Your Turn (Northern Spy) is the second and best album by Ceramic Dog, the knotty rock trio led by guitarist Marc Ribot. The group’s 2008 debut, Party Intellectuals (Pi), felt a bit slick and chilly, but the new one—with raw, vibrant production by Deerhoof’s Greg Saunier—is elbow deep in blood and grit, and Ribot sounds his most inspired and concise, even on extended solos. Supported by bassist Shahzad Ismaily and drummer Ches Smith, he skips among genres and tropes without sounding at all dilettantish: a sort of punk-blues hijack of 60s rock (“Lies My Body Told Me,” about struggling against the procreative impulse), furiously swinging instrumental surf rock (“Your Turn”), quaint rocksteady (“Ain’t Gonna Let Them Turn Us Around”), early jazz (“The Kid Is Back!”), and even a version of Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five.” Ribot is at best a serviceable vocalist, and when he crosses over from his usual crankiness into outright bitterness—most egregriously on “Masters of the Internet,” an artless rant about musicians getting screwed by online piracy—it’s hard not to cringe, even though the sentiment is understandable. Luckily, though, he lets his guitar do most of the talking. He’s built a career by flouting expectations and yanking the rug out from under his own music, but in Ceramic Dog he often leaves well enough alone—and even when he does take things sideways, it’s easy to hang on for the ride. —Peter Margasak The Lee Ranaldo Band headlines.
Pride Fest is full of parades and parties, but it has its serious side, too. Kick off Pride Month with a screening of How Do I Look—Voguing in the New Millennium, a 2005 documentary about the Harlem drag ball competitions. Director Wolfgang Busch will be in attendance for a discussion following the screening.
In 1938, Talladega College commissioned the Harlem Renaissance artist Hale Aspacio Woodruff to paint six murals to hang in a campus library. Three tell the story of the slave ship Amistad: an onboard mutiny, the trial of the captives, and their eventual return to Africa. Three more depict the Underground Railroad; the first day of student registration at Talladega, one of the country's first all-black colleges, in Alabama in 1867; and the building of Savery Library, the eventual home of Woodruff's work, in 1937. Woodruff's vibrant, large-scale murals were influenced by American regionalist style, a Mexican sojourn during which he apprenticed to Diego Rivera, and the cubism he studied in Paris. He returned from France in 1931 to chair the first art department for African-American students at Atlanta University; also in the 30s, Woodruff, who was born in Cairo, Illinois, painted murals for the Works Progress Administration. He went on to teach at Spelman College, Clark University, and at Talladega before joining the art faculty of New York University, where he taught until his retirement. In 2011, Atlanta's High Museum of Art collaborated with Talladega College on an extensive conservation project to prepare the murals for a multicity your, removing them from Savery Library for the first time. At the Chicago Cultural Center they'll hang alongside other, smaller paintings and prints from throughout Woodruff's career. —Janet Potter
I know it'll seem incomprehensible to you fans of talking turds, but I've never paid Comedy Central's South Park much mind one way or another. And when New York fell all over itself last year appreciating The Book of Mormon, I wondered if there wasn't just a smidge of hyperbole in calling the musical by South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone (along with Robert Lopez) the best of the "century." Now that I've seen the Chicago production, however, I've been—well—converted. A wise mix of nasty satire and compassionate truth telling, Parker, Stone, and Lopez's tale of Mormon missionaries in Uganda is as entertaining—and, strangely, uplifting—a piece of work as anything in recent American theater. Although the book draws whole quivers full of big red arrows to everything that's ludicrous about the Mormon way, it also ends up making a case for the hope we all derive from silly myths. Meanwhile, playful as it is, it ranks up there with Lynn Nottage's Ruined in exposing the danger, dignity, and distortions of African life. The cast is uniformly and perfectly seductive. And is that Steppenwolf's famously earnest James Vincent Meredith, showing a new side of himself as the Ugandan village chief? Incredible. —Tony Adler $65-$125
Chicago Public Radio's satirical twist on the classic quiz show is taped before a live audience. Host Peter Sagal and crew mine news stories for quiz questions, with different panelists from the worlds of literature and entertainment and audience members participating each week. Politics supply the jokes du jour, but what happens off microphone is often funnier. —Ryan Hubbard $24.75
Given the cultural ascent of really good TV, it's surprising that there aren't more efforts, like this one, to adapt the serial structure to the stage. In Coriolis Theater's live "pilot" episode, angry 99-percenter Coco returns to Chicago from a six-month stint with Occupy Wall Street—to the surprise of her roommate Maggie, who's more inclined to occupy the couch and watch American Idol. There's little plot or action, but these 50 minutes do the one thing a pilot must: establish interesting characters you want to see again. Grayson Vreeland's cast is already more realistically diverse and relatable than the white-bread lineups you find on most young-adult urban sitcoms. If the show's writers develop compelling story lines for them, they might earn the repeat following that Coriolis is banking on. —Keith Griffith $10-$15
This 60-minute, late-night magic show is exactly what it should be: funny, lively, intimate, and utterly baffling. House Theatre of Chicago member Dennis Watkins blends quick-witted improv and physical comedy with freewheeling patter as he performs classic illusions. Though his sleight-of-hand is impossibly subtle, it was the mind reading tricks that seemed to have drawn several inquisitive skeptics back for another look on the night I attended. A curio-shop intimacy and cash bar encourage audience participation, and Watkins, with his Eagle Scout looks, clearly takes a mischievous pleasure in the unexpected. Just let your cell phone go off during the show and see what kind of fun he has. --Keith Griffith $75
Starting today, Eno Wine Room in the Fairmont hotel will offer blind tastings every Sunday evening; people who can correctly identify five attributes (like age, region, country, and grape) of three wines get their flight for free. There are two levels of difficulty, one aimed at the average wine drinker and the other created for aficionados. —Julia Thiel $25-$30 per wine flight