• If you were at Big Love Fest last weekend, you probably saw a tall sideburned gentleman in pink pants and a straw hat belting out bluesy soul tunes from the main stage. If not, here's your chance to catch the retro rock and soul quartet in action. Pleasure Chest makes their second appearance in as many weeks with a performance at The Bywater Thursday. 8 p.m. Free.
Friday, May 11
• Take a cool morning walk, enjoy the sweet smell of spring flowers and revel in the beauty of the mountains as The Botanical Gardens at Asheville, the gardens at Blue Ridge Community College and the N.C. Arboretum offer free admission in celebration of National Public Gardens Day. Coupon required for free parking. Download it here: www.bhg.com.
• "Former Navy SEAL turned inventor Mark Farrell is determined to make a lasting impact on the world," begins a synopsis of Brain Waves. "... When an accident leaves him stranded on the fringe of heaven — a place he didn't think existed — he enlists heavenly help to devise a treatment plan to save his life. ... Set in Colorado, Costa Rica and across the wall from heaven proper, Brain Waves is a medical suspense novel that begins as a tale of revenge but turns into one of forgiveness. The author weaves neuroscience, computer technology and philosophy into a compelling story about a man who refuses to enter heaven too soon. Ultimately, Mark's legacy proves more momentous than he ever imagined." Author Dennis Murphy visits City Lights Bookstore, 3 E. Jackson St., Sylva, to discuss the novel, along with the subject of near-death experiences. 6:30 p.m. Free.
• From a page on the Montford Park Players' website, "Can three guys really cover 37 Shakespeare plays in less than two hours? Fresh and updated every year, this fast-firing comedy does just that as it parodies all of the Shakespeare plays (plus the sonnets!) with only three performers in two acts. This play is full of energy as the characters run across the stage and keep you guessing how they will pull off the next play. Clever use of some interesting costumes also adds to the fun." The Complete Works of William Shakespeare runs Thursdays-Sundays, May 10-27, at 7:30 p.m. Performed at the Hazel Robinson Amphitheatre, 100 Gay St. in Montford. $6-$12.
Saturday, May 12
• Browse local garden starts and unique, nature-related treasures like flowering baskets, vegetables, herbs, berry bushes and potted ornamental plants at the 10th annual "Whole Bloomin' Thing Festival," "Haywood County's official kickoff to spring." Held on Depot Street in Waynesville's historic Frog Level District. Free to the public. 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
• "Join the artists of the River Arts District on the second Saturday of each month for a day of artist demonstrations, classes, open studios and fun," invites the collective's website. "Spend the day hopping from studio to studio to view a range of mediums and an abundance of creativity!" Stroll features more than a dozen galleries. For a complete list, download a comprehensive studio guide. 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Free.
• Earthshine Nature Programs, a local nonprofit that "teaches nature knowledge, awareness and conservation through exciting hands on education to people of all ages," hosts a open house fundraiser featuring live music, a silent auction, hikes, nature programs, kids' activities, live animal demonstrations, food and information about the organization. Proceeds from the sale of T-shirts, deserts and Gelato directly support nature education and conservation programs. Free to attend. 11 a.m.-5 p.m.
• "New to cycling? Avid rider? Whether you are a first-timer or a weekend warrior, a mountain biker or road biker, a commuter or casual rider, come join us for a fun day of events — discover how easy and enjoyable spending more time on your bike can be," invites the Asheville REI store. "The 2012 REI Cycle Fest will consist of fun, useful cycling advice, vendor and local nonprofit booths, bike demos and free bike-related classes throughout the day. Get educated and inspired by our cycling vendors, local clubs and expert staff so that you can get out and ride with ease and confidence!" Participating organizations include the Blue Ridge Bicycle Club, Friends of Ecusta Trail, Bike and Pedestrian Task Force, Connect Buncombe, Asheville Cyclocross, Cane Creek Cycling Components, Cornerstone Physical Therapy, Thule, VeloCity, Trips for Kids WNC and Pisgah Area SORBA. See website for a complete schedule. 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Free.
• An excerpt from a story in this week's Xpress, "Is sharpening pencils a lost art? Was it ever an art to begin with? To hear David Rees tell it, the answer to both questions is a resounding yes. He makes a sometimes-plaintive, sometimes-preposterous case in his new treatise, How to Sharpen Pencils (Melville House, 2012). For the past two years, Rees has made a business of artisanal pencil sharpening. It might sound like a big joke, and maybe it is. But the guy is getting paid to sharpen pencils, to the tune of $15 a pop. So far, he's filled more than 500 orders. Along the way, Rees, a North Carolina native who now lives in New York's Hudson Valley, has marinated enough on pencil sharpening that he's got 200 pages of insights on the matter to share. The book is part tutorial (with chapters like “Anatomy of the #2 Pencil” and “Protecting Your Pencil Point”), part cautionary tale (Chapter 12: “Psychological Risks Associated with Pencil Sharpening: Assessment and Coping Strategies”) and perhaps part performance art (the closing chapter, “How to Sharpen a Pencil with Your Mind,” is followed by an appendix of “Wines that Taste Like Pencils”). ... So, is How to Sharpen Pencils sincere or satire? “A quick word to those who think this is a joke,” the humorist John Hodgman advises in the book’s forward. “Everyone who knows Rees and his sense of humor also knows that he is a person who takes EVERYTHING VERY SERIOUSLY." Rees visits Malaprop's on May 12 for the penultimate stop of his nationwide book tour. “I really like Asheville,” he told Xpress last week in a phone interview. “You guys have an organic-mattress store that really blows my mind. I wish I'd have thought of that.” Decide for yourself if it's all a big joke when Rees visits Malaprop's, 55 Haywood St., for a reading, Q&A and demonstration with audience volunteers. 7 p.m. Free.
Story by Jon Elliston
Photo by Meredith Heuer
• "Oleander Tea Company is salty and sweet," begins the local quartet's bio. "Steeped in solid groove, with a dynamic rock foundation, OTC is ready to take you on a musical journey of epic proportions. Every member contributes a bit of their own savory flavor to this dark, sunny mix. From the soulful melodies to the pulse pounding rhythms, this will not be a blend you will soon forget. No sleepytime remedy here my friends. Nothing short of solid gold fun!" The band plays The Boiler Room, 11 Grove St., with The River Rats. 9 p.m. $5.
Read more articles in:A + E