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Rockin’ For Relief��

And won't you be my vecino?

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Here at the stately Loaf offices on Old Pineville Road, we are smack dab in the middle of a bustling Latino community. The fastest growing minority group in the region, Latinos have quickly made the area their own, opening all sorts of businesses, shops, salons and restaurants (I'm especially happy about the latter since troughing at Showmars and Subway is starting to wear me the hell out.) Yet, despite this great influx, few Charlotteans know a whole lot about their vecinos, or neighbors.

"Vecinos/Neighbors," a series of 62 images by 25-year-old photographer Catalina Kulczar now showing at the Charlotte Museum of History, hopes to change all that. Kulczar has photographed and profiled 20 different Latino Charlotteans, from Rafael Parra (baker) to Carlos Risch (doctor), to Tony Romano (ex- professional wrestler and current grocery store employee). There is bilingual text underneath each photo, explaining the person and the shot Kulczar was able to capture.

A thumbs-up to the Charlotte Museum of History for once again filling the gaps in Charlotte's art/culture scene with another great-if-unflashy exhibit that — like the recent "Soldier's Stories: War in the First Person" — is important in helping better understand our area. Located off Eastway on Shamrock Drive, the Museum of History's not situated in the most ideal location, which is all the more reason to give it a chance. After all, do some exploring and you may just meet someone like those folks in Kulczar's pictures.

On Sunday the Neighborhood Theatre hosted a Tsunami Relief Benefit, with the proceeds benefiting World Vision. Having wanted to do a little something to help out : and noting that this show had a damn fine lineup of bands : I decided to use the show as my chance to give back (If you're gonna give anyway, is it wrong to actually enjoy the money spent? These kinds of things keep me up at night. OK, not really.).About that lineup: on the bill were Abe Reid & The Spikedrivers, Bellglide, Contagious Blues Band, David Childers and The Modern Don Juans, The Houston Brothers, John Tosco, justincase, Poprocket, The Sammies, Sea of Cortez, The Talk, and others. In addition to the bands — who rotated between the Theatre's large and small stages, the better to keep on schedule — there was also a raffle and a silent auction.

Arriving a bit late after attending another function, I missed personal favorite The Sammies, who went on early but "kicked ass," according to one band member (ah, confidence). Playing a scorching set of early rock-tinged rockabilly Americana on the big stage, David Childers and the Modern Don Juans got the crowd plenty fired up for local bass pedal/guitar/drums/keyboard duo (!) The Houston Brothers, who were playing back across the room on the small stage. Deciding I could use the exercise, I traipsed back across the room, where I stared at the back of a really tall guy's head for about 20 minutes while some other guy kept loudly promising over and over that he was going to go get a CD out of his car that he was "just dying" for me to hear. (Bad choice of words, dude.)

Sea of Cortez — aided and abetted by members of the like-minded Pyramid — provided the highlight of the evening with a knock-out set of orchestral indie rock that had me thinking that this nine-piece (yes, nine-piece) might be the best band around. (Before Sea of Cortez took the stage, a young lady from an area school provided a "step dance" demonstration, which was a neat visual paired with all the pedal steel guitars and accordions and autoharps used by SOC. However, both the band and the audience gave the young lady the biggest ovation anyone received all night.) After catching a great set by Jay Garrigan's band Poprocket — which, it should be noted, featured women suggestively eating bananas on stage — I decided to take my cue and split.

All in all, a successful evening, and a large turnout worthy of the huge Batsignal spotlight-thingy parked out front. Many thousands of dollars were raised, as were the hopes of local music fans.

However, if the benefit really wanted to raise some green, they should have donated the money made from alcohol sales. If what I saw was any indication, it was the gift that would have kept on giving (and giving, and giving.). Anything for a good cause, right?

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