7 Cool & Cheap Weekenders: Susan Alcorn, Steel Lounge Underground, Etc.

This ain't honky-tonk: Presented by They, Who Sound and Signal To Noise, Baltimore-based composer and avant-garde steel guitarist Susan Alcorn performs three sets starting 8 p.m. tonight at 14 Pews (800 Aurora): One solo, and two in trios with David Dove (trombone) and Damon Smith (bass), and Jo Bird (viola) and Sandy Ewen (guitar). Ewen will also exhibit her artwork, with proceeds going to ailing Charalambides guitarist Tom Carter. (More on him soon.) Cover is $5-10 or pay-what-you-can; BYOB.

Multimedia/electronica event Steel Lounge Underground returns to the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston at 8 p.m. tonight. Projection artist Pablo Gimenez-Zapiola will screen animation, photos, footage of Houston, London, Paris, Buenos Aires, and more to the music of Suraj K., Esteban Torres, DJ Baby Jae and Omari Tau.

If you fancy yourself a diva-in-training, head on up to Greenspoint Mall Saturday morning for the "Sparkle Singing Challenge," based on the upcoming movie starring Jordin Sparks and the late Whitney Houston. Chosen by a panel of "local celebrity DJs and athletes," the Houston winner will receive $500 a chance to perform on BET's 106 & Park, as well as a recording session with Sparks' producer and songwriters the Punch Monkeys. Contestants must sing a 60-second a cappella excerpt of Sparkle songs "Celebrate" and "Something He Can Feel," which you can find on the contest's MySpace page, believe it or not. Registration starts at 10 a.m., and the competition begins at noon; ages 13-40 only.

Texas psych god Roky Erickson will sign autographs from 5-5:30 p.m. Saturday before he plays the Continental Club that evening with his new band, the Hounds of Baskerville. Speaking of, is anyone else excited for that new CBS drama Elementary this fall? (What? We like Sherlock Holmes.)

There's even more experimental and electronic music at Day 2 of AR*V's NoDo FreshFest Saturday night at Notsuoh (or noTsUoH, or whatever). AR*V is short for Acous'Mix Re*View, the downtown bar/venue/think-tank's Thursday-night DIY performance showcase, but apparently they couldn't contain this one to just Thursday. Taking the stage are Austin "industrial shoegaze" artists Bloody Knives, sometime Satin Hooks man Kerry Melonson's electronica project and Grupo Gacho, some kind of hybrid Papaya and Handsomebeast. Probably best to just go see for yourself. It's only $3.

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Edgar "Big E" Salazar, the go-to guy for all things Houston rockabilly, will join DJ Black Slacks and spin some tunes from noon to 3 p.m. Sunday in the Record Ranch part of Cactus Music. Big E is hyping next weekend's three-day Rock Baby Rock It festival around the Continental Club (its 12th time in all), which you can read all about in next week's issue of the Houston Press.

Another contest: This is stretching the boundaries of the "weekend," but what the hell? Rebecca Laird, two-time winner of the Houston Blues Society's Jimmy 'T-99' Nelson scholarship (and Rocks Off's favorite young local blues guitarist), competes in the regional finals of the "Battle of the Blues" 7 p.m. Tuesday (July 17), at the Guitar Center at 8930 Westheimer. Judges supposedly base their decisions on crowd participation, so be loud.

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