1. African American Festival
The word "heritage" is left off the huge festival's name this year, but there's still two days of "life, music and culture." Among the highlights: a film festival, a three-on-three basketball challenge and live performances from Charlie Wilson, Chrisette Michele and Estelle, among others. You may need to go both days. Noon-10 p.m. Saturday; noon-9 p.m. Sunday. M&T Bank Stadium, Lots B and C, 1101 Russell St., Downtown. Free. africanamericanfestival.net Jordan Bartel, b

2. 'Behind the Music' returns

Oh, how I've missed VH1's "Behind the Music." The weird celeb revelations, the rises and the dramatic falls ("It all came crashing down ..."). First up for this relaunch: Missy Elliott at 10 p.m. Wednesday. Other close-ups to look forward to this season: Adam Lambert, Ice Cube and Ricky Martin. Jordan Bartel, b

3. Kid Cudi
Before Cudder goes 100-percent trippy rock 'n' roll on us, see him at Merriweather Saturday, where he'll hopefully still do some rap songs. When the droning, super-distorted rock kicks in, grab a beer. 6:30 p.m. doors. $35, $49. merriweathermusic.com Wesley Case, b

4. 'Star-Spangled Spectacular'
The July 4 Inner Harbor celebration is big, loud fun, but there's another great way to celebrate America's birthday. Head over to Oregon Ridge Park for the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra's "Star-Spangled Spectacular" show, bursting (in air — heh) with American tunes. Plus, there are fireworks here, too. 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. 13555 Beaver Dam Road, Cockeysville. $9-$18. bsomusic.org Jordan Bartel, b

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5. Lucky Peach
If you love McSweeney's and you love food, then you'll doubly love its new quarterly journal devoted to works about food. Each issue explores a new topic through essays, art and — naturally — recipes. The first issue's theme: ramen. Available now. $10 single issues; subscriptions available. mcsweeneys.net/luckypeach Marissa Gallo, b

6. 'Ugly Americans' season premiere
I thought this would be a show about actual ugly Americans, a la People of Walmart. Turns out it's an animated series exploring a NYC where werewolves, fairies, mermaids, zombies and every other fantastical humanoid (yes, including vampires) try to coexist. I think my disappointment will be short-lived. 10:30 p.m. Thursday, Comedy Central. Colleen Dorsey, b

7. Taking Back Sunday, Taking Back Sunday
I used to listen to Adam Lazzara's shrieks for hours in the years of Tell All Your Friends and Where You Want to Be. I think I'll return and see what the band's new album has to offer. Drops Tuesday. Colleen Dorsey, b

8. Red, White & Rainbow: Queer Comedy
New York comedians Jessica Halem and Ben Lerman bring their hilarious selves to Creative Alliance for this thankfully un-PC night. Also on the bill: local fave Violet Gray. 8 p.m. Friday. Creative Alliance, 3134 Eastern Ave., Highlandtown. $15. creativealliance.org Jordan Bartel, b

9. Little Italy Open Air Film Festival
Finally, outdoor movie season is upon us. Little Italy's fest kicks things off Friday with a screening of "Moonstruck" (I repeat, this is in Little Italy). So bring a chair, check out Cher and Nicolas Cage (when he was somewhat normal) and enjoy cinema al fresco. Live music/dancing at 7 p.m.; movie at 9. Stiles and High streets. Free. littleitalymd.com Jordan Bartel, b

10. 'Young Blood' exhibit
If you want to see what the new MFA graduates from UMBC, University of Maryland College Park, Towson and MICA have been doing with their educations, check out their work at this new exhibit at Maryland Art Place. Opens Wednesday, runs through Aug. 27. 8 Market Place, Harbor. mdartplace.org Colleen Dorsey, b

Photos: The Baltimore Sun (African American Festival and Little Italy Open Air Film Festival); Comedy Central ("Ugly Americans")

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