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And the odd slide show

It's rare that a music venue hosts a guy who doesn't play any music at all, but rather just. . .well, shows slides.

Last Wednesday, New Yawker Andy Friedman "played" The Evening Muse, armed with only a slide projector, the aforementioned screen, a glass of beer, and a jauntily askew trucker cap. The 27-year-old illustrator, painter and photographer lives and works in Brooklyn, and is a semi-regular contributor to The New Yorker. According to his website, Friedman believes that "the inspired feeling you get from a piece of music taps into the place where your own creations are born." I thought that was a given, but whatever.

Downright pissed off that the only way most people can have art in their home is either through buying some overpriced Taschen coffeetable book -- or else some tacky, Pottery Barn-style "print" -- Friedman decided to do something about it. Matching his own classical-style pencil drawings and Polaroid pictures to improvisatory riffs suggested by the titles and words to blues songs, he managed to create a performance that's equal parts poetry reading, stand-up comedy, and low-fi art gallery. As Friedman told the crowd after his "gig" Wednesday, his "albums" are little CD-priced soft-cover books with words and pencil drawings and Polaroids.

Frankly, the little books didn't impress me all that much - they may be CD-priced, but a CD takes you longer than 15 minutes to get through, and has better graphics. However, he may be onto something with the live performance part. Friedman's "blues" suggests that we needn't worry about fitting into the treacherous publishing and music industries to express ourselves. Nope, all we need is genuine experience combined with genuine inspiration, and of course a little genuine perspiration (this show was part of Friedman's 50+ date "Make a Living Tour,"which is already over a year long).

When the whole thing was over, he looked exhausted. However, everyone else seemed sort of refreshed and rejuvenated, which isn't something you can usually say about your family's slide shows. That fact alone projects him as one to watch.

If there was any doubt whatsoever that Panther fanaticism has taken over our burg, Friday's uptown Panthers Pep Rally squashed that notion. It's not every day your hometown team goes to the Super Bowl, to put it mildly. Let New England have their sissy little pep rallies with Teddy Kennedy or Nomar Garciaparra or whoever else needs some face time. We're going to the Big One. When this kind of momentous occasion happens, you bring out the big guns. We've talked the talk, and now it's time to walk the walk. This could only mean one thing: Richard Morgan Fliehr. You know him as Ric Flair, the self-styled "Nature Boy."

According to police estimates, over 35,000 people spent their lunchtime downtown in the square on Friday - and if the police's record of estimating protest demonstrations is any indication, that means there were probably at least 70,000 -- and only a fraction of them were clad in suits and ties. Will wonders never cease? Most seemed to be dressed in Cat Hats and Tails, which were only two of the myriad items one could purchase from street vendors, both legal and not-so. (It's hard to get too mad at these Super entrepreneurs, considering the NFL won't allow anyone to use their precious "Super Bowl" name in advertising and refuses to allow their telecasts to be shown at charity events for kids suffering from cancer. As Dylan once sang, "Money doesn't talk, it swears.")

After Flair exited stage left, Panthers players and coaches -- Brentson Buckner, Rod "He Hate Me" Smart and John Fox among them -- each took a few minutes to address the crowd. I couldn't really get close enough to hear much of anything, but the phrase "one more game" seemed to be a popular one. I spotted rookie offensive lineman Jordan Gross slapping high-fives with fans. I saw Mayor Pro Tem Patrick Cannon in a trench coat and Panthers sweatshirt, holding a sign that showed the Patriots' logo in the mouth of the Panthers'. Pretty good show, considering Cannon had had his SUV stolen earlier in the day.

Lastly, I saw Flair himself, who strolled swiftly and confidently past police barricades and rabid fans before ducking into a nearby hotel lobby. As he passed, men and women and children, black and white alike, all let loose with Flair's famous catchphrase: "Whooooooo!" Normally, hearing such a noise downtown means there's a gaggle of loud, besotted sorority chicks headed towards the nearest watering hole. Friday, it sounded like victory.

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