The Essentials | City Weekly’s Entertainment Picks Jan. 24-30 

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By Jamie Gadette
Michael Franti & Spearhead
perform in Salt Lake City often enough that you might think you’ve experienced everything that the uplifting group has to offer. This weekend, however, Franti adds another dimension to his band’s positive vibrations with a headlining slot at this year’s inaugural Avalaunch Festival. The environmentally conscious event, held in conjunction with the Outdoor Retailer Winter Market, complements the globe-trotting Franti’s track record as a selfless activist rallying for world peace and political justice—and having a damned good time in the process. Avalaunch winds down Franti’s year-long tour in support of his most recent release Yell Fire!, a collection of surprisingly harder-rocking numbers that echo the artist’s industrial/punk roots. Poetic and thoughtful, the genre-bending work’s lyrical content goes after mainstream media and atrocities committed in the war on terror. It advocates religious tolerance, encouraging people to “Stay Human” because we’re all in this together. Keep our surroundings green by joining Franti and Avalaunch in The Depot’s most eco-friendly concert to date, from compostable cups to LED lighting and an emphasis on carpooling. Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker is on the invite list; come rub shoulders. Avalaunch Festival w/ Michael Franti & Spearhead @ The Depot, 400 W. South Temple, Jan. 25-26, 7 p.m. Tickets:

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By Scott Renshaw
For most of its running time, Pioneer Theatre Company’s production of David Hare’s THE VERTICAL HOUR is a tense, engrossing sparring match. Nadia Blye (Caris Vujcec), one-time international journalist turned Yale University political science instructor, is as fiercely committed to addressing economic inequity as she is convinced that the American intervention in Iraq was the right thing; Oliver Lucas (Dennis Parlato), the physician father of Nadia’s British-born boyfriend Philip (Antony Hagopian), is an old-school free-love liberal. And, while they’re meeting for the first time at Oliver’s Shropshire estate, the interactions aren’t always polite small-talk.

Hare’s script prowls through more tangled topics than seem advisable: the nature of politics, unintended consequences in the face of firmly held beliefs, the tension between analysis and action. Sometimes he nails them. Sometimes there’s not quite as much there there as he’d like us to believe.

But there is plenty of there in the two performances that provide an anchor for his ideas. Parlato shines as a man who hides his sense of moral superiority behind a rogueish chuckle, putting Nadia on the uneasy defensive. And Vujcec dazzles as Nadia, bringing out all the complexity in a woman whose ivory-tower liberalism has manifested itself in an unexpected way. Every moment Parlato and Vujcec share onstage becomes a small clinic in give-and-take acting, because they never allow the author’s ideas to overwhelm the characters who espouse them.The Vertical Hour @ Pioneer Theatre Company, 300 S. 1400 East, 581-6961, through Jan. 26.

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By Brian Staker

The most familiar tradition in painting is representational art. The gallery with the most established tradition of representing local artists will host two artists most accomplished in the style. Joe Carter and Lindsay Frei’s new works, which opened at Phillips Gallery on Jan. 18, examine the state of the art as well as framing reactions to it in an age when art that isn’t experimental has come to seem quaint and unadventurous.

Carter’s still lifes contain items like electronic tubes and nuts and bolts in glass jars—implements that were never alive except in human hands. Frei’s subjects are flowers and portraits of female faces (detail of “Tessa” pictured below), but they are also items caught at a particular moment, in a microsecond of stillness shared by Carter’s objects, which seem filled with the history of their usage over time. We leave our mark on things, but “not as well appreciated,” Frei says of her work, “are the marks that these objects leave on us.”

Unlike Frei’s purely artistic background (BA, University of Utah 2000), Carter comes to painting through engineering, and the strength of his draughtsman-like line lends weight to his works. Both Carter’s and Frei’s subjects have attained some heightened presence and stamp of permanence, and that‘s where their dramatic impact arises. Even a dress on a hanger seems inhabited by the quality of light imbued into these paintings and though, in repose, appears alive.Joe Carter and Lindsay Frei @ Phillips Gallery, 444 East 200 South, 364-8284, through February 8.

HERE & NOW: Other new happenings this week
J.A. JANCE The New York Times best-selling mystery author reads from and signs her new Ali Reynolds novel Hand of Evil. Sam Weller’s Bookstore, 252 S. Main, 328-2586. Thursday, Jan. 24, 6:30 p.m.

TROMADANCE The ninth annual celebration of killer B-movies heads up the mountain after its Main Library and Brewvies screenings. Kristauf’s Martini Bar, 825 S. Main, Park City, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Free to the public.

KEITH STUBBS Wiseguys Comedy’s head honcho takes his own turn behind the microphone, headlining in Ogden. Wiseguys Comedy Café, 269 25th St., Ogden, 801-622-5588. Jan. 25-26, 8 & 10 p.m.

CROWNS In conjunction with the photography exhibit at the Utah Cultural Celebration Center, see this theatrical celebration of African-American traditions. Salt Lake Community College Grand Theatre, 1575 S. State, 957-3322, Jan. 25-Feb. 9,

USA CLIMBING ADULT NATIONAL CLIMBING CHAMPIONSHIPS Professional climbers show their stuff for cash and prizes. Momentum Climbing, 220 W. 10600 South, Sandy, 990-6890, Jan. 25-26.

SAMPLE TRACKS A collection of new dance works by local choreographers including Sofia Gorder, Stephen Koester and Natosha Washington, presented by SB Dance and The Sugar Space. Rose Wagner Black Box Theatre, 138 W. 300 South, 355-ARTS. Jan. 25-26, 8 p.m.

SPIRIT & FLESH A spoken word, music and theater performance featuring poet Michele Dalton. Main Library Auditorium, 210 E. 400 South, 765-631-3100, Saturday, Jan. 26, 3 p.m.

BELECA STRING QUARTET The Chamber Music Society of Salt Lake City presents the British quartet performing works by Schubert and Beethoven. U of U Libby Gardner Hall, 1395 Presidents Circle, 581-7100. Wednesday, Jan. 30, 7:30 p.m. CMSofSLC.orgMENOPAUSE THE MUSICAL Four women deliver a paean to “the change” set to parodies of Boomer-era hits. Rose Wagner Center Jeanné Wagner Theatre, 138 W. 300 South, 355-ARTS. Jan. 30-Feb. 17.

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