ART: MELT The panini-style, vegan-friendly sandwich nook in Northside is dependable for offering sharp, surprising menu items as well as rewarding, low-profile exhibitions that expound on the mood of the eatery. Jason Snell's new work is collectively titled Cupcakes and Monsters and is just as it describes itself: small, graphic paintings of cupcakes on wood panel (hardly larger than a playing card) interspersed with illustrative depictions of whimsical beasts nearly washed away in glazes of pink and near-pink. The characters are likeable and sad, reminiscent of Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends (this cartoon is something else I should recommend). The quirky cake paintings are even more deliciously priced at $20-$40 apiece. This series of works pairs amazingly well with the stock of Take the Cake desserts available at Melt. Snell's little exhibition is a gem and stands as a reminder that our city is bursting with good work that shows up in all kinds of venues. More information about Snell's work is available at his Web site, www.wehavebecomevikings.com. Get gallery details and find nearby bars and restaurants here. — Matt Morris
ART: CINCINNATI ART MUSEUM The Cincinnati Public Schools' collection of artwork — received as gifts in the 19th and 20th centuries in order to enrich the lives of students and beautify the schools — has been something of a thorny issue in recent years, as the school board no longer wanted responsibility for maintaining the increasingly valuable collection. In February, the Cincinnati Art Museum and Cincinnati Museum Center announced they'd jointly preserve and display the collection of 90 paintings, including works by such better-known Cincinnati artists as Frank Duveneck, Joseph Henry Sharp, Edward Potthast and Dixie Selden.
While the paintings reveal the influences of the art movements of their day, their purpose was also educational, showing people and places that students might look forward to learning more about. Starting now and lasting for a year, nine paintings from the collection will be on display in the museum's Cincinnati Wing. They include "December," a scene of wintry Cincinnati by John Ellsworth Weiss, Herbert P. Barnett's "Saxophone Player" portrait and Selden's vision of Spain in "Grenada 1928: The Alhambra." More work will be displayed in the future at both museums. Get gallery details and find nearby bars and restaurants here. — Steven Rosen
ART: ARTWORKS displays Paper Chasers, an exhibition that delves into form and philosophy through paper art. See Matt Morris' review here.
ART: MURMUR The gallery gets interactive with its new exhibit/experience The Today Show. Instead of looking at art already on display, you'll be the one making the art when you walk in. The gallery space will be filled with different objects and everyone who comes will be invited to create art with said objects. Grab some things to make a sculpture, curate some already-made art or just hang out and watch everyone else scramble. In addition to this crafty pandemonium, there will be live, improvised music from local musicians as well as national acts Jon Mueller and Cages. Mueller, from Milwaukee, works with sounds like gong frequencies and bass drum vibrations to create a sound that Pitchfork calls "majestic." Cages, from Buffalo, blends tapes, field recordings and vocals to create ambient and haunting sounds. The creations of art from this event will be on display for an indefinite amount of time. The show/event will take place over a 24-hour period, with Jon Mueller and Cages performing around 7 p.m. Thursday. Free. Get gallery details and find nearby bars and restaurants here. — Maija Zummo
FILM: LEST WE FORGET, a documentary about people with developmental disabilities, screens at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. See feature story here.
MUSIC: HACKENSAW BOYS, the six-man Bluegrass collective, plays at Northside Tavern. See Sound Advice preview here.
MUSIC: THE KOALA FIRES bring their amped-up Indie Rock EP release party to The Southgate House with Fizzgig, Lovely Crash and the Turnbull ACs. See Locals Only interview here.
MUSIC: VHS OR BETA Is Dance Rock officially dead? Bands copping Kraftwerk, Gang of Four and other danceable sounds of AltRock's past grew from underground cult heroes (thanks to the success of Franz Ferdinand) to commercial hotshots in the early 2000s. Today, Hot Topic-lovin' bands that would have been Emo or Screamo had they formed two years earlier (or Ska if they started 15 years ago) are popping out edgeless Disco Pop and finding big chart success (Metro Station, Boys Like Girls, Good Charlotte). It's like when "Grunge fashion" hit the runways — then the mall — and Mom started talking about this "neat" new Grunge band she heard on her favorite "Lite Hits" station: Candlebox. While this whole Dance Rock trend arc played out, Louisville's decade-old VHS or Beta was releasing its own distinct brand of groove-stricken dance music, blending guitars, bass and electronic drums with a wide range of incredibly current dance music influences. The band also harkens back to '80s Synth Pop on occasion, most notably on its infectious new album, Bring on the Comets, which finds the band focusing a bit more on big, sticky Pop melodies (and using real, acoustic drums this time!). VHS or Beta has always been a few steps ahead of the latest Dance Rock trends, likely because they don't hijack other styles wholesale, instead dipping into the best of the past, present and future to create a sound that will ultimately stand the test of time. VHS or Beta plays Covington's Mad Hatter Friday with Bad Veins and All the Day Holiday. 8 p.m. $12. Buy tickets, check out performance times and find nearby bars and restaurants here. — Mike Breen
LIT: MILK MONEY RELEASE PARTY CityBeat Listings Editor Maija Zummo is a lot of things — modern woman, young professional, tomato-fearing animal- lover. She's also co-publisher of a literary magazine and, in turn, a social gathering coordinator and party planner. Zummo and her publishing partner Ian Wissman host a release party Friday at Feralmade in Northside to celebrate the completion of Milk Money, Volume Three: Dog Obituaries. Lions Rampant and Other Brothers are schedule to perform, and listening stations have been created for some of the authors who live too far away to read their work live — one writer submitted a poetry reading all the way from England. Drinks will be provided in accordance with a CityBeat staffer's salary (you might want to bring your own) and Feralmade's current Skateable vs Non exhibition will be on view, though not skateable. The event has been deemed "Smart Time Party Time" for its inclusion of literature, art and alcohol and welcomes the use of obscure literary references in the most awkward of social situations. Free, but donations are graciously accepted. 8:30 p.m. 4573 Hamilton Ave. www.milkmoneymag.com. Get gallery details and find nearby bars and restaurants here. — Danny Cross
EVENTS: OKTOBERFEST And so begins the slew of Tristate Oktoberfests, all of which claim to be more authentic celebrations of German heritage than the others (like our many Goettafests), but the Germania Society stands by its word that this Oktoberfest is not only the most authentic but also the original. Now in its 38th year, the festival promises a weekend full of beer, food and entertainment. There will be a biergarten with domestic and German beers, German foods, German music, German dance groups and also some non-German things like raffles and rides. There will also be a special children's area. This, however, does not mean that you can leave your children there while you go get drunk. 6 p.m.-midnight Friday; 2 p.m.-midnight Saturday; noon-10 p.m. Sunday. $3; 12 and under are free. Germania Park, 3529 Kemper Road, Colerain. Get details and find nearby bars and restaurants here. — Maija Zummo
ONSTAGE: THE MOUSETRAP, the Agatha Christie murder mystery awash in threatening subtext, continues at The Carnegie through Aug. 31. See Tom McElfresh's review here.
EVENTS: MASON HERITAGE FESTIVAL Celebrate the history and traditions of Mason at the 2008 Annual Mason Heritage festival in the recently renovated downtown Mason. This year the festival will return downtown after relocating in 2006 and 2007 due to construction. The day is packed with fun and exciting ceremonies, activities and live performances. Beginning with the Heritage Parade at 10 a.m., the fun continues later with unique traditions such as the crowning of Little Miss Heritage, a celebrity meet and greet sponsored by The Children's Theater of Mason, the renowned Outhouse Races, more than 200 food and craft booths from local businesses, a Battle of the Bands challenge and the fifth annual Mason Idol Competition. Come to the festival to test your outhouse-building skills, flaunt your singing talent or just to enjoy the day with your family. 10 a.m. Free. Get details and find nearby bars and restaurants here. — Elizabeth Brand
COMEDY: THE SMARTY PANTS THEATER COMPANY What do you do after the readers of CityBeat choose you as the best comedy troupe and you've already toured the region cracking people up with your improv antics? If you're The Smarty Pants Theater Company, you have a go at the challenging style of long-form improv. "Long-form was developed at Second City and ImprovOlympic," explains cast member Brandan Jenkins. "People are more familiar with the short-form games like Who's Line is it Anyway? Long-form takes a suggestion from the crowd and does a series of scenes based off that, as opposed to just one scene as in short-form." The Smartys will do it all scriptless and totally unrehearsed, of course. They've become so adept at their craft that audiences sometimes question whether it's indeed completely made up on the spot. "That's the inherent beauty of improv," Jenkins says. "If you do it really well, people will come up to you after a show and go, 'Are you sure you didn't rehearse that?' And that's when you know you've done a good job." The Smarty Pants Theater Company performs at the Monmouth Theatre (636 Monmouth St., Newport) at 7:30 and 10 p.m. $8; $15 for a couple. 513-850-3574 for reservations. Get details and find nearby bars and restaurants here. — P.F. Wilson
MUSIC: MINDY SMITH, gifted Country/ Folk singer/songwriter, plays the Southgate House. See Sound Advice preview here.
ONSTAGE: CINCINNATI ENTERTAINMENT AWARDS For a dozen years, CityBeat has sponsored the CEAs, providing an opportunity to honor and recognize outstanding local theater productions and performances (local music, too, in November). This year there were so many excellent actors and shows to recognize that most of the 20 categories were expanded from four to five nominees — perhaps that means Cincinnati's theater scene is 20 percent better? On Sunday evening at Below Zero Lounge (1120 Walnut St., Over-the-Rhine), you have the chance to learn the results of voting by theater fans and critics for outstanding performances in each category. The online balloting was the heaviest in CEA history: Nearly 3,000 people expressed their preferences for shows at the Cincinnati Playhouse, Ensemble Theatre, Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, Know Theatre, New Stage Collective, area colleges and universities, the Cincinnati Fringe Festival, community theaters and more. That's yet another sign of the strength of local theater in Cincinnati. Sunday night is your chance to mix and mingle at Below Zero with some of Cincinnati's finest onstage theater talent, just as the 2008-09 season is about to begin. Cash bar and free eats from Lavomatic, plus cabaret piano by Terry LaBolt. 7 p.m. Free. 513-665-4700. Get details and find nearby bars and restaurants here. — Rick Pender
MUSIC: THE REGENERATION TOUR brings back more than feelings of nostalgia with acts like Flock of Seagulls, Naked Eyes and The Human League. See feature story here.