to talk about race and music. But it's not exploitation; it's history, as band member Dom Flemons discussed with the Hook a year ago. Asked about the addition of a beat-boxer to what had been seen as a straight-forward old-time string line-up, Flemons said, "We've done a lot of traditional things, but the intention of the group was never to be a museum piece." Indeed, museum pieces don't win Grammys as the Drops did; and they don't work with Buddy Miller, who has produced the likes of Emmylou Harris, Patty Griffin, and Robert Plant. If you missed the Carolina Chocolate Drops at the Jeff last year, you're in luck because although the price has inched up a bit, so have the accolades. Opener at this Tuesday night event: Tara Mills with Strings Attached.
January 31, Jefferson Theater, 7pm, $20/$22


Court-crushing Cavs
Football and men's basketball have both had stellar seasons, but do you know about the other huge success that UVA is having? Under coach Brian Boland, the UVA Men's Tennis Team has had three undefeated regular seasons and four NCAA titles. With the team currently ranked #2 in the nation and having trounced their first 2012 opponent 8-1 in Florida, they're back to town for more of the 2012 spring schedule. And that means you might be able to see such stand-outs as the nation's top-ranked player, Mitchell Frank, or the sophomore shown here. Alex Domijan, who stands six feet seven, won all ten ACC singles matches last year and once defeated John McEnroe. The first home matchup has the Cavaliers hosting the University of Texas at the Boyd Tinsley Courts.
February 3, Boar's Head Sports Club, 6pm, free.


Meet the Obamas
We all know the problem with those Miller Center forums: They're held mid-morning when most of us have those nagging things called jobs. Well, here's a speech with its own problem: It occurs during happy hour. Okay, we'll put away the beverages long enough to learn about the First Family, won't we? The speaker is Jodi Kantor, whose just-released best-seller, The Obamas, is making waves inside and outside the Beltway. At this Monday evening discussion just off Old Ivy Road, the law schooler-turned-journalist Kantor may also get asked about other politicos she's covered in her work for the New York Times and Slate: Hillary Clinton, John McCain, and former Alaska governor Sarah Palin.
January 30, The Miller Center, 5:30, free

Custer in C'ville
What could be more fun than finding out exactly what Union General George Armstrong Custer did to Charlottesville? Answer: Finding out just before gorging on a plate of southern fried chicken. This Thursday-morning lecture-and-lunch event has been organized by UVA's Osher Lifelong Learning Institute and features historian Rick Britton. "Nothing goes better with Virginia history than fried chicken," says Britton, a published author and scribe of a couple of fun Hook covers– one on TJ's unhappy golden years and, more recently, a full recount of the heroic ride of Jack Jouett. Here, at your favorite relocated 18th century tavern on Route 53, Britton will present his talk, "The 'Battle' of Rio Hill: George Armstrong Custer Comes a-Calling." Register online at or 434-923-3600. (Price includes lunch, lecture, meet-and-greet, and ticket to a new Civil War exhibit.)
February 2, Michie Tavern, 10:30 talk & 11:30am lunch, $27


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