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Long May It Rain 

Historic powwow and an old squeeze

Last Saturday was just one of those days: cold, rainy and gray. Which was perfect, as far as I was concerned. Every now and then, I love nothing better, reminding me as it does of those days in London during the war (or at least watching movies about it). Hell, rain doesn't stop Londoners from completing their daily rounds (griping, drinking, being eloquent), so why should it stop me? So I climbed into my car, popped in the Waterboys' Fisherman's Blues and headed for the Native American Cultural Festival at the Charlotte Museum of History. Fortunately, it was being held indoors, spread about an auditorium and a number of other rooms (including the cafeteria -- if you haven't seen folks in full American Indian regalia and headdress chomping on French fries, you haven't lived).

The draw for many, of course, was the dancing. Taking their cues from a lone emcee and a circle of serious young lads playing a large drum, a group made their way through various ceremonial dances (rather slowly, usually, due to the presence of children and spouses in the dance chain). At one point, the group did an arm-swaying "hey... ho..." maneuver more reminiscent of a hip-hop show than a powwow; maybe it was an attempt to get the young folks involved. Outside the main auditorium, various exhibits were set up demonstrating basketmaking, herbal remedies and storytelling to a rapt crowd.

The festival gave me a chance to check out the Museum for the first time, as I'm usually not in the Eastway area unless I'm supping at Lang Van or shopping for aphrodisiacs. If you haven't been (to the Museum, not the aphrodisiacs shop), you owe it to yourself to check it out. You'll learn odious facts like how Charlotte was partially built with slave labor. And you'll see wonderful slices of history like the house Stonewall Jackson's widow lived in (via picture -- we tore it down). Or the wonderful Hotel Charlotte, which was known all over the South during the early part of this century (um. . .also torn down). You can see the house at the corner of Tryon and 11th where the Confederate cabinet met for the last time after the Civil War (you guessed it - torn down). You can even get your fortune told via an age-old "Grandma" fortune telling machine that works for only a nickel. So what's grandma saying? Tear it down!

Saturday night, it was still raining, and I felt like buying a Mini. Instead, in the grand tradition of lager louts everywhere, I decided to hoist a few and listen to some well-crafted pop. It seems Glenn Tilbrook, best known for his work in the band Squeeze, was going to do a solo show at Amos' SouthEnd. Arriving fashionably late, I noticed the crowd was somewhat small and the stage was dark, and I spent a few unsettling moments wondering if the show was already over. Turns out it hadn't started yet, signaling to me the club/performer was hoping a few more folks would wander in. After a brief wait, Tilbrook took the stage, launching into nugget after nugget of his well-honed pop. A few guys in suits and ties talked loudly in the corner, and folks watched appreciatively from upstairs and downstairs, chatting comfortably in little packs. Tilbrook mumbled something from the stage, jumped off, and began running through the crowd, attempting to convince folks to move in front of the stage. It seemed to work, though one wonders if it would have had the same impact if he hadn't been the only British man in attendance. Even the college dorks taking their fashion tips from MTV's The Real World started to pay attention. After a few more songs, Tilbrook again bounded into the audience, finally taking up residence beside me with folks crowding around as he performed sans microphone. Continuing his Pied Piper act, Tilbrook then bounded up the stairs to the lounge at Amos', inviting all his new friends to come join him. Everyone did, with women leaving their purses unattended downstairs and guys (gasp!) leaving their beers. "Perhaps you're wondering why I've invited you all here tonight," he said in his best Professor Plum voice before launching into a song he penned with Elvis Costello. By the time he hit the stage again (to stay) and launched into Squeeze hits "Tempted" and "Pulling Mussels From a Shell," the answer was obvious. A man who has this much fun playing music likely doesn't know what else to do. Standing beside his RV, post-show, sipping a beer in the rain, he seemed perfectly at home.

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