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Politics, Hotdogs and Music

Labor Day weekend -- it's a beautiful thing

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As the son of a dyed-in-the-wool union man, I wasn't going to miss Monday's Labor Day parade. It's a day for the laborers (translation for bankers: the ones that actually create the capital). It's a day for all those who make a difference and usually go unnoticed. And face it, it's also a day off work.After meeting some friends (who were -- O, irony! -- watching the Labor Day parade from inside a Starbucks), I made it down to Trade and Tryon, where all the fun was to take place. I bought a hot dog from a non-corporate street vendor and took in the sights. Over there was another entrepreneur, selling inflatable animals from a converted shopping cart (The Incredible Hulk, you might want to note, has now made SpongeBob SquarePants passe). Over there, somebody in a Yogi Bear costume attempting to buy a hot dog. Floats aplenty: here's one representing the Democratic Party, followed by some marchers from the Green Party who were trailed by a woman driving a green vehicle festooned with flowers and the party's name -- which wouldn't have been that interesting, except that she was in a gargantuan, gas-guzzling Chevy Suburban that spewed more smoke than Willie Nelson. Here's the Shriners doing figure-eights on their go-carts, and coming so damn close to the side of the street, it became apparent why they have all those Shriners Hospitals.

Finally, you had the most enthusiastic group of the day, the Howard Dean supporters. Led by a guy pulling a dog in a carriage behind his bicycle, the Dean Team handed out literature as fast as Republicans wish to burn it. A few folks tossed it, no doubt turned off by any party that would support pulling a dog in a carriage.

As for me, I voted for Dean and Deluca, who, conveniently enough, happened to be directly across the street. Some folks vote with a dollar, others with a bullet. When in doubt, I go with the stomach.

Only about 15 minutes out of Charlotte is something a lot of folks tend to forget: Matthews. I know what you're saying. "I drive through Matthews all the time on my way to the beach, dammit! I know Matthews!" No, I'm speaking specifically of Historic Downtown Matthews, which still manages to retain a little downhome charm even as it's become a thoroughfare to the "burbs for most folks. Host to the ever-growing Matthews Alive festival (longtime residents still call it the Stumptown Festival), the town has done a great job of updating itself while still being committed to retaining some of its old-school charm. (To anyone on Charlotte City Council reading this, this is achieved by having ballsy zoning, and by not tearing down every building over 10 years old.)

So anyway, they had this festival, and it was a good one. However, it was also full of inflatables and dogs in strollers and bands that didn't push my buttons, so, well, let's move on.

Sunday night, I was planning to go see O.J. Simpson, who was the celebrity host of something called a "Throwback Party" at Independence Boulevard's Club H2O. However, I was just a little too busy hunting for the murderers of Ron Goldman and Nicole Brown Simpson, so I had to miss the event. Catch you next time, Killer.

Could it be that the best band in Charlotte -- at least "chops-wise" -- plays every Monday night at the Double Door? You'd be surprised.Comprised of local standouts Les Moore on guitar, vocalist Charles Hairston, James "Uncle Grub" Thornburg on keys and vocals, John Alexander on woodwinds, guitarist Van Sachs, Rick Blackwell on bass, and drummer Jim Brock, this septet is a bar band of the highest caliber (on this night, Gerard Benson replaced Blackwell and Donnie Marshall subbed for Brock). Sort of a mix of the Born To Run-era E Street Band and a bunch of Steely Dan session men, the group glides effortlessly from straight blues to Van Morrison to more obscure cuts with the calm assurance of seasoned pros.

Moore, the legendary Double Door soundman, even did his own sound, hopping from the stage to the soundbooth and back at regular intervals (Imagined conversation: "Um, Les? Could I get a little more Les in the monitor? No, no, that's too much. . .how about a little less Moore. . .")

You want professionalism? When introducing the band toward the end of the show, Moore also introduced the bartenders and the doorman, whom he said would "take your money with a smile, and a little muscle if necessary." As Les himself is fond of saying, it was a beautiful thing.

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