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The Tipping Point 

Dorky clothes and an air guitar symphony

Feeling the urge to check out someplace new last Friday night, a gaggle of friends and I headed to 5th Street, home to The Hungry Duck. The building's housed a few different establishments over the years, usually changing with the prevailing tide of whatever trend's sweeping through town. Now, the place is nicely swathed in black with a large full bar, providing a nice mid-size venue. Friday, musician Chris Connelly, who's worked with artists like Fini Tribe, Pigface, and Ministry played an acoustic show at the venue with localish industrial/goth rockers Voodou. There was a woman at the door taking cash, with a tip jar beside her carrying the legend "If you tip me, I'm cute. If you don't, you hate me." Which is all fine and good, but what if my true feelings lie in the middle? Secondly, what exactly am I tipping you for? Taking my eight dollars? Hell, I'll take your eight dollars and you don't have to tip me squat. Making my way to a table, I noticed an oversight on my part. If you've ever wondered what it would feel like to be a black man at the Masters (besides Tiger Woods), wear a plaid, pastel buttondown to a goth show. A local musician friend was also there, wearing a striped shirt and shorts, something he called his "Greg Brady" outfit. Noticing our lack of black, I excused myself from our conversation early lest anyone think we were the police or something. Chris Connelly, Big Goth Fella, played a few songs on acoustic guitar, mostly notable for sounding like David Bowie after you've swallowed a few Sominex. Things brightened considerably when the band Voodou joined Connelly on a few songs. The band breathed new life into a tired formula, and, doorperson aside, into the venue as well. By the way, tips for this column may be sent to the address listed at the front of this paper, in care of yours truly.Saturday night, fighting a cold, I headed to Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre to see Gainesville, Florida-bred Tom Petty, who played to a full house, mostly packed with teenagers and early 20-somethings. Searching for refreshment (it's a long walk from Lot E!), I stopped at one of those little booths to sate my thirst. The guy in front of me had just bought a 16-ounce Bud Light in a plastic bottle, when I heard the lady manning the stall say "seven dollars!" I nearly fainted, but caught my breath when the lady then shouted "big tipper!" at the guy. Could it be? It was! A tip jar! For dipping your hands in icy water on a 90-degree night! At least her motivational technique was more refined than the woman the previous night -- instant ego gratification. I considered asking her to hold off her gospel-like refrain for a second until some young talent walked by, but took what I could get. Grabbing a seat on the lawn, I decided that Tom Petty must offer the same sort of experience to the really young folks that going to see, say, the Rolling Stones would hold for me. Except, of course, that Tom Petty still writes good songs (However, a $37 lawn ticket shows an obvious nod to Mick and Keith). I settled in, only to notice three guys in front of me who were conducting an air guitar symphony, clad in wifebeaters, mullets, and -- I wouldn't make these things up -- Lynyrd Skynyrd shirts (and from the ridiculous "Tribute Tour," no less). When Petty played a WRFX nugget like "Refugee" or "American Girl," they swayed in unison. When Petty played a new song, they basically looked like someone's dad at a Weezer show, playing a few air notes to show that they "got it." Towards the end of the hit-heavy show, Petty announced that the band "wasn't gonna sell you no credit card," that the band "wasn't out to sell you light beer or Pepsi," and that they "weren't trying to sell you some new car."(I perceived it as a dig at Sting, and as such cheered.) Announcing the band had no corporate sponsorship (I suppose playing all Clear Channel shows doesn't count), Petty also stated that they were bringing all of us this rock & roll "free of charge." Uh, Tom? Make that $28.50 plus parking fees, Ticketmaster, and sales tax, with a dollar left over for the nice lady in the beer booth. Big tipper!
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