Greasers, aliens and cows 

Wanna touch a Whitesnake?

Samuel Gompers, founder of the American Federation of Labor (the people who put the AFL in the AFL-CIO) once said, "Labor Day differs in every essential way from the other holidays of the year in any country."

In a dream I had shortly before my alarm clock went off this morning, Gompers explained the reason: Starlight Six Drive-In's Drive-Invasion, a Labor Day weekend event featuring bands, picnicking on asphalt, classic hot rods and, when the sun goes down, top-quality low-quality films (aka cult classics).

The crowd was a diverse blend of people who, when not at the drive-in, hang out at the Earl and Gravity Pub in East Atlanta. More than anyone else, the hot-rodders -- with their "I'm auditioning to be an extra in the next S.E. Hinton film adaptation" outfits and regularly scheduled revving of their engines -- seemed to get into the spirit of the event. One group even had a little table where they were gambling with dice.

After watching the gambling, I decided to move up to the front with the idea that the people there had been around longest and therefore were the drunkest. As if reading my mind, the first person who walked up to me began the conversation by saying how drunk he was. Then he walked me to a hot rod that was damaged in a drive-in accident on Saturday in which a truck plowed into a handful of parked cars. The dent was decorated with candles as a makeshift memorial for the person injured.

Sunday featured cult-film legend Mary Woronov, who mingled with the crowd before she took the stage to speak shortly before the band Clouseaux played a great set of swinging '50s bachelor-pad music, complete with scatological ... I mean, scat vocals.

Here I go again: Karaoke singing accompanied by a live backing band is a longtime heavy-metal tradition. Ex-Whitesnake singer David Coverdale made a career out of it. Ditto Tim "Ripper" Owens, whose barroom imitations of Judas Priest briefly landed him the lead singer spot in, you guessed it, Judas Priest.

I only mention the above because I've been wondering why it is that the performances at 10 High's Metal-Some Mondays live band karaoke are so compelling. (Well, actually, that's only half true. I also wanted to make fun of David Coverdale.) Perhaps the singers are trying so hard because, deep down, they want to be discovered. Or maybe they're so good because they're channeling the thrill of fronting an excellent rock band in a club packed with cheering "fans." Whatever the reason, the enthusiastic performances make Metal-Some Mondays one of the best rock shows in town.

Here's how it works: Singers pick from a list of songs (at last count, 50 and growing) from heavy, heavier and not-so-heavy metal icons such as Black Sabbath, Metallica, AC/DC and Bon Jovi. (The night I went, there were also two Go-Go's songs on the list. Figure that one out for yourself.)

The host, 96 Rock's English Nick (a name that must have been hell for him growing up in England), picks performers from the sign-up sheet in the order he thinks will sound best. I'm on a bit of an AC/DC kick at the moment, so my favorite performance of the evening was "You Shook Me All Night Long" by a guy named Paul. Lending credence to my Ripper/Coverdale theory, English Nick said that Paul is in a band. Regardless, Paul was screechy and gruff. And just like AC/DC, he had a beery-swagger.

Another highlight was "Kiss Me Deadly" by a woman named Nikki. She more than made up for her vocal limitations (described by the host as "an incredible one-octave range") with a ripe and naughty stage presence. During other people's songs, she would stand up front and sing along. She was one of the many audience members who, when one of the songs mentioned a "you" ("You Shook Me All Night Long," "You Give Love a Bad Name") would find someone in the audience at whom to playfully direct the "you." I'm proud to say that I got a couple of "yous" from her.

I thought Nikki was just an enthusiastic amateur until I spoke to her.

"I'm in a band," she told me.

What band?

"I'm in a band called Nikki. Write that down."Excelsior: You know you've had an interesting week when Dragon*Con is only the fourth most interesting thing you attended. The annual sci-fi, fantasy, etc. convention took place downtown last weekend at the Marriott Marquee and Hyatt Regency hotels. Forget the lectures by Gil Gerard ("He will always be Buck Rogers to us, but there is much more to Gil Gerard") and the Elvish language classes. The best part of Dragon*Con is seeing grim reapers on cell phones, aliens with asthma inhalers, and pirates in line at Peachtree Center's food court. "Easy on the mayo, please. Aaaaarrrghhh!"

Play mor futbal: Last Friday afternoon on the field at the Georgia Dome, the folks who bring you the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl put on the Cow Combine, a short athletic competition promoting the Jan. 2 game. The Cow Combine consisted of two football fans competing in a punt, pass and 40-yard dash competition.

What made the competition publicity worthy (to me anyway) was that the competitors had to wear Chick-fil-A cow costumes during the event. I've never really enjoyed Chick-fil-A's ads (cows dodging death by promoting consumption of chicken makes me a little sad). But I love Chick-fil-A egg-and-cheese biscuits; I love cows competing athletically for prizes (using a leather football!); and I wasn't gonna miss an opportunity to play catch on a pro field.

During the punting, one of the cow's feet kept flying off. And one also ran an 11-second 40. Neither occurrence was surprising, given how many steroids and hormones ranchers pump into cows these days.



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