Johnny Ryan

First, the big news: Shannon Stewart announced last week that she is leaving the Vera Project. "It's true," she wrote in an email announcing her departure. "I'm retiring as program director and moving on to a national project that will hopefully help start other Vera-like projects in other places." Stewart, who cofounded Vera in 2001 with James Keblas and Kate Becker, is the last of the original trio of founders remaining (Becker left in 2003 and Keblas left earlier this year). Her official departure won't occur until after the New Year, and in the meantime she'll have a hand in hiring and training the next Director (who will have some pretty big shoes to fill). A job posting can be found at www.theveraproject.org for those who are interested in applying.

In other all-ages news, the deadline for entries to EMP's annual underage band competition, Sound Off, is drawing near. Now in its fifth year, Sound Off has helped young bands gain exposure and experience by giving them the opportunity to play at the EMP with a professional setup. As a bonus, the tournament-style battle's winning band gets loads of prizes like music equipment and studio time. Local groups of any genre are invited to enter so long as all members are 21 or under, and all entries must be received by November 1. Find details at www.emplive.org or by calling 770-2744.

And speaking of Sound Off, this holiday weekend is a big one for Sound Off veterans Mon Frere and Schoolyard Heroes, as both are playing Halloween parties at El Corazón and the Showbox, respectively. Mon Frere's Real Vampires Halloween Ball (Sunday, October 30, 6:00 p.m.) also features the Catch, Holy Ghost Revival, Siberian, and Catbees. Plus, there will be free vampire teeth for everyone (no biting!) and a costume contest. Advanced tickets are available at TicketsWest (www.ticketswest.com) for $8. And on Halloween proper, the Schoolyard Heroes celebrate the holiday with Vendetta Red and the Lashes. How could you not spend Halloween with Schoolyard, the band behind such hits as "Serial Killers Know How to Party" and "Dawn of the Dead"? Doors open at 7:00 p.m. and tickets are $10 advanced at TicketsWest, or $12 at the door.

And in weirder Lashes news, the band is going to play another rock show this week at, drum roll, please... the Downtown Macy's? Yeah, the boys will be on hand to celebrate designer Perry Ellis's 25th Anniversary, and they'll be playing and signing autographs from 6:00 p.m.–8:00 p.m. Thursday Oct 27. Because I simply can't top the oddness of that last bit, I'm over and out. MEGAN SELING