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Best Bets for March 22 through March 29

The Never, Holy Mountain, Mandorico, The Fall to Earth

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In stories, illustrated and intonated

THE NEVER's follow-up to 2004's self-titled debut is not as ambitious in sound as it is in scope, but that carries these proceedings in fine form. For this sophomore effort, band member Noah Smith designed the 40-page, gorgeously illustrated Antarctica, the story of a young idealist named Paul who finds a nuclear bomb in the forest he calls home. In the city, Paul has a best friend named Alice, and they communicate every night by paper messages and telescopes. When Paul finds the bomb, he instructs Alice to meet him in the city so they may give it to its rightful owners. But a heart-cold capitalist witch with a plan to destroy the forest learns of the atomic bomb and instructs her soulless minions to bring it to her. What follows is a storybook metaphor for living your good life.

The band plays the album and projects the corresponding paintings at THE ARTSCENTER IN CARRBORO on Sunday, March 26 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $5. --Grayson Currin

In punk as...

If you've got a kid who thinks punk rock is cool, please send them to this show (especially if their favorite punk rock is the kind that comes out of fancy production studios and transmits through an FM tower). There's nothing forgiving about this lineup, a four-band melee combining Tampa's furious HOLY MOUNTAIN with GOVERNMENT WARNING of RVA (Richmond, Va., in their hometown vernacular) and two local standouts, STREET SHARKS and DOUBLE NEGATIVE. Double Negative came to be after Justin Gray and Scott Williams, longtime Raleighland legends, fell into a resurgent punk-house scene in Raleigh and asked fellow veterans Brian Walsby and Kevin Collins to join. This is their first show, and it will be a loud, furious debut. Be at KINGS on Saturday, March 25 at 10 p.m. --Grayson Currin

In a few choice words

WORDS OF CHOICE, the creation of NYC-based award-winning playwright and journalist Cindy Cooper, is a chance to "break out of talking about policies and laws and start talking about people," Cooper said on www.wordsofchoice.org. There's space for dialogue in this 90-minute performance of stories that touch on the complexities of reproductive rights, and that might mean that people will start seeing past merely "pro-choice vs. pro-life."

Contributing writers include the late Justice Harry Blackmun (former member of the U.S. Supreme Court who wrote the decision in Roe v. Wade), spoken word artist Alix Olson, past president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America Gloria Feldt, and members of The Onion.

It's happening on Sunday, March 26 at 6:30 p.m. at the CARRBORO CENTURY CENTER, and tickets are $20. Call 960-3876 or go to Weaver Street Market for tickets.

In swan songs

MANDORICO, the Atlanta punk ska rockers, are calling it quits after nine years. The revelation is a shock to fans, but a note on the Web site (www.mandorico.com) says that it's simply time for the Mandoricans to go their separate musical and geographical ways, and gracias. Like the tattoo-able cover art (i.e. garter belts meet bullfighting) on final opus Strong Fire, their music is urgent, graphic and fun, with conscious lyrics in English and Spanish.

"The Color of Water," lead singer Jesse Lauricella's luscious little duet with April Howell, "Balas y Rezas," which samples a Che Guevara speech in Manu Chao-style collage, and Mandorico's version of Los Fabulosos Cadillacs' rock en español anthem "Matador" make this a fitting recuerdo. Get yours signed at THE POUR HOUSE this Friday, March 24 at 10 p.m. when Mandorico's strong fire burns one last time. TIckets are $8. --Sylvia Pfeiffenberger

In family trajectories

A friendly word of warning: You're really going to want to walk out on THE FALL TO EARTH(****) about 10 minutes into the show. By then, frumpy matriarch Fay's agitated, non-stop opening chatter will have exhausted a number of trivial topics, and her adult daughter Rachel's patience--and ours--to boot.

Stay. Just beyond that first inkling of what Rachel's childhood must have been like, playwright Joel Drake Johnson begins rationing out this script's few--but sufficient--surprises. The two women have reunited under duress, to retrieve the body a family member in a distant city. As they learn of the violence at his death, both inexorably trace the roots of that trauma back to the past. It's a fuse that grows shorter and shorter as things develop.

Accomplished actors Marcia Edmundson (as Fay) and Dana Marks (as Rachel) probe deeply into a mother and daughter's estranged relationship, one with more than a few issues involving borders left unresolved. Cheryl Chamblee gives admirable support. The show runs at MANBITES DOG THEATER in Durham through April 2. Call 682-3343 or go to www.manbitesdogtheater.org for tickets. --Byron Woods

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