In galleries on a hill

Elliott Smith was introduced to DAVID MCCONNELL through a mutual musician friend. Then living in Los Angeles, Smith called McConnell–who ran a studio from a basement on a hill in Malibu–and told him he was interested in working together. They had an 8 p.m. appointment, but Smith arrived sometime after 3 a.m., waking McConnell up and sitting in the studio with him until dawn, talking about gear, life and the inevitable next record. “Can we start right now?” asked Smith. McConnell agreed and Smith walked outside and moved two cars’ worth of equipment (his girlfriend also drove) into McConnell’s space. Their three-year relationship formed the bulk of From a Basement on a Hill, the posthumous album from Smith, who was found dead on Oct. 21, 2003 in his Los Angeles apartment at age 34. That began one of the darkest periods in McConnell’s life, but his dog, paint and unstretched canvas and a move to North Carolina saved his life. For more on McConnell’s story and fascinating art, hanging at BICKETT GALLERY through July 1, see “Prescription.” –Grayson Currin

In wild creatures

Prepare to enter two quirky universes, MEGAN WHITMARSH‘s Shangri-La and JENNIFERMUSKOPF‘s Points of Contact: How We Relate in an Unknown World, simultaneously on view at BRANCH GALLERY in downtown Durham. Whitmarsh tells stories with tiny, logo-sized, hand-stitched “elves” and “yetis”(the fabled abominable snowmen) engaging in scenarios of club life or sword-play, cavorting around icons of modern sculpture or wielding super-powered rays (think Ralph Lauren polo ponies gone awry). Muskopf presents handmade fabric sculpture animals, remarkable for their gestural accuracy and their subversion of the genre. Far from the cute and cuddly stuffed variety, these animals mate, give birth, or devour their prey, making us think about our tendency to objectify animals while comfortably denying the reality of their lives in the wild. She chooses her detailing carefully, scaling patterns of cloth so that a fine cut-velvet brocade serves convincingly as the coat of a lion devouring a gray wool flannel elephant. Both shows run through July 1. Branch Gallery is open Wednesday through Saturday from noon to 6 p.m., or by appointment. See for more info.

In hot truths

Is AL GORE destined to join the short list of great world-movers and humanity-savers–you know, like Jesus, Mohammed, Galileo, Gandhi and, er, Bono? Thing is, all those guys are known by a single name, so some subtraction is in order for the former vice president. What should that one-name name be? Should we call him Gore or should we call him Al? In any event, the man who once received a half-million more votes than the War President has some bad news that he wants to share: The planet is getting warmer, it’s our fault, and we need to do something about it. His film is called AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH and it’s already shaping up to be the biggest political movie sensation since Fahrenheit 9/11. Opens Thursday at the Carolina Theatre in Durham, Friday at the Colony Theatre in Raleigh and the Varsity Theatre in Chapel Hill. Another prophet warning of man-made apocalypse, TIM FLANNERY reads from his book THE WEATHER MAKERS: HOW MAN IS CHANGING THE CLIMATE AND WHAT IT MEANS FOR LIFE ON EARTH at 7 p.m. this Thursday at Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh. —David Fellerath

In resurrecting the Queen

“Frankly, Mr. Shankly, I’m a sickening wreck/ I’ve got the 21st century breathing down my neck,” sang Morrissey in 1985 on the second track from The Smiths’ landmark album, The Queen is Dead. Now, 20 years later, we’re all breathing the 21stcentury, and it smells more like combusted fossil fuels every day. The PIEDMONT BIOFUELS CORPORATION, located just outside of Pittsboro, is dedicated to reversing the trend by distributing eco-friendly biofuels throughout the Triangle. Progress, though, isn’t cheap, so a handful of the corporation’s Durham friends will unite at LOCAL 506 in Chapel Hill as THE SHANKLYS, a Smiths cover band, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of The Queen is Dead and to raise money for the cause. This is a smoke-free gig with a $3 cover and a 10 p.m. start time. DJ CANON spins before and after the Manchester mayhem. –Grayson Currin

In swine, whittlin’ and song

Saying that the barbecue sandwich- and music-centered HOG DAY in Hillsborough is all about pork ‘n’ roll doesn’t tell the whole story. If you visit the common area behind the ORANGE COUNTY COURTHOUSE on Saturday, you’ll find the fruits of woodworkers, jewelry makers and other craftspeople for sale, along with plenty of non-pig-based food offerings. Other diversions include an antique car show, petting zoo and climbing wall. But there’ll be plenty of tunes too. In a ticketed event on Friday night, bluegrassers CHATHAM COUNTY LINE (7 p.m.) and master musician/story-teller MIKE CROSS (8:30 p.m.) perform. Tickets are $8 in advance, $10 the day of the show and $6 for children. At the top of Saturday’s all-day lineup are Winston-Salem’s JEFFREY DEAN FOSTER & THE BIRDS OF PREY and Raleigh’s TRES CHICAS, pairing atmospheric roots rock with shimmering harmony rock. And, yeah, the ‘cue tent will still be packing them in. See for complete information. —Rick Cornell