Fourth of July: The phrase "contact high" is taken to a new stratosphere every year at Willie Nelson's Fourth of July Picnic in Luckenbach, Texas. Sitting in the July sun, Willie's fans will be baked in every sense of the word, but Nelson, Merle Haggard, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Ray Price, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Kimmie Rhodes, and Loose Diamonds are all on the bill. Willie's Fourth of July Picnic runs from noon till 10 p.m. Tickets are $24.50. Call 1-800-966-SHOW. The Dallas Wind Symphony celebrates the life of John Philip Sousa. No wacky tobacky is necessary to see visions of Sousa, Uncle Sam, Thomas Edison, and other legendary Americans; actors will be playing the parts between Symphony numbers. "A StarSpangled Spectacular" happens 1-4 p.m. at the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center, 2301 Flora. Tickets are $7-$27. Call (214) 528-5576. If you'd really rather mix with folks who like to insert metal in various fleshy protuberances, Club Clearview's "Red, Light, and Blue" features ten Deep Ellum bands engaged in music and a watermelon-spitting contest. The show happens at 8 p.m. at Club Clearview, 2803 Main St. Admission is $6-$8, and those 18 and up are welcome. Call (214) 939-0077. WRR 101.1 FM, the only 24-hour commercial classical music station in North Texas, invites you to sit in your underwear by the AC window unit with a brewsky in hand and listen to their "July Fourth Radio Spectacular." WRR broadcasts conductor Erich Kunzel's 30th anniversary bash with the Cincinnati Pops by playing a long series of America-themed favorites like Tchaikovsky's "1812 Overture" and Rodgers' "Victory at Sea." The show begins at noon on WRR Classical 101.1 FM Radio. Call (214) 670-8888.
A Night of Chickens and Monks: How do you get the best out of two troupes of attention-starved actors? Pit their egos against each other in naked competition for audience approval. This is the formula for Pocket Sandwich Theater's "A Night of Chickens and Monks" improvisational extravaganza. Take Rubber Chicken, Dallas' all-improv comedy troupe; add Monks' Night Out, Austin's critically acclaimed improv comedy troupe; mix and heat thoroughly with footlights; and you've got...well, either a lot of laughter or a houseful of very irritable ticket buyers. Two shows (Rubber and Monks perform each one together) happen at 8 and 11 p.m. at the Pocket Sandwich Theater, 5400 E. Mockingbird. Tickets are $8-$10. Call (214) 821-1860.
Garland's Star-Spangled 4th: While KC and the Sunshine Band might seem an unlikely labelmate for Coolio and Naughty by Nature, Tommy Boy Records indeed wanted us to get down for many nights to come when they signed KC. But will his upcoming album of new material jibe with the "trash disco" revival that reincarnated his career? KC headlines at the Garland Star-Spangled 4th Celebration, which, considering how liquored-up Garlandites love their '70s hits, presumably won't be a good place to debut the upcoming single. Oh yeah, the Star-Spangled 4th also includes midway carnival rides, food stands, magicians, and fireworks each evening. Events happen July 3-5, culminating in the July 5 performance at Performing Arts Center, Fifth and Austin St. It's free. Call (972) 205-2749.
Common Threads: America at the End of the 20th Century: Folk music took a detour with the likes of early Joni Mitchell and the late Phil Ochs--away from defining common experience and toward confessionalism and agenda. Common Threads: America at the End of the 20th Century is a national photographic exhibit, curated by Collin County Community College professor and photographer Patricia D. Richards. It attempts to capture the Guthrie-esque spirit of folk as a shared experience through the regional images she's tapped from Dallas, San Francisco, New York, Alabama, Iowa, Massachusetts, and Florida. National recording artists Betty Elders, Carol Elliott, and Eliza Gilkyson combine their silvery vocals in a concert to celebrate the opening of the show. Common Threads kicks off with a reception July 5, 6-8 p.m., and is followed by the concert with Elders, Elliott, and Gilkyson. The ArtCentre of Plano is located at 1039 E. 15th St., historic downtown Plano. Call (972) 423-7809.
Internet STAR Sundays: It's true that the Internet represents the most overrated method of communication and information retrieval to come along since that crummy, unreliable little device known as the fax machine. But it's only fair that you discover for yourself how inane, junk-filled, and mind-numbing chat rooms and electronic bulletin boards are--no bitching is more satisfying than the kind that's earned. Every Sunday throughout the month of July, the J. Erik Jonsson Central Library hosts free classes called "Internet STAR Sundays" where instructors will teach basic functions and resources to people who know nothing about the Internet. The first program is at 2 p.m. in the J. Erik Jonsson Central Library, 1515 Young. You must call to register at (214) 670-1400 before you show up.
The Cameraman: On a roll from its previous First Monday Classics success--a packed screening of an Otto Preminger classic called Bonjour Tristesse that supposedly few people had heard of--the USA Film Festival continues to experiment with the tastes of Dallas movie lovers. The Cameraman isn't experimental in the formal or narrative sense of the word; it stars one of the most reliable of cinematic crowd pleasers, Buster "Charlie Chaplin Eats My Dust" Keaton. Yet this newly restored print of the 1928 classic is 72 minutes of soundless physical comedy. Do only musty old film scholars have the chops to enjoy the silent classics? If anyone can revive mainstream interest in a seminal period of American pop cultural history, a genius named Keaton can. The Cameraman rolls at 7:30 p.m. at the AMC Glen Lakes Theatre, 9450 N. Central at Walnut Hill. Tickets are $6.50. Call (214) 821-NEWS.
Nice People Dancing to Good Country Music: The curmudgeonly "Calendar" page wants so badly to make fun of a play called Nice People Dancing to Good Country Music--or at least the title of the play. Talk about being blinded by a ray of sunshine; we'd rather watch Drugged-Up Teenagers Moshing to Nine Inch Nails any day of the week. But playwright Lee Blessing, who penned this romantic comedy about the courtship rituals at a redneck bar, has been honored with Tony and Pulitzer nominations, and New Theatre Company's multitalented Bruce Coleman, an Observer favorite, helms this show for Theatre Three, the venerable company with whom he's a staffer. The show opens tonight at 8:15 p.m. and runs Thursday-Friday at 8:15 p.m. and Sunday at 2:30 p.m. through August 3 in the Quadrangle on McKinney Ave. Call (214) 871-3300.
Sweaty Palms! You say every time you think about job interviews, performance evaluations, salary reviews, or just getting a cross-ways glance from your boss, you tense up beyond all reason? Some anxiety naturally attends anything that might threaten your daily intake of food, but when that anxiety is so overwhelming it becomes the threat itself, then some action is required. The Employment Resource Group invites Sam Friedman, M.S., a specialist in the area of phobias and anxiety disorders, to discuss some basic solutions to those "Sweaty Palms!" you experience when being put under the job spotlight. The evening begins at 7:30 p.m. at Jewish Family Service, 13140 Coit Rd. It's free. Call (972) 437-9950.
Photographic Artists Coalition Members Exhibition: A picture is indeed worth a thousand words at Photographic Archives Gallery's Photographic Artists Coalition Members Exhibition--it takes about that many words to describe the range of media and themes at this show. Photo-sculptures, digital works, mixed media, constructions, installations, and book arts are among the conduits that transmit ideas about fame, sex, death, intelligence, the natural vs. the manufactured world, memory, etc. The Photographic Artists Coalition is a two-year-old ensemble of photography students at Texas Woman's University in Denton. The show opens July 8 and runs through July 16, with a public reception scheduled for July 11, 6-9 p.m, at Photographic Archives Gallery, 5117 W. Lovers Ln. Call (214) 352-3167.
Portraits of Community: African-American Photography in Texas: To celebrate Juneteenth, that historical testimony to why even the remotest of frontiers needs a telephone every few miles, The ArtCentre of Plano and Documentary Arts, Dallas present Portraits of Community: African-American Photography in Texas. Cut off from the official (read "Anglo") current of historical record, the story of the African-American community in urban and rural Texas is only now being reassembled through the black photographers and record-keepers of the twentieth century who wanted to prove that families and individuals had completed the arc of a lifetime. The show runs through August 2 in the Founders Gallery of the ArtCentre of Plano, 1039 E. 15th St, Plano. Call (972) 423-7809.