Feeling cooped up in your apartment? Need to get the kids out of the house? Bored of your usual routine? Summer's no time for staying trapped in your box — and this week, there are plenty of ways to break that cycle.
Whether it's an event outdoors, an adventure in West Hollywood, or a whole different kind of “out” altogether, there's no excuse for staying inside this week.
5. Nina Simone: 'Nuff Said
Nina Simone — the high priestess of soul, queen of eloquent yearning, badass backlash momma — was perhaps the best at channeling her difficult life experiences into frank, rhythmic and powerful hymnals. Lines such as, “You give me second-class houses/and second-class schools/ do you think that all colored folks are just second-class fools,” and the dark, melodic, sinister tones of songs like “The Pusher” spoke to audiences regardless of their race and beyond her own lifetime. On Friday, Grand Performances at California Plaza honors her legacy and what would have been her 80th year with Young, Gifted and Nina: A Tribute to Nina Simone, featuring a soulful lineup that will echo through the outdoor stage and fill your heart with powerful, pain-to-pleasure blues. Artists performing include Dwight Trible, Georgia Anne Muldrow, Jimetta Rose, Joi Gilliam, Patrice Quinn, Sonja Marie and Waberi Jordan, and the night will feature visual narratives and surprise guests. When stellar musical events like these are put together, we really understand the value of the ubiquitous term “free summer concert.” Simone died 10 years ago, but her music continues to thrive, kicking and vibing, and the answer to her question “Do I Move You?” is undoubtedly, always, “Yes.” California Plaza, 350 S. Grand Ave, Downtown, Fri., July 5, 8-10:30 p.m.; (213) 687-2159, grandperformances.org. — Rena Kosnett
4. The Sounds of Stravinsky
The home team goes al fresco as Los Angeles Ballet and the Music Center join the yearlong centennial celebration of Igor Stravinsky in L.A. with Ballet Under the Stars!, a free performance of two ballets choreographed by George Balanchine to Stravinsky scores. With its bejeweled red costumes, Rubies draws on Balanchine's time in Hollywood choreographing for the movies and accentuates the jazzy elements in Stravinsky's Capriccio for Piano and Orchestra. The second work, Agon, finds Balanchine in a more abstract mood, with dancers in simple black leotards and tights, the better to articulate Stravinsky's intricate music. L.A. has a special claim to Agon: Stravinsky's score was performed here first, before the ballet's premiere in New York. Look for the uber-flexible Allynne Noelle as Rubies' central tall girl and a lead in Agon. Raised and trained in SoCal, Noelle left to dance with Miami City Ballet and National Ballet of Canada. Her return exemplifies how Los Angeles Ballet artistic directors Thordal Christiansen and Colleen Neary have established L.A. as a destination to dance, not just a place exporting dancers to companies elsewhere. This free performance offers a first chance to see these masterworks for those who missed LAB's spring Balanchine festival and another chance for the throngs of Balanchine and Stravinsky fans who appreciate how the two masters synergistically elevated one another's genius. Bring a picnic and a blanket. Grand Park, 200 N. Grand Ave., dwntwn.; Sat., July 6, 7:30 p.m.; free. (213) 972-0711, grandparkla.org/calendar/. — Ann Haskins
3. The Amazing (WeHo) Race
While racing through the city on a Sunday might seem like the worst possible way to escape the previous week's cycle of toil and traffic, CityRace is a welcome alternative to those stultifying 9-to-5 days. It takes place in West Hollywood, where teams of two to four players investigate a series of clues, which lead them across the gun-shaped confines of Boystown to discover things they never knew — both about the city and about how well the mind works under a three-hour deadline to solve as many clues as possible. It's less a scavenger hunt than a brain trust — “trust” being the operative word here, as you put your faith in your teammates to rack their brains even as you rack your own. The one-two punch to inertia that comes from being active and thinking hard is that much more of a reward as you bravely push the boundaries of the concept of “winning.” West Hollywood Park, 647 N. San Vicente Blvd., W. Hlywd.; Sun., July 7, 11 a.m., $40. (310) 360-6950, racela.com. — David Cotner
2. Drummer Boy
If you've ever walked down Hollywood Boulevard, you may have noticed there's more attention given to bucket drummers than to even the most action-packed Superman-versus-Batman pigfight — and for good reason. The rhythms produced by those talented street drummers — the heartbeat of what used to be known in early-20th century New Orleans as “spasm bands” — is something the human organism responds to on the most basic level. Master percussionist Monti Ellison's Bucket Drumming Workshop, part of the ongoing J.A.M. Session series at the Ford Amphitheatre, shows you how to turn a 5-gallon bucket into a sonic beacon as you learn various rhythms and polyrhythms, what part of the drum gives off the deepest, richest sounds, and at what point you should stop because the workshop is over and you've started playing the dinner table and it's getting kind of annoying. John Anson Ford Amphitheatre, 2580 Cahuenga Blvd. E., Hlywd.; Mon., July 8, 7 p.m., free. (323) 461-3673, fordtheatres.org. — David Cotner
1. Queer as Film
Clutch the pearls! Gay couples in California will once again experience the joy of getting married — and the even bigger joy of getting a divorce. What better way to celebrate the momentous news than at Outfest, L.A.'s freak flag-bearer for gay filmmakers for more than 30 years? The festival (through July 21) boasts queer-based features, documentaries, shorts and animation from countries as far and exotic as Nepal and Canada. The opening-night gala will screen Kyle Patrick Alvarez's indie movie C.O.G., based on one of David Sedaris' essays. Other highlights include San Diego Surf, Andy Warhol's last film shot, which was shot in La Jolla in 1968. Not to be outdone is the always impressive list of documentaries on everyone and everything from Gore Vidal, Alice Walker, Divine and performance artist Ron Athey to the BDSM scene in San Francisco, AIDS patients in the rural South and the history of amfAR. There's also a Home Video Gong Show, Pitch Perfect sing-along and a ceremony honoring the recipient of this year's Outfest Achievement Award, Kimberly Peirce, director of Boys Don't Cry and the upcoming remake of Carrie. Opening gala at the Orpheum Theater, 842 S. Broadway, dwntwn.; Thurs., July 11, 8 p.m.; $60. Individual screenings at various venues; $13. (213) 480-7065, outfest.org. — Siran Babayan
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