Cool things to do today and the week ahead

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Family fun
There’s just something magical about trains and Christmas. The sight of a Lionel engine, billowing smoke from its toy smokestack as it chugs around the tree, is heartwarming—and quite common during the first half of the 20th century. A visit to the Great Train Extravaganza will bring those memories flooding back. The annual model train showcase, presented by the Upstate Train Associates and the Hudson-Berkshire Division of the National Model Railroad Association, will feature more than 200 tables of model trains of all gauges, train sets, parts, accessories, books and railroad memorabilia. And this year, there will be a “massive” train layout made of Legos. 10 a.m.-4 p.m. today (Sunday, 12/2). $7; free for kids under 12. Empire State Plaza Convention Center, Albany. 668-9892;

Kids didn’t watch “A Charlie Brown Christmas” for the music. But its Vince Guaraldi’s stellar jazz soundtrack from the classic Christmas special that brings back yuletide memories for Baby Boomers. Guaraldi’s instrumental takes on “Christmas Time Is Here,” “Oh Christmas Tree,” and “Linus and Lucy” are quintessential holiday fare. Guaraldi’s genius will be celebrated in “It’s A Jazzy Christmas!,” a concert featuring The Peanut Gallery Jazz Trio. The group — local pianist David Gleason, Schenectady school district music teacher Mike Lawrence and drummer Pete Sweeney — will play Guaraldi’s holiday faves. 3 and 5 p.m. today (Sunday, 12/2). $10-$20; free for children under 6 (ticket is required). Kathleen McManus Picotte Recital Hall, Massry Center for The Arts, The College of St. Rose, 1002 Madison Ave., Albany. 337-4871;

It took 15 days and $6,000 for Connecticut filmmaker Jeremy Gardner to make his full-length zombie movie, “The Battery.” Now, he’s entering the film in festivals and traveling around the country to speak at theaters where his work is set to debut. Gardner will be in town this week when “The Battery” gets its Capital Region premiere as part of the Foundry + Film Series. The monthly event is hosted by The Foundry for Art Design + Culture in Cohoes. The film follows two former baseball players several months after an unexplained zombie outbreak. Gardner, who stars in the R-rated film, will field questions after the movie ends. 6 p.m., doors, 6:30 p.m., movie. Tuesday. $2. The Foundry for Art Design + Culture, 119 Remsen St., Cohoes. 229-2173;

Nearly a quarter century before the birth of the Occupy movement, a small but very vocal group called the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) raised awareness with very visual demonstrations. From chaining themselves to the VIP balcony of the New York Stock Exchange to disrupting a national newscast, ACT UP made its mark as a political action group— with a penchant for public disobedience—as it fought to bring awareness to AIDS. In “United in Anger,” filmmaker Jim Hubbard chronicles the history of ACT UP from the prospective of its members. The full-length documentary, co-produced with ACT UP activist Sarah Schulman, is being screened in 30 cities worldwide in November and December. Hubbard will be at a Capital Region showing of “United” this week. 7 p.m. Tuesday. $5-$10. The Sanctuary for Independent Media, 3361 6th Ave., Troy. 272-2390;

Holiday music

The Albany Gay Men’s Chorus will be singing this holiday season. The chorus, an affiliate of the Pride Center of the Capital Region, will perform “Peace In Our Hearts,” an evening of holiday favorites. The show features songs sung in Hebrew, and Spanish, as well as some pop and light classical fare. The 17-member group will perform two shows in two nights. They’ll ring in the holidays in Albany on Saturday and head south to Kingston to do it again on Dec. 9. 7:30 p.m. Saturday. $7-$10; free for children under 12. First Congregational Church of Albany, 405 Quail St., Albany. 462-6138, ext. 17;

Judy Collins is back in the Capital Region for the holidays. And this time she’s got singer/songwriter Jimmy Webb in tow. The folk icon, known for hits such as “Send in the Clowns” and “Both Sides Now,” has made it tradition to bring her annual Christmas-themed show to town. She usually alternates between the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall and The Egg. She’ll be at the Music Hall this year, where she’ll mix seasonal favorites with her hits and a few tunes from her latest album, “Bohemian.” Webb, who will open the show, wrote classics such as “Wichita Lineman,” “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” “Galveston,” and “Up, Up and Away.” His other hits include “Worst That Could Happen,” (Brooklyn Bridge), “MacArthur Park” and “All I Know” (Art Garfunkel). 8 p.m. Thursday. $20-$42. Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, 30 Second St., Troy. 273-0038;

Popular music
The Dark Star Orchestra isn’t like most Grateful Dead tribute acts. The band, which formed in 1997, performs the same sets the Dead did way back when, performing each song in the order they were originally played. For example: at their Nov. 23 gig in Burlington, Vt. the DSO recreated the Dead’s April 7, 1972 show at Feb. 28, 1969 show at London’s Wembly Empire Pool. They played the Dead’s Dec. 17, 1978, set in Buffalo Nov. 17. Their long, strange trip continues when the DSO brings their “Fall Tour East 2012” tour to town. Keyboardist Jeff Chimenti (RatDog, Furthur, The Dead) will be with the band for the show. 7:30 p.m. Wednesday. $29.25. The Egg, Empire State Plaza, Albany. 473-1845;


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