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Famous Amos

Feeling positively Geritol-ready and way too male, I ventured to Ovens Auditorium on Thursday to catch Tori Amos and opening act Rufus Wainwright. Arriving stylishly late in a handsome combo of blue jeans and an old gym shirt, I was surprised to find out that the new fashion among the kids is. . .blue jeans and updated, Gap-sanctioned faux gym shirts! Feeling proud of myself, I ventured with a friend over to a merchandise booth to finish my beverage before entering the no-boozin'-allowed venue (What is this? Some sort of security measure? The humanity!). Sitting behind the table was none other than Rufus his own self, signing autographs for the young'uns, most of whom had probably never heard his rather remarkable first two records, owing to three facts: one, his primary instrument is the uber-unsexy piano, two, he is openly gay, and three, the fact that no radio station within earshot has the cojones to play anything really new (Elton John gets by on Grandfather clause, in case you're wondering. Plus, he wrote songs about Marilyn and fighting on Saturday nights and getting a belly full of beer). No matter. Wainwright converted those in line in a manner that must scare the bejeezus out of Jerry Falwell, signing CDs and offering a kiss to the cute young ladies. And fellas. Amos opened with the Eminem song "'97 Bonnie and Clyde" from her new album Strange Little Girls, a collection of reworked songs by male artists, done from a female point of view. The song played on the loudspeaker while a large photo of Amos as Eminem's wife hung from a curtain completely covering the stage. For the whole song. At first, I almost believed that the whole show would be just this, a picture on a curtain with some music twinkling in the background, Amos nowhere to be found. Thirty minutes later I wished it were the case.

Louder Than Truck The Georgia-based band Drive-By Truckers drove by the Double Door Inn last Tuesday night, playing to a small but enthusiastic crowd. The band has been lauded in recent months by the likes of Spin and New York's Village Voice, and was featured in a spread in the bible No Depression. What do they do on the cusp of fame and glory? Why, release a double-CD set entitled the Southern Rock Opera, a "concept album" of sorts combining the seemingly disparate elements of racism, Southern pride, and the mythology surrounding the band Lynyrd Skynyrd. Strangely enough, it all worked, due to the band's drunken mix of the absurd with the touching, mixing stereotypical Southern elements with a New South sensibility (as singer/guitarist Patterson Hood sings so believably, "hate's the only thing that my truck will ever drag".) Hood's introductions to the songs provided as much entertainment as the songs themselves. "This next song is about the Holy Trinity in the state of Alabama: George Wallace, Bear Bryant, and Ronnie Van Zant." Of course, Van Zant wasn't from Alabama. In a diatribe against Aerosmith, Hood explained that Steven Tyler and Co.'s road manager checked out the plane that Skynyrd crashed into the Mississippi swamps and decided against it. Had Aerosmith opted for the fated jet, Hood barked with eye-popping revulsion, maybe we wouldn't have seen the aging rockers cavorting with "Britney Spears and the fuckin' Backstreet Boys at the Super Bowl."

Reaching Middle Age: The concept is simple enough: by driving to Huntersville and descending down a dirt road (and armed with a $10 ticket from Harris Teeter), one may enter into the remarkable Renaissance, that wonderful time in which people had the plague and beheaded each other and ate large slabs of half-cooked meat. I'm talking about the popular Renaissance Festival, which began its stay here on Saturday. After a trip to Ye Olde ATM (They also take Mastercard, "Lady Visa," and "New Worlde Express"), I was ready to get Medieval on their ass. The facade rippled in a few places, however. I heard a Renaissance string band playing a popular melody, Ye Olde "Louie Louie." The "privies" were a series of stanky Port-a-johns -- surely they had more sanitary facilities, even in the Middle Ages. The whole thing was a load of fun, albeit in a sort of Monty Python and the Holy Grail kind of way. The de facto draw, of course, is the "realistic" jousts between "feuding" knights. Of course, the biggest laughs were reserved for when one of the horses took a poop. Good to see that, if nothing else, bathroom humor is indeed timeless. -- TCD

Liddy & The Pits When you're heading to an event with an expected attendance of well over 100,000, you expect some delays (i.e., traffic, parking, security inspections at the gates, etc.). But nothing prepared me for the pre-race pit activity Sunday for NASCAR's UAW-GM Quality 500 at Lowe's Motor Speedway. Hours before the race, I entered the pit area to get a first-hand look. Any hopes of seeing a driver or chatting a sec with a crew member quickly came to a screeching halt (as did I). Onlooker traffic in the pits was so congested I think it took longer to walk down pit row than it did to park. As I finally inched my way to the exit, a woman crammed next to me who was heading in asked if I even got to see anything. When I told her I mostly saw the backs of people's heads, she and her crew did a U-turn and joined the line of folks trying to exit.

After I'd returned to my seat in the grandstands and awaited the start of the race (shortly before track president Humpy Wheeler announced that the US had begun attacks on Afghanistan), I listened as US Senate candidate Elizabeth Dole gave a brief speech on "renewed patriotism." I'm also pretty sure I saw her later in the day at Mark Martin's Viagra trailer asking for free samples. I also overheard someone else trying to haggle with another souvenir dealer: "I've got $15 and a midget -- come on!" Or was that at the Tool concert the night before?

After the attack announcement was made, most of crowd let out loud cheers. Whether or not they realized we were the largest crowd anywhere in the US that day -- and that might not be a good thing -- I'll never know. Most of those seated around me just tried to figure out what time it was over there, or if there was a way to get Jeff Gordon drafted. -- Lynn Farris

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