JESSICA HERNANDEZ & THE DELTAS
Christened a “voice that speaks directly to us” by legendary Blondie and Richard Hell producer Richard Gottehrer, Detroit’s Jessica Hernandez is edgy, sassy and soulful. After being bounced by Blue Note when the fabled jazz label was devoured by the Universal Music Group borg, Hernandez and her five-piece Deltas found a home with Gottehrer’s Instant Records, where they nestle in the sweet spot between commercial-pop smarts and angsty retro-rock. Riffs from forgotten snot-nosed kids The Nuggets, plus bits of Gogol Bordello’s ethno-punk and Tom Waits’ perpetually dark carnival fuel the Deltas’ high octane garage rock ’n’ soul. Amid a swirl of recklessly woozy trombone, creepy Farfisa, spaghetti noir guitar and jazzy-yet-jack-hammering drums, Hernandez belts with the bluesy pop polish of the Noisettes’ Shingai Shoniwa and the hyper-dramatic brass of Shirley Bassey. Inevitable comparisons to Amy Winehouse miss Hernandez’s elemental appeal by a Motor City mile. Lake Street Dive diva Rachael Price’s retrofitted sophistication hits nearer the mark, but Hernandez rocks harder than Price and LSD, and the Deltas dig deeper into their cinematic grooves.
The era of Emily Post and demure gals was excruciatingly dull and sexually frustrating, so it’s been a relief to all concerned to learn — thanks, Kinsey Reports! — that the girls are just as bawdy and sex-crazed as the boys. And that’s been the dirty little not-so-secret ethos that this Tennessee quartet has been playing up over their three-LP catalog. After a ramshackle, twangy debut and 2012’s riot grrrl-y, garage punk-flavored follow-up, Screws Get Loose, the Darlins’ new one, Blur the Line, smooths over some of the rough edges (courtesy of Roger Moutenot, long-time Yo La Tengo producer) that characterized the outfit before. The message, though, remains the same, summed up best in one of the snarling rockers, “Baby Mae” — “When she’s good she’s great/When she’s bad she’s even better.” Still, while the band’s sonic palette has added nuance, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to expand the songwriting tableau, too, as the message wears a bit thin by the time this one hits the wide grooves. But live, led by firecracker front-woman Jessi Zazu, Those Darlins are anything but meek or demure — and thank heaven for that. (John Schacht)
Ever since it moved Uptown from Winston-Salem 23 years ago, North Carolina Dance Theatre has staged the most enchanting celebration of Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker. First there was a darker, Freudian choreography by the late Salvatore Aiello, and in recent years, the more traditionally festive and candy-colored version choreographed by NCDT artistic director Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux. Since landing at Blumenthal Performing Arts Center in the early ’90s, each year Belk Theater is transformed into a hall of wonder. The Nutcracker is a sensational explosion of resplendent sets, eye-popping costumes, live music by the Charlotte Symphony, the grace of the adult NCDT corps augmented by legions of adorable children, and a precious young Clara who annually flies off to Tchaikovsky’s special fairyland. More than 100 dancers perform the 2013 Nutcracker at Belk, Dec. 13-22, with conveniently early curtain times, since it’s all about the kids. (Perry Tannenbaum) $25-$90
Leave it up to the folks of On Q Productions to put some extra flavor in a program that spotlights the usual holiday suspects. A Soulful Noel is a one-night-only performance that features music, dance and spoken word by the ensemble of creatives. Alternative tweaks have been made to incorporate holiday fare like “The Night Before Christmas,” “The Little Drummer Boy” and “Go Tell it on The Mountain,” all of which are soulfully represented. (Anita Overcash) $15
Just because you can doesn’t mean you should create. This is a lesson well-learned in flicks like Frankenstein and The Terminator. In both films, disaster strikes — a mad scientist stitches together a lumbering monster and artificially intelligent machines attempt to destroy the human race — all due to man’s longing to create. Luckily, the latest mechanical pieces assembled by folks at Davidson College are far less threatening. Even better, the works are a parody of Norman White’s “Helpless Robot,” which was incapable of movement. Parodic Machines will feature works by artists Nick Bontrager, David Bowen, Matt Kenyon, Hye Yeon Nam and Fernando Orellana, while Desiring Machines will feature works by Paula Gaetano Adi, curator for Parodic Machines and longtime creator of robotic artwork. Reception on Oct. 24, 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Parodic Machines is held in Van Every Gallery. Desiring Machines is held in Smith Gallery.
Om! Playwright Mallery Avidon grew up in an ashram, and in O Guru Guru Guru, or Why I Don’t Want to go to Yoga Class with You, her heroine Lila will thoroughly explain to us why she has strayed from the path. It’s a three-part journey at CAST, including a PowerPoint presentation, a puppet show and a visit to the Eat Pray Love ashram, where we can expect a Julia Roberts sighting. Be prepared to take off your shoes, maybe sit yogi-style on a cushion, and drift off into meditation as Lila — actually the luminous Cody Harding — invites us to see things her way. If you’ve never entertained the notion that spirituality in America is overly commercialized, you will be shocked, shocked by Lila’s attitude in this comedy directed by CAST artistic director Michael R. Simmons. (Perry Tannenbaum) $18-$28
Corny as it is, the folks at Carolina Actors Studio Theatre are bringing back A Tuna Christmas, its favorite (or so we’re guessing, based on numerous past runs — last year was an exception) holiday hell-raiser. Set in the “third smallest town in Texas,” a rambunctious Christmas Eve simmers with the vandalism of Christmas lawn displays, a production of A Christmas Carol that’s threatened by unpaid bills and the arrival of aliens from outer space. Actors Tom Ollis and Jack Utrata portray more than 20 characters (yep — that’s a lot of costume changes), including a duo of radio personalities, snowed in at the station, who report on the town’s chaotic current affairs over the airwaves. (Anita Overcash) $18-$28
Shadows can be dark, mysterious, reflective and distorted. They are faceless, making up for lack of details by elongating forms. For Guyanese artist Stanley Greaves, they are “symbolic of the collective unconscious.” This can be gloomy or gracious, as expressed through the movements and poses of his figures. Greaves, better known for surreal paintings inspired by political turmoil in Guyana from the 1960s to the 1980s, has created this new series for UNC Charlotte’s Murmurs on the Other Side of the Light exhibit. It will also showcase some of his earlier Caribbean-influenced works. Come during the opening reception, when Greaves will lecture and local mime Hardin Minor will perform. Free admission. Reception on Nov. 23, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. (Anita Overcash) Free admission
Money. It’s the first thing you’ll probably think of when you read the title of this new exhibit at McColl Center for Visual Arts. If that’s the case, you’re partially right about the reference. This exhibit does feature what appears to be money, but also opens the doors to “creative” currency. Organized by Core Visual Art — a collective of six former McColl Center affiliate artists, including Daniel Allegrucci, Crista Camarroto, Diane Hughes, Ashley Lathe, Laura McCarthy and Felicia van Bork — the idea is to create dialogue around forms of exchange. A piece in the exhibit, inspired by the exchanging of ideas, is “State Currencies.” For it, artists came up with their own ideas of currency for all the states in the U.S., based on ongoing political drama. Folks attending the opening reception can add their two cents to an interactive work. Opening reception on Nov. 22. (Anita Overcash) Free admission
Forget Ferris wheels, fun houses, funnel cakes, corndogs or whatever else you associate with fairs. That is not what this new Mint Museum exhibit is about. Instead, Inventing the Modern World: Decorative Arts at the World’s Fairs, 1851-1939 showcases extravagant glass, furniture, jewelry, ceramics, metalwork and textiles. If you’re like me and decorative art at a fair seems foreign to you, that’s because in those days (remember, we’re talking 1851-1939, when technology was limited) it was a way for folks with money to make a big purchase and see new designs from around the world. Exhibition highlights include an extraordinary Fabergé tiara fashioned from hundreds of tiny rose-cut diamonds set on knife-edge mounts, which gives the tiara the appearance of woven lace. Items from Tiffany & Co., Lalique, Cartier, and Boucheron will be represented. And you thought a fair couldn’t be classy?
This exhibit exposes the greatness of photographer Sonia Handelman Meyer and works by other members of the long-defunct Photo League — a NYC photog group established in 1936 for budding young artists. Much of Meyer’s work focuses on social justice and presents individuals in a documentary style. From shoots at integrated hospitals to Harlem scenes, Meyer captures captivating portraits. After PL shut down in 1951, Meyer fell under the radar but her works resurfaced in Charlotte, where she moved later in her life. This showcase reminds us of photography’s ability to spur social change, a power that was very much opposed, and even dismantled, by the powers-that-be of Meyer’s time. (Anita Overcash) $5-$10; free for members and children 4 years old and under
In an effort to further explore African-American identity, The Gantt Center is unveiling three new exhibits. They’ll focus, more specifically, on black men through a variety of mediums. Question Bridge: Black Males, created by Chris Johnson, Hank Willis Thomas, Bayeté Ross Smith and Kamal Sinclair, is a video project based around San Diego’s African-American community. Later expanded, the project asks black men to express their views on a range of topics. There’s also New Mythologies, a multi-media exhibit of works by Brooklyn-based artist William Villalongo. He uses symbolism and intricate details to make his viewers dissect the meaning in his works — interwoven with aspects of race, identity and history. It’s a fun quest. Also on exhibit: African-American Art Since 1950: Perspectives from the David C. Driskell Center, comprised of works inspired by the social, cultural and political visions of its creators, both professional and budding African-American artists. $6-$8