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Eddie and the Anti-Eddie 

Limp politics, pricey brew, and barbed wire salvation

Regular readers (irregular readers -- eat more fiber) know by now that I'm not a fan of concerts held anyplace that can be referred to as a "shed." Be that as it may, bands like Pearl Jam aren't going to be appearing at, say, Puckett's Farm Equipment anytime soon. So last Wednesday found me making one of my grudging visits to Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre for the big Eddie Vedder get-together, although the hipster in me told everyone it was for opening act and critical wet dream Sleater-Kinney. [Begin beer rant now.] I ranted about this last year, and I'll rant about it every year I'm stupid enough to fall for it, especially two or three times in the same evening: Eight dollars for a 22-ounce beer! Eight -- count "em, eight -- simoleons for a friggin' Miller Lite! Post-show research at the Circle K showed the average price of that same 22-ounce beer to be $1.29. I ask all of my beer-drinking brethren -- even you Abercrombie-outfitted trust fund babies -- to join me in boycotting this rampant greed, and hereon smuggle in all the liquor you can fit in those weathered $59 dollar faux-military cargo pants. What's that? You're already smarter than me and drink in the parking lot before the show? Oh. [End beer rant.]

As for the show itself, solid is a word that comes to mind (irregular readers. . .ah, forget it). Pearl Jam's show contained no fancy lights or pyrotechnics or costumes, no gargantuan Pearl Jam backdrops, and no dancing girls or barbed wire. What it did have was a solid two-plus hours of hit music, only interrupted by the occasional Eddie Vedder anti-war rant (having tired of smashing a Bush mask, Vedder now is fighting for living wages for American servicemen, as if any of these 18-year-olds could do anything about it). The crowd seemed to eat it all up, except for the Vedder-torializing. "Pay them living wages, I got it," a kid beside me yelled. "Shut up and play the damn music!"

"Yeah," I said. "Then maybe they can afford the beer!"

On the completely opposite, oil/water, black/white side of the spectrum, I made it out to the slam-dance-packed ANTiSEEN 20th Anniversary gig at Tremont Music Hall Saturday night. ANTiSEEN, as anyone who's ever seen them knows, aren't exactly Vedder-esque in their political opinions -- hell, some might argue they're closer to George Wallace. On this night, however, it didn't matter. The band packed the large room at Tremont, in stark contrast to the lightly attended show last time around in the Casbah. What fans saw is pretty much the typical ANTiSEEN show, and then some. The band played a good portion of its catalogue, no mean feat considering they've probably penned songs numbering in the hundreds (granted, the songs are usually about a minute-and-a-half long). Former members would hop on and off stage when their era was being revisited, and all seemed to fit in seamlessly. Of course, this has a lot to do with the fact that guitarist/Libertarian politician Joe Young has been laying down three chords and a cloud of dust for all 20 of those years, and that lead yowler Jeff Clayton is, bar none, the all-time leading frontman in the history of Charlotte rock bands. Clayton, in what might have actually been a light night for him, A) wore a crown of barbed wire in a pre-Easter homage, B) carried out a full-size crucifix to the stage, which he draped over his shoulder while singing and then threw to the floor, C) smashed a set of crutches, D) dove into a wall of barbed wire, and E) jumped onto a folding table covered with lighter fluid, which was then lit, and, if I'm not mistaken, covered with thumbtacks.

At one point, Clayton offered up a song as an homage to his heroes, which included Dee Dee and Joey Ramone, as well as the Clash's Joe Strummer. The punk sentiment was obvious, the political one, perhaps less so. However, those guys Clayton mentioned have made it possible for one little band from Charlotte -- one with numerous members, controversies, and record labels -- to survive playing their version of punk rock for 20 years, unbound by the chains that hold most of us.

Clayton's political statement, if I may be so bold, seems to be this -- If you're gonna wear chains, make sure it's of your own doing (and perhaps accent them with a nice crown of barbed wire).

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