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A Vision in NoDa

While Seinfeld did Charlotte on Saturday

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Every now and then, North Davidson -- NoDa to you gentrificationists -- really starts to look like the vision lots of folks have for it. Restaurants do a brisk business, people walk the streets freely, and music pours out of clubs onto the streets. Of course, the area's not perfect -- witness the occasional drug bust -- but it's improving (then again, dealing's probably the only way to afford one of them fancy new condos). Friday night was one of those nights developers like to see: neighborhood anchor Fat City was hosting Jennyanykind and The Goldenrods, and also showing NCAA basketball on its wide-screen television. The Evening Muse offered up two more buzz bands, Boston's Ware River Club and NC's own Roman Candle. The Neighborhood Theatre, not to be trumped, had Arlo Guthrie on their marquee. Need more proof of the area's changing fortunes? Check out Fat City's newly rebuilt and repainted bathrooms, which have gone from icky to...well, normal seemingly overnight. As any good club owner knows, good bathrooms are a key to keeping patrons happy (see equation: good music = folks enjoy themselves = lose inhibitions = drink more than they should = need a word with Ma Nature). Also key is great double bills like the "Rods with the "Kind, which drew a smaller crowd than the music deserves, since many folks stayed outside to watch basketball (A word to the wise -- I've never heard of a combination sports bar/serious music club that's worked for very long).

Up the road, the Ware River Club put on a set that, were the world fair, would them on the cover of No Depression within the year. The lads were less excited with the large turnout, however, as with as the free beer offered them by the club and the low-taxed cigarettes they bought in bulk earlier in the day (they also talked excitedly about the $30 rooms at the South Park Hyatt they had nabbed from priceline.com). To top it off, as the band blissfully wallowed in post-show afterglow, free beer and cheap smokes in hand, none other than The Son Of Frickin' Woody Guthrie rode by and gave the boys a thumbs-up salute. You could have knocked them over with a feather. As the famous commercial so ably puts it, some things are priceless. (Davis)

Professional rib tickler Jerry Seinfeld, he of the long running "show about nothing," brought his observational, "did you ever notice," variety of stand-up comedy to Ovens Auditorium Saturday night for two sold-out shows. For some unfathomable reason the parking geniuses at Ovens decided to direct all the incoming traffic into one lane, which, at least for the later show, caused an ugly traffic snarl that progressed at a snail's pace. Given the absurd parking situation, I could almost forgive some of the people who continued to stream into the auditorium during warm-up comedian Mario Joyner's entire 30-minute set. But not so with the dunderheads who chatted away as they took their seats, oblivious to the fact that the show had already started. (These had to be some of the same clueless yahoos whose cell phones rang during the show -- some people will just never get it). Seinfeld opened his set with the existential question, "What the hell is going on?" and proceeded to touch upon our culture's many idiosyncrasies and foibles, including reality TV, the absurdity of the Academy Awards, cell phones, and the losers with enough free time to respond to Internet opinion polls. ("Yeah, I want to know what those people think," Seinfeld cracked). He pretty much stayed clear of any talk of the war, only briefly mentioning how we've become a society obsessed with "late breaking news." ("What is this news, and why is it always late?" he asked.) A new husband and father, much of his set was dedicated to talk of kids, marriage and the birthing process. ("It's like the world's greatest puppet show," he said of seeing his newborn baby for the first time.) Last year's quasi-documentary Comedian showed how stand-up comedy was not so much a job for Seinfeld, but more of a compulsion, one which he constantly fine-tunes. It showed. He was relaxed and confident on stage, and the crowd seemed to relish in watching one of their favorite funnymen provide a respite from all the "shock and awe" news. After about an hour-long show, our ribs sufficiently tickled, we made our way to the exit, where we spotted none other than Mayor Pat McCrory shaking hands and schmoozing. Hmm, I wonder if he responds to Internet opinion polls? (Boykin)

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