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(Not) Lost in Translation 

Plus, a fiery Lake

One of the best ways to keep from getting tired of local nightlife is to throw yourself a curveball now and then. Every idea you pitch to yourself look like a softball right down the middle? Tired of seeing the same old people at the same old places telling the same old stories ad nauseum? Switch it up a bit. Throw yourself a big old hook Greg Maddux would be proud of.

Taking my own advice for once, I headed to the Visulite Theatre Saturday evening to check out the Venezuelan rock/salsa/psychedelic/acid jazz band Los Amigos Invisibles, who were playing a show for the launch of a new Latin-themed magazine, primerafila. Since they'd signed to former Talking Head David Byrne's Luaka Bop label, I knew I'd pretty much have a great time. Byrne recently put out a compilation by the late great Brazilian band Os Mutantes that garnered countless spins in my iPod over the last year, and Los Amigos weren't that far off the mark. Granted, the music is a little more people friendly (add a lot of salsa to the above description) than their Brazilian compatriots, but the music lacks none of that band's life-affirming fervor.

Talk about people friendly: I don't think I've seen a show in the last year that had the audience in the palm of its hand as much as this one did. People sang along, get this, without the lead singer pulling the old "put the mike over the audience" routine. To boot, people danced. Man, did they dance. And get this: even men danced. And not just the little stuffy head nods and body sways you see at, say, your garden-variety indie rock show. Men, dancing as if their team had just won the World Cup. I was envious, really.

Making my way toward the bottom, I blended in as best I could, determined to let some of this joie de vivre wash over me. Another singalong soon started, but this one I was fortunate enough to understand, thanks to a childhood that centered around plenty of Chico and the Man episodes. "Que Pasa! Que Pasa!" the band sang. "Que Pasa! Que Pasa!" the audience roared back. Roughly translated, the phrase means something like "Wazzup?"

Toward the end of the show, the band broke with convention completely, and began playing the opening strains of Journey's infamous anthem "Don't Stop Believin'." Um, que pasa with that?

Sunday evening, I attended a candlelit performance of Swan Lake, which was being put on by Till Schmidt-Rimpler's Moving Poets dance troupe at the Hart-Witzen Gallery in NoDa.Now, I've never been a huge ballet fan, partially due to a middle-class upbringing, the lack of TV exposure, and the fact that, you know, I live in friggin Charlotte, North Carolina.

Not that this show was anything like stuffy: the whole thing was equal parts classical ballet, modern dance, Tchaikovsky, and the kind of note-happy guitar rock that you sometimes hear in theme songs to nighttime soap operas like Melrose Place and 90210.

That said, what a load of fun. Free nuts and pretzels on the table, a nice bar with beer, wine, and coffee, and an attentive and appreciative audience made even the more awkward moments a joy to watch. (Oh, the story: Man works desk job, crunches numbers for a sinister magnate called the Baron of Rock [played by Rimpler], dates a long line of losers, sees a figure called the White Swan as his bliss in life, gets invited to a party by The Baron — who has now changed into the Black Swan — takes some X, spurns the Black Swan, and realizes himself once again through his appreciation of the White Swan's beauty.)

That's some good stuff, right? You don't get that kind of thing from The King of Queens or According to Jim or Everybody Loves Raymond or any of those other shows that feature a hot girl dating a schlub and putting up with his wacky extended family. (I suppose you also don't get that kind of thing if you sit staring at your TV all night).

With the addition of some very well-written comedic dialogue by Katherine Harrison and an experimental score by former Grateful Dead keyboardist Tom Constanten, this Swan Lake was more Daffy Duck than anything else (tutus on the dancer's heads?), but still highly enjoyable even to those folks I talked to who had never seen a production of the original. A few rough edges aside, "original" seems to be what these Poets are all about.

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