Random acts

Of note

The North Carolina-based rockabilly/country group Hobart Willis & The Back Forty plan to have their new album, Full Amigo Flavor, available sometime this fall. For more information, visit them on the Web at www.fullamigoflavor.com.

Asheville-based eclectic rockers The Royal We will be taking full advantage of their appearance at Barley’s this Bele Chere. The aptly timed performance will see the first large-scale release of the group’s two albums, a live recording and a new studio album. The show will also mark the one-year anniversary for The Royal We. For more information, visit www.geocities.com/royalwe.

Front-row reviews

What: Improv Comedy

Where: Area 45 Theatre at Jester’s Cafe

When: Tuesday, July 9

“Hi, [I’m a] long-time listener, first-time caller,” says the charismatic, husky performer on the stage, “and I’d like to talk about how the fascist regime tries to force their pants-wearing mentality on the people. I mean, I go to a store, and the sign says ‘No Shoes, No Shirt, No Service’ … but it doesn’t say anything about pants! But if I don’t wear pants, they won’t let me in! It’s repression, man. Attica! Attica!”

The game is the Radio Call-In Show. The theme is pants. Thus far, people have endured problems with tapered legs cutting off the circulation to their feet, getting their tight pants off, and even an offer from a sweat-shop worker wanting to make pants in the host’s closet for a very reasonable two dollars a day.

On this tiny Wall Street stage, something incredible is happening: People are laughing, and they didn’t even have to pay to do it. This is the Area 45 Theatre at the Jester’s Cafe, and tonight is their free Improv Comedy Show featuring the OxyMorons.

If you’ve ever watched “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” or taken an acting class, chances are you know the improv-comedy-game drill: A handful of actors take the stage. An emcee gives them an absurd scene to play out, a strange game to tackle, or a wacky scenario of some kind to perform. The actors give irritated looks, shake their heads, and then do their absolute best to make something funny happen.

It doesn’t always work. Jokes can fall flat (“I once ate a monkey!” yells an actor, inexplicably). Seemingly funny scenes can die a lingering, silent death (“The scene is … you are two men buying prom dresses”). Even the crowd can be a little unhelpful from time to time (“I need a location from the audience”: “A Tabasco farm!”).

But when all the elements come together in just the right ways, it can be magical.

Take the final act of the OxyMoron’s show, the infamous “World’s Worst” game, in which the performers try to think up the world’s worst auctioneer (“C’mon, who wants to cough up half-a-mil for this crap?”), Circus Freakshow Announcer (“See the incredible bearded man!”), or Mechanic (“Yeah, I’m not really sure what that does…”).

Not all the jokes are hilarious, but even when they produce the pained groan of an absolute failure, a smile can still result. Working live and without a net, the OxyMorons are willing to try any strange comedic idea just for the challenge. Half the fun is trying to see whether they can pull it off.

Who: Sherri Lynn Clark & The Siamese Triplets

Where: Beanstreets

When: Friday, July 12

I didn’t happen to bring along a stop watch to confirm it, but I’m fairly certain that Sherri Lynn Clark and her band set a new record for the weekend’s shortest concert. They had barely set up their instruments, hardly commenced to pick and strum, just begun to heat up the room with old-time goodness … and then they just stopped. After half-a-dozen or so songs, the concert — and the band — were packed-up and gone, leaving a wake of largely pleased, if somewhat confused, latte and espresso drinkers.

On the whole, Ms. Clark and her band gave a solid performance, combining bluegrass ballads, country blues and mountain-gospel songs into a short, sweet set. The banjo and mandolin solos were particularly powerful, and when set against the deeply lonesome group harmonies, the effect was striking, though Clark’s voice, which has a hoarse, almost raspy quality, didn’t always work.

Not that the smallish crowd minded. They tapped their feet, sipped their cup of joe, and smiled. For a free show that barely lasted long enough to let you kill your coffee, it was perfectly entertaining.


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