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Wednesday, May 24

Who knew? NASCAR isn't totally about big engines, small brains and mufflers that do nothing of the kind. At 516 N. College St., hardly a lug wrench away from Ground Zero at SpeedWeeks, the Comedy Zone offers NASCAR Stand-Up. Transmission to the oil-inflected laugh-a-thon, featuring "10 of the Top Comedians in the nation!" (names undisclosed as we go to press) costs a mere $10. Try getting near Junior or Jeff Gordon for $10! Crankcase closed. Presented by NASCAR Images -- "the sight, sound and emotion of NASCAR™." Beginning at 8pm. Call 704-348-HAHA. (Tannenbaum)

Thursday, May 25

There's something for everybody at Speed Street 2006, provided you a) like hair metal, b) like bands that used to get mad props from Fred Durst (remember him?), c) graduated high school in 1985, or d) think that "Honkytonk Badonkadonk" is high humor. Thursday's gigs of note include Charlotte-based family act the Barnettes at 6pm, and Sevendust and MC Hammer at 9:30pm (notable, I said, not necessarily recommended). Friday sees Stephen Pearcy, ex of Ratt, take the stage at 9:30pm, followed by a head-scratching gas chamber/hanging/firing squad "choice" of Twisted Sister, Staind and Blake Shelton at 10:30pm. Saturday sees local faves and MoRisen recording artists Elevator Action and the Sammies kickin' some 'neck ass beginning at 4pm, with the Gin Blossoms, REO Speedwagon and Chris Cagle shuttin' it down at 10:15pm. Personally, I'd rather toke from Terry Labonte's tailpipe, but to each his own. It all happens in downtown Charlotte. For details visit www.600festival.com. (Davis)

The Japanese group Green Milk from the Planet Orange's epic compositions occupy sonic space somewhere between My Bloody Valentine's guitar squalls, King Crimson prog-riffage, Tortoise-like trance scapes, Jimi Hendrix blues, Miles Davis fusion and New York's no-wave scene -- typically all within the same song. The group's explosive new release, City Calls Revolution, was recorded by Paul Mahajan (Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Liars, TV on the Radio) and showcases the trio's ridiculous chops. With Carry On Bomb, Over and Out and Subramanium. Tonight at Milestone. Tickets are $7. For more details log onto www.themilestoneclub.com. (Schacht)

At first listen, singer Julie Roberts sounds like just another run-of-the-mill young and pretty country singer hustling the streets of Nashville hoping to hit it big. But listen more closely: She's got soul and a heart that seems to be in the right place. Just pray she doesn't let the ultra-generic pop-country producers get ahold of her and turn her into another Faith or Shania. Roberts performs around 9:30pm as part of Speed Street. Admission is free. For details visit www.600festival.com. (Shukla)

Friday, May 26

Circus Flora, Paul Taylor Dance Company, violinist Chee-Yun, hip-hop activist Danny Hoch and jazz sensation Solveig Slettahjell are just a few of the intriguing marquee names at Spoleto Festival USA through June 11. Need more reasons to make your reservations down in Charleston? You'll love the sexy electricity of Roméo et Juliette, Tristan & Yseult, Ballet Flamenco, the world premiere of Geisha and a luscious Don Giovanni encore. If that's not enough, there's Piccolo Spoleto, with more than 700 more performing arts events running concurrently throughout Charleston. You can phone Spoleto at 843-579-3100 and Piccolo at 843-724-7305. Better yet, visit the Web sites: www.spoletousa.org and www.piccolospoleto.com. (Tannenbaum)

From Raleigh to Flat Rock, Charlotte to Blowing Rock, nearly two dozen companies are gathering in Asheville for the Stoneleaf Festival of North Carolina Theatre through June 4. You can go highbrow with Miss Julie or I Am My Own Wife, lowbrow with neat: a bar play or Transactors Improv, gay themed with Beautiful Thing or Intim@te E-pistles, and downhome country with Senator Sam or Lost Highway: The Music and Legend of Hank Williams. And with five of the seven venues clustered close together, you can start at noon and easily take in three events a day -- or four on June 2, when Transactors have an 11pm gig. Call the box office at 828-257-4500 or take away the middleman at www.stoneleaftheatrefestival.com. (Tannenbaum)

The "Redneck Woman" Gretchen Wilson stormed out of the country music gates a couple years ago with that succinct hit. She continues to sing about the little guy, flags, bibles and all things American. The good news is she tempers the country clichés by firing up plenty of "party till you drop" music. Trace Adkins co-headlines and brings his "Honky Tonk Badonkadonk" (that's "country booty," for ya'll out of the loop) along with new kid on the block Blaine Larsen at Verizon Wireless Amphitheater. Tickets range from $23.50 to $42.50 and the show begins at 7:30pm. Call 704-522-6500 for all the patriotic details. (Shukla)

Our harmonious Oratorio Singers are as punctilious as they are glorious. So they're scrupulously calling their upcoming program at Myers Park Baptist Church a Spoleto Preview and Concert. That's because, confidentially, there will be more singing -- and more Oreos -- at 1900 Queens Road than there will be when the Oratorio Chamber Chorus concertizes this Sunday afternoon at stately St. Phillip's Episcopal Church in Charleston. We'll get the traveling ensemble performing Frank Martin's five-movement Mass and Francis Poulenc's "Exultate Deo" prior to export. These will be preceded by a full array of chorales sung by the main Oreo Ensemble, conducted by Scott Allen Jarrett with keyboard accompaniment from Dr. Gregory Thompson. Bruckner, Mendelssohn, Barber, Elgar and Palestrina are in the lineup beginning at 8pm with general admission seats priced at $10 (students $5). Call 704-972-2000. (Tannenbaum)

Saturday, May 27

Get your praise on at Paramount's Carowinds as Stellar Gospel Award winner Deitrick Haddon takes the Palladium Amphitheatre stage for JoyFest 2006! Also appearing are Tye Tribbett & Greater Anointing, the Cross Movement, and Serenity, a gospel group from the Queen City (all of who are guaranteed to have you dancing in your seats). Tickets start around $35, which includes admission to the park. Group tickets are also available. Call 800-888-4386 for tickets or more information. www2.paramountparks.com/carowinds. (Christina Rumbaugh)

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