Queer on Their Feet
Steel Blue—Those with a weakness for snarky stand-up and lively improv should fall hard for this comedy tour featuring out-and-proud comedians Jennie McNulty, Jason Dudey and Diana Yanez. This trio shared the national spotlight on gay and lesbian network LOGO before taking on smaller spaces in clubs across the nation with their program of 15-minute stand-up routines followed by audience-inspired improv and games featuring all three comics. Stand strong and think fast tonight at 9 p.m. for $15-$20. Visit clubsteelblue.com. —Kathy Justice
Nevermore Film Festival
Carolina Theatre—February, not April, is the cruelest month, so why not see some of that cruelty inflicted on innocent people whose vehicles break down in isolated, killer-redneck-infested small towns? Yes, it's the Nevermore Film Festival, the Carolina Theatre's annual ode to all that is scary. We've got reviews on page 41 of some of the features and shorts playing this year, and there are plenty of features we didn't get to see that we're quite curious about: The New Zealand short Eel Girl, a favorite at several festivals; Basement Jack and Evilution, two films in a shared universe from the same filmmakers; Marvel Zombies, a fan film based on Robert Kirkman's comic about flesh-crazed superheroes, and of course the screening of the original Universal monster movies Frankenstein and Creature from the Black Lagoon, the latter in 3-D! Read our feature story. For more information on the three-day event, visit festivals.carolinatheatre.org/nevermore. —Zack Smith
Sheafer Theater, Duke University—If it was Shakespeare's time to shine in this space last week, it's the Russians' now. However, Gulag Follies at Duke is a mite more contemporary than Uncle Vanya, opening at Chapel Hill's Deep Dish this week. Gulag Follies is based on The Kolyma Tales, a collection of stories by famed anti-Stalinist Varlam Shalamov. Shalamov endured hellish conditions as a prisoner in the Gulag known as "the land of white death" from 1937 to 1951.
Jody McAuliffe, professor of theater and Slavic and Eurasian studies at Duke, traveled to Russia to interview Gulag survivors for this adaptation of Shalamov's stories, which she also directs. Like Man of La Mancha, it chronicles a show by prisoners, whose tales reflect life under these terrifying conditions. Songs include "Rio-Rita," from a Ziegfeld musical, "Do Russians Stand For War," "I'm In Love With You Life," "Lullabye" and other tunes performed by Bart Matthews (guitar, accordion), Jason Fagg (percussion), Kirill Zikhanov (piano) and the ensemble. The show opens Thursday, Feb. 19, and closes Saturday, Feb. 21. For more information, visit www.duke.edu/web/theaterstudies. —Zack Smith
Willie Nelson and Asleep at the Wheel
Durham Performing Arts Center—Willie Nelson takes the reins of a loose, twanging and rambling swing with a new album, tour and collaboration with western swing band Asleep at the Wheel titled, well, Willie and the Wheel. "Fiddles, steel [guitar], guitar, piano, bass, drums and sometimes horns and singers," explains Ray Benson, Nelson's friend and Asleep at the Wheel's leader of almost 40 years. "And within that configuration, you play any music that you want or that fits your audience or your abilities."
Developed in the '20s and popular into the '50s, western swing is an amalgamation of country and jazz forms. By covering songs from throughout that history, Benson thinks the music of the Wheel keeps fresh. "If you really dig deep, there's very little new under the sun. It's within the forms that exist that you create different arrangements and different improvisations in each solo, that's where the creativity comes in."
Working with 90 bandmates over the years doesn't hurt, either, especially when they're united by that ideal. Benson's glad to work with Nelson, who's no stranger to western swing. "Willie's just one of the more distinctive and recognizable voices ever," says Benson. "You hear Willie, you know it's Willie. He don't sound like anybody else." It's a DPAC jam, so tickets will cost you $35-$65 for the 7:30 p.m. show. —Andrew Ritchey
Fujiya and Miyagi
Cat's Cradle—Fujiya and Miyagi works the bumpy pulse of Krautrock into its pop songs, but—32 years after Kraftwerk's Trans-Europe Express—this is hardly an experimental band. Like Can, the band tosses out word groupings that don't have much more meaning than the sound they make alongside the rhythms.
In fact, the beat rules all in Fujiya and Miyagi's music, round capsules of percussion puffing up underneath the songs, gently nudging until the melody kicks in. It's that gliding percussion that gives the British group's songs so much elasticity. The beat in itself is a hook, allowing the songs to stretch. The rhythm also expands the band's room for collaboration, since it's but a big bed of beats and synthesizer accents to be lain over other peoples' sounds.
Opening act Project Jenny, Project Jan has a new joint EP with F&M, on which they collaborated on all tracks. PJ, PJ injects propulsive modes into their pop ear-candy; it's a natural match-up for these two groups on the edge of a new pop-psych music. Catch it starting at 9 p.m. and drop $12-$14. —Chris Toenes