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Conductor John Eliot Gardiner has a reputation of being difficult to work with. His penchant for demeaning musicians cost him at least one job offer, director of the U.K.’s Opera North, when the orchestra flatly refused to play for him. This partly explains how one of the most prolific conductors of our time—he’s recorded more than 250 albums—has never fronted a major orchestra. But the main reason is because he doesn’t want to. A true control freak, Gardiner has always preferred to lead groups of his own creation: the Monteverdi Choir, the English Baroque Soloists, and most recently, the Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique. All reflect his pioneering and monomaniacal interest in early classical music: He once performed 200 Bach cantatas in one year. (Eccentrics seem to run in the family: His father, Rolf Gardiner, was a prominent British fascist with an unbridled passion for organic farming.) For today’s performance of Beethoven’s third and fifth symphonies and the overture to Egmont, Gardiner will offer the “historically informed performance” (HIP) that has become his signature; it involves drawing from archival sources in order to play pieces as the composer originally intended. The result is, of course, entirely subjective, but Gardiner delights in tweaking classical audiences with unfamiliar arrangements of familiar symphonies. Whatever his take on Beethoven, it will probably be weird. 3 p.m. Saturday at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall. $39-$100. (Mike Paarlberg)
Tonight, laptop jockey Balam Acab—-he of the new-agey chillwave Lana Del Rey remix—-plays Subterranean A. alongside Run DMT and Happy Family. It’s a house show, so I won’t drop the address. Think of it like a fun mystery, and you’re the detective! 7:30 p.m.
Attention all 20-somethings who used to hang out at The Corner Kick: Long-dormant rock & roll outfit The Shakedowns plays a reunion show at Black Cat tonight with their old buddies The Alphabet Bombers. (As a teen, I estimate I saw both these bands about 30 times.) Sweep your hair into a pompadour and join in. Also on the bill: Nervous Impulse and the Do-Likes. 9 p.m. $10.
And finally, Fugazi’s Joe Lally also gigs at Cat this weekend, still milking his latest album Why Should I Get Used To It. You may recall our reviewer Joe Warminsky quite liked it. Sunday at 8 p.m. with All Praises and Helen Money. $10.
Tonight and tomorrow, Stew and Heidi (formerly of great band The Negro Problem) drop by Studio Theatre to perform Stew’s songs for Passing Strange, his rock musical about a young black man who finds his spiritual and artistic self in Europe. 8:30 p.m. both nights. $35.
But tonight’s biggest party might be at Howard, when Chuck Brown touches down at the Cramton Auditorium. Doors open at 8 p.m., and tickets are $20 plus fees on Ticketmaster.
Having released music under various monikers for the last 15 years, Maria Taylor is no wide-eyed newcomer. The Alabaman has left her mark on the folk scene as a solo artist and as half of the disbanded, then reunited, Azure Ray. But recently, Taylor has explored personal places that Azure Ray eschewed in favor of more ambient sounds. In August, she released her fifth solo effort, Overlook, whose country elements reveal her Southern roots, but don’t outshine the dreamy folkiness that built her reputation on Saddle Creek. Taylor is not terribly innovative—or nearly as famous as her labelmate Bright Eyes—but she has a subdued talent that matures with age. 8:30 p.m. Saturday with Dead Fingers and The Grenadines at the Rock & Roll Hotel.(Emily Thompson)
In his latest book, The Table Comes First: Family, France, and the Meaning of Food, The New Yorker‘s Adam Gopnik tackles two dominant schools of thought in the dining world: that of high-science molecular gastronomy and that of locally grown, earthy, organic slow food. Through it all, he weaves a narrative about his family’s life (and eating habits) in Paris. Gopnik speaks at 7 p.m. at Politics & Prose tonight. Free.
Twitter comes to life: WaPo theater critic Peter Marks and former American Theatre Wing director Howard Sherman consummate their Twitter relationship at Arena tomorrow evening, discussing topics sure to include “the significance of a resident theater staying on mission, the value of audience enrichment events in tandem with productions, the pros and cons of celebrity casting, the nature of theatrical awards, the impact of social media on arts journalism and the role of the press in a theater’s marketing and public outreach.” Phew! A meaty slate. 5 p.m. Saturday. $10.
Fans of Spanish dance are probably well in the know by now, but for those behind the news: Don’t miss this weekend’s flamenco program at Gala.