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Give to the Red Cross 

All your friends are doing it

Sometimes I pick events to cover for this column solely because I have a joke in mind for them. I drove to Jackson Fine Art gallery in Buckhead Friday to attend the opening party of photographer Michael Kenna's show. My intention was to snap a picture of gallery namesake Jane Jackson and make up a caption based on the OutKast smash hit "Ms. Jackson." Well, I showed up, but the gallery was closed and the parking lot was empty. I called the gallery to find out what happened, but there was no answer. So, I'm sorry, missed Jackson.

The Cat and the Hat: The Square Hat Supper & Social Club hosted a cocktail party at The Leopard Lounge in Midtown Friday night with proceeds benefiting American Red Cross relief efforts in New York and D.C. I'd never been to a Square Hat event before, so just to be a sport, I wore a hat. Even though the young professionals who comprise the group seem a pretty jovial bunch, not only was I the only person wearing a hat, three or four Square Hatters actually made fun of me for wearing one. That's so unfair.

By 8 p.m. the patio was packed so tightly with people that I could hardly move. They raised a few thousand bucks for the Red Cross and, other than the teasing Hat Nazis, everybody was very friendly. Feeling a little claustrophobic in the crowd, I mostly stood at the patio railing. At one point, I looked out across 12th Street and saw a sign for the new nightclub called Tangier. Considering the current political climate, naming a nightclub after an Arab city probably isn't the savviest business move, but I'm counting on our nation's general geographic ignorance to render that concern moot. I'll be watching though. If it does become a problem, I'm gonna change my name, which is Persian, to Andrew Newman and start telling people that I'm from Dahlonega.

Blood, Sweat and Beers: The Square Hatters have an unlikely Red Cross buddy in Atlanta rockers The El Caminos. Out of patriotism, generosity and perhaps a sense that their notorious rock 'n' roll lifestyle will eventually necessitate blood transfusions, the band is selling a specially compiled EP called NYC 911 Relief Fund, the proceeds of which go to the Red Cross. The band opened their blazing set with "Searching for the U.S.A." with lead vocalist JJ Garrison draped in an American flag. The highlight of their set (for me) was "Ordinary Life." It's chugging monster riff makes me want to compete in demolition derbies.

O Seats, Where Art Thou?: I'm not one

of those people who complains mindlessly and pettily because something he likes all of a sudden becomes popular. Last year, Gillian Welch was prominently featured on the soundtrack of the film O Brother, Where Art Thou?, the massive success of which seems to be doing for her what the Buena Vista Social Club CD did for traditional Cuban music. The only problem I have with Welch's fame is that I couldn't find a seat at Saturday's general admission show at Variety Playhouse from which I could actually see the stage. Two years ago, I saw her there with Alejandro Escovedo and had no trouble getting great seats.

But really, you don't need to be looking at Welch or her musical partner David Rawlings to enjoy the show. They're not a particularly animated duo. They just play simply and elegantly together, leaving plenty of space for Welch's heartbreakingly melancholic voice. I arrived at the show beered up and happy, but her voice instantly conjured feelings of loneliness. I was actually fighting off tears at a couple of points, even though lyrically the songs spoke nothing about my life. One funny thing about the show was that, because the music is so sad and the presentation so sparse, the not particularly funny banter between songs consistently caused the whole crowd to erupt in robust laughter. The same was true when I saw them there two years ago. Benign statements like, "We recorded this in Nashville," elicited howls of laughter that would make comedians (and newspaper columnists) jealous.

Grantastic: Last weekend's Grant Park Festival, for a few minutes, made me wish I lived there. It wasn't the event's tour of homes that did it. Paying money to tour nicer homes than my own just seems masochistic. For the same price as the home tour, I could have bought a Swiffer and made my own home more presentable.

It was ArtFest, the arts fair at W.F. Slaton Elementary School, that won me over. Tent for tent, it was the most talent-heavy arts festival I've ever attended.

My Golden Tent award goes to the Karim Ndiaye's tent for his Jef Jel store. Not only were his handmade Senegalese drums beautiful, but he and a few friends played them the whole time I was at the festival, providing a lovely soundtrack to the afternoon.

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