Rare is the local concert that can hold your interest longer than one or two bands: Even the best shows have a Flickerstick or a Big Twin Evo tacked on, stuck in like a commercial break to give the audience time to get nice and liquored up or step outside for a slice of pizza. Friday's bill at Trees is the first real winner we've seen in a long time, strong from bottom to top, featuring Clutch Cargo (who has a new album due in a couple of months, produced by Hagfish's Zach and Doni Blair), the gone-and-back Darlington, and the severely underrated pop-pop-pop of Chomsky. Headlining the show are The Commercials, a band that only seems to get better and better each time out, sounding like The Cars doing The Jam doing The Cars. Don't miss this one. You might not see another show like this one for another six months. At least. The Commercials, Chomsky, Darlington, and Clutch Cargo perform on Friday at Trees, 2709 Elm. Doors open at 9 p.m. Call (214) 748-5009.
Last week, we hung out with a friend of ours as he emceed a model search at Planet Hollywood, one of those pose-and-Polaroid shindigs. We thought it was especially ironic that they would hold a modeling contest in a restaurant, a place most models don't see the inside of unless they're in the bar "eating" a dinner of liquor and smokes. Most of those girls had no business being there, and you could see it in their faces as their moms nudged them forward in line, casting steely glares at the other girls. The scene was not unlike a stereotypical beauty pageant, where the competition is more important to the mothers than to the participants, the scent of faded glory hanging in the air like burnt rubber. Back in the day, beauty contests weren't as ridiculous as they've become in the last 20 years or so. At least, you hope they weren't. For the next few months, the Texas African American Photography Archive will present Crowning Achievements, a collection of four decades of photographs--from the 1940s through the 1970s--taken at various beauty pageants throughout the state by photographers such as Alonzo Jordan, Curtis Humphrey, Herbert Provost, and Benny Joseph. Crowning Achievements opens at the Texas African American Photography Archive, 5501 Columbia, on Saturday with a reception from 6 to 8 p.m. The exhibit hangs through May 15. Call (214) 823-8824.
We'll level with you: We're not big Sesame Street fans. Can't say we ever were, but our distaste for Bert, Ernie, Oscar the Grouch, Elmo, Cookie Monster, and Big Bird has grown over the years, especially since we worked security at a performance (seven actually, but why quibble) of Sesame Street Live at Austin's Frank Erwin Center. If you get the chance during Sesame Street Live's run in Fort Worth and Dallas the next two weekends, mosey on around back. There you will find a headless Elmo smoking cigarettes like he's starring in a Quentin Tarantino film, and Bert swearing like a sailor in traffic. That's what we found backstage in Austin, some of the surliest Muppets ever created, surely causing Jim Henson to spin in his grave. It's more entertaining than the show; just don't let the kids join you. Sesame Street Live comes to Fort Worth's Will Rogers Coliseum February 18-21 and Dallas' Music Hall at Fair Park February 25-28. Tickets are $11, $13, and $18.50. Call (972) 647-5700 or (214) 373-8000.
The Dallas Museum of Art's Arts & Letters Live literary series begins its eighth season on Monday, a season that promises to be its best yet, with appearances by authors David Sedaris, Mordecai Richler, and Tim O'Brien and actors Marcia Gay Harden, Frasier's Peri Gilpin, Estelle Parsons, and Judith Ivey. The series kicks off with award-winning novelist Russell Banks, author of Cloudspitter, The Sweet Hereafter, and Affliction (recently turned into an Oscar-nominated film starring Nick Nolte and James Coburn). It's a good start to a great season. Russell Banks will appear at the DMA's Horchow Auditorium, 1717 N. Harwood, on Monday at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $13-$15. The event is sold out, but released tickets will be available 45 minutes before the show starts. Call (214) 922-1219.