Mike Doughty's Band
"My circus train pulls through the night/Full of lions and trapeze artists/I'm done with elephants and clowns/I want to run away and join the office," sings Mike Doughty on "American Car," the centerpiece of his recent Haughty Melodic. It's an idle threat. The former Soul Coughing leader hasn't joined the 9-to-5 set; he's still comfortably entrenched in the 9 p.m.-to-midnight world. No, the big change on Haughty Melodic is that "Madeline and Nine," "Busting Up a Starbucks" and other ruminations and rants stripped sinewy for solo delivery are now adorned with pedal steel, electric piano and such by Doughty and producer Dan Wilson (late of Semisonic and even later of Trip Shakespeare). No fear: Doughty's big-beat, big-idea songs work both ways. Chris Glover opens. Music starts at 9 p.m.; $15 gets you in. --Rick Cornell
Modern Life dance night
Can't shake the heady days of British yesteryear, when Madchester meant something, man? Things in a Blur? Pulp got your tongue? Move your body to the best U.K. spins at this no-cover event, with special guest Aircraft. The show starts at 10 p.m. and is free. --Chris Toenes
Franti's worn a lot of different hats in his career--from the industrial-punk sound collages of The Beatnigs to jazzy hip-hoppers Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy to the R&B and funk that's characterized his last decade of work with Spearhead and solo. What's remained constant is Franti's upbeat, consciousness-raising attitude and his familiar political targets, from the death penalty to television and The Man. In 2003, he released both a singer/songwriter album, the folky Songs from the Front Porch, and a fourth Spearhead album, Everyone Deserves Music, which feels particularly crisp, organic and funky. The concert is in the main quad at 8 p.m. --Chris Parker
The Stephanie Miller Show
Self-proclaimed "left-wing wacko" Stephanie Miller hosts a nationally syndicated talk show, broadcast locally on 1360 WCHL. The daughter of former Republican Congressman William Miller--who was on the losing end of the Johnson/Goldwater presidential race in 1964 as a vice-presidential candidate--Miller brings comedy to her politics, telling the Washington Post in 2004 that Fox News is like "Comedy Central for liberals." Miller will broadcast live from the Triangle, the second part in WCHL's "progressive series," which debuted in April with Al Franken. Broadcast runs from 9 a.m. to noon.
Rosie Ledet & the Zydeco Playboys
Blue Bayou Club
It's true that there aren't many women in the zydeco world. But even if there were thousands, accordion-wielding, Tabasco-hot Rosie Ledet would still be the lady getting the most attention. The relative-stocked Zydeco Playboys (featuring Ledet's husband, father-in-law and nephew) provide the award-winning backing while Ledet handles the bluesy touches and the Creole French accents. Their music starts at 9 p.m., and there's a free zydeco dance lesson at 8. Tickets are $17 in advance, $20 the day of the show--although you might not want to wait. The club only holds 100. --Rick Cornell
Desert City Poetry Series
The Desert City Poetry Series, and more specifically, its founder, funder and promoter Ken Rumble, won an Indy Arts Award this year, and he begins his fourth season with increased funding (thanks to a series of deserved grants) and a visit from Brenda Coultas, whose résumé not only includes work in Brookyn Rail but also stints as a taffy maker, Firestone steel welder and carny. Her work travels, too--both to places she has and hasn't been. Greensboro's Marcus Slease joins. The reading begins at 8 p.m., and a $2 donation would be appreciated.
"Spirit Ditties of No Tone," the eighth track on Deerhoof's forthcoming The Runners Four, centers around perhaps the best dance-punk guitar line never written by an actual dance-punk band, a back-and-forth, three-note stab that curls on itself before playfully darting along, afraid of its own genius. A tittering, jilted, half-jazz drumline taps in the back of the pack, the impressionistic Satomi Matsuzaki cooing in a tempered Stereolab way "Montage fragments/Ditties of no tone." "Montage fragments" hold as an apropos slogan for the latest from the San Fran trio, who reach new heights of cohesive exploration and whatever-we-like inclusion here. Lovable pop and erratic noise meet somewhere in an incandescent middle, a center that pulls punk, pretty, petulant and pulse in under the same rules--suspending gravity. Matador's The Double opens. --Grayson Currin
Gus Van Zant explores what Kim Gordon's character terms a "rock 'n' roll cliché" or--less, or more--the end of Kurt Cobain. Played by Michael Pitt, the Seattle rock 'n' roller spirals out of his path to fame and fortune and into the anxiety and angst that put him on that threshold in the first place.
Blowfly is pushing 60 and still a porno freak! Rapping about sex, excess and the occasional political aside (hear his song "First Black President"), this caped panty-raider drops his dirty rhymes over a percolating funk matching Parliament's Southern home cooking. Clarence Reid, the man that is Blowfly's legend, extends from his Georgia-to-Miami roots as producer of hit soul artists to hugely sampled visionary. His latest record? Fahrenheit 69, of course. Pro-L opens, and the joint blows at 10 p.m. --Chris Toenes
New Leadership in N.C. Politics
N.C. Museum of History
From 1973 to 2001, North Carolina was governed by three consecutive James'. Two of them, Democrat James B. Hunt Jr. and Republican James E. Holshouser Jr., will join a bipartisan panel to discuss the need for and fulfillment of change in state governments as local demographics continue to shift. Generation Engage board chairman and former Young Democrats of N.C. chair Courtney Crowder joins his Federation of College Republicans counterpart Tripp Costas for the free 7 p.m. discussion. Ferrel Guillory--an economic development researcher in Chapel Hill with bylines in The New York Times and The Economist--will be there too. Register by Sept. 16 at 807-7968.
Between Sept. 19 and 24, the Triangle hosts Energy Independence Days: Sustainable Solutions for North Carolina. A solar meet-up is scheduled for Chapel Hill, and Hunter Lovins will discuss the prospect of energy sustainability. The series begins with a two-day (Sept. 19-20) Wind Summit, which hopes to build momentum so that the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic United States--home to 10,000 MW of potential wind power--can garner more wind energy than its current 2-percent rate.
David Ryan Harris
Like Franti, Harris is notable for the great variety of his projects and his willingness to follow his muse wherever it leads. In the late-'80s/ early-'90s he was the charismatic frontman of Atlanta's Follow For Now. One of the southeast's great unrecognized talents, they combined funk, rap, rock and punk with a furious live show much like Fishbone. His solo albums have been much more restrained, with a mix of jazz, soul and AC pop, with the occasional rock number to spice up the proceedings. In between he teamed with Black Crowes bassist Johnny Colt and drummer Kenny Cresswell to form the Brand New Immortals, whose hard rock riffage and R&B swagger recalled Lenny Kravitz. He'll be backed by three members of John Mayer's band. The show starts at 9 p.m. and costs $7. --Chris Parker
Even before the staggering impact and cataclysmic aftermath of Katrina, the title track from Baton Rouge-born Mary Gauthier's bruised Americana album Mercy Now was the most emotionally raw and powerful song I'd heard all year. Sings Gauthier in a voice that's seen too much without flinching, even when every fiber of her being was screaming "Look away!": "We hang in the balance/Dangle 'tween hell and hallowed ground/Every single one of us could use some mercy now." Amen. Show starts at 9 p.m., and $12 gets you in. --Rick Cornell