SMOOTH OPERATOR That’s you, if you snag Sade tickets. The singer takes the stage at the United Center for three concerts this week.


Don’t-miss picks for Wed 08.03.11 through Tue 08.09.11:


rock/pop Sade
This is no ordinary concert: Despite a ten-year absence from touring, the singer Sade remains the object of a massive army of fans’ unwavering affection. Who else could make crowds ask of her opening act, “John Legend who?”
GO: 8/5–7 at 7:30. $99.50–$149.50. United Center, 1901 W Madison.


theatre Life in a Marital Institution
The placenta in the freezer is just the tip of the dramatic iceberg in James Braly’s autobiographical one-man show. Braly may well make you want to hug him and/or report him to Child Protective Services. Either way, he’s a fine storyteller whose confessional style twice won him the Moth Grandslam—pretty much the grand prix of yarn-spinning contests.
GO: 8/7 at 5. $20. Mayne Stage, 1328 W Morse.


theatre It Came from the Neo-Futurarium
The Neos’ tenth annual film festival features not film but live actors having their way with cheesy/classic/both films. Heading the August lineup: The Flaming Urge, an encoded gem from 1953, here directed by David Kodeski, about a small town stricken by a rash of unexplained fires. Is the mild-mannered department store clerk Tom Smith really a closet . . . arsonist? Is the title a pun? Is the Neo-Futurarium located above a funeral parlor? Spoiler alert: Yes. Other August offerings include live-action takes on 1984’s Red Dawn (8/11) and the Prince vehicle Purple Rain (8/18).
GO: The Flaming Urge: 8/4 at 8. $8–$10. The Neo-Futurarium, 5153 N Ashland.


country Bruce Robison and Kelly Willis
Willis is a purveyor of Americana who sets her Texas twang to elegantly simple songwriting. Robison, her husband, has written plenty of hits for Nashville superstars but likes playing with his wife just as well.
GO: 8/6 at 7 and 10. $18–$22. Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N Lincoln.


film Black Harvest International Festival of Film and Video
Highlights from this annual festival devoted to the black experience on film include week 1’s Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey, the 2011 Sundance Special Jury Prize–winning documentary from director Constance Marks on the Muppeteer Kevin Clash. Less warm and fuzzy but equally compelling entries from later weeks include Infiltrating Hollywood: The Rise and Fall of the Spook Who Sat by the Door, on the making of a 1973 cult classic shot in Gary, Ind., after the filmmakers were denied Chicago permits (8/21, 25; directors in attendance), and The Upsetter: The Life and Music of Lee Scratch Perry, on the iconic musician and producer (8/27, 30).
GO: Being Elmo: 8/7 at 3. Black Harvest runs 8/5–9/1. Most films $7–$11; $50 fest pass. Gene Siskel Film Center, 164 N State.


Up next in our series of weekend plans from notable, in-the-know locals—a.k.a. people we like: Chris Baronner, the longtime talent buyer for Metro, Wrigleyville’s veritable live-music institution.

“I’ll be getting into the office late on Friday—we’ll say 11 or noon—because we have Death from Above 1979 the night before. Then I’ll catch a few acts at Lolla in the late afternoon/early evening: Two Door Cinema Club, Bright Eyes, and Ratatat—they’re excellent live: really great visuals, great video presentation. That puts me right at the end of Lolla, so I’ll come back to Metro for our sold-out show with Atmosphere, a Minneapolis hip-hop artist we have a long history with. That’ll go pretty late, then we have a Lolla afterparty with Orchard Lounge in Smart Bar, so there’s a good chance I’ll end the night there, hanging out with some of the artists and staff.

“I’ve got siblings coming into town Friday from Pennsylvania, and it’s their first Lolla experience, ’90s version or current run, so they’re really excited. They’ll be there all day Friday while I’m at the office, but I’ll meet up with them Saturday. I haven’t made a schedule yet, but I know I want to see Fitz and the Tantrums. We did a February show with them that sold out in advance, which we didn’t anticipate in the middle of the winter, so I think they’ll do really well. Friendly Fires are on at the same time, and they’re at opposite ends of the park, but I’ve done it before and I can do it again. The rest of the day, I’ll wander around and try to see a few things I haven’t seen live. I’ve never seen Ween, but I have seen Lykke Li, and she’s excellent.

“Our Lolla week starts on Wednesday with Cold War Kids, so by Sunday I’m sure I’ll be out of it completely, but I want to see City and Colour, an up-and-coming Canadian artist we’ve had here before and also promoted when he played at Park West. He’s really blowing up, so I think he’ll be huge. And there’s Busy P, a French DJ and record label owner. He’s playing the DJ stage and then playing our afterparty Sunday night. I’m interested in seeing him in the fest setting and then at Smart Bar a few hours later.

“Tips for making it through? Honestly, it’s as simple as sunscreen and water—well, equal parts drinking water and wanting a beer. And not being afraid to take breaks. Some people go from when the gates open until the whole thing is done, but I’ll probably go find a Walgreens and stand in the A/C.”


jazz South Shore Jazz Fest
If Lolla strikes you as an overblown hot mess, take solace just down the shoreline, where the hardworking folks from Jazz Unites roll out one of the most inviting, accessible, and irresistible jazz happenings of the year. This 31st annual edition features a typically solid combination of national heavyweights (the legendary pianist McCoy Tyner, the ridiculously talented violinist Regina Carter) and first-rate locals (the trumpeter Orbert Davis, the sublime vocalist Dee Alexander), all right on the lakefront (!) and all free (!!).
GO: 8/6–7 from 10 to 8. South Shore Cultural Center, 7059 S South Shore.

rock/pop Otis Clay
The great Chicago soul and gospel singer has been raising roofs and stirring spirits for more than half a century. Here a horn section backs his tribute to the gospel legend Mahalia Jackson and the soul icon Sam Cooke, whose towering examples should inspire Clay to reach especially high.
GO: 8/4 at 6:30; part of the series Made in Chicago: World Class Jazz. Pritzker Pavilion, Millennium Park, Michigan and Washington.

ALSO THIS WEEK: The megaslashie Shara Worden, a.k.a. My Brightest Diamond, brings her chamber-opera-cabaret-folk-rock to Millennium Park as part of the Dusk Variations series on 8/8, with the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras sitting in as backing band.

museums Anne Elizabeth Moore
For her interactive 12 x 12 exhibit, Garment Work, Moore connects the dots between Cambodian sweatshops and Mag Mile boutiques while deconstructing a pair of designer jeans. The deliberate unraveling lasts the duration of her month-long show, but we recommend checking in early, on 8/9, when admission is free and Moore, a former editor of the beloved Chicago zine Punk Planet, gives an in-gallery talk.
GO: Artist talk: 8/9 at 6. Exhibit runs 8/6–28. See website for hours and admission (free Tuesdays). Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 E Chicago.

folk Special Consensus
Talk about American pickers: Newfangled bluegrass bands are a dime a dozen, but this Chicago-based group has been hoeing down since long before the advent of newgrass—albeit with a rotating cast of supporting players honing their chops under founder Greg Cahill’s watchful eye. Hear the current lineup live when Special C plays a lakeside gig on the North Shore.
GO: 8/5 at 8. Wallace Bowl, Gillson Park, Sheridan and Michigan, Wilmette.


Photograph: (SADE) Sophie Mullier