In taking charge (1.20)

Chapel Hill’s WETLANDS hosts a PLANNED PARENTHOOD benefit called UNITED STATES OF ROE this Saturday, Jan. 20. SHANNON O’CONNOR will offer a take on Americana that is restless, poetic and lusty enough to make Lucinda Williams fans sigh. Then there’s ROBO SAPIEN with their hypnopunk and the EX-MEMBERS (as in ex-Gertyites Shirlé Hale and David Koslowski and ex-Butchie Melissa York) with a sound that celebrates the thumpy, dancey side of New Wave. Doors open at 6 p.m. Tickets are $10, $8 for students. Rick Cornell In half-time (1.22)

A series of bland releases has snapped Canada’s Arts & Crafts brothers and sisters into a cold streak of Saddle Creek proportions. THE DEARSGang of Losers is, hopefully, its nadir: The band’s sonic ambitions seem turned off at the source, lock-stock-and-barrel arrangements for guitar, bass, drums and middling keyboards stifling any oomph the lackluster melodies could have carried. But Raleigh sextet Annuals, who open for The Dears at CAT’S CRADLE on Monday, Jan. 22, are blessed with the opposite. Working at times with two drummers, multiple guitars and keyboards, ANNUALS take the sonic whims of frontman Adam Baker and pepper them with miniscule melodic gestures. At times, those ideas weighed on their Ace Fu Records-issued Be He Me, but at least they were there. One hopes it’s a lesson The Dears take home from this tour. The set-up has earned the band a year of buzz, especially on the merits of one tremendous song (the tireless “Brother”). As for you, fair audience, catch the glorious homecoming of the locals (they just played Europe with The Flaming Lips) at 9 p.m. Then, find dinner. Tickets are $10 in advance and $12 at the door. Grayson CurrinIn a dream state (1.24)

After the attacks of Sept. 11, a common lament was “Why do they hate us?” but New York poet and performer SEKOU SUNDIATA smelled an opportunity to take the nation’s pulse. Out of a Midwestern tour in which he interviewed a variety of Americans, he created a multimedia show incorporating poems, videos, music and dance called THE 51ST (DREAM) STATE. What is the 51st state? It could be a dream, Sundiata has mused, or it could be a state of constant war. Reached by phone in New York recently, Sundiata emphasized that for all of his rhetorical ambitionsborn of influences such as Whitman and Barakahe is first and foremost a man of the theater. “It will be an interesting and compelling experience,” he says, “a concert with a lot on its mind. People should expect to be provoked and compelled to think. But when the lights go dark, we’ll have the special magic of theater.” Sundiata will perform at UNC’S MEMORIAL HALL next Wednesday, Jan. 24 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $15-$35, and can be purchased at the box office or by phone at 843-3333. Go to for more information. David FellerathIn Sunday solace (1.21)

Modern living is filled to the brim with noise: cars, phones, people, televisions and the rest. Take a well-earned break and enter the realm of subliminal sounds with a performance from THE YING QUARTET. These four siblings have been playing together for over two decades, continually innovating and improving. Recipients of many awards, they most recently won a Grammy for Best Classical Crossover Album of 2006. They will perform on Sunday, Jan. 21 at 3 p.m. at the Kenan Recital Hall in the Brown-McPherson Music Building on the campus of PEACE COLLEGE in downtown Raleigh. Tickets are $22 and $8 for students. The quartet will also hold a MASTER CLASS for several student ensembles in the area that is free and open to the public. The master class runs from 10 a.m.-noon on Sunday, Jan. 21. For more information, visit or call 821- 2030. Megan SteinIn dogs and pockets (1.17 & 1.18)

Here’s a challenge for two actors: Fully populate an eccentric Irish village by playing a dozen or so characters apiece in a two-man showoh, and no fair leaving stage. Actors David Alley and David Friedlander (and director John Feltch) show us their mettle when PLAYMAKERS REP presents STONES IN HIS POCKETS starting Wednesday, Jan. 17 in Chapel Hill. Call 962-PLAY for tickets. And who knew Fyodor Dostoevsky actually had those wild, young years? Playwright Michael Smith, who gave us A Mouthfulla Sacco & Vanzetti. The LITTLE GREEN PIG production of his latest historical slapstick, IN THE DOGHOUSE: THE EXECUTION OF DOSTOEVSKY, opens Thursday, Jan. 18 at MANBITES DOG THEATER. Their number is 682-3343, WoodsIn the beginning (1.18)

Evolution is the Grand Unified Theory of life science, embracing and explaining everything from biochemistry to ecology. Why is it, then, that nearly 150 years after CHARLES DARWIN published THE ORIGIN OF SPECIES, something like half of all Americans doubt our descent from apes? Marine biologist-turned-filmmaker Randy Olson thinks it’s a question of PR. Mainstream science’s official response to the creationist challenge has often resembled a collective slap of palm to forehead. But exasperation is a poor persuader, and in the public mind, condescension and arrogance just don’t go over as well as humility and the appearance, however disingenuous, of reasonableness. In his new film, A FLOCK OF DODOS, Olson goes back to his home state, Kansas, to revisit the “intelligent design” debates at the board of education, and finds that it’s the defenders of science, rather than their opponents, who more closely resemble the extinct, flightless birds of his title. Olson will give a free screening of the film at the NORTH CAROLINA MUSEUM OF NATURAL SCIENCES in Raleigh on Thursday, Jan. 18 at 7 p.m.; a presentation and Q&A session will follow. More information online at Marc Maximov