Robert Johnson is, in many ways, an American myth. Like Johnny Appleseed's and Billy the Kid's, Johnson's biography has long been obscured by fantasy—most notably, the legend that he met the devil at a crossroads and exchanged his soul for wicked blues-guitar chops and songwriting skill.

The most famous photo portrait of Johnson, which finds his face frozen with a curious mixture of pained intensity and small-town naiveté, hasn’t helped him from slipping into the realm of fiction. But his recordings—the haunting “Hellhound on My Trail,” the intricate and soulful “Cross Road Blues”—cemented the blues as high art and helped build the foundation for rock ’n’ roll.

Johnson died at just 27 years old, but this Saturday, one day before what would be the famed bluesman’s 100th birthday, some of those real-world songs are set to come back to life in the capable hands of Curtis Salgado, Joe McMurrian, Mary Flower, Baby Gramps and more. These songs don’t need a devilish backstory to make them compelling, but if you listen closely, you’ll hear why the tale caught on.

SEE IT: Robert Johnson: 100 Years is Saturday, May 7, at the Alberta Rose Theatre. 9 pm. $20. 21+.

Headout Picks



Weirdo robot prog can be fun! New York trio Battles combines odd riffs, rhythms and sounds to make post-rock you can dance to. Doug Fir, 830 E Burnside St., 231-9663. 9 pm. $15. 21+.



What comes to mind when you think of home? BodyVox considers the question by staging an old favorite: A Thousand Little Cities. In a series of vignettes—many athletic, some lyrical, a few even airborne—the company evokes the times, and places, of our lives. BodyVox Dance Center, 1201 NW 17th Ave., 229-0627. 7:30 pm Tuesdays-Fridays, 7:30 pm Saturday, May 7; 2 and 7:30 pm Saturdays, May 14 and 21. Closes May 21. $36-$49.



Opera Theater Oregon puts the soap back in opera with Sordid Lives: Live Wire!’s Pat Janowski and OTO’s Katie Taylor and John Dover contrived a silly plot involving a straying, married Wall Street banker; a scandalous pregnancy; amnesia; evil twins and other events in the days of the lives of the young and restless. The music (by famous 19th-century composers) is delivered by the dozen plugged-in guitarists of Electric Opera Company, OTO’s Technicolor Orchestra and Chorus and members of the Flash Choir. Mission Theater, 1624 NW Glisan St., 281-0295. 7 pm. $10-$12.



It’s Portland’s 27th annual Cinco de Mayo Fiesta, and this year, the organizers have added lucha libre wrestling to the usual lineup of mariachi bands and piñata hitting. Four wrestlers from Mexico City will be taking on six locals and two Californians. This sounds vastly more entertaining than Rumble at the Roseland. Waterfront Park, 1020 Naito Parkway, May 5-8, 11 am-11 pm. Adults $6, seniors $4 children $3, children under 6 free.


July, Portland’s own adorable purveyor of ennui, returns from L.A. with an advance screening of her new feature film, narrated by a shelter cat scheduled to be euthanized. I can has stay of execution? Hollywood Theatre, 4122 NE Sandy Blvd., 493-1128. 7 and 9:30 pm. $15. 


Jack White might have put the White Stripes on the back burner, but so long as he works with living legends like Wanda Jackson—the rockabilly queen finally getting the widespread acclaim she’s always deserved—we won’t bitch too much. Roseland, 8 NW 6th Ave., 224-2038. 8 pm. $18-$25. 21+.