For more than a decade, nerds across the world have joined hands and celebrated once a year at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (known as E3). Every May, the world's largest gaming conference astounds geeks with the newest systems, titles and Dance Dance Revolution floor mats yet to hit stores, but last year much of the video hubbub wasn't found in E3's convention center, but at Los Angeles' Walt Disney Concert Hall. There, Japanese gaming giant Square/Enix gave its legions of die-hard fans the first American performance of Dear Friends, an orchestral concert whose set list comes entirely from the Final Fantasy video game series. But this was no gimmicky take on blips and bloops: The long-running game series is renowned among gamers for its Hollywood-level production values, and the game's songs had already topped the CD sales charts in Japan years earlier. At the sell-out concert, composer Nobuo Uematsu's works exploded when performed by dozens of instruments and singers. Fans cheered for their favorite theme songs as though they were at a KISS concert, and, by show's end, standing ovations kept on coming. Because of this success, Square/Enix is taking the idea on the road, which means local nerds and classical junkies alike can delight in the Dear Friends: Music From Final Fantasy tour on Friday at Bass Performance Hall, 525 Commerce St., Fort Worth, with the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra and Chorus. The place will be packed full of kids who yell weird requests like "Play the airboat theme!" and "Final battle against Sephiroth!" But don't let that dissuade you if you're a non-geek in search of a fine classical show. Tickets are $65 for the 8 p.m. show. Call 817-665-6000. --Sam Machkovech
Straight to the point: Hair metal luminaries Cinderella, Ratt, Quiet Riot and Firehouse are joining forces at the Smirnoff Music Centre on Friday night. The pop-culture irony or misguided nostalgia of it all could be exploited, but sometimes a spade's simply a spade: Each one of these bands sucks heroically, no matter how many postmodern T-shirts and overwrought karaoke power ballads are squeezed out. Doors open at 5:30 p.m., and tickets run from $9.33 to $34.50. Or you could stay home, laugh at these guys on VH1 again and save your pennies for W.A.S.P. in August...because there's nothing funny about a buzz saw codpiece. Smirnoff's at 1818 First Ave. in Fair Park. Call Ticketmaster at 214-373-8000. --Matt Hursh
People love people who don't act as important as they are. That's why Bill Clinton's book sold well, why Charles Barkley can blaspheme the NBA--on the air, without sanction--and why Will Ferrell makes it in Hollywood. That's why I'm hoping the Basically Beethoven Festival draws big crowds this year, if only for the festival's name. Basically Beethoven is sorta ha-ha funny--certainly as non-stuffy and non-pretentious as most classical music, and many of its listeners, can get. This July, expect free concerts every Sunday at 2:30 p.m., featuring four finalists and winners of various opera and guild competitions, Beethoven's "Quartet," Saint-Saëns' "Fantaisie," Ewazen's "Trio" and Stravinsky's "Pastorale." The concerts take place in the Texas Discovery Gardens at Fair Park, 3601 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. Call 214-520-2219. --Paul Kix
What Would Willie Do?
Based on experience, here are some tips for surviving Willie Nelson's 32nd annual Fourth of July Picnic in the Fort Worth Stockyards. 1) Embrace your sweat, because it will be embracing you. Clingy, that sweat. 2) Be prepared to press flesh with large, shirtless men. No matter where you stand, you will be in contact with someone else's exposed body part. 3) There will be lawn chairs, lined up closely and as far as the eye can see. Do not breach the perimeter of these lawn chairs. You will get trapped between the rows. You will have a near panic attack. You will annoy and possibly frighten the owners of said lawn chairs. 4) Listen to the music, including Bob freakin' Dylan. Willie's picnic starts at noon Monday. Tickets are $40 in advance or $45 at the gate and are available at www.ticketmaster.com or by calling Billy Bob's box office at 817-624-7117. --Rhonda Reinhart
Summertime's dizzying heat has once again rendered the good people over at the Dallas Symphony Orchestra incoherent. For the Summer Casual Classic Series, they've made it all but free to get in and eighty-sixed the dress code. Which means we common folk get our chance to see the inside of the Meyerson and stomp our feet to the sounds of Tchaikovsky and Mozart. They've even gone a step further in making us feel welcomed--they're serving barbecue..."with all the fixin's!" It's sure to be finger-lickin' and hand-clappin' good. The Dallas Symphony Orchestra's Summer Casual Classic Series ends July 2 with a performance of music by Rossini, Mozart, Dvorák, Saint-Saëns and Ives, featuring violinist Emanuel Brock and conductor Andrew Litton. Tickets are $10 to $50. The Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center is located at 2301 Flora St. Call 214-692-0203 or visit www.DallasSymphonySummer.com. --Stephanie Morris