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Two music shows display their smarts

The Hart Witzen Gallery's probably not the first place you think of when you think of indie hip hop shows, but then again, Sage Francis isn't your normal hip hop artist. No, Sage Francis' shows fit better in a place like an art gallery or a library: The lack of suffocating clouds of smoke and missile-shaped goons looking for a fight somehow accentuates the art behind what Francis does so well. Friday evening, Francis played the gallery as part of the "Live Band Dead Poet" tour, along with his backing band, Gruvis Malt, and localish rappers Supastition, Dominant 7 and DJ Notik 1. Owing to the cold, I had bought myself a knit cap earlier in the day and wore it Friday night. As such, I was indistinguishable from the rest of the guys and most of the girls in attendance, which is just the way I like it. That said, the fact that only myself, Francis, and a couple of others had full beards probably gave my age away. No matter, as this show has to be an early finalist for my show of the year, even though it ended a little -- OK, way -- past my usual bedtime -- which, frankly, is usually pretty damn late. Dominant 7, who claimed to be representin' for Mt. Holly, Gastonia, Charlotte, Denver and surrounding burgs, surprised with verbal acuity, if not vocal power (they're young, though -- it'll come). Supastition I missed most of, as I went home to get a bite to eat before Francis was to appear (this would have been, oh, midnight or so). I returned in time to slake my musical thirst with Gruvis Malt, a sort of jazz band with beatbox and harmonica. Finally, Francis took the stage and belted out his Post 9/11 anti-hit "Makeshift Patriot" ("makeshift patriot/ the flag shop is out of stock/ hang myself... half mast/ makeshift patriot/ The flag shop is out of stock/ I hang myself... via live telecast"). Sage, of course, occasionally rhymes about getting' some booty, tosses in the odd F-bomb here and there, and isn't above calling his landlord mid-set to get the weasel back for ripping him off (Francis exhorted the audience with a call-and-response: "I say slum, you say lord!") The part of the show that was so moving? Francis, like the audience in attendance, knows you don't have to choose between one or the other, between "saint" and "sinner." You can be both. You can be the Anti-Shania. You can be... human.Saturday night at the Visulite Theatre was the occasion of what will hopefully be more of a regular event in Charlotte -- three localish bands, all of them accomplished, sharing the stage. That said, a few things were odd about this show. First of all, it was well-attended (a good odd, mind you). Secondly, everybody was pretty damn kind, apologizing if they even came close to bumping you (also good). The bands -- Pyramid, baleen and the Dynamite Brothers -- all played quality, well-received sets (ditto). And nobody (as far as I can remember, at least) acted like a drunken idiot. As such, however, the whole night conspired to make me feel really weird. Rock & roll doesn't work as well for me without some sort of thread of revolt -- or, at the very least, renovation. Maybe some burping and cussing? Not that the music wasn't enjoyable -- far from it, in fact. Pyramid continued to wow folks, proving the one-time indie adage that "quiet is the new loud." Baleen funked it up a bit more with exotic, East Asian textures, but generally conform to the same credo, albeit with a little free jazz frosting. The Dynamite Brothers? They cranked out a solid set of up-tempo rock (loud is the new quiet?) and prepared for a full-on war with the Pyramid boys backstage about what exactly loud and quiet are. Me? I searched long and hard for some mean drunk or ex-girlfriend to bump into. I looked for graffiti on the bathroom stalls. I looked for a mosh pit in front of the stage, and found photographers. I looked for anything that might be interesting in a reality-TV kind of way. In the end, I decided to do like everyone else and just watch the damn show and try to enjoy myself while doing so. I discovered something, in fact: You can be grown up and enjoy rock & roll. Alternately -- and as the bands here proved -- you can be rock & roll and still enjoy being grown up.
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