Arts & Culture » Arts Stories & Interviews

Selections: Our picks of the week's best events, Feb. 17-23



Wednesday, 17

James Leg

Coming from the swamp-boogie branch of the blues family tree, Nashville's James Leg pounds out raw, growling odes to drinking, fighting and fornicating on up to two electric keyboards at a time, accompanied by a live drummer. But even though there are only two people in his act, the show is anything but minimal. As our own Bao Le-Huu said the last time Leg rolled through town, "As soon as he hits the keys, it's with the sizzle and splatter of fatback on a hot pan. With hands that move like hexed tarantulas, no one cranks the ivories as hard as this guy. And because he can wield a different keyboard with each hand, he really fills the speakers with Rhodes piano, organ and bass keys. Few musicians balance edge and artistry like this." Add in smoke- and whiskey-ravaged vocals that ape Tom Waits' most "Big in Japan" moments, and this should be a must-see show for any fan of the darker, seedier corners of Americana. – Thaddeus McCollum

with Slim Walker & His Orchestra, Obliterati | 9 p.m. | Will's Pub, 1042 N. Mills Ave. | | $5-$7

Thursday, 18

Laura Anderson Barbata & Brooklyn Jumbies

Chances are the last time you saw stilt-walkers was at a Mardi Gras celebration, but there's a lot more to the tall dancers than just entertainment. Laura Anderson Barbata has for years worked with stilt-walker communities from across the globe in the moko jumbie stilt-walking tradition, exploring the ways it's used to effect social change and be a platform for commentary. The Mexican artist speaks at Rollins College's Cornell Fine Arts Museum about her Transcommunality exhibition, which includes sculptures, photographs and videos of stilt-walkers. Barbata is joined by a performance from the Brooklyn Jumbies, a dance group that keeps elements of the African Diaspora alive through stilt-walking, traditional African drum-playing, fire-breathing and limbo-dancing. The exhibition runs through April 10. – Monivette Cordeiro

performance 5:30 p.m., artist talk 6:30 p.m. | Cornell Fine Arts Museum, Rollins College, 1000 Holt Ave., Winter Park | 407-646-2526 | | free

Friday, 19

Katt Williams

Fabulously luxurious isn't a phrase that typically gets thrown a comedian's way, but with his silky green suits and barbershop-fresh cuts, there's no other way to describe Katt Williams. This Friday, the modern-day King of Comedy brings some much needed pimpin' to the streets of Orlando at the CFE Arena. Williams skyrocketed to comedy fame in 2006 with his special The Pimp Chronicles, Pt. 1, and despite a few legal setbacks involving a gun and an airport, he's hitting the road once again with the Conspiracy Theory tour. Williams even whispered in Rolling Stone's ear that he believes this show to be his "finest work" about the topics we inject into everyday conversation: evolution versus creationism, space programs, and the difference between Jared from Subway and Bill Cosby. – Marissa Mahoney

8 p.m. | CFE Arena, 12777 Gemini Blvd. | 407-823-3070 | | $52-$125

Friday-Saturday, 19-20

Untold Stories

A significant portion of the art world is defined by its doom-and-gloom nature, but most of the time it's done without the desire to spark discussion. While it's OK to delve into such works, every once in a while, one needs to witness a form of expression that demands change. Untold Stories, as put together by the Emotions Dance Company, is presenting such an occasion.  On Feb. 19 and 20 at the Lowndes Shakespeare Center's Mandell Theater, the interpretive dance troupe sways and swirls to the thoughts of day-to-day existence and grapples in order to form a story centered on courage and hope. Performances in the past have been known to focus on tales of abuse and addiction, and while the dances themselves change, one thing hasn't since the series' inception in 2008: the hope of starting a conversation and making a difference in the world. – Kim Slichter

8 p.m. | Mandell Theater, Orlando Shakespeare Center, 812 E. Rollins St. | 407-447-1700 | | $20

Saturday, 20

Alison Wonderland

One valid criticism of the dance music scene is the lack of women in roles other than dancers, models and eye candy. While Australian native Alison Wonderland might not be the only and definitely not the first female DJ, she's been making the biggest waves recently. After selling out warehouses across Australia and making her U.S. debut with a spot at Coachella last year, she dropped a deluxe edition of her first album, Run, which featured cameos from producers Djemba Djemba and Slumberjack, as well as guest vocals from head Flaming Lip Wayne Coyne. She shows a similar diversity in her DJ sets, incorporating everything from the Cure to Cypress Hill to Dirty Projectors over trap beats and bass drops. We can only hope her undeniable talent inspires even more women to get behind the decks. – TM

10 p.m. | Venue 578, 578 N. Orange Ave. | 407-872-0066 | | $15-$30

Saturday, 20

Everybody Loves (Bryan) Raymond Benefit

The Orlando music community lifts its own in times of need. Unfortunately, it's too often for the benefit of the family left behind in a tragedy. At least local musician Bryan Raymond survived his misfortune of a terrible October motorcycle accident, but barely. From an injury list that's seriously deep and awful, the Junior Bruce guitarist and father of two daughters is mounting a miraculous recovery. His medical bills, however, are staggering and his family needs a little hand. Raymond's bandmates in Junior Bruce, of course, are leading the charge with some of the most gruesome Southern sludge around. To make it a full-on cavalry, they've summoned a lineup of acclaimed heavy hitters – Tampa's Meatwound (one of the most buzz-worthy new heavy bands from Florida right now), Orlando's Ad Nauseum (a 2015 Undie award winner) and Lakeland's Tug (swamp metal) – that's worth more than the negligible $7 cover just on sheer merit alone. With this much certified power on tap, the event hardly counts as charity. But the help is real and the effect direct for a community member in need. – Bao Le-Huu

with Junior Bruce, Ad Nauseum, Meatwound, Tug | 8 p.m. | Will's Pub, 1042 N. Mills Ave. | | $7

Saturday, 20

Orlando Wetlands Festival

If you've been itching to answer that call of the wild, now's your chance with the 16th annual Orlando Wetlands Festival. Basically the Comic-Con of eco-enthusiasts, the festival offers nature lovers the chance to take a guided photo or plant identification hike, go on birdwatching excursions, take a bus tour of the wetlands, receive a mist netting demonstration, watch wildlife shows or bump along on a hayride. And for those that don't share in the love of all things leafy and green, live music, games and plenty of food keep you occupied while the rest of your party hugs trees and gets eaten alive by mosquitoes. Just remember to keep Fido at home – no pets are allowed in the park. But never fear: Plenty of birds, bats and venomous creepy-crawlies are around to keep you company. – Deanna Ferrante

9 a.m.-3 p.m.  | Fort Christmas Historical Park, 1300 N. Fort Christmas Road | | free

Sunday, 21

The James Hunter Six

It's sometimes eerie how British artists manage to take American art forms and make them their own – whether it's Led Zeppelin's straight-up thieving of various African-American bluesmen (Howlin' Wolf, Willie Dixon, etc.) or new Daptone artist James Hunter's sublime channeling of Sam Cooke. The Essex native launched his London career as leader of Howlin' Wilf (they really don't even try to hide the "borrowing," do they?) & the Vee-Jays, but his days of playing tiny clubs leveled up in 1996, when Van Morrison, impressed by what the New York Times has since called his "slithery groove" and "sweet growl," sang on Hunter's first solo album. After a 2006 Grammy nom and years of recording for various labels (Ruf, Rounder, Concord), Hunter added his ultra-tight backing band to the official moniker, and the newly dubbed James Hunter Six signed to Brooklyn's Daptone Records last year. Current release Hold On! is a blue-eyed throwback party record that'll have you feeling like you've time-traveled to the groovy '60s (it's even recorded in mono!); this is sure to be one show at the Plaza where you'll be up on your feet. – Jessica Bryce Young

with Shemekia Copeland | 7 p.m. | Plaza Live, 425 N. Bumby Ave. | 407-228-1220 | | $24.50-$39.50

Sunday, 21

Charles Bradley & His Extraordinaires

Soul music mixes agony and ecstasy better than any other American art form. And very few musicians have walked that line like Gainesville native Charles Bradley: homeless at age 14. Scraping together a meager living as an itinerant cook. Nearly dying from a misdiagnosed penicillin allergy. Seeing his brother murdered in a random robbery. Caring for and living with his elderly mother for 20 years. Chasing his musical dreams for twice as long without ever figuring out how to reach them.

That all changed in the early 2000s, when Daptone Records co-founder Gabriel Roth discovered Bradley performing as a James Brown impersonator. It took 10 years for Bradley and co-writer/producer Tom Brenneck to piece together a debut album, 2011's No Time for Dreaming. But once it dropped, critics and audiences alike were blown away by the "Screaming Eagle of Soul's" potent vocal punch, sensitive songwriting and devastatingly emotional performances.

Two years later, sophomore album Victim of Love boasted a more upbeat, confident tone, while sold-out tours around the world – and at Harlem's Apollo Theater, where Bradley first saw James Brown in 1962 – earned him the top spot on Paste magazine's Best Live Acts of 2015. But Bradley's forthcoming album, Changes, might just be his best yet: the title track, a cover of Black Sabbath's 1972 ballad accompanied by a stunningly simple video, packs the pent-up intensity of a man downtrodden for decades but finally triumphing.

"If I travel around the world and open my heart and give my love, people say, 'Charles, thank you for helping me,'" he told Vice in 2014. "'Hearing your music and how you [came] out with it, I know there's hope too.' That [makes] me feel like I gave something good to the world." – Nick McGregor

6 p.m. | The Social, 54 N. Orange Ave. | 407-246-1419 | | $20

Monday, 22

Notes From All Over: An Evening With Bill Bryson

Weren't we just talking about Brits impersonating Americans eerily well? Well, he'd never be accused of pretending to be an Englishman, but American-born writer Bill Bryson has served as chancellor of England's third oldest university; board member of English Heritage, the British government body responsible for England's historic environment; and president of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, one of Britain's oldest conservation organizations – not bad for a boy from Des Moines, Iowa. While his body of work began as gently cranky fun-poking in the fish-out-of-water vein – sort of an Amerenglish version of Peter Mayle's Anglo-Français schtick – in the intervening decades, he's become a wisely witty éminence grise, an erstwhile humorous travel writer who's shifted to a serious focus on ecological and cultural conservation. He's best known for A Walk in the Woods, his mishap-heavy recounting of walking the Appalachian Trail – a mirror-world companion of sorts to Cheryl Strayed's Wild. Both were made into movies, and while we can't compare the film versions (having seen neither), in print, Bryson is infinitely more fun. – JBY

7:30 p.m. | Warden Arena, Rollins College, 1000 Holt Ave., Winter Park | 407-691-1995 | | free

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