"Welcome to the Universe." The Grainger Sky Theater's second screening to be made in-house takes you a billion light years away and back to Earth, where you can zoom in on landforms rendered with NASA data that's updated weekly. Much like in the domed theater's original incarnation, a live staffer helms the daily presentations. (Screens about five times a day) Adler Planetarium. 9:30am–4pm. Price including admission $28, kids $22.
Devendra Banhart His hair is the first signifier. For his new album, Mala, freak-folk man Banhart has toned down both the freak and the folk, using vintage hip-hop equipment to record his mellow California-tropicalia tunes. It's playful and lovely, finally making him a worthy heir of Caetano Veloso, with hints of dance beats and a German interlude from his girlfriend to boot. Park West. 8pm. $25.
The batch of new releases in this week's Film section includes documentarian Alex Gibney's attempt to get a handle on Julian Assange, a slippery subject, in We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks. Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke wander around Greece in the five-star Before Midnight, the third in director Richard Linklater's Celine and Jesse series. Meanwhile, Will Smith and son Jaden do their own wandering through a postapocalyptic hellscape in After Earth, the latest offering from twistmeister M. Night Shyamalan. Jesse Eisenberg channels a little Criss Angel, playing the ringleader of a gang of criminal magicians in Now You See Me, which seems like what might happen if Oceans Eleven were produced by G.O.B. Bluth.
ART & DESIGN
"Welcome Home." The NVAM unveils its new Portage Park location with this exhibition of works by Vietnam veteran Dr. Charles Smith and Iraq War veteran Ash Kyrie, who examine the disconnect between American civilians and the wars fought in their name. National Veterans Art Museum. 10am–7pm.
Harriet Reading Series: Catherine Wagner and Dana Ward Featuring presentations by poets who have appeared on Harriet, the Poetry Foundation blog, this reading series highlights innovative approaches to poetry. Wagner is the author of Nervous Device, My New Job, Macular Hole (and others). Ward wrote This Can't Be Life, The Crisis of Infinite Worlds and Some Other Deaths of Bas Jan Ader. The Poetry Foundation. 7pm.
Gertrude Abercrombie/Julia Thecla | Corbett vs. Dempsey
Corbett vs. Dempsey showcases two masters of Midwestern surrealism: Abercrombie, who churned out small paintings—barren landscapes, self-portraits—from her home studio in Hyde Park (until her death in 1977), and Thecla (1896–1973), whose magical realist paintings incorporate fairy tale–like creatures and heavenly bodies. Through June 22.
Caleb Charland: Fathom and Fray | Schneider Gallery
With his captivating pictures, Charland brings to light the unseen and manipulates the seen via multiple and long exposures and exploiting certain malfunctions in typical photographic processes. The results are often fantastical and poetic, with titles that emphasize the science-experiment vibe of his practice: e.g., Apple Trees and LEDs and Black Dots on My Palms Anywhere Lines Cross, Scanned and Inverted to Look Like Stars. Through June 29.
AfriCOBRA: Prologue — The 1960s and the Black Arts Movement | South Side Community Art Center
As part of a series of AfriCOBRA-focused exhibitions happening in Chicago through September, the South Side Community Art Center puts the influential artist collective (an acronym for African Commune of Bad Relevant Artists) in context. Curated by University of Chicago students and highlighting work from SSCAC's permanent collection, the show addresses the political and socioeconomic climate that fueled the movement and illuminates the AfriCOBRA aesthetic: vibrant color, the human figure and bold lettering spelling out positive messages. Through July 7.
More art events
1. The Sklar Brothers
Randy and Jason Sklar riff off each other as only, one imagines, twin brother comics could. The May 30 show is a live taping of their sports and pop culture podcast, Sklarbro Country; the rest of the weekend they perform stand-up, with support from Nate Fridson and C.J. Toledano. May 30 8pm; May 31, June 1 8, 10:30pm. UP Comedy Club. $20.
2. Never Been to Paris
Catch your last chance to see Sean Flannery's hilarious solo show about his many brushes with death by stupidity before it goes on summer hiatus. May 30 8pm. The Comedy Bar. $10 advance, $15 door.
3. Chicago Nerd Comedy Festival
Stage 773 hosts a three-day fest celebrating the intersection of geeky and funny. Performances include Improvised Star Trek, Nerd Alert: The Game Show and "improvised video game adventure" Achievement Unlocked, among others. May 30 7, 8, 9, 10pm; May 31, June 1 7, 8, 9, 10, 11pm. Stage 773. $10.
5. Comedians You Should Know
This night of comedy, curated by a group of funny dudes, puts local stand-ups on your radar. This week Mike Lebovitz hosts Adam Burke, Kenny DeForest, Nate Fridson, Liza Treyger and Joe Kilgallon. Wed 29 9pm. Timothy O'Toole's. $5 advance, $10 door.
I have never seen the Rolling Stones perform live. I was waiting for them to reach their prime.
Ah, I kid. But seriously, I have never been able to see one of my favorite bands in the flesh, not until last night, when the British legends visited the United Center for the first of three shows. That never felt right, as if my fandom was not 100 percent legitimate. Going to a Stones concert has been on my bucket list. Well, what do you call the list of things you need to see before the things—not you—kick the bucket? My first opportunity to see the Stones was in 1989, when the rockers played Georgia Tech's football field on the Steel Wheelchairs tour, as it was jokingly referred to. My friend's dad was going, but we laughed at the notion of tagging along to watch a bunch of geezers. They were in their 40s. We saw MC Hammer instead.
Twin Shadow + Elliphant As Twin Shadow, George Lewis crafts husky, romantic synth-pop deeply indebted to '80s radio waves. Though he lives in New York, this has to act as some sort of spiritual homecoming for him to play the setting of so many John Hughes movies. Metro. 9pm. $19, advance $17.
OPERA & CLASSICAL
International Contemporary Ensemble and David Lang: The Whisper Opera The final collaborative concert in a three-year series between ICE and the MCA promises to be a haunting doozy. An intimate 60-person audience sits onstage amidst white-shroud-covered scenery for David Lang's commissioned The Whisper Opera. With no narrative, the libretto is instead culled from "scraps of secrets found on the internet," according to Bang on a Can cofounder Lang. Progressive soprano Tony Arnold takes the lead. A must see for connoisseurs of new music. MCA Stage, Edlis Neeson Theater. 3pm; 7:30pm. $28, students $10.
ART & DESIGN
Artist Talk: Doug Ischar The Department of Art Theory and Practice organized this talk with the local photographer and video artist, who currently teaches at the Univeristy of Illinois at Chicago. Mary & Leigh Block Museum of Art. 5pm.
The Tomkat Project Seven actors dazzle in the role of more than 50 characters in Brandon Ogborn's exhilarating new comedy about celebrity culture where fact and fiction blur seamlessly together. The Playground Theater. 8pm. $15.
Among the exciting store openings is Beyond Boutique, which aims to be affordable (T-shirts start at $20) but doesn't skimp on the pricey-boutique perks, like offering customers a glass of Champagne while they browse the racks. Plus, there's the adorable Uptown flower shop Forget Me Knodt, which was generations in the making. Check out more of the newest Chicago store openings.
The Rolling Stones have been playing arenas since the band members were twentysomethings. But occasionally, Mick, Keef and company like to pretend they're a shaggy juke-joint act. With the Stones rolling into town for a whole week to play three concerts at the United Center, including tonight's performance, could the band have a secret club show up its sleeve?
The Stones have a history of playing surprise gigs in intimate settings; the band kicked off its 50 & Counting tour in late April with a 90-minute set at L.A.'s 700 capacity EchoPlex, a $20-per-ticket show announced day-of on Twitter via @RollingStones. Last October, the band sold 350 tickets at 20 bucks a pop for Le Trabendo, another 700-person venue. Again, the show was publicized on Twitter.
Another line of reasoning: The Stones seem to have a particular affection for hush-hush shows in Chicago. During a three-night stand at the Rosemont Horizon (now the Allstate Arena) in November 1981 on the Tattoo You tour, Mick, Keith and Ronnie Wood dropped by the old Checkerboard Lounge to jam with Muddy Waters and a host of other local bluesmen, including Buddy Guy. (I wouldn't be surprised to see Guy taking a solo on "Midnight Rambler" at the United Center. Chicago harmonica master Sugar Blue, whose playing can be heard on "Miss You," should also get an invite.)
Perhaps the most vivid Stones memory for Chicagoans: In '97, days before kicking off the Bridges to Babylon tour at Soldier Field, the Stones played a last-minute gig at Double Door for about 400 lucky fans and music industry folk, including Billy Corgan and Liz Phair. (Video below.) A wristband, which granted its wearer entry to the club, was $7.
Could history repeat? Double Door's lineup for the week the Stones are in town is curious: nothing booked Saturday or Sunday. Reached by phone today, a venue employee said a "private event" is booked for Saturday. (A 50th bandiversary party? I wondered.) The person assured me the event isn't Stones related.
If not Double Door, then where? Capacity-wise, a good bet is Bottom Lounge. A stone's throw from the United Center, it holds 700, same as the venues of the L.A. and Paris club gigs. It also has gaps in its schedule over the next week. In any case, I'll be keeping my eyes peeled to the Stones' Twitter feed.