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Cheap Thrills 

ELIZABETH BILLIARDS If you haven't discovered the coolest watering hole south of the Square, it's time for a trip to EB's (hip, regional lingo). Voted best pool hall as well as best first date place, it's also dirt cheap. Pool is free. Darts are free. Card tables can be set up to start a poker game for free. Friday nights, EB's orders pizza for patrons to consume for free. Catching the trend? OK, the drinks aren't free, but large pints are only $3 (we recommend the Red Hook IPA). EB's also has the best White Russians in town. For $5, you can get a bucket's worth of the delicious milkshake-like digestif. With a satellite signal EB's, located at 1400 Central Avenue in the giant parking lot behind CVS, is a great place to catch a ball game on TV.

AMERICAN IDOL Auditions Be the next Pickler, Chris Daughtry or even Bucky Covington. Something is in the soil in the Tarheel state, which has been a pipeline to pseudo-rock & roll stardom in past seasons. This is your chance to show the world your voice doesn't just belong in smoky karaoke bars, it belongs on TV! Or, if you do actually suck, maybe they'll pick you to be ridiculed by Simon and the gang. Hey, it would make for a good story. Fox is holding a talent search Sunday, Aug 27 from 9am-5pm. The winner of the search will win a trip for two to Seattle in September to audition for a chance to compete on next season's show. The auditions will be held at Fox Charlotte studios, 1 Television Place across from Cricket Arena. Lining up will begin Saturday night at 8pm. Visit www.foxcharlotte.com for more details. Sorry, no oldies, ages 16-28 only.

CHARLOTTE COMEDY THEATRE Have ya been moping around, feeling a little blue? Then here's the thing for you! Check out Sunday's Open Mic Jam, a combo of comedy, spoken word, music, you name it. Show at 7pm; $3. The location is 1308 D the Plaza. Call for reservations 1-866-467-7681. Web: www.charlottecomedy.com.

NODA FILM FESTIVAL The free movie fest returns with the theme "Celebrating great Asian cinema." Movies will be shown Sunday, August 27, through Wednesday, August 30, at the Neighborhood Theater, 511 36th Street. Sunday -- 4 pm: Come Drink With Me; 6pm: Fist of Legend; 8pm: Jackie Chan's The Legend of Drunken Master. Monday -- 7pm: The Scent of Green Papaya; 9pm: Chunking Express (1994). Tuesday -- 7pm: A Hero Never Dies; 9pm: Battle Royale. And did we mention it was free? Go to www.nodafilmfestival.org for more info.

SCHOOL TOOLS CAMPAIGN Wanna find a cheap thrill that's really worthwhile? Look no further. Give a needy kid a good start at success this year -- and enjoy the satisfaction of knowing summer's that much closer to being over and the little darlings will be back to school and out of your hair! Drop-offs at: Aug. 23 -- Food Lion, 5624 N. Graham St; Aug. 25 -- Kannapolis Intimidators; Last Day Push -- Thu., Aug. 31 at WSOC-TV, 1901 N. Tryon St. Go to www.cischarlotte.org/www.classroomcentral.org for more info.

SPORTS CONNECTION The ultimate cheap thrill is, of course, sports! Among the conventional sports offered at this complex are unconventional (and cheap) games like laser tag and skating. For $5, future Tony Hawks can skate all day -- and Star Wars fans can play laser tag. Go online www.SportsConnectionNC.com or call 704-583-1444.

LEARN TO MEDITATE Take it from loyal practitioners of meditation: There's nothing like it to take the stress of your workday off your shoulders. That's why the Pain & Rehab Institute is offering a free class in the breathing techniques and imagery used in ancient qi gong meditation (betcha didn't know there was more than one kind). The office is located at 128 E. Plaza Drive in Mooresville. Classes are Thursdays at 7:30pm. Call 704-649-1629 to get started on the path to serenity.

SHINDIG ON THE GREEN Put on your dancing ... clogs and hike on up to Asheville for the 40th season of music and dance, Appalachian-style. Shindig on the Green celebrates the rich heritage of this great region with showcases featuring folk musicians and dancers, old-time string bands, ballad singers (reminiscent of O Brother Where Art Thou), storytellers and, of course, cloggers! Bring a lawn chair or blanket and cuddle up to the sounds of the mountain. The show will be held this year at Martin Luther King Jr. Park in downtown Asheville. Runs Saturdays: Aug. 19, 26; and Sept. 2. Reserve your tickets at 828-258-6101 ext. 345. Web: www.folkheritage.org.

LATIN NIGHTS "Viva la vida loca," grooving the night away to samba, salsa, merengue, bachata and the hot current craze, reggaeton. Free dance lessons are offered when doors open at 9pm. Touting "celebrity instructors," Dolce Vita is sure to be packed the first Thursday of every month. Hit www.hispanos-usa.com or call 336-988-8887.

TANGO & TAPAS Patou and the Charlotte Tango Society host this free informal lesson on the Argentinian tango, perfect for making friends. Learn this sensual dance and improve existing skills with instructor Daniel Arredondo. Monday nights at 7pm. Patou, A French Bistro, 1315 East Blvd. Call 704-376-2233 or visit www.patoubistro.com or www.passionfortango.com.

= Free!

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  • On Saturday, Oct. 21, hundreds gathered at Camp North End on Statesville Avenue for Charlotte's first black alternative music festival. We captured some of the bands in action on stage, but mostly we surveyed the grounds as fans, families, vendors and more lounged around the sprawling, colorful Camp North End site. It was a great day of music, food, fun, and sweet, autumn sunshine. (Photos by Mark Kemp)
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