Iowa Memorial Union Lounge
Sunday, April 1, 7 p.m.
On April 1, indie rockers Mae perform at Iowa City's Iowa Memorial Union Lounge, and as they're developing a significant national following, I wasn't much surprised to come across this rave review: "Glistening piano and keyboards intertwine with guitar solos and dense power chords, all grounded by a confident rhythm section that's not afraid to let fly some atypical patterns and fills." I was mildly surprised, though, to find the review posted by the critic for Christianbook.com. With a moniker standing for "Multi-sensory Aesthetic Experience," the group - hailing from Norfolk, Virginia - actually got its start in Christian music before hitting the indie-club scene, yet the critically acclaimed quintet has more than nonsecular appeal; writing in Hybrid Magazine, Embo Blake described Mae's 2006 CD The Everglow as, "Purely magical, wondrous. ... If there were more modern rock that could evoke feelings like this, the world would be a much more reasonable place, and filled with much more love." Hmm ... "reasonable" ... "love" ... so much for the CD getting regular rotation in the Reader office ... . For more information on Mae's Iowa City appearance, call (319) 335-3395.
The Maxwell Street Klezmer Band
The Redstone Room
Thursday, March 29, 7 p.m.
On the Web site (http://www.klezmershack.com) - an online directory of klezmer and Jewish bands available for bookings - Lori Lippitz, the founder of the Maxwell Street Klezmer Band, proudly states, "We are not hip or edgy, academic, or rigorously authentic." Granted, for someone in the music biz, this isn't exactly the zenith in self-promotion, but her undersell doesn't seem to be hurting the group's success one bit. Hitting Davenport on March 29 as part of the Redstone Room's Jewish Music Series, the Maxwell Street Klezmer Band has amassed quite a following since its 1983 formation, playing a combination of dance music, folk songs, theatre medleys, and Yiddish pop music from the 1930s to the 1950s. The group (named after the famed, turn-of-the-century Chicago marketplace) has appeared on PBS' World Stage Chicago and Artbeat Chicago; its rigorous touring schedule has found it performing in London, Munich, Vienna, Germany, and Amsterdam; and among the group's half-dozen recordings are the CDs Old Roots, New World and Sweet Early Years, plus a 1997 cassette single titled - capital letters theirs - The MATZOrena. And Lippitz says they're not hip. For more information, visit (http://www.klezmerband.com).
Rock Plaza Central
Rock Island Brewing Company
Friday, March 30, 11 p.m.
National Public Radio music critic Kathryn Yu describes Rock Plaza Central's 2006 CD Are We Not Horses as "a concept album about the apocalyptic daydreams of six-legged robotic horses who believe they are real horses and find themselves caught in a war between humans and angels." Hmph. That old plot. All kidding aside, this septet of Ontario-based musicians - who recently produced a brass-and-banjo cover of Justin Timberlake's and Timbaland's "SexyBack" - plays the Rock Island Brewing Company on March 30, and last year's CD floored the critics; David Cowling, in Americana UK, called it "a massive achievement," and Pitchfork's Stephen Deusner described the album as "accessible, supremely affecting, and unique." Rock Plaza Central's Wikipedia listing, in fact, refers to the group as a "major indie-rock band," and the group's Fiona Stewart - an educator as well as a violinist - has said, "I do find it entertaining to be in Wikipedia. Only because most of my students think it's acceptable to use in research." You mean it's not? Uh oh ... I'm gonna have to go back and rewrite a ton of these calendar articles ... . Rock Plaza Central performs at RIBCO alongside Death Ships and Burnt Ends, and more information on the group is available at (http://www.rockplazacentral.com).
Church Basement Ladies
Circa '21 Dinner Playhouse
Wednesday, March 28, through Saturday, May 26
According to Circa '21 Dinner Playhouse's marketing director, Brett Hitchcock, Church Basement Ladies is opening at a higher sales percentage than the venue's Irving Berlin's White Christmas, Grease, and Cats. In fact, during its two-month run (which begins March 28), all of the scheduled matinée performances have already sold out, and the theatre has - so far - added 10 additional afternoon performances just to accommodate demand. To be honest, I'm a little leery of the show; with four feisty ladies performing musical comedy alongside a church pastor, it sounds an awful lot like a Lutheran Nunsense sequel. But I'm also a half-full sort of guy, so here are three reasons for optimism: (1) It has music and lyrics by the composer of How to Talk Minnesotan: The Musical, which sounds kinda funny; (2) It features Jean Liuzzi, who was terrific in Circa '21's Christmas from the Heart, and Tom Walljasper, who's terrific in just about everything; and (3) The song list features such titles as "The Pale Food Polka" and "Dead Spread." That last one's not necessarily reason for optimism, but it'll be fun to see just how many people, after those Act I numbers, still have an appetite for intermission dessert. For tickets (if you can still get them), call (309) 786-7733 extension 2.
The Real Thing
St. Ambrose University
Friday, March 30, and Sunday, April 1
After Tom Stoppard's The Real Thing opened on Broadway in 1984, it won Tony Awards for Best Play, Actor, and Actress. After returning to Broadway in 2000, it won Tonys for Best Play Revival, Actor, and Actress. Why on earth hasn't Hollywood ruined The Real Thing with a really mediocre film version yet? In any event, St. Ambrose University presents this much-lauded drama in the Galvin Fine Arts Center's black-box theatre March 30 and 31. Directed by St. Ambrose senior Katie Danalewich, The Real Thing revolves around an adulterous affair between a playwright and an actress, and is a meditation on love, life, and the nature of reality. If, though, you're expecting a dry, esoteric evening, know that Stoppard's witty piece entertains as much as it provokes - on stage, saying cruel and hateful things to people you love can actually be really funny, so expect a lot of enjoyably bitchy, mean-spirited arguments - and the Los Angeles Times' Laurie Winer praised the work for being "a play with insights that follow you out of the theatre and deep into the night." "Insights," huh? I always thought those were called "stalkers." For more information, call the Galvin Fine Arts Center at (563) 333-6251.