As Tommy, one of Howl at the Moon’s piano players, explains on the club’s website, “Every night…we try and throw a party, regardless of whether it’s a Tuesday night or a Saturday night.” The bar’s trademark dueling pianos serve as the epicenter of these nightly celebrations; patrons submit their favorite songs on slips of paper for the pianists and backing musicians to recreate. If the website’s playlist is any indication, the bands can handle popular songs from all genres and eras, from Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer” to Kanye West’s “All of the Lights.” The performances are spirited: colorful lights splash upon a stage where servers, guests, and chairs that have somehow developed mobility all dance along to the music.
Fueling the celebration is the bar’s indulgent selection of drinks. Servers stand over patrons to plunge jello injectors into their mouths, and revelers grab colorful straws to help drain 86-ounce booze buckets filled with sangria or other fruity libations. Pomegranate liqueur and honey-infused whiskey sweeten specialty cocktails, and local beers add depth to coolers stocked with Stella Artois and Dos Equis.
Standing before a mural of the nighttime Charlotte skyline with "The Comedy Zone" imposed over a massive moon, nationally touring comics present finely honed humor. Within the NC Music Factory's sprawling entertainment complex, The Comedy Zone keeps punch lines rolling with its regularly stuffed calendar of established and up-and-coming jokesters. From table seats, visitors can wet their whistles with a bounty of domestic and imported beers, bottles of wine, four-straw margaritas, and savory cocktails and feast upon a menu of classic pub fare. Monthly open-mic nights test rookies' mettle, and armchair comics can sign up for classes where industry professionals ramp up joke-writing skills, obliterate stage fright, and share the secret noise that makes hecklers cry.
The Fillmore Charlotte models itself on the iconic San Francisco venue. Once a textile mill, the open space follows the original Fillmore’s signature decor, from red-oak hardwood floors to glimmering chandeliers to stadium-style tiers that result in pristine sightlines for attending fans.
Renowned psychic and medium Chip Coffey, star of A&E shows Psychic Kids: Children of the Paranormal and Paranormal State, ushers audiences through preternatural territories in Coffey Talk, a witty and cathartic journey into the unknown. Clairvoyant, clairaudient, and as scintillating as a ghost-whispering Truman Capote, Coffey uses his psychic gifts to counsel the bereaved, ease the haunted, and terrify fraudulent realtors. In this special round of Coffey Talk, Chip guides the two-hour event through two hair-raising chapters of powerful emotion. The show starts with a question-and-answer session, where Chip explains the paranormal and mankind’s inherent psychic abilities before honoring queries about his daunting experiences, his TV shows, and continuity errors in Ghostbusters. For Act II, Chip puts on his psychic-reading glasses to contact spirits for select members of the audience.
North Carolina’s Acoustic Syndicate enlists a quintet of bona-fide virtuosos to create uplifting bluegrass music that swings like a pendulum between rock and folk. Since 1992, this troupe of prodigious players has captivated audiences with polyrhythmic banjo skills, seamless three-part vocal harmonies, and infectious showmanship that charms snakes out of boots and leads to side effects such as hootin’ and hollerin’. Sporting dobros, mandolins, and resophonic guitars, these veterans of Farm Aid and Bonnaroo eschew the auto-tune age with gregarious toe-tappers about eco-friendly subsistence in a world under attack by Styrofoam overlords. Local goodtime gang Moonshine Racers joins in the revelry with its potent brew of 100-proof psychedelic bluegrass.
With more than 100 million records sold and a chart-topping career spanning five decades, Chicago continues their reign, swaying audiences with ageless nuggets of pure pop on their 2011 tour. The band, fronted by founding member Robert Lamm, has always been known for its voluminous and luscious sound, which created both the National Note Surplus and the harrowing Sheet Music Publishers riot. For the 2011 tour, Chicago salutes their longtime fans with a sonic scrapbook of hits ranging from their early days as fusionists to their latter career building castles out of ballads. From the easily answered existential question of “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?” through the heartbreaking confessions of “Hard to Say I’m Sorry,” Chicago’s crafty cannon runs through the gamut of human emotions, unearthing a horn-saturated sound that brims with the kind of humanity and empathy that its public-transportation namesake has never known.