Plan your weekends, cats and kittens. Herewith, the guaranteed-awesomest activities going down now through Sunday in the East Bay:
Even though Dolly Parton says she initially styled herself after a hooker in her Tennessee hometown, Parton ultimately parlayed her talents into a multi-faceted - and more respectable - career as a singer, songwriter, indie record label entrepreneur, drag queen icon, amusement park owner, and actress. Better Day, her newest self-released project, is packed with a dozen self-penned gems all strung together by a common theme of optimism. But even though it's graced with guest appearances by Emmylou Harris and Alison Krauss, contemporary country music radio formats will undoubtedly forsake this Smoky Mountains native. That's a shame, considering that she's penned a lot of newer crossover fare that's blazed trails for the likes of Shania Twain and Faith Hill. That said, you can still catch her live. This petite music icon will be bringing her brand of country music to the great outdoors of Sleep Train Pavilion (2000 Kirker Pass Rd., Concord) on Sunday, July 24. 7 p.m., $34-$159. LiveNation.com— Dave Gil de Rubio
Moe's Bookstore Tea Tasting
Best known as an iconic 52-year-old new-and-used book emporium, Moe's Books (2476 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley) is now a purveyor of hot beverages. Herbalists at another longtime Berkeley business, Lhasa Karnak Herb Company, have created Moe's Breakfast Tea, a custom blend that includes Darjeeling and Ceylonese Orange Pekoe, among other elements, and is available only at the bookstore. The public is welcome to a complimentary tasting on Saturday, July 23. 2 p.m., free. 510-849-2087 or MoesBooks.com. — Anneli Rufus
Detroit hip-hop group Slum Village provided the forum for producer J Dilla to get his first major star turn in the mid-Nineties. And even though Dilla quit the group in 2002 - four years before his untimely death - he built a solid foundation for its current members, T3 and Illa J. The group's catalog now includes six records, all bolstered by soul-and gospel-influenced, densely melodic beats. Its most recent effort (and final studio album, supposedly) dropped last year and featured a cavalcade of well-known guests, including Phife Dawg, rap duo Little Brother, DJ Hi-Tek, and posthumous appearances by both Dilla and founding emcee Baatin, who died in 2009. Now the group is making what must be a final lap on the tour circuit, with a stop in Oakland this weekend. Catch Slum Village at The New Parish (579 18th St., Oakland) on Friday, July 22. 9:30 p.m., $20, $25. TheNewParish.com— Rachel Swan
MLK Jr. Shoreline Park Habitat Restoration
If you're a fan of nature and not so much a fan of trash, the Golden Gate Audubon Society, the East Bay Regional Park District, and REI have organized a volunteer clean-up effort to help restore the marsh at Martin Luther King Jr. Regional Shoreline Park (Doolittle Dr. and Swan Way, Oakland). The effort, on Saturday, July 23, entails removing invasive plants and garbage from the area to promote the growth of native plants and to help the endangered California clapper rail and other bird species. Bird experts will also give guided walks throughout the park. 9 a.m.—noon, free. RSVP to 510-527-4140 or REI.com/Berkeley. GoldenGateAudubon.org. — Cassie Harwood
The Verona Project
Perhaps the most impressive thing about Cal Shakes' latest production, a rock musical loosely based on Shakespeare's Two Gentlemen of Verona, is that each cast member plays at least two instruments in addition to singing and acting. All that talent combined makes for a pretty tight eight-person rock band. Arwen Anderson handles the guitar and woodwinds, in addition to playing the female lead Julia. Marisa Duchowny plays guitar, keyboard, and several bit-parts. Adam Yazbeck plays accordion and piano, as well as the Duke of Milan. The play itself, written and directed by Amanda Dehnert, is a liberal interpretation of the bard's original script, with one gender change and most proper nouns left the same. The duke's daughter Sylvia becomes Sylvio, which precipitates not one but two gay courtships, in addition to some cross-dressing. Dehnert puts her characters in a sort of magical realist universe where sexuality and gender seem ancillary to desire and love. At moments, it's beautiful. Through July 31 at Bruns Amphitheater (100 California Shakespeare Way, Orinda). $35-$66. 510-548-9666 or CalShakes.org
— Rachel Swan
Catch a Movie: The SF Jewish Film Festival is here — with films playing at various East Bay theaters, too, mind you — and there's a lot worth seeing.
Eat Up:This week, food critic extraordinaire recommends That Luang Kitchen in Richmond.
Get Buzzed: Berkeley's FIVE may be a little overwrought and its design may be of the epileptic-seizure-inducing variety, but its cocktails are generally pretty amazing.
Waste Some Time: Three words, East Bay: New. Rebecca. Black.
Feed Us: Got any East Bay news, events, video, or miscellany we should know about? Holler at us at Ellen.Cushing@EastBayExpress.com.