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Saturday saw the Fiesta Del Pinguino Cinco De Mayo celebration at the venerable Penguin Drive-In, as well as the usual accompanying rain showers; seems like every event the Penguin holds is marred by some sort of bad weather. After a two-hour rain delay, I got there at 6pm, nattily attired in corduroy pants, a sweater, and gym shoes, only to find the place rather empty. Told that I looked like I was rockin' it David Letterman-style, I stopped to consider the audience. Stupid Human Tricks abounded: One chap was dressed in a sort of animal-print sport coat, hoisting a skull-and-crossbones umbrella. Another popular look, the Crispin Glover, was in evidence everywhere you looked: black horn-rimmed glasses made to look as beat-to-hell as possible, partially untucked shirt, and Adidas, topped with a sort of weed-eater shag last seen in 1980s Ralph Lauren ads. Musically, the night was well received despite the weather. After a short set by The Talk, Black Lagoon got things started with a set that enthralled some and confused others -- always a sure sign of artistic merit. Following them was The Houston Brothers, who may well be the most impressive act in Charlotte. Justin Faircloth, who is not a Houston in name or otherwise, sings while playing keyboards and drums. His brother Matt Faircloth, also not a Houston (those kids with their rock music!), manned guitar and bass pedals in stocking-clad feet. Members of The Flyweb, waiting to go on next, marveled at the technique of the two, and worried about going on next. No problem though, as the band returned from a months-long hiatus to put on one of the best 30 minutes of local music I've seen in forever. -- Tim C. Davis

Laptop rock: Last Wednesday evening, cars filled the parking lot at Manifest Discs & Tapes as dozens of people hurried into the store to check out one of England's brightest indie stars of the moment, Badly Drawn Boy (aka Damon Gough). Manifest landed the appearance as part of their hosting duties for the Coalition of Independent Music Stores (CIMS) annual convention which was taking place in Charlotte. Aside from all the CIMS folks -- who were easy to spot because of the silver stickers on their shirts, and who also seemed to be the only ones steadily consuming who-knows-what from bright plastic cups -- a good crowd of 20-30somethings filled the store and waited for the Boy to make his entrance from behind a curtain (apparently the source of the mystery beverage, too). When BDB finally made his way to the stage he nervously rambled about his new album -- not the just released soundtrack he wrote for the Hugh Grant flick About A Boy -- but a brand new one that's still in the works. He was so excited about some of the mixes that he offered a listen by sticking his headphones up to the mic, which only offered a faint sound of his minimalist pop beats. Then he held his laptop up to the mic and, as the beats continued, he awkwardly leaned into the mic as well and began singing. I don't think anyone mumbled a word as we all looked on in fascination. Despite his superstar status, Gough continued to act uneasy on stage, especially when he introduced songs from the soundtrack he was debuting live for the first time. In between songs he made several mentions about why he was here, hailing the importance of independent music stores to artists like himself. After the show, as I made my way out, I asked the CIMS president about how things were going for independent retailers. He told me everyone in the Coalition seems to be doing really well for the moment, all things considered. He also revealed that at their meetings these days, they're more likely to discuss novelty items they can make money from than music.

-- Lynn Farris

Great big pictures: As night fell Friday, so did the rain, which was just fine, since it probably kept a lot of world-class posers away from the first installment of this year's Off the Wall Film Festival -- excuse us, the Wachovia Off the Wall Film Festival. Across the plaza, groups, couples and families sprawled on blankets and folding chairs, many with umbrellas to keep them dry and coolers with hidden beverages to keep them warm. After a riotous Guffman-like mockumentary about a support group for people who feel rejected because they've never been abducted by aliens, we had our feature presentation: the Farrelly Brothers' Shallow Hal. Folks oohed and ahhed over shots of Uptown, Freedom Park and some of Charlotte's picturesque neighborhoods, all spotlighted on the 60-foot wall. They seemed to enjoy the, uh, wide shots of Gwynnie, too. (As for me, I was all about Tony Robbins, who was looking hot.) The best overheard comment came after a three-minute scene where Jack Black shares a cab with a gorgeous blonde headed to the East Side of town, and then the cab lets them out in front of St. Peter's Episcopal Church which in real life is, what? four blocks away? The guy behind us said: Jeez, they could have walked there faster. -- Karen Martin

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