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Bobbing For Excitement 

Cats cough up a hairball

This week's Scene and Herd begins with a sports item. As with any subject, there are probably some of you out there that really like sports, and will gladly read anything concerning them (even the Observer sports section!). Of course, there are others that would just as soon read a detailed description of the photosynthetical procedure by which grass grows (lawn grass, that is - I know I have some stoner readers out there). Hear this, no matter what your allegiances: Following is the last sports blurb ye shall read until March Madness. (That's the NCAA tournament to you sports-deprived, otherwise known as The Thing You Always Win In The Office Pool Even Though You Wouldn't Know Gonzaga From Gunga Din.)

Last week, I finally got a chance to see the Charlotte Bobcats play. My next door neighbor procured a few tickets from a pretty-well-off buddy of his, and asked if I would be interested in attending. As the 'Cats were taking on the San Antonio Spurs — the team with the best record in the league as of game time — I gave a "hell, yeah." Tim Duncan, the best center in the league, taking on Omeka Okafor, the likely Rookie of the Year? I'm there.

Problem is, they weren't. Duncan sustained an injury in the second half of the previous game, and Okafor was nursing his own injuries. What I was left with — at least with the Bobcats — was a bunch of names I remembered from studying box scores, but not a whole hell of a lot of faces, thanks to Robert Johnson's still-head-scratching decision to broadcast the team's games on a subscription network, C-SET. (Isn't the idea to build demand first, and then fleece people? Could this be why the Coliseum was only half-filled despite boasting a game against the best team in the league?)

As for the game: mostly a snoozer, with the Spurs riding the Bobcats to an easy victory behind such second-tier stars as Brent Barry and Tony "I'm Dating Eva Longoria" Parker. More entertaining was my man Tone-X from WPEG, a hype man in the grandest hip-hop tradition, watching mascot Rufus Lynx try to be Hugo the Hornet and failing miserably, and seeing the Cavalcade of Stars at courtside.

OK, so it wasn't so much a cavalcade, but Carolina Panthers coach John Fox had a courtside seat, and right beside him was none other than five-time Winston Cup (now Nextel Cup) champion Jeff Gordon. (Beside Gordon was the model Amanda Church, forever killing any notions any racin'-hater ever had about female NASCAR fans.) Interestingly, Fox received more autograph requests — a 2-1 ratio, by my unofficial count — than Gordon, although both of them got hit up by ol' Tone.

Both "Foxy" and Gordon took to the exit at the same time about halfway through the fourth quarter, leading me to wonder if the ball coach was having Gordon chauffeur his ass out of the mess-o-traffic snarling the arena. Doubtful, I figured. After seeing Gordon and his missus, I'm assuming he was more worried about getting a little "lap traffic" than carting around an old X's-and-O's guy.

Every now and again, you'll see a Charlotte show that makes you think that our city's scene actually can develop the kind of diversity that real hardcore music junkies thrive on. Last Wednesday evening, a hydrocodone-addled yours truly — along with a reasonably large crowd of likeminded experimental music fans — descended upon The Room to check out Dragons 1976, an experimental trio from Chicago with some big name gigs on their resume; the $100 Orchestra, a dozen or so of Charlotte's most label-unconscious musicians; and Ben Best and Joey Stephens of Pyramid, who played a 40-some minute set of guitar feedback, effects, keyboards and whatever else they could get their hands on. (On the Room's sign, Dragons 1976 was listed at the top, with the $100 Orchestra directly underneath. Below this was the legend "UNC v. Duke," a name which the un-monikered Stephens and Best took as their own.)

At the close of the well-received evening, the $100 Orchestra took to the stage, boasting two acoustic bass players, four saxophonists, a trumpeter, two drummers, a guitarist and God knows what else. Their sound? Self-consciously noisy at worst (not that that's a bad thing) and downright enthralling at best.

The night's music, devoid of lyrics for the most part, demanded each listener fill in the blanks. What does the music mean to you? How does it make you feel? What does it remind you of? Suffering from bronchitis and halfway through my bottle of codeine, I kept coming back to the title of an old Spiritualized record: Ladies and Gentlemen, We Are Floating in Space.

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