1. This weekend in Bangor, it’s all about the comedy — and there’s lots of it. Friday night there are two great shows from two great improv troupes, with B.I.G. Improv at the Bangor Opera House at 7 p.m., and The Focus Group at the Next Generation Theatre across the bridge in Brewer at 8 p.m.; it’s perfectly conceivable you could attend both. Saturday night brings one of New England’s best stand up comics, Bangor native Ray Harrington, who’s at the Downunder Club at Seasons Restaurant; tickets are $10 and will go quickly. On the musical side of things, Friday brings rapper Cassidy to Tantrum with guests Brandon Ross, Green Tank and others, bluesman Blind Albert is at Nocturnem Drafthaus, Trisha Mason is back at Paddy Murphy’s, and rockers Sound & Vice are at the Big Easy. On Saturday, enjoy reggae band Knotty Pine at Ipanema, the Aurora Jazz Project at Nocturnem, the Blood Orange Martinis at Paddy Murphy’s, rockers Despair at the Big Easy, and at 4Points BBQ & Blues in Winterport, it’s guitar master Mike Billings.
2. What an odd weekend in Portland — Friday is jam packed with stuff to do, while Saturday is one seriously laid back affair. Friday you have your choice of either rockers Delta Rae (pictured) with The Falls at Port City Music Hall; roots rockers Professor Louie and the Crowmatix at One Longfellow Square; rock n ‘roll with Kamikaze Angel, Civil Disturbance and Brand New Day at Geno’s; the monthly Penthouse Dance Party at Empire, and out in Biddeford at the Oak and the Ax there’s visual art and music with IDM Theft Able, Shea Mowat, Mystic Out Bop Review and Video Nasties. Saturday, you can either attend the Night of 1000 Fiddles benefit at One Longfellow Square to keep the lights on at the venue, or Phish cover band Pardon Me Doug at Empire. On Sunday, there’s jazz group The Wood Brothers at Port City Music Hall, there’s the Straits, featuring member of Dire Straits, at Asylum, and at the Oak and the Ax, there’s a celebration of Lou Reed for the dearly departed rocker’s birthday.
3. WHAAB WHAAB WHAAB! The fine folks at O’Chang Comics (their cartoon likenesses pictured at left) will premiere their latest video, “Stahmageddon,” at 8 p.m. Friday at the Speakeasy at Tradewinds Inn. They’ll show the video and then you’ll hear music from Two Dollar Pistol and Leroy. Also on Friday in Rockland are Celtic rockers Enter the Haggis, who are set for 7:30 p.m. at the Strand Theatre. Saturday night happens to be the last night of Billy’s Tavern in Thomaston, though the pub will be taken over by another owner and reopened next week as the Water Dog Tavern; Billy’s will close with a single malt whiskey tasting to celebrate. There’s also the highly entertaining Nukulele at Rock City Coffee on Saturday night, as well as Eric Green at the Speakeasy. Across the bay, Jacob Augustine is set for the Lompoc Cafe in Bar Harbor Friday night, while in Blue Hill there’s Between Dead Stations Friday at the Black Anchor Pub, and in Ellsworth there’s River Bottom Funk at Chummies. Saturday brings dance band Clusterfunk to Sips in Southwest Harbor.
4. The good ski and snowboard days are slipping, slipping, slipping away, so get ’em while they’re hot. It’s a great weekend to be at Sunday River — in addition to some killer skiing, there’s slalom competitions all weekend, at both the high school and adult levels, which is always fun to watch, and on Sunday there’s a snowboard half pipe competition. Saturday night, Rustic Overtones plays at the Foggy Goggle. At Sugarloaf, there’s men’s slalom races on Thursday and Friday, and the snowboard cross competition the Holeshot Tour also begins on Saturday, and runs for a week. Friday night there’s A Band Beyond Description at the Widowmaker, where the following night will be the Adam Ezra Group. Just outside of Sugarloaf, The Rack hosts funk rock band Skygo on Friday night. And don’t forget — Sunday is Ski Maine Day at Saddleback, where you can ski all day for just 29 bucks.
5. You may not know this about me, though it likely will not surprise you all that much when I say this: the Academy Awards are my Superbowl. I look forward to this night all year long. I try to watch all the movies, or as much of them as I can, anyway — I’m only up to five out of the nine best picture nominations, but I’ll get to six before Saturday. The Oscars — which start at 7 p.m. Sunday on ABC — are my excuse to cook food with my friends, drink wine and lob sarcastic comments at my TV in a bacchanal of snark, irony and a bit of actual, authentic love for movies. My predictions this year for the major categories — what I think WILL win, not what I think SHOULD win — are “American Hustle” for Best Picture, Leonardo DiCaprio for Best Actor, Cate Blanchett for Best Actress, Jared Leto for Best Supporting Actor, Lupita N’yongo for Best Supporting Actress and Alfonso Cuaron for Best Director. Personally, I think “Nebraska” will be robbed of everything that it deserves, but that’s the way the starlet’s stiletto snaps, isn’t it? Want to dispute me? Leave a comment below.