By Brian Staker
The poetry world is full of renegades—as it should be for a medium that encourages, as Walt Whitman said, one to sing of one’s self. But BUCKY SINISTER is one of the most singular and idiosyncratic in this age of backlash against the poetic establishment. Sharing stages with the likes of provocateurs Jello Biafra and Lydia Lunch—as well as more mainstream names Fiona Apple and Drew Carey—he is one of the new breed of bards who mixes poetry with humor and pop culture. Book titles King of the Roadkills (Manic D Press), All Blacked Out & Nowhere to Go (Gorsky Press) and Whiskey & Robots (Gorsky Press) convey the dark humor of his vision. Prepare to be regaled by tales of recovery groups, the indie music scene and the seedier side of life in San Francisco. The irony of the equally tragic and comic “Fun Is What Fucks You Up” is a kind of gospel for Charles Bukowski lovers everywhere. As for which is more brutal, the spoken-word crowd or a standup comedy audience, it’s a tossup, but his burly, bald and bearded persona is imposing enough to stand up to anything. As is usual for Saturday nights, the evening includes an open-mic segment, so you can bring your own poetic preferences to purvey, and perchance even elicit a snicker or slam of hand on table (the preferred method of applause) from Mr. Sinister himself. Bucky Sinister @ A Cup of Joe, 353 W. 200 South, 363-8322, Saturday, Feb. 16, 8 p.m.
By Jacob Stringer
There has always been a trend in jazz to take popular songs of the day and flip them upside down, improvising with chord changes and melodies until you’ve reached a point of remaking the tune anew—from John Coltrane’s “My Favorite Things” to The Bad Plus’ cover of Nirvana’s seminal “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” The BRAD MEHLDAU TRIO uses this technique. The difference is, they tend to lean toward the complexities of Radiohead. Yes, that’s right, like Radiohead’s “Paranoid Android,” “Everything In Its Right Place” and “Knives Out.”According to bassist Larry Grenadier, there is good reason for it. “Their music is such high quality and just packed with substance. For us, they write tunes with a lot of harmonic stuff so we can take one of their songs and improvise over it, and it doesn’t get boring if we play it every night.” But Mehldau (left), Grenadier and drummer Jeff Ballard don’t limit themselves there. “We have strong roots in the history of jazz, but then we try to open it up and go further,” says Grenadier. “We like to play music that doesn’t have any boundaries and doesn’t limit us to specific roles—where everything shifts and we’re really speaking to each other, communicating, talking back and remaining fluid. “It’s not like we’re the first ones to do this; it’s very common. What makes it unique is each of our personalities, and Brad writes music that reflects each of us, letting each of us shape the form.” Brad Mehldau Trio @ Sheraton City Center, 150 W. 500 South, Monday, Feb. 18, 7:30 p.m. JazzSLC.com
By Scott Renshaw
The creative process can seem utterly baffling to an outsider. Maybe a writer does stare at a blank sheet of paper until beads of blood start to appear on her forehead. Or maybe he transcribes concepts already fully formed, Mozart-like, onto the page. All we see is the finished work on a stage; everything else is mystery. Salt Lake Acting Company’s longstanding NEW PLAY SOUNDING SERIES has attempted to lift the veil from that process, serving audiences with compelling glimpses at works in progress, while providing the artist valuable feedback on what is and isn’t working in those works. Local actors perform staged readings of plays—many of which later have gone on to become full productions at SLAC—and audience members have the opportunity to discuss what they’ve just seen.This month, Carter W. Lewis’ CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE—a politically minded comedy-drama about a woman and her father discovering secrets about her recently deceased mother—takes the stage, featuring Michael Todd Behrens and Stephanie Howell. Who are these people? How do the author’s themes emerge through their interactions? You, as an audience member, will have a chance to contribute to the final shape of those ideas—and you don’t have to pay a dime for the privilege. Admission is free on a first-come, first-served basis. But how can you put a price on being part of the creative process? New Play Sounding Series: Civil Disobedience @ Salt Lake Acting Company, 168 W. 500 North, 363-0526, Monday, Feb. 18, 7 p.m. SaltLakeActingCompany.org
HERE & NOW: Other New Happenings This Week
CINDERELLA If the shoe fits, enjoy Ballet West’s production of the classic fairy tale set to Prokofiev’s music. Capitol Theatre, 50 W. 200 South, 355-ARTS, Feb. 14–23. BalletWest.org
UTAH SYMPHONY Grieg’s Piano Concerto—part of Utah Symphony & Opera’s “Once Upon a Time Festival.” Abravanel Hall, 123 W. South Temple, 533-NOTE, Feb. 14-16. UtahSymphonyOpera.org
THE STATE STREET PROJECT Eight artists join for a mixed-media exhibit exploring U.S. Highway 89 through Utah. Art Access Gallery, 230 S. 500 West #25, 328-0703, Feb. 15–March 14. Opening reception Friday, Feb. 15, 6-9 p.m.
A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM Pioneer Theatre Company presents Shakespeare’s comedic collision between mortals and fairies. Pioneer Memorial Theatre, 300 S. 1400 East, 581-6961, Feb. 15–March 1. PioneerTheatre.org
MARGUERITE HENDERSON Salt Lake City’s veteran chef, food writer and television personality introduces her new book, Small Parties. The King’s English Bookshop, 1511 S. 1500 East, 484-9100, Friday, Feb. 15, 7 p.m. KingsEnglish.Booksense.com
GAYLEN HANSEN: THREE DECADES OF PAINTINGS The Utah native’s unique pairings of men and beasts in a career retrospective. Salt Lake Art Center, 20 S. West Temple, 328-4201, Feb. 16–May 31. Opening reception Friday, Feb. 15, 6-9 p.m.
SALT LAKE CHORAL ARTISTS: AND ALL THAT JAZZ An evening of romantic contemporary jazz works by Rob Landes, George Shearing and more. Libby Gardner Hall, 1375 E. Presidents Circle, 581-7100, Saturday, Feb. 16, 7:30 p.m. SaltLakeChoralArtists.org
EMO PHILLIPS The legendarily quirky comedian—who made the pageboy haircut creepy long before No Country for Old Men—visits West Valley. Wiseguys Comedy Café, 3500 S. 2200 West, 463-2909, Sunday, Feb. 17. WiseguysComedy.com
ONE RIVER: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF RICHARD EVANS SCHULTES Ethnobotanist Wade Davis presents an illustrated lecture on the Amazonian plant explorer. City Library Auditorium, 210 E. 400 South, 524-8200, Wednesday, Feb. 20, 7 p.m.