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Good Music, Good Food, Decent Fest 

Dixon shows 'em how at the Double Door

I expected a reasonable number of fans for last Wednesday's Double Door Inn show by Don Dixon. After all, the man has put out a number of solid solo records, played in a seminal North Carolina band (Arrogance), and has produced folks from R.E.M to Charlotte's own Snagglepuss to novelist Madison Smartt Bell. I didn't expect it to be slam-packed. Dixon, you see, is something of a "musician's musician," and as such isn't the kind of guy that packs venues no matter how hifalutin' the hosannas. On this night, however, every musician in Charlotte seemed to make an appearance, which might have explained the brisk beer sales. The affable bassist was performing with a pick-up band consisting of local producer/musician Jamie Hoover on guitar and Hootie and the Blowfish drummer Jim "Soni" Sonefeld on drums.

I was curious, however, about why a number of plucked and prancing young identi-chicks were at a Don Dixon show. Was there not a cover band playing uptown tonight? Were they really all here to see "ol Soni beat the skins, or to see Soni's friends? Could Darius Rucker be in the house (would I be going on this long if he wasn't?)

Yes, due to popular demand, audience member Rucker and the other Blowfish boys performed a few cuts with Dixon, which immediately got the fanboys calling their buds via cellphone. Despite myself, I have to say it wasn't all that bad. The Hooties -- despite their 10 million plus records sold -- were always a bar band at heart. They still know all the tricks, it seems. I don't think I saw them pay for a thing all night.

Sometimes, life is good. Thursday evening, I was a guest at an event called Cornbread Nation, a dinner being held at Center City's Mimosa Grill to celebrate the book of the same name. A menu was prepared using recipes suggested from Southern food writers, including folks like John T. Edge and Dori Sanders. Each person was supposed to read a little something to introduce their course -- for instance, Sanders' Mess O' Greens with Pecan Dressing and Fried Rabbit. However, something got lost in the translation, as courses began appearing one after the other before the writers had a chance to get a word in edgewise. Speaking of edgewise, the wise John T. came over for a chat at one point, but I was too busy having my Cabernet "refreshed" and munching on shrimp pate to remember a whole lot of what he said (having your drink "refreshed" sounds much better than "do you want another glass of wine," does it not?). No matter. The food, prepared by Chef Tom Condron, was the star of the evening. The conversations, while not from behind a lectern, were no less interesting or "literary" in origin. In fact, good food and conversation and community are what Cornbread Nation is all about. Too much pomp and circumstance and we get in trouble, more often than not. Haute cuisine? Anyday. Haughty foodies? You can keep 'em.Those preparing themselves for a full-on attack -- shock and awe! -- on CityFest Live might be disappointed. Entrances weren't the gridlock of years past, viewing areas for the bigger acts were larger, and bathrooms were plentiful, if, er...full. There was the mini-Woodstock that was the labyrinthine "Charlotte's WB" stage, but that had less to do with Noah Lazes than it did Ma Nature, so I'm willing to forgive that one, too. Perhaps I'm getting soft. To boot, I had no gripes against the policing, belligerent drunks, or the price of beer. The sound was pretty good for the most part, with minimal "bleed." All of the promised acts showed up, and even showed good fighting spirit with some zesty live performances.

As such, I decided to let the music do the talking. And talk it did: during Saturday's Foo Fighters show, lead Foo Dave Grohl managed to take on a Neil Diamond tribute band and Wallflower Jakob Dylan within the space of a song, even dropping the younger Dylan's name into a cut or two. As targets go, it was an easy one, but provided a nice, uncensored taste of what this festival could be with just a touch more creativity in the bookings. Diversity equals friction, and as we all know, friction can rub a person either the right or wrong way. For musical purposes, both are useful.

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