Tuesday, December 14, 2010

AOL: The best of Charlotte winners are...

We all love “best-of” lists, and this week, AOL has unveiled a new list of bars, restaurants and hotspots that it is touting as the “best” in Charlotte.

Charlotte is among 25 U.S. cities that are a part of AOL’s “City’s Best” program, which used editors and writers to select their favorite food, entertainment and lifestyle venues; users of the site were then asked to vote for their favorites, from the editors’ and writers’ lists.

The voting was held at www.citysbest.com between Oct. 13 and Nov. 30, and an AOL spokesperson said “thousands” of people participated in the selection process. Here are the winners:

Best After-Work Bar: Rí Rá Irish Pub, 208 N. Tryon St.

Best Burgers: Penguin Drive-In, 1921 Commonwealth Ave.

Best Cheap Eats: Amélie’s French Bakery & Café, 2424 N. Davidson St.

Best Chinese Food: P.F. Chang’s China Bistro, multiple locations.

Best Desserts: Tasty Yo, multiple locations.

Best Dive Bar: Thomas Street Tavern, 1218 Thomas Ave.

Best Family-Friendly Restaurant: Skyland Family Restaurant, 4544 South Blvd.

Best Fashion Boutique: J.T. Posh, 2400 Park Road.

Best Hotel: Ballantyne Hotel and Lodge, 10000 Ballantyne Commons.

Best Live Music: Visulite Theatre, 1615 Elizabeth Ave.

Best Movie Theater: Ayrsley Grand Cinema 14, 9110 Kings Parade Blvd.

Best Pizza: Luisa’s Brick Oven Pizzeria, 1730 Abbey Place.

Best Places to Break Up: Freedom Park, 1900 East Blvd.

Best Romantic Restaurants: The Fig Tree Restaurant, 1601 E. 7th St., and The Melting Pot, multiple locations.

Best Salon: Lockstar Salon, 2132 McClintock Road.

Best Seafood: Bonefish Grill, multiple locations.

Best Sports Bar: Hickory Tavern, multiple locations.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Ringling Bros. on-sale bash set for Saturday

Ladies and gentlemen children of all ages: Tickets for "Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Presents Barnum's FUNundrum!" go on sale at 10 a.m. Saturday.

To mark the occasion, fans are invited to celebrate P.T. Barnum's 200 birthday at a special on-sale bash at the Time Warner Cable Arena box office, from 10 to noon. There'll be clowns, birthday cake, and giveaways, plus the first 200 paying adults get one free ticket.

The show -- which features 130 performers from six continents, along with pachyderms, cowboys, pirates and mermaids -- will be at the uptown arena in Charlotte on the following dates:

Wed., Jan. 26 7 p.m.
Thu., Jan. 27 7 p.m.

Fri., Jan. 28 10:30 a.m. & 7 p.m.

Sat., Jan, 29 11 a.m., 3 p.m., 7 p.m.

Sun., Jan. 30 11 a.m., 3 p.m.

Tickets are $15 and up, with a limited number of $100 Circus Celebrity seats also available. All seats are reserved and available at through timewarnercablearena.com, ticketmaster.com, the Time Warner Cable Arena box office, all Ticketmaster outlets, or charge by phone 800-745-3000.

For more information, visit www.Ringling.com

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Harlem Globetrotters return to Charlotte

From a Time Warner Cable Arena press release that just landed in my inbox:

Hot on the heels of the most successful year in franchise history, the legendary Harlem Globetrotters will celebrate their 85th consecutive season when their dazzling 2011 World Tour stops in March at Time Warner Cable Arena®, showcasing the wholesome family entertainment that has provided lifetime memories for generations of fans.

The Harlem Globetrotters will take the court at Time Warner Cable Arena® for 2 games this year: Friday, March 25 at 7 p.m. and Saturday, March 26 at 1 p.m. Tickets are on sale now through timewarnercablearena.com, ticketmaster.com, the Time Warner Cable Arena® box office, all Ticketmaster outlets, or charge by phone 800-745-3000. Information on group and scout tickets can also be found by calling 704-688-9050.

“Our 85th season promises to be a landmark year, with never before seen innovations in the game,” says Michael Kenney, the Globetrotters’ senior vice president, live event marketing. “You’ll want to get your tickets now to witness firsthand what we have in store for our wonderful fans around the world.”

The Globetrotters will perform over 270 shows in North America from the last week of December 2010 through mid-April 2011.

Sponsored by Campbell Soup Company, Spalding and Howard Johnson Hotels, the Original Harlem Globetrotters have played in 120 countries and territories on six continents, entertaining over 132 million fans and breaking down barriers between cultures, societies and people from all walks of life, earning induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. For the latest news and information about the Harlem Globetrotters, and to purchase team merchandise, visit the Globetrotters’ official Web site: www.harlemglobetrotters.com.

Keith Urban brings 'Get Closer' tour to Charlotte

From a Time Warner Cable Arena press release that just landed in my inbox:

Keith Urban announces his “Get Closer 2011 World Tour” today. Keith and band, along with a very special guest to be announced, are expected to make close to 60 stops across North America and can be seen in Charlotte at Time Warner Cable Arena on Friday, June 24
Tickets will go on sale Friday, February 11.

Critics have called Urban’s shows “one of the best reasons in the world to attend a live concert.” They’ve said that fans would be “hard-pressed to find a better country - or rock - show anywhere.” Urban’s catalogue of hits; “Better Life,” “Somebody Like You,” “Days Go By,” “You’ll Think Of Me,” “Sweet Thing” and his latest, “Put You In A Song,” combined with an all new production will give his fans a unique concert experience that has earned Urban a reputation as one of music's best live performers.

The tour comes in support of his sixth studio CD
Get Closer, which was released just this past week. Get Closer follows two previous consecutive Billboard country and pop #1 albums, as well as five previous CDs, all of which have been certified platinum or multi-platinum. His last effort, 2009’s Defying Gravity, produced five Top 5 hits, including chart-toppers “Sweet Thing” and “Only You Can Love Me This Way,” bringing his total of #1 songs to eleven.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Uptown getting into the holiday spirit

WBT's "Holiday on Ice," a 5,000-square-foot outdoor ice skating rink will open for its seventh season on Wednesday at The Green Uptown (435 S. Tryon St.). Admission is $7 per person and $3 for skate rental; season passes are also available. Hours are 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, and 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Sunday. Extended hours begin Dec. 22. Details are available at www.wbtholidayonice.com. Last year, "Holiday on Ice" served more than 20,000 people.

The Belk Carolinas' Carrousel Parade -- a Thanksgiving Day tradition in Charlotte -- will again feature marching bands, colorful floats, rhythmic step and drill teams, clowns, stilt-walkers, mascots, horses and more when it marches down Tryon Street on Thursday. The parade will start at 10 a.m. from 10th and North Tryon streets and ends at the Levine Center for the Arts at South Tryon Street. WBTV (Channel 3) will televise the parade at 4 p.m. the same day. The parade has been the kick-off to the holiday season here since 1947 and is the fourth-largest Thanksgiving parade in the U.S., according to organizers. In 2009, more than 110,000 spectators were on hand.

Uptown Charlotte’s official Christmas tree will be lighted on Thursday, Dec. 2 during a free ceremony that also will feature holiday music, dance, strolling performers and singers, Santa Claus and more. The event will take place in Corporate Plaza at Founder's Hall. Activities start at 5:30 with a jazz trio performance; the lighting ceremony is at 6; a Nutcracker performance and more music continue until 8 p.m. Dec. 2 also will mark the start of the second season of the uptown holiday market called TWELVE. Located at the Square in 101 Independence Center, patrons can browse TWELVE for holiday décor, arrangements and other products offered by local vendors. More information on these events can be found at www.findyourcenter.com.

Speedway lights up for Christmas season

Carolina Christmas, a new 2.5-mile drive-through Christmas light park and village, opens tonight on the track and infield of Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord.

The celebration -- set to begin just after 5:30 p.m. -- will include fireworks; the lighting of the Carolina Christmas display, featuring more than a million lights and 500 different displays; and an appearance by Santa.

The attraction opens to the public at 6 p.m., and through Jan. 2, will be open from 6 to 10 p.m. nightly. Tickets ($20 per carload) are available online and at the gate nightly during event hours for drive-up traffic. For details, click here.

Carowinds gets the Xmas treatment, too

The theme park's display -- a tradition since 1983 -- will illuminate the sky beginning Nov. 26. Standing more than 40 feet tall and using more than 5,000 lights, the star at the top of the Carolina Skytower (more than 300 feet tall itself) will shine each evening this holiday season.

Ground crews use a pulley system to erect the massive star; workers then use hundreds of strands of lights to complete the "tree." Said Carowinds' vice president and general manager Bart Kinzel: "We like to think we are helping put commuters in the holiday spirit every time they drive by Carowinds."

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Mint Museum offers free shuttle service

Thanksgiving means out-of-town visitors for many, which means next Friday and Saturday, Charlotteans will be looking for ways to entertain those guests.

One popular idea will be the Mint museums, and this news may make it even more popular: The Mint will offer free shuttle service between the Randolph and Uptown locations on both Nov. 26 and 27.

The shuttle will run every 30 minutes from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Admission to the Mint is valid for both locations for two days from the date of purchase. (The museums are closed on Thanksgiving Day.)

At the Mint Randolph, visitors can get up close and personal with a Mary Cassatt painting recently installed in the galleries. There is also a small spotlight show around the painting "Mary Cassatt's Madame X: A Masterpiece from the Charlotte and Philip Hanes Collection," which will present period fashions and decorative objects from the artist's era.

At the Mint Uptown, visitors can view the inaugural exhibitions "New Visions: Contemporary Masterworks from the Bank of America Collection" and "Contemporary British Studio Ceramics: The Grainer Collection." In addition, children can play in the Lewis Family Gallery or go on a scavenger hunt using "ARTventure cards," which are available at the front desk.

For more information on the Mint museums, click here.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Ke$ha returning to Charlotte in 2011

Ke$ha will play The Fillmore Charlotte on April 19, 2011, as part of her first headlining tour. The “Get $leazy” tour kicks off in Portland on Feb. 15th and wraps in Los Angeles on May 6.

Ke$ha, who was the headliner at Gravedigger's Ball in Charlotte on Oct. 30 at Dixie's Tavern, is touring in support of her new album "Cannibal" (in stores Nov. 22).

Tickets for the Fillmore concert will go on sale Friday, Nov. 19, at 10 a.m. at LiveNation.com, The Fillmore Charlotte box office, Ticketmaster or charge by phone 800-745-3000.

Monday, November 8, 2010

EpiCentre set to welcome ACC fans

From a press release that just popped into our inboxes:

In the days leading to the ACC Championship Game on December 4, popular uptown destination EpiCentre, located at 210 E Trade Street, will serve as headquarters for all ACC football fans.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s Whisky River will kickoff the festivities on Thursday night, December 2, by hosting a live performance by country music recording artist Bridgette Tatum. The singer-songwriter’s single “LOUD” is the official theme song of ACC football this year and appeared during Raycom Sports broadcasts of ACC football throughout the season.

Tickets for Bridgette Tatum at Whisky River are available at WhiskyRiverCharlotte.com; Extra Point Pass holders will receive free admission to the concert. The Extra Point Pass is the official membership program of Charlotte Collegiate Football and includes free services and discounts at participating restaurants, local retailers and entertainment venues. More information about the Extra Point Pass program is available at ExtraPointPass.com.

The following evening, Friday night, December 3, EpiCentre hosts ACC Fan Central beginning at 7 p.m., featuring special appearances by ACC team mascots, pep bands and cheerleaders beginning at 9 p.m. ACC football fans will also receive free admission to EpiCentre hotspots BlackFinn, Kazba, Mez, Mortimer’s, StrikeCity, Suite and Whisky River until 11 p.m. on Friday night.

ACC Fanfest will take place on Saturday, December 4 from noon until 7 p.m. adjacent to Bank of America Stadium. Fanfest will include interactive games, team bands, mascots, pep rallies, ACC corporate partner attractions and giveaways, food/beverages, autograph opportunities with ACC Legends and entertainment all day long, including a performance by country music stars Montgomery Gentry. Admission to Fanfest is free to anyone attending the ACC Championship Game.

The weekend culminates with the Dr Pepper ACC Championship on Saturday night inside Bank of America Stadium; kickoff is set for 7:45 p.m. The game pits the ACC Atlantic Division winner against the ACC Coastal Division winner for the opportunity to represent the conference as ACC Champion in the Discover Orange Bowl on January 3 in Miami. Tickets for the Dr Pepper ACC Championship are available at ACCFootballCharlotte.com.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Upcoming Mint Museum Uptown events

Here are details on two:

Kick off the weekend at the new Mint Museum Uptown (500 S. Tryon St.) with First Friday on November 5 from 6:00-9:00 p.m. First Fridays is an ongoing evening event series held at the Mint the first Friday of every month, featuring hands-on art activities for all ages, live entertainment, gallery tours, and refreshments. This month’s theme, MoveMint, accompanies the opening of the Museum’s newest exhibition Janet Biggs: Going to Extremes (on display November 5, 2010 – May 29, 2011). Video artist Biggs’ commissioned work, Duet, focused on NASCAR racing, will be screened for the first time at the Mint Museum Uptown. Meet the artist, view an on-site Joe Gibbs race car, and listen to the Mike Strauss Band. Admission is free for Mint members and $10 for non-members. For more information, call 704.337.2034 or visit www.mintmuseum.org/firstfridays.

Debuting in November, the Let’s Get Reel music and movies series will be held the second Tuesday of each month at the Mint Museum Uptown. Free live music starts at 6:00 p.m., followed by a movie screening at 7:00 p.m. On November 9, enjoy jazz by the Calvin Edwards Trio, followed by the movie Amélie (French with English subtitles). Admission to the movie is free for Mint members and $5 for non-members.

Have you been to the Mint Museum Uptown yet? If so, what did you think?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Win dinner with Brotha Fred

Jake Pavelka of ABC's "The Bachelor" fame was to be in Charlotte Friday to spend a night on the town including a dinner at Mez with 10 women selected based on photos uploaded to www.charlottesbeat.com.

Earlier today, Mez revealed on its Facebook page that Pavelka had backed out of his commitment. But instead of canceling the function, the EpiCentre establishment simply replaced one bachelor with another.

Stepping in: Brotha Fred, 29, star of 96.1 The Beat's AM Mayhem morning show and "Fox News Edge" on Fox Charlotte TV.

Mez is now calling it the "Jake Flaked" event, and has dubbed Brotha Fred "Charlotte's biggest bachelor." Friday remains the night for the action, and interested women can continue uploading photos to The Beat's website.

What do you think? Is Brotha Fred an improvement? Or should they have just canceled the event?

Friday, October 15, 2010

Lake Norman HS grad voted off 'Runway'

April Johnston repeatedly bet on black during her long run on "Project Runway," and had a winning streak with her monotone but striking designs that brought her to the Final Five.

On Thursday night, though, the 22-year-old Lake Norman High School graduate's luck ran out. She became the 13th person eliminated from the Lifetime reality show.

Before her ouster, judge Michael Kors told Johnston, "You have made a version of this garment so many times I can't count. There's never any joy in your clothes." Added judge Nina Garcia: "I am not certain that you have any range besides this."

Johnston was 21 when the show was being shot, making her the youngest member of the competition. She grew up in Mooresville and is a 2010 graduate of the Savannah College of Art and Design.

In a telephone interview Friday afternoon, she defended her choices.

“As far as using black all the time, I felt like I was a little stuck in a rut, and I almost ended up feeling like I was creating a collection,” she said. “But from my viewpoint, everything that I created was modern and forward-thinking, and I thought that ‘Project Runway’ was about finding a designer that was up-and-coming and forward and modern, and that’s who I am as a designer.

“I wasn’t gonna send something down the runway in hot pink. I mean, that’s who I am, and that’s what I stuck to, and I still stand by that.”

Johnston, who currently resides in Savannah, is pouring her efforts this fall into a company and clothing line she founded called Mangled Courtesan (www.mangledcourtesan.com).

“Basically I’m just trying to get my stuff manufactured and in stores as soon as possible,” she said, “and really kind of live my dream.”

Win dinner with 'The Bachelor' Jake Pavelka

From a press release that just popped into my inbox:

On Friday, Oct. 22, Mez in conjunction with 96.1 The Beat will present a bachelor's party unlike any other with the handsome Jake Pavelka from ABC’s hit reality TV show The Bachelor.

Still on the lookout for “the one,” Pavelka will be spending a night on the town including an exclusive dinner at Mez with 10 lucky ladies. Interested single ladies can enter to win dinner with Jake by uploading a photo at www.charlottesbeat.com.

Jake Pavelka was the star of 'The Bachelor: On the Wings of Love,' Season 14 of the show. He was also a suitor on Season 5 of 'The Bachelorett'e and a contestant on Season 10 of 'Dancing with the Stars.'

Friday, October 8, 2010

EpiCentre cage fighting, Round 5

Want a little Mixed Martial Arts to go with your mixed drink?

Fight Lab Promotions is bringing its fifth cage fighting event to the Pavilion at EpiCentre (210 E. Trade St.), on Thursday, Oct. 14. Bell time is set for 7:30 p.m. and the evening will feature eight MMA bouts, including four championship matches.

The co-main events are: Newly minted Fight Lab Light Heavyweight Champion Brandon Beach of Shelby (2-1) vs. challenger Zach Klouse of Gastonia (6-3); and Jason Lineberger of Charlotte (5-3) vs. Amos Collins of Myrtle Beach (7-1), for the Fight Lab lightweight championship.

General admission tickets for "EpiCentre Cage Fights V" are available at FightLabPros.com for $20 in advance, or for $30 at the door on the day of the event.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Have a little RenFest with your lunch today

Carolina Renaissance Festival performers -- including musicians, stilt walkers, jugglers, and singers -- will appear at the intersection of Trade and Tryon streets in uptown Charlotte at noon today for a special performance.

The Carolina Renaissance Festival opens for its 17th annual season Saturday, and runs for seven consecutive weekends (through Sunday, Nov. 21). For details, click here.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Mez at the Epicentre announces relaunch

From a press release that just popped into my inbox:

Mez invites guests to eat, stay and play while experiencing the restaurant's fresh new look and menu at The Relaunch on Friday, Oct. 8 from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. The event will showcase several updates to the venue, including a new light and sound system, DJ booth and state-of-the-art 3D movie screen. The restaurant has also added contemporary VIP lounge areas featuring sleek and stylish furniture. Along with new chef Anoosh Shariat comes an updated menu and a chef's table that is available for special events. For more information or to make reservations, call (704) 971-2400.
About Chef Anoosh Shariat:

Chef Anoosh has a unique style of fusion that can be best described as "global cuisine." He spent years cooking in Germany, Switzerland and in the American Southwest before moving to Charlotte. He has a particular affinity for combining Middle Eastern ingredients with classic cooking techniques and the indigenous foods of the South, and his cooking methods have been shown on the Discovery Channel's "Great Chefs of the South." In addition, Anoosh has cooked at the James Beard House in New York four times, and he was a featured chef at the 2005 Culinary Institute of America's World of Flavor Conference in Napa, Calif. He has also taught a master class for the International Association of Culinary Professionals in San Antonio, Texas.
About Mez:

Voted Best New Restaurant and Bar by Charlotte Magazine in 2009, Mez is a contemporary dining experience that entertains the palate with global fare from chef Anoosh Shariat. The restaurant is located at 210 East Trade Street in Charlotte and serves lunch and dinner daily. A late night menu is available Sunday through Wednesday until midnight and Thursday through Saturday until 2 a.m.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Thirty Seconds to Mars gets new date

The THIRTY SECONDS TO MARS concert at The Fillmore Charlotte (originally slated for Oct. 13) has been postponed until Nov. 1 due to scheduling conflicts.

This is the second time this year the show has been pushed back. The Jared Leto-fronted band was originally to take place at Road Runner Mobile Amphitheatre this past April.

All tickets purchased for the original dates will be honored for night of show.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Fantasia to play Ovens in November

Fantasia is bringing her very first headlining tour to Charlotte this fall.

The 30-city "Back to Me" tour will begin on Nov. 4 in Richmond, Va., and stops at Ovens Auditorium on Wednesday, Nov. 17. This will be the 26-year-old High Point native's first public appearance in the Queen City since her suicide attempt in August, which came just days after the story about her affair with a married Charlotte man was splashed all over the tabloids.

"I'm so excited about this tour and having the chance to connect with my fans, the people that love me and have been supporting me through everything," she said in a statement. "This tour is going to be a real special, intimate experience for them and for me."

The eight-time Grammy nominee's tour will support her third studio album, "Back to Me," which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard R&B Albums chart and No. 2 on Billboard’s Top 200 Albums chart.

Fans can sign up at FantasiaOfficial.com to receive up-to-date tour information and details on pre-sale opportunities. Opening the show for the Season 3 winner of Fox's "American Idol" will be three-time Grammy Award nominee Eric Benet and Grammy-winning singer/songwriter/producer Kandi.

Elton John to play his hits in Asheville

Elton John and his band will appear on Nov. 16 at the Asheville Civic Center in Asheville to performing their “Greatest Hits Live” concert, featuring hits such as “Candle in the Wind,” “Your Song,” “Daniel,” “Rocket Man,” and “Bennie and the Jets.”

Elton John’s career spans five decades, during which he’s produced 35 gold and 25 platinum albums, and 29 consecutive Top 40 hits; and sold more than 250 million records worldwide. His band includes Davey Johnstone on guitar, Bob Birch on bass, John Mahon on percussion, Nigel Olsson on drums, and Kim Bullard on keyboards.

Nov. 16 is a Tuesday, and the concert is scheduled for 8 p.m. The Asheville Civic Center has a seating capacity of approximately 7,600. Tickets ($47/$87/$137, plus applicable fees) go on sale at 10 a.m. Monday, Oct. 4, online at www.ticketmaster.com, at all Ticketmaster outlets, or via charge-by-phone at 800-745-3000. There is an eight-ticket limit per customer.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Rodrigo y Gabriela cancel tour

Mexican musical duo Rodrigo y Gabriela have canceled their October tour dates, including a scheduled performance at The Fillmore Charlotte on Oct. 16

From the press release issued by their publicist:

"After a year of relentless touring, the wear and tear finally caught up with Gabriela. Her incredibly physical style of play involves banging out complex rhythms on the neck and body of her guitar night after night, putting great stress upon her right hand and arm as well as joints like the wrist and elbow. It is under a doctor's recommendation that she rest her joints and muscles to avoid further harm and permanent damage. While the duo is incredibly frustrated to have to pull out of dates in cities they were very much looking forward to visiting for the first time, the move was an unavoidable reality that had to be made in order to ensure that Gabriela fully recovers and is able to play at full capacity for many years to come.

Rodrigo y Gabriela hope to return to the cities affected by the tour dates in the future and are grateful for their fans continued support and understanding."

'Billy Elliot' tickets on sale Friday

Tickets to the Tony Award-winning "Billy Elliot the Musical" go on sale Friday during a special event that will double as a charitable opportunity.

The line will begin forming at 5 a.m. at Belk Theater, 130 N. Tryon St, and the box office will be open from 7 a.m.-9 a.m. During this time, Second Harvest Food Bank will be collecting canned goods and HDR Architecture will display the word "DREAM" using canned goods ("to honor the show's theme of following and achieving one's dream").

"Billy Elliot the Musical" plays at Ovens Auditorium from Jan. 12-30. For more information, click here.

Beginning at 9 a.m., tickets will be available online at BlumenthalCenter.org; by phone at 704-372-1000; through Ticketmaster; or at the Bojangles' Arena box office.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Avett Bros. prove to be red-hot ticket

On Tuesday, the Avett Brothers announced that they would be performing and signing copies of their new CD/DVD, "Live, Volume 3," on Oct. 5 at Manifest Disc in Charlotte.

On Wednesday, Columbia Records announced that the special in-store event had already sold out.

Admission to the 7:30 p.m. appearance on Tuesday, Oct. 5, was granted to the first 400 fans who pre-ordered the CD or DVD at the South Boulevard music store.

"Live, Volume 3" documents the Avett Brothers' performance at Bojangles Coliseum in Charlotte on Aug. 8, 2009 and can be pre-ordered here.

Stone Temple Pilots concert rescheduled

Stone Temple Pilots have pushed back their show at Charlotte's Road Runner Mobile Amphitheatre by two weeks -- originally scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 6, it will now take place on Wednesday, Oct. 20.

According to a Live Nation press release, the move is part of a re-routing of their fall tour. All purchased tickets for the original dates will be honored for the rescheduled shows.

Tickets are on sale now at LiveNation.com, the amphitheatre box office, Ticketmaster or charge by phone 800-745-3000.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Fort Mill chef ready to mix it up on 'Kitchen'

As the saying goes, you can take the girl out of New York, but you can't take the New York out of the girl.

Lisa LaFranca, 48, says co-workers originally thought she'd make a good candidate for Fox's hit show "Hell's Kitchen" because of "my New Yorkness… They think I'm a (expletive), I guess."

The corporate food director -- who has lived in Fort Mill for four years and wound up making "Hell's Kitchen's" Season 8 cast -- describes her personality with equal bluntness: "I'm not out to impress anybody, really. The things I do, I do for me. I don't care what other people think. I really don't. I'm not gonna kiss anybody's (expletive)."

She and 15 other contestants will vie for a $250,000-per-year head chef job in L.A., under the watchful eye of the show's acerbic star, chef Gordon Ramsay (who himself is known for profanity-laced tirades). The competition begins in Wednesday night's season premiere, which airs at 8 on Fox.

LaFranca, for her part, is curious to see how she's been edited. "It'll be interesting to see what they keep and what they don't keep, 'cause with my mouth … I don't know."

Monday, September 20, 2010

Ke$ha to party in Charlotte for Halloween

Get ready to brush your teeth with a bottle of Jack: Ke$ha -- the pouty pop star behind hits like "Tik Tok" and "Blah Blah Blah" -- will headline Kiss 95.1's 2010 Gravediggers Ball at Dixie's Tavern in uptown Charlotte on Saturday, Oct. 30.

Her opening act will be Kevin Rudolph, best known for the 2008 hit "Let It Rock" and this year's "I Made It."

The annual party consistently draws big-name acts as headliners; in the past few years, Backstreet Boys, Katy Perry and Bret Michaels have performed for thousands of Halloween partiers.

Tickets for Gravediggers Ball are $15 and available at Dixie’s Tavern or online at DixiesCharlotte.com and Kiss951.com.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Ace & TJ employee bets job on Panthers' win

KISS 95.1 Photo
From a press release that just popped into our inbox:

Nationally syndicated top rated Morning Show Ace&TJ hopes hometown NFL team the Carolina Panthers have a winning season and soon, or else they are out a show member!

Stunt guy, White Shadow promises a victory for the Panthers within the first 5 weeks of the regular season and he’s willing to bet his job on it.

The team must have a win by October 11th for the part-time employee and former intern of nearly 3 years to keep his position.

Following a season opening loss against the NY Giants in the Meadowlands, the Panthers next chance for victory will be at Bank of America Stadium on Sunday September 19thagainst the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Ace&TJ Show stunt guy, White Shadow is most known for his stint living on the roof of the radio station last year for 20 days, until the Panthers won a game during the 2009-2010 season. After a disappointing pre-season and a loss to the Giants last week, Shadow vowed not to live on the roof again, claiming that the team would fare better this year than last. If the Panthers don’t win a game over the next 4 weeks, or game 5 of the regular season, Shadow promises to walk away from his job on the show.

“Living on the roof was my way to rally for the guys last year, now I’m confident in my team. I’m not worried I will lose my job by October, even if Moore can’t play,” Shadow said.

Ace points out, “This shows his dedication to the Panthers. We don’t want to lose him, but we’ve made him aware that now this has become public there is no backing down. If the Panthers don’t win he has to leave the show.”

TJ adds, “We love his dedication to the Panthers, we’re just not that crazy about his dedication to the job!”

Kelli Bartik, FOX Charlotte sports anchor, joined the Ace&TJ Show this week and commented that on paper, the Panthers had a good shot to win in their match up against the Buccaneers. This could be their best chance for a win until week 5 when they play the Chicago Bears. Shadow and the Panthers have until October 10th against the Bears to win.

Listen Monday to hear if Shadow has a job! The Ace&TJ Show can be heard on flagship station Kiss 95.1 in Charlotte and nine other syndicated stations, as well as online at www.acetj.com. Follow us on www.twitter.com/TheAceTJShow and on Facebook, “Ace & TJ Show”.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Bob Dylan to play on UNC Charlotte campus

Bob Dylan and His Band will perform an all-ages concert at UNC Charlotte's Halton Arena at 8 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 14. Tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. Friday for $45 (or $25 for students with I.D.) plus $10.30 in service and handling fees.

Tickets can be purchased via Ticketmaster by clicking here; there is also a presale beginning at 10 a.m. Wednesday (use the password "49ers").

Dylan -- the 69-year-old singer-songwriter behind anthems like "Blowin' in the Wind" and "The Times They Are a-Changin' " -- will be playing at universities throughout the Southeast and Midwest during the month of October. A full list of tour dates is here.

Will 'nice guy' finish first on 'Survivor'?

The last few years have been hell for Chase Rice.

In 2007, having just earned a job as a starting linebacker for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, he suffered an ankle injury in the first game of the season. He would not return to the gridiron until the fall of 2008.

"I got my starting job back, and then I got the call that my dad had died," recalls Rice. "I ended up not being the same player." His performance suffered, he lost his starting job again, and suddenly he was without two things he had really loved: football, and his father.

And so being cast on "Survivor: Nicaragua," the 21st installment of CBS's long-running hit reality competition, fulfills two of the 24-year-old's desires: to rekindle his competitive fire, and to honor the memory of his late father with a display of mettle and fortitude. Rice is one of three contestants this season who have strong ties to N.C. -- after graduating from UNC in 2009 he worked as a jackman for Hendrick Motorsports in Mooresville for a year, then moved to Nashville to pursue a country-music career.

Q. Did you do anything in particular to prepare for the trip to Nicaragua?
Actually, I got with a Marine here in Charlotte and did some training with him. He helped me with my diet to get me ready ... I cut out all sugar. The goal there is to get your body mentally and physically ready for the hell that you’re about to go through. I actually lost weight … I dropped from probably about 212 to about 206. That’s not too much, but still a lot of people put weight on (before they do the show).

Q. What was your strategy going into the competition?
A lot of people trust people from the South, so I wanted to use that to my advantage. And just lay low, just try to be a nice guy, really just get people to trust and try to stay out of arguments ... because the more you argue and put your name out there, the more your head’s on the chopping block. So I just kind of wanted to stay out of the way and work hard and just try not to put a target on my back really.

Q. How did you react to the news that the theme for the season was going to be old vs. young?
"Oh dang, this ain’t good." Because my first picture in my head was like "Lord of the Flies," where nothing’s gonna get done, everyone’s gonna be arguing, there’s gonna be no leadership. Then I figured the older tribe would probably have a lot of organization, good leadership, especially because they got (two-time Super Bowl winning coach) Jimmy Johnson on the team. Best coach right there."

Q. You come across on your CBS bio as a generally nice guy, someone who doesn't seem to want to cause problems. Is that you?
Yeah, I mean, there’s no reason to go around causing problems just pissing people off all the time, you know? It’s kind of a different deal because this is a competition, but in my opinion, you want to be yourself as much as you can, because if you’re out there for a whole 40 days or whatever, eventually the real you is probably gonna come out. So that was my mentality going in, to be me from the start. People will see that, and that to me will allow people to trust you. Because if you’re trying to fake everything, then most likely people are going to see through that.

Q. It also said on your bio that you mention JT as the "Survivor" contestant you’re most like.
Yeah, I feel like JT played ("Tocantins") just great. He won a ton of the challenges and yet people still loved him. To me, it’s almost I’m kind of confused by that, because if I see someone like that that everyone loves and is winning and deserves it, that’s someone you should probably get rid of. But JT found a way to keep the target off his back. And he’s from the South, so that’s something we definitely have in common.

Q. What would you do with a million dollars if you won it?
My brother and his buddy from high school started a nonprofit organization called Huntthecure.org. It’s based out of Asheville and basically the money that they raise goes to trying to find a cure for cancer. My dad pretty much died from malignant melanoma cancer, and so I’d like to donate some money to them. And other than that, just kind of give me a foot up living in Nashville. It’s a tough business to make it in, but a million dollars wouldn’t hurt.

Q. How’s the music thing going?

It’s going well. I’ve been meeting with people, doing songwriting sessions, and just working on writing right now. The more you can write, the better you get and the better songs you put out.

Q. Looking back on the career-ending football injury and the passing of your dad, how would you say your life perspective has changed having had a couple years now to grieve and reflect?
Everything that you go through in life, it makes you who you are, and I’ve been through some tough stuff in the last two years, losing football and obviously losing my dad. So I feel like it’s definitely made me a strong person, it’s made me closer to my family. I would talk with my mom once a week or something before I lost my dad, and now I talk to her all the time and I go see her as much as I can. ... I’ve gotten tougher from it, because you’ve gotta learn to get through life without a dad. It’s not the easiest thing when you’re 22 years old.

Q. Do you feel like in a way you went out to play Survivor for your dad?
Absolutely. And also to just kind of represent my family. I got you know two older brothers, Chad (28, of Raleigh) and Casey (26, of Wilmington), and then my mom (who lives in Fairview, near Asheville). I’d like to represent them in the best way that I can.

Q. Before you got on the show, what’s the craziest thing you’d ever done in your life?
Probably run out in front of a race car. Race cars go down pit road at 50 mph and you’re just running out in front of one while other cars are zooming by. So that’s a pretty crazy thing. But it’s fun. It’s better to have a good time then live a boring life.

Monday, September 13, 2010

N.C. 'Survivor': I'm no 'old fogey'

Jane Bright had been trying for 10 years to get her shot at "Survivor" fame, so when she finally got the call that producers were interested, she wasn't about to let a little weather get in her way.

"The hardest thing was actually getting to the casting, because that's when the ice storm hit here back in January," says Bright, who lives in the tiny town of Jackson Springs, near Pinehurst. "I told the producer, 'I'll tell you what. I've got a John Deere tractor, it's got big ol' tires, I know that tractor will make it up there (to the airport). My neighbor just busted out laughing. They were like, 'Jane, you gonna drive your tractor?' I said, 'If I have to. It's real important. I HAVE to be there.'"

The 56-year-old dog trainer, who was born and raised in Gaffney, S.C., eventually made it to the audition (no tractor necessary) and landed a spot in "Survivor: Nicaragua," the 21st installment of CBS's long-running hit reality competition. Bright is one of three contestants this season who have strong ties to N.C.

Q. What’s Jackson Springs like?
It’s a blink. We have a crossroads. We have a church on one side of the crossroads, and a little tiny -- and I mean a tiny -- park on the other side of the crossroads. And we have a community center and a post office. That’s it. … It’s real rural, and this is where Pinehurst was originally supposed to be. But anyway, I like it out here.

Q. Before you got on the show, what’s the craziest thing you’d ever done in your life?
Probably rappelling off the side of a cliff at Kings Mountain. I had this guy who when we were in college he talked me into going up there, and he literally had to pry my fingers off the side of the mountain to get me to grab the rope. Once I did it, I was fine. But that initial letting go -- I don’t know how far up we were, but it was very high up. The other guy that went with us, he never did do it. He panicked, he just couldn’t do it.

Q. What was your motivation for applying to the show?
I’ve been applying for like 10 years, ever since that first show appeared on TV (and) a friend of mine called me up and he said, “I have never seen anything that I thought you couldn’t do and you need to go try to apply for that.” So he and I, we were applying for a couple years, never got picked, never got selected, nothing. And I’m not one to quit, so if it’s in my mind to do something, I keep doing it until I get it. I mean, I’d probably 90 years old and still applying.

Q. What was your strategy going into the competition?
I know I can do things, and I know I can fish, I know I can hunt, I know I’m not afraid to go grab a crab and stuff like that. My whole procedure was try to make as many friends as you can get, hang low, if you have to ride somebody’s coattails, do it. That never ended up happening. I couldn’t make an alliance with any strong guy to save my life; they thought I was weak as water. And I proved them wrong. And I think some of them regret not making an alliance with me in the beginning, but that’s all I can say about that. But I knew I was gonna take care of them, kind of be like the momma hen and show them ... I’m valuable (in certain ways).

Q. What was your initial reaction when you found out the theme for the season was going to be old vs. young?
Oh, I was crushed. I was like “I don’t want to be with these old fogeys. Noooooooo, these young kids will whip our asses!” (Laughing.) I mean, I know we had some strong people on our team, but the youth have such vigor and such vitality and such energy -- to me that goes a long way. I was kind of crushed because I was hoping to pick some little studly dude and be like his momma so he’ll like carry me along a little bit, and then it ended up being all the old dudes together and I’m looking around, I’m going OK that guy looks really good, maybe ride his coattails (but he didn’t want to have nothing to do with nobody.

Q. What would you do with a million dollars if you won it?
Pay off my farm, get my child through college, and build a big building barn where it can be a multifunctional building where I can have the kids train their dogs in the summertime without having to be outside in a hundred degree weather (she runs a summer camp on her farm). ... I also need a place I can store my hay so I can get more money for it in the wintertime when nobody’s got any hay.

Q. One thing that really comes across in the little bio video of you that appears on CBS’s website is that you’re young at heart, and that you think people tend to underestimate your endurance. Do you think it’s that you’re in really good physical shape literally, or do you think it’s just a raw, natural toughness you’ve developed by virtue of the fact that you don’t live a pampered life?

Well, I’ve never lived a pampered life. I mean, I wake up real early. I never sit down ... and I’ve never been fat, OK, I’m always active. I’ll eat in five minutes, and I’m out to go and do something else. I look at it like every minute of every day, there’s something that needs to get done. And that’s just the way I am. I don’t take many days off. ... (The experience of being on the show) is harder than what you think, but I am a survivor and I truly could have survived out there with what we were given. I could have. I mean, it’d been nice if there’d been a little more fruit and stuff like that, but even though it was hard and there were times I was freezing cold, shoot -- it was not that bad. I’m a die-hard. Rain, sleet, snow, ice, whatever, I’m like the postal person: I’m still getting out there and doing it.

Is Nicholas Sparks a hopeless romantic?

Much will be made this week about the fact that Nicholas Sparks’ new book “Safe Haven,” which hit stores Tuesday, represents the bestselling author’s first major foray into the thriller genre.

And yet he’s not straying too far away from the immensely popular love stories he’s known for (like 1996’s runaway hit “The Notebook”), and after more than a decade the No. 1 question he continues to field from fans remains the same: Is the 44-year-old North Carolinian as romantic with his wife as the men are with the women in his books?

Sparks – who will sign copies of the new book at Barnes & Noble’s Arboretum location Thursday night – provided an answer to that popular question in a recent interview with the Observer, while also talking about his enormous popularity, creating convincing action sequences for “Safe Haven,” and why he’ll never set a novel on the Titanic.


Q. What drove you to push this story in this direction?

I do my best to write different novels, although on screen they tend to feel very similar. The novels themselves are as different as I can possibly make them while (retaining) some familiar elements. You know it’s gonna be a love story, you know it’s set in a small town and that you’re probably gonna like the two main characters. But other than that, I’ve really tried to vary it up, and for this story, I really wanted to ratchet up the element of danger. … I really wanted to make an original villain, a character that I think you’ll remember for a long time.


Q. Did the action sequences come easily to you, or were they challenging?

The action sequences were actually the easiest part of that novel to write, believe it or not. I probably wrote the last 100 pages of that novel in a week – which is incredibly quick for me. They went very easy because at that point in time you’re able to shift entirely to an external tension, and it’s very easy when you have something horrible, this impending sense of doom, to keep the pages turning. The goal is to just keep the pages turning, to write it so fast that it will read fast.


Q. Do you think your core fans will go for what’s going on in “Safe Haven”?

I think they’ll love it. It’s different. You’ve very compelling characters, you have a great love story, it’s very romantic, it’s got all the elements that they’re looking for. It’s just that it begins to shift till it’s something entirely different. And then when it’s entirely different, just when you thought you knew what it was, it’s not that at all.


Q. The whole book to me is very cinematic, and you’ve had so many books turned into movies. I’ve got to imagine it’s difficult now for you to write books without thinking about the movie possibilities. Is that true?

There is an element of that, but it’s less in the way you think it is, than it is this way: Whenever I try to think of a new story, I’m well aware of what’s been on film or on television, because I don’t want to do the same thing. For instance, I would never write a love story set on the Titanic. Now, you put a couple people from North Carolina out on that boat, it would be an original novel. And yet it would strike no one as original because of the power of the film. Another example: “Sweet Home Alabama,” very popular movie. It’s the kind of (story) that I could have written in novel form, but now that plot is now out for me – which is sad, because it’s a good one.


Q. The movie rights to ‘Safe Haven’ sold very quickly, didn’t they?

To Relativity Media, yes. Actually, this one had the largest bidding war of any of my previous novels. Usually I have one or two studios interested. This one I had eight plus a couple of production companies. And they all put in very substantial bids. One of the reasons why we went with Relativity (is that) they’ll promote the book over the next year and a half before the film comes out.


Q. Do you think the interest was because of the thriller element of this?

There was a number of factors. Number one, most films made from my novels, they’re financially successful. That’s not because they do a fortune at the box office as much as they can be made relatively inexpensively. You don’t have things blowing up and massive special effects (with) really wild settings. You can film these things in a small town anywhere, essentially, with generally just a couple of major characters. Number two, definitely the thriller element added (appeal), and I think the ending.


Q. Why do you think your books are so popular?

I don’t know. All I can say is that I try and write the kind of novel that I would enjoy reading, and I read a lot of different novels. I mean, I love a good thriller, I love a good classic novel, I love a good literary novel. I certainly think that that’s part of it, certainly I think the stories touch on perhaps elements that not everyone else writes about. I try to write the best books that I can and I’ve been fortunate people that there are some people that like them.


Q. How do you measure your own personal success?

It’s really based simply on my own feeling about the book. It’s hard enough to please just myself. I can’t all of a sudden worry about what everybody in the world thinks, because I have a worldwide audience. You really have to trust your own instincts and just write a story that you think is worth telling and write it to the best of your ability.


Q. Do you ever feel handcuffed by the love-story genre?

No, not necessarily, because as you can see with “Safe Haven,” I’m allowed to do quite a bit with it. You can really ratchet up all different kinds of elements, whether it’s a mystery, a thriller, or a ghost story, like “True Believer.” So you can do a lot of different things within that genre. … I don’t want to disappoint my readers. They read Nicholas Sparks novels for a reason, and I want to make sure that I give them what they’re expecting. I don’t want to bait and switch. I think people work too hard for their money.


Q. How do you such a good job writing from a woman’s perspective?

I was fortunate. I had a great mom, I had a great sister, I married well, my agent’s female, my editor’s a female, my publicists are female, I’m pretty much surrounded by women. And I’ve always tended to get along better with women than men anyway. I don’t know why. I like men, too. And then at the same time, I generally try to create the kind of woman character that I find attractive – they’re intelligent, they’re charming, they can be sensual, but they’re strong, they have their own opinions, they’re loyal, they try to do the right thing. I think that type of female appeals to everybody.


Q. Are you as romantic in your real life as the men are in your books?

This is a very common question that I get. I try to be. I try. I’m certainly not perfect. I mean, my wife and I have been married for 21 years. She’s still my best friend, she means the world to me, I love her as much as I did the day we were married, I’d ask her to marry me again. She likes romantic gestures and I like to make her happy, so I do my best, let’s put it that way.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

'Survivor' to play Charlotte concert

Want to get a sneak peek at someone who might turn into a reality TV star?

Chase Rice, a former UNC-Chapel Hill football player and a member of the current cast of "Survivor: Nicaragua," spent a year working at Hendrick Motorsports in Mooresville as a NASCAR jackman before moving to Nashville to pursue a country-music career.

On Thursday night, he'll perform a concert at the new Thurston's Bar, which is located at 1600 E. Woodlawn Road in Park Towne Village (downstairs on the patio just to the left of Sport Clips). He is tentatively scheduled to go on at about 9 p.m.

"I haven’t really played in Charlotte," says Rice, 24, who went to high school in Fairview, near Asheville. "I’ve played in Raleigh, Chapel Hill, Wilmington, Asheville, but I’ve never played in Charlotte."

The 21st season of the CBS hit premieres on Wednesday, Sept. 15, and features a cast of 20 that includes two-time Super Bowl winning coach Jimmy Johnson.

To get a taste of Rice's music, click here. His album "Friday Nights & Sunday Mornings" is also available on iTunes.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Better news for Fantasia: Album is No. 1

September is starting on a high note for Fantasia, less than a month after she reached a new low.

The Charlotte resident's third studio album, "Back To Me," debuted this week at No. 1 on Billboard’s R&B Albums chart and at No. 2 on Billboard’s Top 200 Albums chart, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

With more than 117,000 units sold since its Aug. 24 release on J Records, "Back To Me" marks Fantasia’s first No. 1 R&B album and her highest Billboard Top 200 chart ranking.

The 26-year-old High Point native, winner of the third season of "American Idol," has granted several interviews in the wake of her suicide attempt last month, talking about what led up to it -- namely, her affair with a married man (Antwaun Cook, a T-Mobile salesman).

“At the time, I wasn’t thinking about anybody,” she tearfully told the Los Angeles Times recently. “I was so numb. I was so out of it. I’ve never been to that place before. It was so scary. It was the darkest place that anybody would want to be.”

Fantasia was scheduled to do an interview with the Observer on Aug. 11, but it was postponed the day after she was hospitalized at CMC-Pineville on Aug. 9. On Aug. 16, a Sony Music rep told the Observer, "No word yet but of course you'll be on the list. She can't discuss ANY of the recent events though." And on Monday, the same Sony rep told us the interview wouldn't be happening "anytime soon" ...

Monday, August 30, 2010

Nicholas Sparks to pay visit to Charlotte

Bestselling author Nicholas Sparks will be in Charlotte next month to sign copies of his new book "Safe Haven" (which is due in stores two days earlier); the appearance is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 16, at Barnes & Noble at The Arboretum, 3327 Pineville-Matthews Road.

All of 15 novels written by Sparks -- a resident of New Bern, N.C. -- have been set in the Carolinas ... and all have been New York Times bestsellers. Nine have reached No. 1 on the list, and eight have been made into films.

He says his new novel is "a love story and a tale filled with suspense and mystery." The description from his publicist is: "When a young woman appears in the small North Carolina town of Southport, a story unfolds about the darker forces of love, and what can happen when fear is replaced by belief -- in oneself, in second chances and in the power of forces that must be accepted but can never be fully understood."

Friday, August 27, 2010

'Dreamgirls' tickets now on sale

Tickets for the hit musical "Dreamgirls" are on sale now, with prices starting as low as $20. They can be purchased at the Belk Theater box office (130 N. Tryon St.), online at BlumenthalCenter.org, or by calling 704-372-1000.

"Dreamgirls" tells the story "of an up-and-coming, 1960s singing girl group, and the triumphs and tribulations that come with fame and fortune." The original Broadway production opened on Dec. 20, 1981, at the Imperial Theatre and won six Tony Awards and three Drama Desk Awards in 1982. It closed on Broadway Aug. 11, 1985, after 1,521 performances. "Dreamgirls" was adapted into a movie that opened in December 2006 and went on to win two Academy Awards, five Golden Globes, and two Screen Actor’s Guild Awards in 2007 -- in addition to a Grammy Award for Best Song written for a Motion Picture (“Love You I Do”).

The musical will play Tuesday, Nov. 9, through Sunday, Nov. 14, at Belk Theater. For more information, click here.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Fantasia sets the record straight

From a VH1 press release that just popped into my inbox:

"VH1’s five-time Emmy® Award-nominated documentary series 'Behind The Music' returns with a brand new special episode featuring 'American Idol' winner and four-time Grammy Award nominee, Fantasia Barrino. Included in this episode, Fantasia will address the most recent events in her life in an interview that was taped on Saturday, August 21. Narrated by Jim Forbes, this 'Behind The Music' will give viewers an inside look into the personal and professional life of one of music’s greatest vocalists. Along with interviews from Fantasia herself, the episode will feature stories from some of the people who know her best as well as never-before-seen footage. 'Behind The Music: Fantasia' premieres on Tuesday, August 24 at 9:00 PM*.‪

"Growing up a country girl from North Carolina to becoming one of the queens of R&B, Fantasia has overcome all odds on her dramatic rise to fame. In this episode of 'Behind The Music,' Fantasia reveals her issues with low self-esteem, a traumatic rape at the age of 14, an unexpected pregnancy at 17, an abusive relationship with a former boyfriend, facing bankruptcy, dealing with a shocking illness and most recently being rushed to the hospital due to an overdose of aspirin and a sleeping aid.

"Determined to make a better life for herself and daughter Zion, Fantasia decided to pursue her musical dreams by auditioning for season three of 'American Idol.' She poured her heart and soul into each performance and beat out such competitors as Jennifer Hudson, LaToya London, and George Huff, to ultimately win the title of 'American Idol.' Since then, Fantasia has gone on to become a platinum-selling international superstar and her first single 'I Believe' on J Records debuted at number one on the Billboard Hot 100. This debut made Fantasia the first artist in history to achieve this with their debut single. In the coming years, Fantasia recorded two albums, published a memoir entitled 'Life Is Not a Fairy Tale,' was nominated for four Grammy® Awards, made her Broadway debut in 'The Color Purple,' and starred in her own VH1 reality show 'Fantasia For Real.' Always the underdog, Fantasia has proved she can defeat any obstacle she encounters on her journey to the top. This episode includes exclusive footage of Fantasia’s high school graduation where she received her diploma nearly a decade after dropping out of school. Also featured are interviews with her family, ex-boyfriend Brandel Shouse, 'American idol' alum George Huff and Chief Creative Officer of Sony Music Entertainment Clive Davis."

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Brooklyn Decker boards 'Battleship'

Matthews native Brooklyn Decker's future as a big-budget Hollywood movie star continues to brighten.

The 23-year-old Sports Illustrated cover girl will follow up her supporting role in the 2011 romantic comedy "Just Go With It" (starring Adam Sandler, Jennifer Aniston and Nicole Kidman) with a part in the action-oriented war flick "Battleship," according to multiple news reports.

The movie -- based on the Hasbro game of the same name -- stars Alexander Skarsgard (best known for his role as Eric on HBO's "True Blood") and also includes Rihanna and Tom Arnold in its cast. Peter Berg ("Hancock") will direct.

IMDB.com lists the plot as follows: "A fleet of ships is forced to do battle with an armada of unknown origins in order to discover and thwart their destructive goals." The tentative release date is May 18, 2012.

Decker, a graduate of Butler High School, was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated's annual Swimsuit Issue in February. In June, Esquire Magazine named her the Sexiest Woman Alive.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

New 'Survivor' cast boasts 3 from N.C.

We'll probably never see a "Survivor: North Carolina," but the 21st season of CBS's hit reality TV series will have a healthy dose of Tar Heel flavor.

Three of the 20 members of the cast -- which also includes two-time Super Bowl winning coach Jimmy Johnson -- hail from N.C. They are: Kelly Bruno, 26, a UNC medical student from Durham; Jane Bright, 56, a dog trainer from Jackson Springs; and Chase Rice, 24, who recently worked as a NASCAR jackman for Hendrick Motorsports in Mooresville but now is pursuing a country-music career in Nashville.

Bruno, pictured, lost her right leg to a birth defect when she was 6 months old, but is a competitive athlete: She was the third (and fastest) female amputee to finish the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii, in 2007.

"Survivor: Nicaragua" premieres Sept. 15 and will pit Rice, Bruno and eight other contestants under the age of 40 against Bright and nine other players who are 40-plus. See a slideshow of the contestants here. This is the second time a season of "Survivor" has featured a young-vs.-old showdown ("Survivor: Panama" was the first).

Previous contestants from the Charlotte area have included Jerry Sims of Rock Hill, S.C. ("Tocantins"), and Leslie Nease of Tega Cay, S.C. ("China").

Other past N.C. "Survivor" contestants include: Candice Woodcock of Fayetteville, who was on both Seasons 13 and 20; Sydney Wheeler of Raleigh ("Tocantins"); Crystal Cox of Durham ("Gabon"); Andria "Dreamz" Herd of Wilmington ("Fiji"); Austin Carty of High Point ("Panama"); Ted Rogers Jr. of Durham ("Thailand"); and Gabriel Cade of Celo ("Marquesas").

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Corinne Bailey Rae concert = canceled

Due to "a scheduling conflict," the Corinne Bailey Rae concert that was slated for The Fillmore Charlotte on Sept. 8 has been cancelled. Tickets purchased online or over the phone will be automatically refunded. If you bought them from a box office, you can go back for a refund beginning at 10 a.m. Wednesday (Aug. 4). For more information go to www.livenation.com.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Zink. American Kitchen closing uptown

Charlotte-based Harper's Restaurant Group announced today the closing of its restaurant, Zink. American Kitchen, located in the IJL building, at 201 North Tryon Street. Open since 2004, the popular eatery is a favorite of Uptown professionals and is known for its twist on New American cuisine, its lively outdoor patio and late night ambience. The restaurant's last day of operation will be Saturday, July 31, 2010. 

Tom Sasser, owner and president of Harper's Restaurant Group, said that the location has been purchased for a non-restaurant use. "The buyer has indicated that the space will be renovated for office or possibly retail purposes. Although Zink has continued to be profitable, we had experienced multiple physical plant issues over the years and felt like this sale was a smart business move in the long run."

"We are working with two groups for another location in Uptown or Southpark to carry on the Zink tradition in a new space. We would like to thank our great associates and guests for their loyal support over the years. We hope our friends will stop by this last week to enjoy great New American food and drink from Executive Chef Jon Fortes and the team and let us say goodbye." 

"On Zink's last night, Saturday July 31, Chef Jon will offer a 'Toast to Zink' Menu with many of our guests' favorites. It will include Streetside Tacos, Zink's signature 'Not Your Mother's' Meatloaf and Lobster Roll Sliders, among others," said Sasser. 

Sasser indicated that they hope to begin serving some of Zink's signature food and drink items at other Harper's Restaurant Group locations. Mimosa Grill, located in Uptown Charlotte at 327 South Tryon, will immediately start serving Saturday lunch and a new Sunday brunch buffet.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

SYTYCD tour returning to Charlotte

The “So You Think You Can Dance Tour” will return to Time Warner Cable Arena on Saturday, Oct. 2, with a showcase of performances by current finalists Adechiké, Ashley, Billy, Jose, Kent, Lauren and Robert, as well as all-stars Ade, Allison, Courtney, Dominic, Kathryn and Russell.

Tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. Friday through timewarnercablearena.com, ticketmaster.com, the Time Warner Cable Arena box office, all Ticketmaster outlets, or charge by phone (800-745-3000).

Monday, July 19, 2010

Cheap tix for select Live Nation concerts

From 12:01 a.m. Tuesday until 11:59 Tuesday night, $10 tickets will be available through LiveNation.com and charge by phone (800-745-3000) for the following upcoming shows:

American Idol Live! Tour on July 25 at Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre; Barenaked Ladies on July 30 at Road Runner Mobile Amphitheatre; Goo Goo Dolls at RR Mobile on Aug. 10; Heart on Aug. 15 at RR Mobile; Dukes of September at RR Mobile on Aug. 25; Kottonmouth Kings on Sept. 10 at the Fillmore Charlotte; and Get The Led Out at the Fillmore on Nov. 12. (Parking, shipping, service fees and other costs may apply.)

$10 tickets will also be available at the venue box offices during regular business hours on Tuesday.

'Biggest Loser' stars to visit Charlotte

Phil and Amy Parham of "The Biggest Loser" fame will be at the SouthPark Barnes & Noble (4020 Sharon Road) from 2-4 p.m. Saturday to sign copies of their new book, "The 90 Day Fitness Challenge."

The Parhams were contestants on Season Six of NBC's reality competition, from May to December 2008. Over the seven-month period, they lost more than 256 pounds together, bringing Phil down to 180 and Amy to 124. To date, they have recorded the highest percentage weight loss of any "Biggest Loser" couple ever.

Their new book, from Harvest House Publishers, addresses "their journey to healthy weight loss and inspires readers on how to achieve similar goals. This faith-based, informative and motivational book will encourage those fighting the 'battle of the bulge' to transform their lives and fulfill their dreams of being healthier and happier."

Phil and Amy Parham live in South Carolina with their three sons.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Mooresville woman hits 'Runway'

Let the sewing, stitching and snickering begin.

The Emmy-Award nominated Lifetime Television series "Project Runway" kicks off its eighth season on July 29 with 17 talented designers -- including one from Mooresville.

April Johnston, 21, attended Lake Norman High School, recently graduated from college, and now resides in Savannah, Ga. On Lifetime's website, she lists her favorite designers as Alexander McQueen and John Galliano, and says she realized she had designer potential "in high school, when I made my prom dress and artistically painted and decorated my room."

In "Project Runway's" expanded 90-minute format, the new crop of designers will encounter host Heidi Klum, mentor Tim Gunn, judges Michael Kors and Nina Garcia, and guest designer and celebrity judges (including actress Selma Blair in the season premiere) as they face challenges, eliminations and other surprises.

This season's winner will receive $100,000 from L'Oreal Paris to start his/her own line, a fashion spread in Marie Claire magazine, a $50,000 technology suite by HP and Intel to create his/her own vision and run his/her business, and the opportunity to design and sell an exclusive collection on Piperlime.com.

In addition to Johnston, the Season Eight designers are:

A.J. Thouvenot; Andy South; Casanova; Christopher Collins; Gretchen Jones; Ivy Higa; Jason Troisi; Kristin Haskins-Simms; McKell Maddox; Michael Costello; Michael Drummond; Mondo Guerra; Nicolas D'Aurizio; Peach Carr; Sarah Trost; and Valerie Mayen.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Donate a toy, see ice show for free

"Disney On Ice presents Disney•Pixar’s Toy Story 3" will play several shows at Time Warner Cable Arena Oct. 6-10.

Tickets go on sale July 23, but show organizers will offer a free voucher (good for one ticket to the Oct. 6 performance) to the first 200 people who donate a new toy during the Salvation Army’s holiday toy drive, which will be held from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. that Friday at the arena. Limit one per family. (Everyone else who makes a donation during the July 23 promotion will get 50 percent off tickets to that performance.)

For more about Disney On Ice, go to www.disneyonice.com.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Concert news: Soul shows on the horizon

Budweiser, Live Nation and Haymon Events announced today the revival of Budweiser Superfest, a soul and R&B concert series that will visit 18 cities this summer -- including Charlotte on Sept. 2.

The 2010 tour will feature Anthony Hamilton, Kem, Jaheim, Raheem DeVaughn, Abraham McDonald and Hal Linton, with more to be announced.

During its two-decade run -- 1979 through 1999 -- the Budweiser Superfest featured headliners such as Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, TLC, Parliament and Luther Vandross.

The Charlotte concert will be at Road Runner Mobile Amphitheatre at the N.C. Music Factory and will go on sale Saturday. Details: www.LiveNation.com.

ALSO COMING TO THE N.C. MUSIC FACTORY: Corinne Bailey Rae, the British songwriter and guitarist behind blues-pop hits such as "Like a Star," will play the Fillmore Charlotte on Sept. 8.

Tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. Friday and are available at LiveNation.com, the Fillmore Charlotte box office, Ticketmaster or by calling 1-800-745-3000.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Ticket prices add up to fewer shows

I wrote an article for the front page of Thursday’s Observer about the summer concert season and the key factors that have caused a handful of big shows to be canceled here.

Here’s some more information on that topic that I think you’ll agree tells a big part of the story:

Average price of a ticket to see one of the top 100 tours in 1996, according to Pollstar data: $25.81.

Average price of a ticket to see one of the top 100 tours in 2009, according to Pollstar: $62.57.

That’s nearly a 150 percent increase. You can chalk it up to inflation; but not all of it. I mean, I bought my first new car in 1996 for $16,000, and my third new car in 2009 for $28,000. (My current car is nicer than that first one.)

The more telling piece of this story, though, is how – duh – there’s a direct correlation between demand and price:

Price for a cheap seat to see red-hot Justin Bieber on Aug. 8 at Time Warner Cable Arena: $31.50. Ticket sales have been extremely strong.

Price for tickets to see uber-popular Adam Lambert perform last week at the Fillmore Charlotte: about $40. His concert sold out almost immediately after tickets went on sale in May.

Price for good seats to see Santana – which hasn’t had new material in five years – at Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre: $81.50. The show was canceled.

Price for a premium seat/VIP package to see Lilith Fair at Verizon: $756. The show was canceled.

The lesson couldn’t be more obvious, but I’ll let Neighborhood Theatre owner Zach McNabb put it in a nutshell: “It’s a simple formula that’s gotten lost amongst the larger bands and promoters: Cheap tickets plus desired artists equals higher attendance, and higher profits.”

What else is there to say?