Press Picks

february 26
The Houston Ballet The ensemble recycles a trio of music-powered crowd pleasers for its winter-repertory concert. "Second Before the Ground: The Exhilaration of Falling in Love" is set to Pieces of Africa by the Kronos Quartet (which visits Houston tomorrow; see below). The ballet's choreographic associate Trey McIntyre conceived the work, a flirtatious, rambunctious little number that made its Houston debut in late 1996 and played Washington, D.C.'s Kennedy Center to strong notices last fall. James Kudelka's "Musings," a paean to Canadian prima ballerina Karen Kain set to Mozart's Quintet for Clarinet and Strings in A Major, bowed here in '94. "Rooster," by the ballet's associate choreographer Christopher Bruce, is a Rolling Stones suite billed as an "evocation of the mating rituals of hip young Londoners during the 'Swinging Sixties' "; it features "Paint It Black," "Ruby Tuesday" and "Sympathy for the Devil." Popular HB trouper Carlos Acosta assumes the lead in this "Rooster" incarnation; the original version premiered in '95. Opening performances are at 7:30 tonight and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. More shows are scheduled March 6 through 8. The Brown Theater at Wortham Center, 500 Texas, 237-1439. $10-$84 (Houston Ticket Center: 227-ARTS; Ticketmaster: 629-3700).

The Derailers and Cheri Knight If you've ever wondered what a musical summit between Buck Owens and His Buckaroos, George Jones, and the Mavericks would sound like, check out the neotraditionalist bull's-eyes "Lies, Lies, Lies" and "Jackpot" by Austin's Derailers. Also like Florida's Mavericks, led by Cuban caballero Raul Malo, the Derailers are fronted by a talented vocalist/guitarist of Hispanic descent, Tony Villanueva, who teams with excellent electric guitarist Brian Hofeldt for a double-whammy of a songwriting tandem. Cheri Knight's an odd choice to open for such a boot-scootin' crew of temporally displaced cowpokes. The intense but low-key native of Hatfield, Massachusetts, runs a flower farm when she's not harvesting songs, and she displays the sort of back-door approach to Nashville country pioneered by Nanci Griffith, Mary Chapin Carpenter and Emmylou Harris (the latter lends her voice to several tracks on Knight's finely rendered sophomore disc, The Northeast Kingdom). In her unorthodox way, Knight fuses the sounds of these barstool divas, incorporating Griffith's Gaelic-tinged folksiness, Carpenter's literate accessibility and Queen Emmy's technical purity and misleadingly easy way with a tune (Knight's lovely "All Blue" sounds like Elite Hotel-era Harris). The Fabulous Satellite Lounge, 3616 Washington Avenue, 869-COOL.

february 27
FotoFest 98 The worthy goal of this monthlong festival -- a kind of South by Southwest of the photographic arts -- is to "transform Houston into a citywide gallery featuring more than 75 exhibitions with work from 15 countries." Lens artists from the Czech Republic to the far reaches of the Republic of Texas converge on our burg beginning tonight for the free opening ceremony, centered on downtown's Market Square; it includes exhibit openings, the unveiling of a street-art-signage project designed by Yung Ngo and Keith Krumwiede of the Rice University School of Architecture, a gratis dance performance by the Sandra Organ Dance Company and massive projections of festival works on the outside of the Alley Theatre. A series of related openings/parties continues through March 7. The International Meeting Place -- where art, artists, art specialists and commerce collide -- opens Saturday and continues through March 7. The FotoFest fineprint auction is Wednesday. Various exhibitions featuring the FotoFest imprimatur continue at locations around the city through March 31. 529-9140;

Link Wray Way-gone daddy and pioneering rock guitarist Link (real name: Frederick Lincoln Wray Jr.) set the standard for every string-bender in his wake with the 1958 hit "Rumble" -- whose distinctive distortion was achieved when Wray, in a fit of lo-fi experimentation, punched holes in his speaker cone with a pencil. Link followed up that influential gem with equally raw and classic sides like "Rawhide," "Comanche" and "Ace of Spades." By all accounts, the 68-year-old legend burned down the Bayou City last time through; those who missed that show should spray an extra coat of industrial-strength Scotchgard on those flame-retardant jump suits and get their bad selves in line. The Fabulous Satellite Lounge, 3616 Washington Avenue, 869-COOL.

Anthem "The legacy of the American on the road is largely male, from Lewis and Clark to Steinbeck and Kerouac. We felt it was time for some women to get behind the wheel and see what we could find." So say Anthem writers/producers/directors Shainee Gabel and Kristin Hahn. And what did these starry-eyed and occasionally starstruck first-time filmmakers find? Two-plus credit-card-bankrolled hours of ruminations on the condition the American condition is in from the likes of R.E.M.'s Michael Stipe, Robert Redford, Willie Nelson and former Clinton chief of staff George Stephanopoulos, plus a little Kuralt-style slumming with the common man (a fisherman, a gas-station attendant, etc.). In fact, out of 28 interviews that made it to film, only six were with women. What's up with that? Sounds to us as if the legacy of the American on the road remains largely male. Anthem makes its Houston debut with screenings at 7:30 tonight and Saturday and 7 p.m. Sunday. The Museum of Fine Arts, 1001 Bissonnet, 639-7300. More info: 639-7515. $5; $4 for students.

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Clay McNear
Contact: Clay McNear