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Soaking It Up 

Upbeat events enliven overcast weekend

I'm getting to the age now where, for the most part, I prefer an early show. I like the fact that I can go and rock out, and then roll into bed by midnight or 1am. That said, I'm a man of contradictions, and I also like not acting my age sometimes, which means going to see shows that don't even start until midnight. This was the case Friday evening, as I ventured out to the venerable Tremont Music Hall to check out a performance by the bands Semi-Pro and Black Lagoon, two hard-and-heavy groups playing the Casbah after the Jump, Little Children show in the big room. Suffice it to say, not many folks from the big room -- which was fairly packed -- ventured over to see the two local bands grinding it out. They should have. Both bands are relatively new, but both bring an energy and originality to the stage that is invigorating even as it sometimes fails. Semi-Pro remind me of early Jesus Lizard, a sort of literate punk/heavy rock band who even in their basest moments still sometimes go over the heads of the guys moshing in front of the stage. One of the guitar players favors a Suicidal Tendencies-style head wrap, and another person wore an Afro wig. Even better then that the music is for the most part serious, and seriously good. Black Lagoon, still ironing out the kinks that a young band sometimes faces, put on their strongest show to date, replete with a fulltime dancer/incense waver/big-long-traditional-aborigines-looking-instrument player, Katrina Griffis, and a lead singer, Leahanne Woods, who plays Janis Joplin over the band's Black Sabbath riffage. Little mini tiki torches were lit at the front of the stage, and all sorts of fragrant incense lit. At one point, Griffis began giving folks roses -- a blood-red carnation was thrown at my feet, and I felt like Caesar. I then, of course, remembered Caesar was ultimately stabbed in the back, something a music writer can relate to. Of course, this was quickly forgotten as the band started throwing T-shirts into the audience. I wasn't lucky enough to snag one, but another girl up front was, and pretty soon we all got lucky as she doffed her shirt -- whoops, tee hee, no bra -- and took her time throwing on the new gratis schwag. Yes, more bands should throw out free stuff.

Saturday, it rained. Not that I'm afraid of a little rain, mind you. Rain is good for the soul. Rain is not very good for nursing a hangover from the night before, so I pretty much missed the Calle Cinco festival outside of LaTorre's Restaurant uptown. LaTorre's is a fine restaurant for Latin cuisine, and they do a nice job of gathering the many diverse elements of Latin culture and music for their special events. However, God did a nice job of gathering the elements that day as well, so after about 15 minutes, I said adios.Sunday, it rained. Not that I'm afraid of a little rain, mind you. I was going to go see the Carolina Panthers play the woeful Detroit Lions in the rain at Ericsson Stadium. However, A) it was raining, B) they were playing the frickin' Detroit Lions, and C) the Gulag-like security at the game probably wouldn't have let you take your shirt off and frolic, so what's the point (though it likely wouldn't have stopped the girl from Tremont Saturday)? However, there was jazz at Charlotte Shout's City Verve jazz festival, and the event is somewhat covered by this big large glass thingy that CL columnist David Walters could probably tell you the name of. Bands included Nicholas Payton and the Soul Patrol, The Jazz Mandolin Project, The John Scofield Band, and Medeski Martin & Wood. Payton works in a more classic vein of jazz, though imbued with a solid hunk of funk fatback. The JMP and Scofield band and MMW, however, were whom the crowd braved the elements to see, and booking like this is important if the festival wants to grow in the future. (Would have been nice to see Matthew Shipp or a more classical avant-gardist, however.) The big headliner, Medeski Martin and Wood, aren't quite jazz, and they're not quite a jam band, either. They're just good, good enough for people to trudge through the rain to see. Sorta like our Panthers, actually. Maybe Charlotte Shout can co-opt them next year.

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