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Dance Fever 

Plus, my life with Pablo

In my triple role as staff writer, music writer, and columnist, I often run into people who assume I don't know jack about something because I don't write about it all the time. To whit, DJ culture. "Why don't you write about DJs more?" I'm often pestered (um, asked). "They're musicians too." To which I answer, "I'm not so sure." Is playing records and mixing them together an artform? In and of itself, no. Sure, something like Danger Mouse's bootleg The Grey Album (a "mash-up" of Jay-Z's The Black Album with the Beatles' The White Album) approaches art -- it's a synthesis of two completely different kinds of music, but like peanut butter and chocolate, it's two great tastes that taste great together. But segueing A-Ha into Blondie? Not so difficult. And not so interesting, either. Junior Vasquez? Paul Oakenfold? Absolutely. But don't tell me I should go check out some meat market virtual jukebox in the name of art. Just tell me there's $2 well drinks and some Real World castoffs, and I'll act accordingly. Which is to say, I'm still probably not going to go.

Thankfully, there are a few places in town offering quality DJs playing all sorts of music, from artsy booty-shakers like Gravy Train to krautrockers Can to Dr. Demento-like deepcuts like Buckner and Garcia's "Pac-Man Fever." One of these is "Strobes and Echoes," a twice-a-month Thursday shindig at the SKNet Cafe on Elizabeth Ave. It has everything a coffee-by-day/alcohol-and-smokes-by-night music lover could ever want. (To boot, free internet access to check your myspace.com friends list, long as you buy something.) It's relatively smallish, and I did hear a few people expressing feelings of naughtiness -- hey, I'm smoking in a Starbucks! -- but the place is as comfortable as you please. As I was enjoying the mix -- was that Eddie Money? -- someone came over and confided that the coolest thing about DJing is that it gets you attention for having a bad-ass record collection. (True "dat, though the real record hound doesn't need to DJ to justify his record collection. He or she tells other people about it, incessantly.) Toward the end, I saw DJ Ryan Miller plug his iPod into the system, which sent me reeling. Visions of me scratching the little round wheels of two ivory-white iPods danced in my head. Boring as shit to look at, sure. But just you wait -- first I would start off with some Bad Brains, maybe segue into some Cocteau Twins, and then...(edited by author for record snob effrontery.)

Saturday evening, local tastemaker and shop owner Scott Weaver held a "Disco 2005" event at The Steeple Lounge, replete with strobe lights, androgynous go-go dancers, and more old- and new-school dance music than you could shake a glow stick at. Like most of these events -- see the Steeple's classic Wednesday night showdown, "Wylin'" -- the crowd doesn't usually arrive until late, and then you have to wait another 30 minutes or so while all the Royal Flushes and Red-Headed Sluts and Jager-and-Red Bulls take effect. Being reluctant to break one down (or break something) on the dance floor (and being somewhat heavier than the Iggy Pop-meets-Conor Oberst male pedestal dancer), I decided to do the White Man's Sway over beside the DJ booth. By the end of the night, I was once again discussing record collections with any number of folks. (Note to self -- I gotta do this DJ thing, if only to get out of talking to all these people!)

Lastly, if anyone drops you that tired line about Charlotte not having an art scene, point them to the Jerald Melberg Gallery on South Sharon Amity, where they have a little exhibit by this prolific, puckish sort named. . .Pablo "Freakin" Picasso! Entitled "Lithographs, Etchings and Linocuts," the showing lasts until January 22. Granted, there are no original paintings (as the title of the exhibit might have let on), but there's still a certain satisfaction in seeing full-size Picassos on the walls. A nice showing throughout various periods in the Great One's career, it's an inspiring reminder that change is nothing to be afraid of. Two many artists these days latch onto a style, and milk that (cash) cow until it's dry. Pablo? He had a whole herd of styles. Speaking of "change," bring your wallet if you're interested. Platinum-style plastic, not coinage, kindly accepted.

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