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Are We World Class Yet? 

Foremost on my mind at Cityfest Live this year was surviving the damn thing without being trampled to death by hordes of beer (and music) loving folks. I strolled confidently to the will call booth on Saturday, only to find out my tickets were for a Tim Davis at the Charlotte Observer. After convincing the man that I actually wrote for CL, I was handed an envelope containing one ticket, not two. Meanwhile, the guy behind me, a local band manager type, had no problem getting his gratis eight tickets, enough for himself and his band. Before entering, he instructed his troops. "OK, the first thing you're going to see is the food tents, and the bathrooms are up on the left." After going over the logistics, the fellas seemed confident they could handle such a major league event. I couldn't help wondering if Mr. Manager stood outside the door while they tinkled, but I had bigger fish to fry, and entered the gates. To my surprise, the new measures organizers came up with to lessen last year's "nuts to butts" ambience seemed to help. Lines were pretty tolerable throughout the event; toward the end, however, the suds must have taken hold at about the same time, if the traffic jam in front of the Porta-potties was any indication.

Another clue that CityFest is becoming a big city festival was the now-quaint baring of flesh, much of it by the performers. Ex-Alice in Chains guitarist Jerry Cantrell was shirtless, covered in only a leather vest. Scott Weiland of Stone Temple Pilots shed his shirt by about the third song, and, due to his serpentine dancing style, also sported a few rips in his pants that weren't there when he began. Thanks to two large video screens, a few local gals seemed inspired by their idols, doffing their shirts as well. Gwen Stefani of No Doubt shook her butt at the crowd like an extra from a Sir Mix-a-lot video. No doubt inspired by his girlfriend, Bush's Gavin Rossdale had pulled the same trick the previous night, to the delight of the gals in attendance. One wonders just what it is those two do when they're together. No Doubt's drummer was nude as far as I could tell, but I was so far away I couldn't be sure. For once, I was thankful for the crowds.

-- Tim C. Davis

Alice unchained: After logging nearly 15 hours at CityFest Live, the only things I can complain about are tired feet and an empty wallet. The festival's roster boasted more big names than in years past although it didn't exactly offer much diversity. The crowds, however, ran the gamut in age, fashion and hipness. Couples with babies and strollers in tow marched right alongside pierced, pink-haired punkers who strutted right alongside the many mature folks (umm, grayhairs) in attendance.

Friday night saw Darius Rucker, who was debuting his new R&B-influenced material, apparently touching himself a little too much for the liking of some of the red-faced fratboy Hootie fans I saw fleeing the scene. The Smithereens packed plenty of punch along with their sugary pop, while Static X ran a few folks off with their heavy hitting licks -- although it was kind of funny when their grizzly-voiced lead singer talked just like he sang. On Saturday, my "must see" set was Jerry Cantrell. A week ago, Cantrell gathered with friends at a park in Seattle to pay respects to OD'd Alice lead singer Layne Staley. Seven days later, the singing axeman is on the East Coast continuing the music he helped create. One of the guys in his new band did a decent job singing Staley's lines in Alice songs such as "Man In A Box," although you could hardly hear him over the crowd's singing. Festival staples Hootie & The Blowfish (like it or not), Jethro Tull and Kid Rock treated festivalgoers to sets on the final day. Kid (aka Bob) Rock, closed out the night with a spectacle. Strippers in cages, a motorcycle, the American flag (which got snagged during its first cue), the Confederate flag, pyrotechnics, confetti, you name it, he had it, and the crowd ate it up. Wile The Kid may lack class, which is his shtick I guess, I'll give him one thing, he tells it like it is: "You Never Met A MotherF**ker Quite Like Me" -- the same line he says he'll use on St. Peter when his time at the Pearly Gates arrives. Now that I'd like to hear.

-- Lynn Farris

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