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Independence, music, beer and grilled meat

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Ah, nothing like Independence Day or what less imaginative folks like to call the "Fourth of July." (Who needs Christmas when you can have the more exciting "Twenty-fifth of December"?) Last Wednesday, I got a headstart celebrating our country's rich heritage by walking to Dixie's Tavern for what was being billed as the "Uncle Sam Jam." Slated to appear were none other than Joan Jett and the Blackhearts and LL Cool J, both of whom had most of their hits before the assembled crowd graduated from the bottle to Chef Boyardee. Jett seemed to be going through the motions, but as motions go, they were pretty nice -- she seems to be getting younger by the year. . .ggrowl! LL Cool J came next. Well, not exactly. First they had to clear Jett's stuff from the stage. Second, a guy had to test the mikes about 337 times using two phrases -- "Uh" and "righhhhht." Then, four people helped set up the stage for LL. Which, of course, consisted of -- you guessed it -- a single hand-held microphone! Granted, another guy was there to place some long-stemmed roses onstage for LL to hand to the ladies during love songs, and another guy placed LL Cool J T-shirts onstage in case you missed the countless PA announcements from some guy who sounded whiter than Pat McCrory informing us of the "phat gear." LL finally hit the stage with a pronounced strut, wearing a #24 Ty Law New England Patriots jersey, baggy jeans, and a batting glove on his left (non-mic) hand. As far as I can figure, LL wore it to get a better grip while grabbing his crotch, which happened about as often as ballplayers spit (Perhaps he should have rubbed some pine tar on there, too. I hear that works wonders). If he was simply drawing attention to himself, he could have saved his time. Based on crowd reaction, every woman there wouldn't have minded laying down the Law.Later that same evening, I made a visit to the Double Door Inn to see the band Bellglide along with a newish opening act named Pyramid, who've already become one of the best acts in town. A relatively quiet act, the band had their work cut out for them at the drinking-friendly Double Door, but managed to shut up the masses with songs like the delicate "The Streets Were Raining," which caused a few patrons' cheeks to be raining as well. I bellied up to the bar for some refreshment, a little pissed at myself for wasting so much time watching LL's posse set up his microphone. As the bar hadn't expected such a large crowd, one bartender was left to slake the thirsts of dozens of folks, all of whom must have sauntered in straight from the desert. Standing at the bar with a $20 bill in my hand, no fewer than four people asked me if I was waiting to get a drink. Huh? "Why, no," I wanted to say, "I'm waiting to get drunk." "Um, no. . .I was just holding this spot for you, good looking!" "Er, no. . .I'm trying to pick up the bartender." "Nope, I'm a Rockefeller, actually, trying to give away this money, and no one's biting!"

Thursday evening I escaped uptown Charlotte just in time, as WBT's famous SkyShow turned it into Atlanta at rush hour. I headed over to the Penguin Drive-In, which was hosting a "Declaration of Independence" celebration replete with grilled meat and beer specials and all sorts of other things the terrorists hate us for. There seemed to be more than a few young "uns in attendance, often chased around by bone-tired single moms who probably weren't celebrating their independence. Impending bad weather put a bit of gloom over the proceedings, which finally seemed to wear off when the band The Goldenrods played their version of JJ Cale's "Call Me the Breeze." As singer Benji Hughes throated the chorus, a large gust of cool wind blew in, and the crowd cheered. After a set by Phil Lee, Lou Ford took the stage, informing the crowd that AWOL keyboard player Jason Atkins had sired a baby a few days back. With a smirk, singer Alan Edward noted that "We're questioning his commitment." Edwards also had choice words for Fat City's show the same day, which was still using the old "Hard Times Family Picnic" moniker the band originally came up with, Clear Channel Radio, and about anything else that moved. One thing Edwards couldn't contend with, however, were fireworks, exploding both uptown and from the roof of the Penguin during the band's songs. At one point, Edwards just looked at the sky, and played a guitar solo. Whether he was looking at the fireworks or cursing God is unknown.

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