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People Are Wrong

If recent history is any reliable indicator, we’re going to have a difficult time explaining to our kids why the musicals got such a bad rap when we were youngsters. All the corny and overblown spectacles, all the sprawling and treacly lame-o ballads, all that warmed-over operetta-esque “singing from the diaphragm.” Ugh. But then came Rent and the remake of Cabaret—suddenly musicals got gritty and seedy, and moved a little bit farther downtown.

Then artists whom we would never previously associate with the genre that gave us Naughty Marietta were cropping up in the musical theater (yes, Skid Row’s Sebastian Bach played Broadway, but that’s not who we were thinking of): For example, artists such as comic-art genius Ben Katchor, who teamed up with former Miracle Legion frontman Mark Mulcahy to create the eccentric rock-opera The Slugbearers of Kayroll Island, which was staged at MASS MoCA last season.

And now, MASS MoCA is hosting another such unlikely creative team and their foray into the field: John Flansburgh of They Might Be Giants, Maggie Moore of Hedwig and the Angry Inch and David Driver of the aforementioned Rent will proudly unveil their production People Are Wrong at MASS MoCA on Saturday.

If the names behind it weren’t enough to suggest that this production might be a little off the beaten path, here’s a précis: “People Are Wrong spins a cautionary yarn about a charismatic upstate cult leader who preys on country-house-owning yuppies. Part Jesus Christ Superstar, part Green Acres.” Now, everyone: The hills are alive with the sound of the prophesies of a charismatic upstate cult leader who preys on . . .

People Are Wrong will be staged at MASS MoCA (1040 MASS MoCA Way, North Adams, Mass.) on Saturday (June 21). Tickets for the 8 PM show are $19.50 orchestra, $15.50 mezzanine. For more information, call (413) 662-2111.

The Pernice Brothers

A few years back, following the lead of bands like Uncle Tupelo, a whole crop of young American bands raised on punk and first-wave postpunk began infusing their work with a rootsy strain. Rather than confronting bloated consumer-capitalist institutions head on, the bands offered up oblique commentary by drawing influence from pre-consumer economy acts, such as the Carter Family (whose song “No Depression,” as covered by Uncle Tupelo, gave name to a movement). The rest, as they say, is history: Soon enough, you couldn’t swing a secondhand mandolin without hitting a roots-revival act. One of the better, if lesser-known, bands operating under that expansive umbrella was Northampton’s Scud Mountain Boys, led by Joe Pernice (who, under the tag the Pernice Brothers, will play Valentine’s tonight).

The Boys gained a cult following in and around their hometown by working in a slightly melancholy, intensely intimate manner. For a while, they lugged a kitchen table around with them on tour, to better reproduce what they themselves most liked about the music they were playing: the worn and familiar, familial feel of friends playing music together. There was no rock-star pretense; back in 1997, a quietly gorgeous opening slot at Saratoga Winners for the then-hard-rocking Wilco perfectly illustrated just how much the Scud Mountain Boys differed from their putative genremates.

Since then, Joe Pernice (with various collaborators, under various monikers) has continued to put out albums of lush, downbeat charm. The most recent Pernice Brothers release, Yours, Mine and Ours, has all the hallmarks of vintage Scud Mountain Boys: the literate and often heartsick lyrics; the tight and clever arrangements that still remain warm and organic-feeling; the delicate and fluid vocals of Joe Pernice. But this album is, nonetheless, something of a surprise. Pernice has always had a pop jones, and on Yours he gives in to it fully. Traces of Brian Wilson are here, as are hints of darkly fey British pop, à la the Cure (and Pernice has been known to cover New Order). The result is a fair-to-partly-cloudy day—the subtlety of which is a great relief in the harsh and unvaried glare of most current radio pop.

The Pernice Brothers will play tonight (Thursday, June 19) at Valentine’s (17 New Scotland Ave., Albany). Warren Zanes (ex-Del Fuegos) and Jackaniny will open. Tickets for the 8 PM show are $8. For more information, 432-6572.

Jim Hodges

Paper napkins, light bulbs, glass, and silk flowers—what do these objects have in common? When New York City-based artist Jim Hodges gets his hands on them, they become art. Hodges takes ordinary household miscellany and creates unusual, abstract pieces. Twenty of his mixed-media works, sculptures, drawings, assemblages and installations comprise his new exhibition at the Tang Teaching Museum and Art Galley, called Opener 4: Jim Hodges.

Hodges uses simple, tangible objects in his own unique way to create a study of life, and often uses glass and mirrors in his work because, he claims, it encourages an interaction between the artist and the viewer. His installations, like the plates of lightbulbs that make up Hodges’ 2000 work Ahhh (pictured), invite the viewers to get closer to have a more intimate inspection of the work.

Hodges’ art is labor-intensive, and his techniques vary as widely as his media, which include weaving, sewing and drawing, to name just a few. He shapes ordinary materials into what he sees: like curtains sewn from cloth flowers, or diaries written on paper napkins. His critics praise his “embrace of beauty and evocative materials.”

And don’t think Hodges stops at mixed-media. His photography exhibitions have also met with critical praise.

Hodges considers the physical aspects of the materials he works with before developing his ideas further. Color is one of the most important aspects of his work, as he considers the use of it the purest form of expression.

Opener 4: Jim Hodges will open at the Tang Museum (Skidmore College, 815 N. Broadway, Saratoga Springs) on Saturday and will run through Aug. 31. Suggested donation is $5 adults, $3 children over 12 and $2 senior citizens; children under 12 are free. For more information, call 580-8080 or visit www.skidmore.edu/tang.


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