Like most of the best Southern writers, Independent Weekly columnist Hal Crowther likes to boil down the story, the details and the dilemmas into axioms, questions and criteria, several at a time. He'd just better be careful. "Every writer truly worth reading arrives with one essential: a skewed, eccentric, arresting way of looking at the world--an oblique angle of vision that defies assimilation," he writes in Gather at the River: Notes from the Post-Millennial South, his new collection of acute essays, ponderous thousand-word observations culled from American-encapsulating travels and experiences. Trouble is, by his own criterion, Crowther is one of the most engaging and worthwhile essayists in the land, driving a hard, unflinching road tied to little ideology--conservative, liberal, Christian, gentlemanly or otherwise--but his own: That is, a singular, personal worldview where media mind games and outsider pandering to this Southern thing is cracked clean with a voice steeled by a whip of hard-line sense and clarity. Crowther--Grammy winner, erstwhile Spectator editor, Hillsborough resident--reads from his new collection at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 7, at Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh. He'll also read at the Regulator Bookshop in Durham at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 13. --Grayson Currin
in rolling, rock and asphalt
A scooter isn't a hog and this isn't Sturgis, Mont., but the sentiment is similar. At the MvR Raleigh Rumble (MvR stands for Mods versus Rockers), celebrate the English bike and racing culture of the '50s through '70s. Things start Friday with bowling and a midnight ride, and Saturday continues with food, vendors and vintage bikes on display in the parking lot across from Kings, followed at night by music from area veterans. Chrome-Plated Apostles would surely be Rockers, with a leather-clad, Stooges-inflected mutant blues stomp led by Bad Checks' Clif Mann and Hunter Landon. Electric Sunshine features Eddie Taylor (The Loners), reuniting him with two-thirds of his bandmates in Big Joe. Tonebenders singer/guitarist Jim Pendergast's new outfit, The Trousers, open this Saturday, Sept. 2 throwdown, which revs up in the lot at 11 a.m. and onstage at 6 p.m. Sunday, expect breakfast in Chapel Hill and a Durham pub crawl. For details, see www.raleighrumble.com. --Chris Parker
Arriving late to North Carolina, I never got a chance to see the Fabulous Knobs (from whence sprang The Woods, my bar-band heroes), and serial bad timing has prevented me from seeing Knobs frontwoman Debra DeMilo in any of her subsequent and infrequent onstage appearances leading DeMilo with Arms. I have seen her offstage once, as part of a deliriously boisterous crowd at a show by legendary keys man Ian MacLagan and his band. If her energy and enthusiasm and antics that night are any indication, then she must be an absolute bundle of dynamite when she's the one in front of the audience. This much I know from eyewitness accounts and other historical reportage: She possesses honest-to-goddess belt-it-out, hard-drinking, chain-smoking star power. A night with DeMilo and her blue-ribbon backing band (which sports members of Nantucket, Glass Moon and Arrogance) is akin to an old-fashioned soul revue, with a full-blown horn section and songs by Aretha, Wilson and other first-name-only types. And, if you don't guard it closely, they also will rock your ass clean off. I'm willing to risk that kind of non-elective cosmetic surgery this Friday night at Cat's Cradle so that I can become a testifying eyewitness. The Nevers, featuring Woods guy Ron Bartholomew and other area stage veterans, open. The show starts at 9 p.m., and tickets are $10 in advance, $12 at the door. --Rick Cornell
in common ground for the family
Parents are invited to an Improvisational Art Show at Durham's Common Ground Theatre Friday, Sept. 2 and Saturday, Sept. 3 at 8 p.m. Three artists, three canvases, 50 minutes and canvas swapping with audience input: If only reality television were this spontaneous, eh? Get to bed early Friday, though. Any kid knows that the best Saturday morning cartoons are typically done by the time the second bowl of cereal gets soggy, leaving plenty of time to return to Common Ground. Through Oct. 29, Live Wire Theatre Company takes the soggy-cereal postulate to task with three interactive plays for the kids. All original versions of classic folk and fairy tales, Jack and the Bean Stalk opens Saturday at 10:30 a.m., followed at the end of the month by The Sword in the Stone and Alice in October. The Durham Public Library is pitching in as well, so books for children and workshop information for parents will be available. The art will cost you $7, though the play is an on-allowance bargain at $5. For details, visit www.LiveWireTheatre.com.
in get ups
A special hello to all you unregistered voters out there, and a reminder that democracy is on the march even if you're on the couch. There's still time, though, to sign up to cast your ballot in October's local elections in Wake and Durham counties. (You folks in Orange and Chatham might as well go ahead and get registered for your November elections as well.) The books close 25 days before the Oct. 11 election, so live it or live with it. Visit the Durham County Board of Elections at www.co.durham.nc.us/common/db-dept.cfm?ID=2 and Wake's BOE at www.wakegov.com/general/elections/default.htm .