From the inside out: If you saw Off the Hook not knowing anything about the actors, you might find them incredibly believable. That's because the musical, set in a California prison, features 15 folks who actually did time behind bars. Produced by the Poetic Justice Foundation, the musical's on a “Prison Town Tour,” hitting cities with major correctional facilities in hopes of educating audiences on the realities of incarceration—and what can be done to address California's complicated, frustrating prison crisis. After the show, the performers will stick around to chat with the audience. Catch Off the Hook at Queen Bee's Art & Cultural Center (3925 Ohio St. in North Park) at 2 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 18. Tickets are $20 general, $12 students and seniors. poeticjusticeproject.orgFilm
Mello out: Other than its name making for a fun documentary title, what's a Mellotron? Mellodrama: The Mellotron Movie, which screens at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 17, at the Museum of Making Music (5790 Armada Drive in Carlsbad) explores the quirky keyboard instrument whose baroquemeets-lounge-cool sounds defined songs like “Strawberry Fields Forever,” “Good Vibrations” and, yep, that's a Mellotron on Kanye's “Gold Digger.” After the film, there'll be a Q&A with director Dianna Dilworth; then, musician and author Brian Kehew will play some tunes on the Mellotron, followed by Pea Hicks of the local band Optiganally Yours, who'll show off the Optigan, an equally cool keyboard instrument. $12. museumofmakingmusic.orgBooks
Lades love toned J: Mama didn't just say knock you out; she wants LL Cool J to help you knock off the pounds, too. At age 42, the hip-hop artist and actor is also now a diet guru promoting his new book, LL Cool J's Platinum 360 Diet and Lifestyle, which he hopes will create something like a health phenomenon. The program purports to combine fitness and nutrition with philosophy that will get you to your “best body ever” in only eight weeks. Promises aside, LL Cool J seems to have put a lot of heart into the book, which he'll sign at Warwick's (7812 Girard Ave. in La Jolla) at noon on Sunday, Sept. 19. Ladies: Just be careful not faint in line. warwicks.com
Gnarly pipes: Matt Welch is one of the world's most notable experimental bagpipe players, if for no other reason than he's one of the world's only experimental bagpipe players. But he's got the credentials: He holds two degrees in experimental music composition, he's studied with world-class Highland bagpipe players and notable composers, collaborated with Indonesian gamelan performers in Bali and Java and performed with New York City-based experimentalists like Ikue Mori. And he shreds: For his mathrock-style riffs, Pop Matters once called him the “Eddie Van Halen of the bagpipes.” At 8 p.m. Friday, Sept. 17, Welch will talk about his instrument and perform original compositions and improvisations to kick off the Fresh Sound Series at Sushi Performance & Visual Art, 390 11th Ave. in East Village. $15. sushiart.orgFashion
Vintage heaven: Folks who've been to the Rose Bowl Flea Market in Pasadena know that San Diego's a little lacking in a one-stop shop for vintage and antique finds. While we may not have an awesome recurring flea market, from Thursday, Sept. 16 through Sunday Sept. 19, we will have a Huge Frocking Sale, brought to us by the folks behind Frock You vintage clothing (4121 Park Ave. in University Heights). At the massive outdoor sale, you'll find clothing from the '20s through the '90s, and, get this: Prices start at $1. There'll also be two mid-century furniture dealers, Atomic Bazaar and Vintage Scout, on hand. The hours are noon to 6 p.m. on Thursday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. through Sunday. frockyouvintage.comSpecial Events
Stay low: The best thing about the Second Annual South County Music and Art Festival is that all you Chula Vista, San Ysidro and other SoCo peeps don't have to drive 15 minutes up the freeway just to have a little fun. The music lineup includes bands like Azucar and Southtown Generals—which is to say it's mostly reggae and Latin rock bands we don't really know much about—and your $10 (in advance) ticket gets you access to two stages of music, an artsand-crafts show and a kids zone. The fest is only in its second year, so if you want to keep it in the South, then you have to show up. It's happening from noon to 2 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 18, at the Eastlake Design District, 881 Showroom Place in Chula Vista. Try a pint of Otay Lakes Oatmeal Stout from The Brew House at Eastlake (one of the event venues) while you're there. southcountyfestival.com
El dia de la independencia: Who knows—Mexico might be in better shape if Spain were still running the place. Oops, did we say that out loud? Well, what's done is done, and independence from far-away foreign masters is always cause for celebration. Balboa Park will honor the occasion from 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 16, with Viva Mexico: Celebrating 200 Years of Mexican Independence, a fiesta featuring the music, art, dance, food and drink of our southern neighbor. Outside, mariachi musicians and folkloric dancers will perform. Inside, at the Mingei international Museum, the San Diego Museum of Art and the Timken Museum of Art, The Prado restaurant will serve Mexican dishes paired with Mexican wine or beer, and each museum will focus its programming on Mexico. Tickets are $15 in advance, $20 day-of. Get them at mingei.org/vivamexico.Art
Sweetness: When a new gallery opens in San Diego in the midst of economic turmoil, that in itself is newsworthy. But Mod-Est Studio Gallery's grand opening is especially irresistible because of its first show: Decadent Expression, an exhibition of oil paintings and chocolate. Opened this summer by Kevin Winger, Mod-Est is located in Liberty Station (2690 Historic Decatur Road, Suite 104, in Point Loma). The show—featuring Winger's paintings and sweets by Chi Chocolat (chocolatiers Jess and Tess Brown also recently relocated to Liberty Station)— runs through the end of the year, with a reception from 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 18. Winger has been blogging about his struggles to open the gallery at kevinwinger.blogspot.com.