The mighty National Symphony Orchestra comes to town, laden with an uncommonly heavy load -- Beethoven on steroids! The latest Carolinas Concert Association event at Belk Theater will begin innocently enough as our DC visitors play Berlioz's "Roman Carnival" in tribute to Hector's 200th birthday. Then superstar conductor Leonard Slatkin gets serious about NSO's mission of glorifying American music, playing the arch-eccentric Charles Ives' "Three Places in New England." And finally, make way for the grand bombast of Gustav Mahler's reorchestration of Beethoven's "Symphony #3." Call 704-527-6680. (Tannenbaum)
FEBRUARY 19 - THURSDAY
World-renowned poet, educator and activist Nikki Giovanni began making a splash in the late 60s with lively, iconoclastic poems that took on serious racial issues and featured her trademark clear lines and complex emotions, including buckets of heart. Since then, she has won numerous important awards, including the Langston Hughes Award for Distinguished Contributions to Arts and Letters, and now teaches at Virginia Tech University; more importantly, over the years she's been an inspiration to untold thousands of young writers. Giovanni will speak at Davidson College at 7:30pm in the Duke Family Performance Hall. The event, part of the college's Reynolds Lecture Series, "Desegregating American Culture: Fifty Years after Brown v. Board of Education," is free. Call 704-894-2140 for more information. (Grooms)
Get your hard music fix and help out a worthy charity with a two-night event featuring several of the brightest alterna-rock bands of the region. It's all at the 2nd annual Y'allternative Rockfest. The bands straddle genres from hardcore, melodic hard rock and goth to punk and metal. Some of the confirmed bands include Unsheltered, Astrid Haven, Minus-U, Status Flow, the New Blacks, Ten Missing Days, Fret, One Six Conspiracy and more. The shows will be recorded and released on a live DVD later this year. Some proceeds from the shows benefit Ace & TJ's Grin Kids. Bands are split over two nights, tonight and tomorrow at Amos' Southend, and tonight at The Gin Mill featuring Minus U followed by Freestyle FaceOff, emceed by Devon Smith of That 70s Show. Details: 704-377-6874 or www.amossouthend.com (Shukla)
FEBRUARY 20 - FRIDAY
Charlotte Symphony Orchestra maestro Christof Perick returns to the Belk podium after a three-month furlough as CSO presents Gil Shaham Plays Beethoven for two consecutive nights. Since Ludwig only wrote one violin concerto, there's no great mystery about what Shaham will play. Arguably the best violinist of his generation, Shaham combines exceptional virtuosity with tremendous musical intelligence. Coupled with Beethoven's meteor, CSO will present Berlioz's signature orchestral work, "Symphonie fantastique." With those two heavyweights already on the program, no appetizers are scheduled -- which could mean a surprise Shaham encore. Call 704-972-2000. (Tannenbaum)
The Souls of Black Folk will be presented tonight as part of the ongoing Reel Soul short film showcase. Hosted by The Charlotte Post's Tia Burch, the evening will consist of screenings of Antonia March's Move, starring Coolio; Deborah Ward's Room 302; Ed Banuel's Unjust Cause; and Randall Dottin's A-Alike. Shows are at 7pm and 9pm at the Afro-American Cultural Center; admission is $8. For more information, call 704-492-2519. (Brunson)
FEBRUARY 21 - SATURDAY
Want to shake it like a Polaroid picture? Well, here's your chance. If you didn't get enough OutKast while watching the recent Grammy awards, you're in luck. Livin' Large Shows is putting on something called the OutKast After Grammys Party tonight at the Charlotte Merchandise Mart, which includes a special guest appearance by one half of the duo, Big Boi, as well as "Kast cohort Killer Mike and various Carolina Panthers, including Julius Peppers. The event runs from 9pm-2am, and admission is $20. For more information or to order tickets, go to www.livinlargeshows.com (Davis)
Discovery Place is hosting a national touring exhibit, A T. Rex Named SUE. SUE holds the title of the world's largest, most complete and best preserved Tyrrannosaurus rex. The piece de resistance of this exhibit is a 42-foot, fully articulated skeletal cast of SUE, courtesy of The Field Museum in Chicago where SUE's original skeleton dwells. Other attractions include a dig site, interactive kinetic models and a life-sized cast of SUE's skull. The exhibit will be at Discovery Place through August. Discovery Place is at 301 N. Tryon St. Admission is $7.50 for ages 13-59, $6.50 for ages 60+, $6 for ages 6-12, $5 for ages 3-5 and children under the age of 3 are free. Call 704-372-6261.
The Carolina Cobras don't suck this year. After last year's disastrous 0-16 record, they snagged a new coach and a slew of new players and they've started off this season with a bang, beating Dallas, 61-47. The Cobras' home opener is tonight at 7:30pm at the Charlotte Coliseum against the Arizona Rattlers, turning the arena into a loud snakepit. Individual game tickets range from $10-$70; call 704-522-6500.