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14th-16th Nights of The Arts

Kodo Drummers of Japan, Rockwell at TAM and harpist Deborah Henson-Conant

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>>> JAN. 30

Being a theater critic has its downside.  Personally, I wake up most Thursdays dreading the smackdown I'm about to inflict on someone's feelings.  But at least we get free tickets, right?  Well, yes and no.  So let me take this opportunity to whine like a sissy over my inability to review single-night shows at Washington Center for the Performing Arts.  They get so much awesome stuff!  And never was that truer than on Jan. 30, when - OH MY FLIPPIN' GOD, Y'ALL - the taiko drummers of Kodo are coming to town.  What?!  You say you've never heard of taiko drummers?  How do you stand yourself, gaijin?  Kodo, the Japanese word for "heartbeat," is also the name of an internationally adored group of four dozen percussionists (and fue and shamisen players) from Sado Island, Japan.  They're like a Japanese version of Stomp, only cooler because Stomp never had the guts to wear those butt-cracking fundoshi thongs.  I may never have the pleasure of joining you on Kodo's turbulent wave of hypnotic taiko, but at least I can afford to eat my weight in hamachi and jealousy at Koibito.  (Oishii - that's Japanese for "yummy!")  And hey, we can finish our night at Olympia's very own Yashiro Japanese Garden for free. - CC

[Washington Center for the Performing Arts, Jan. 30, 7:30 p.m., $22.75-$55.50, 512 Washington St., Olympia, 360.753.8586]


>>> FEB. 26

A down home American icon will visit Tacoma Art Museum in February. None other than Norman Rockwell, the guy who - I swear it must be so - invented Thanksgiving, watermelon, baseball and prayer. The exhibition American Chronicles: The Art of Norman Rockwell makes its only Northwest stop at TAM Feb. 26 to May 30 with 44 paintings and 323 original Saturday Evening Post covers.  There will be archival materials showing how Rockwell worked, from preliminary sketches, photographs, color studies and detailed drawings to the finished painting. There's more nostalgia, sentimentality and Americana here than at a lifetime of family reunions and Fourth of July picnics. "Rockwell's works are part of our popular consciousness," said Margaret Bullock, curator of Collections and Special Exhibitions at Tacoma Art Museum.

And (aside from Rockwell) what's more American than a hamburger? Neighboring Mary's Burger Bistro has a tasty giant, greasy burger with your name on it. Seriously, they're huge so bring your appetite.

After the show, grab a beer at the Harmon Brewery and Eatery. It's as American as you can get, with a ski lodge theme, and their own beer line including my favorite Mt. Takhoma Blonde.  - Alec Clayton

[Tacoma Art Museum, Feb. 26-May 30, Wednesday- Sunday 10 am-5 pm, Third Thursdays 10 am-8 pm, 1701 Pacific Ave., Tacoma, 253.272.4258]


>>> MARCH 27

When I lived in Olympia, my next door neighbor was a delightful woman named Diana, who like clockwork every morning (read: afternoon - I was in college) would gently strum a massive and beautiful harp in her living room.  The calming and angelic sounds wafting into my bedroom and helping to clear the fog in my head. When she wasn't playing the harp, Diana could often be found trying to convince me that raw foods could cure my Planter fasciitis. She may have been right - but that's really not important to this story. What is important is Deborah Henson-Conant, the "Electric Harpist" will be in Tacoma in March, brought to you by the Tacoma Symphony Orchestra, and the vibrations emanating from her fingers will sound almost nothing like the sleepy, atmospheric groove usually associated with the harp. It's an electric harp, after all (think of the difference between Woody Guthrie and Jimi Hendrix). Henson-Conant has toured the world and been nominated for Grammys - but her greatest achievement may be the creation of a sound no one else is even coming close to. With her self-concocted harness harp in tow, and weaving flamenco, blues and anything else that gets in her way into a jambalaya of sound and entertainment, Henson-Conant is sure to deliver a show you won't soon forget.

That being the case, you'll need a meal that holds serve. Much like Henson-Conant's fusion of sound, Masa on Sixth Ave is known for its Mexican inspired fusion of taste creations that run the gamut of simply unusual to downright revolutionarily delicious. The beef and chorizo enchiladas would compliment the Electric Harpist quite nicely. - Matt Driscoll

[Pantages Theater, Saturday, March 27, 2:30 p.m., $24-$77, 901 Broadway, Tacoma, 253.591.5890]

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Deborah Henson-Conant said on Mar. 19, 2011 at 4:46pm

Hey Matt - thanks for the kind words! I especially loved the line about Woodie Guthrie and Jimi Hendrix (I love being compared to Hendrix). I can't believe Diana never suggested you put your bare foot on the soundboard while she played -- surefire cure for plantar fasciitis -- of course it takes awhile to work. Hope to see you at the show! - DHC

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