The name pimples up images of freshmen attempting to declare majors, but Aden Darity and Pierce Freelon--with live beats by DJ Web--are no neophytes. Lyrical lines intersect like the best free hip hop, with the MCs' acute sense of word sound and poetic style. Step up. This full-credit course is part of 506's no cover "Free For All" series. Beats drop at 10 p.m. --Chris Toenes
Laura Cantrell, Paul Burch
The Pour House
Two country singers that have the distinction of being the rare representative of their genre on their respective labels, Matador's Laura Cantrell and former Merge bandleader Paul Burch, attract indie attention via "country" blends that cull elements from elsewhere. Cantrell's crystal-clear air can rest softly against a stream of piano with a Joni Mitchell or Norah Jones beauty, or rock with Lucinda Williams gusto. As for Burch, he casts Robbie Fulks as contrived with a steel-heavy country that owes as much to Dylan and Cash as it does to Motown's love obsequy. Tickets are $8, and the show starts at 8:30 p.m. --Grayson Currin
Gladys Knight, Maze
Last seen playing rugby in an MBNA commercial, Gladys Knight is best known for 1973's "Midnight Train to Georgia" (originally recorded by Whitney Houston's mom Cissy), one of those sewn-into-the-national-fabric songs that, whether or not they realize it, everybody knows. But, Ms. Knight, along with her brother Bubba and two cousins as the painstakingly choreographed Pips, first hit the charts 12 years earlier with the Johnny Otis song "Every Beat of My Heart." Come out to the Creek and celebrate 45 years of soul and R&B smashes with a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer. This gets going at 7 p.m., and tickets start at $20. --Rick Cornell
Wildlife Photographer of the Year
N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences
Watching lizards and other small creatures may simply be a pastime for some people, but it won Gabby Salazar the Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year award from the BBC Wildlife Magazine. A native of North Carolina, Salazar's picture will be included with other award winners at today's opening. The AV Geeks will also unveil period educational films about things that go boom starting at 7 p.m.
Smart-popping Django Haskins has fronted the Regulars, costarred in International Orange, and these days leads The Old Ceremony (a band that Val Lewton would have loved). However, the first time I encountered Haskins, he was going it alone at gone-but-not-forgotten Go!, and after one-and-a-half songs, I had one of those "Wow, who is this guy?" moments. Show starts at 10 p.m. --Rick Cornell
Former NPR commentator Steven Stark's new work, Meet the Beatles: A Cultural History of the Band that Shook Youth, Gender and the World, explores the Beatles as a major force in gender equality. Sprinkled among explorations into the band's effect on the American psyche are little-known tidbits and fun facts about the group. Meet the author at 11 a.m.
World Tibet Day
Unity Church of the Triangle
Join ACT NC and the Kadampa Center in celebrating the 70th birthday of the Dalai Lama. Starting at 3 p.m., you can learn about Tibet, sign campaign literature and do peace meditation, then watch Tibet: Cry of the Snow Lion--a documentary filmed during journeys through Tibet, India and Nepal--for free. Visit www.unitytriangle.org or call 862-8624 for info.
Liquid Funk of July
That clicking sound you hear on the weekend of the fourth in Raleigh may not be someone's lighter poised over a bottle rocket, but the clatter of percussion from a passel of DJs at this big dance party and cookout. Ten jocks, also parsing hip hop and breaks, run amok on a main stage and the Berkeley's patio: Panic, Deferent and Tommy, Jade, NuM3R1K, among others. $5 gets you in, and 9 p.m. gets it started. --Chris Toenes
Consumers willing to brave the Independence Day madness will find craftspeople and artists displaying goods on the streets of downtown Pittsboro. Good deals are sure to be found, but the merchants' association offers a warning: Expect oppressive heat during the weekend. Featured crafts include whimsical unisex shirts by Joy Peters and Susan Taylor's birdhouses. The monthly First Sunday tradition happens from noon to 5 p.m.
Evil Wiener Wiener Roast
Evil Wiener's casual cookout is a Chapel Hill summer tradition getting up there with pig pickings and lime freezes from Sutton's. The smell of free hot dogs blends with EW's rollicking fantasyland of love, amidst pungent bits of drama and humor. --Chris Toenes
Hot-dog eating contest
N.C. State Fairgrounds
Rides and games? Live music? Fireworks over the Fairgrounds? Ahh, Independence Day. Bring the family for this celebration, which includes the second annual Snoopy's Hot-Dog Eating Contest. Last year's wiener winner manhandled 13 dogs in six minutes. See if you can challenge him. The fun starts at 3 p.m. and ends after the fireworks, which begin around 9 p.m. --Grayson Currin
Bettie Seervert, Cass McCombs
In 1992 this Dutch quartet stormed these shores with Palomine, and--after a fallow late-'90s--have returned with consecutive strong albums, one harking back to their original chugging, Neil Young-influenced indie rock, and the latest tackling more sophisticated pop arrangements. Carol Van Dijk's vocals remain intoxicating. Opener Cass McCombs has a light vocal touch and decent pen to go with a British pop infatuation, which, with the lush sensibility, recalls the Pernice Brothers. Show starts at 9 p.m. and costs $12. --Chris Parker
Fresh off tour with Sleater-Kinney, Dead Meadow returns on the strength of Feathers, their most vocal-centric and produced-for-clarity record to date. Now sporting two guitars into a psychedelic swirl that recalls Blue Cheer and a fleet of Nuggets-era bands, this D.C. foursome has matured beyond the thick bongwater brew of their beginnings, grafting their penchant for acid trips onto Jason Simon's knack for a something-like-pop song. Be there at 10 p.m. --Grayson Currin