Koka Booth Amphitheatre—Frank Sinatra famously referred to George Jones as "the second-best white male singer in America." Sure, the quote was as much about Sinatra as it was Jones, and it does contain a couple qualifiers. Still, not bad. Even better, though, is a description offered by Chicago-based artist Stephen Dawson during an interview a half-dozen years back. "The greatest white soul singer ever," said Dawson. The best soul music and the best country music are about real (read: painful) experiences, and the rawer the emotions, the better. To listen to "A Good Year for the Roses," "If Drinking Don't Kill Me," "The Grand Tour" and "He Stopped Loving Her Today" (and I could have picked four others equally poignant) is to hear exactly what a heart that's been scarred to the point of disintegration sounds like. That's soul music, brother. The heartache starts at 7:30 p.m. Lawn tickets are $35, and reserved and table seats are $45. —Rick Cornell
Shorts Stand Tall
Century Center Cinema—For the last few months, the burgeoning Triangle film community has followed the dictum "film locally, screen globally." One Durham auteur, Todd Tinkham, is coming off his first trip to Park City, Utah, where he showed a short at Slamdance in January. Since then, he and local filmmakers Nic Beery, Ajit Prem and Mary Cates have roamed the country screening their mini-narratives, hitting festivals in Mississippi, Tennessee and Connecticut.
For them, the screening Saturday night will be a sort of homecoming. Shorts Stand Tall, curated by Beery, will showcase 13 short films. Most are by local filmmakers, but Beery includes a few of his favorite discoveries from his recent jaunts. One of them is Home, a gorgeous and piercing conceptual work by Matt Faust, about his childhood home in New Orleans: It survived heavy flooding during Hurricane Katrina, only to be accidentally demolished by FEMA. It will show here before screening at the Tribeca Film Festival two days later.
Another notable entry is a minute-long public service announcement by Raleigh Charter High School sophomore Sarah Huck. After a friend died last November while seeking a brief "high" from self-strangulation, she made The Choking Game, with the help of Beery and others, to warn fellow teens about this dangerous activity.
The films will be shown in two hour-long sets, starting at 7 p.m. (doors open at 6:30 p.m.). The $4 ticket includes free popcorn and soda. —Marc Maximov
Community Earth Dance
Our Space—Tonight, the masterminds of Paperhand Puppet Intervention open the doors and floors to their new creative space at the former Buddy Collins Community Center of Saxapahaw with an open invitation for the surrounding community to come and dance the evening away at a special celebration for Mother Earth. The PPI's space houses a 6,000-foot gym with plenty of room for crafting, designing and dancing. Tonight's party is a celebration of connections between friends and family, the earth and the community as DJ Dizll churns out smooth grooves while handcrafted puppets of Paperhand's creation crash the party. The free party runs from 6 p.m.-midnight. —Kathy Justice
North Carolina Youth Tap Ensemble
Fletcher Hall, Carolina Theatre—Now 26 years old and still going strong, the N.C. Youth Tap Ensemble has, in the past year, traveled to Germany, Mexico, Canada and China (where the company performed for crowds of 10,000). Founded in 1983 by Gene Medler, the company is based in Chapel Hill but draws its young dancers from across the state. Among the tap artists who graduated from the NCYTE to adult careers is Michelle Dorrance, currently performing in STOMP. We're told she will make a cameo this weekend. Also expected: Derick Grant, who is the director and choreographer of Imagine Tap! This weekend's show is called Good Vibrations, and you should expect a lively evening: The company promises "cutting-edge contemporary choreography, along with traditional rhythm tap. Dance styles include South African Gumboot, sand dancing, buck, vaudeville, body percussion and jazz." Performances are tonight at 7 p.m. and tomorrow at 2 p.m. Tickets are $15 for adults, $10 for seniors and students. They can be purchased at the Carolina Theatre box office (560-3030) and at the front desk of The Ballet School of Chapel Hill (942-1339). For more information, visit www.ncyte.org. —David Fellerath
Correction (April 22, 2009): Derick Grant is not an NCYTE alumnus.
American Aquarium CD Release
The Pour House—The Raleigh road-dogs in American Aquarium have become one of the area's essential acts. On its third full-length, Dances For The Lonely, piss-and-vinegar frontman B.J. Barham fronts a bigger band, turning his Whiskeytown country into Jersey shores bar rock without losing its central message: As long as there are women to be loved and lost, Barham will have songs to sing. Tonight, though, American Aquarium will have to work for the crowd, as two area powerhouses open: Red Collar and Holy Ghost Tent Revival. Advance tickets run $8 or pay $10 at the doors, which open at 8 p.m. —Bryan Reed