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Picnics, toilets & honey 

Co-authored this week by bitterness and disappointment

I have a theory about Chastain. No matter who's performing, the exact same Eatzi's-dining, luxury car-driving, votive candle-burning audience shows up just because it's a pleasant, somewhat prestigious place to be. If Limp Bizkit played there, the mosh pit would be ankle-deep in a burgundy mud of Beaujolais and hummus.

My theory was bolstered at Friday's Buena Vista Social Club show. First, nobody I spoke to in my row seemed to know who the performers were. Not realizing that she was lumping two radically different musical styles in a self-created genre called "Vaguely Ethnic," one woman told me that she was there because she enjoyed the Gipsy Kings show a few weeks prior. Second, a large portion of the audience paid no attention to the show and just talked loudly the whole time, turning the place into an overpriced picnic ground with a live jukebox.

When I could hear him, 72-year-old headliner Ibrahim Ferrer's singing was glorious. Fronting a groovy Cuban dance orchestra, Ferrer did make at least one new fan. Unfamiliar with Ferrer's music before the show, the man to my left looked up from his bowtie pasta salad and sangria to yell "Go B-V-S-C!" after a particularly rousing song.

Catatonic water: The crowd at Echo Lounge for Underwater's farewell concert included a guy from the local video store, the drummer from The Forty Fives and lots of quiet 20-year-olds in all black. That night, I myself was sporting an "Ironic Blue Collar" look. Heavily into hypnotic electronic atmospheres while still being rock, Underwater was unique (and good). They will be missed. The only problem with their shows is that a hypnotized audience is hard to distinguish from a sleeping audience. Unlike at Chastain, Underwater's fans stand silent and still. There's got to be a happy middle ground somewhere.

Gay also means happy: In addition to being, without exception, the most fun I've had in a bar since Oct. 31, 1995, the night I first tried tequila, my Friday night trip to Metro Video Bar in Midtown to see "Lady" Bunny's drag show was also a lesson in bathroom "line" etiquette. According to Brad, one of the dozen or so very friendly strangers who introduced himself to me that night, you don't have to wait in line for the bathroom at Metro if you're actually going to use the bathroom. Naive about these sorts of things, I didn't quite believe him at first, but sensing my fear that he might be pulling my leg (get your mind out of the gutter!), he took me by the hand and marched me right to the front of the line. None of the 10 or so people in line objected. Just say no!

Bunny's show was a mix of one-liners and hilarious sex-themed song parodies. Imagine a bitchy, gay, singing, Southern Henny Youngman disguised as Dusty Springfield. Replacing "the sun" with "your son," Bunny's filthy reworking of Atlanta condo owner Sir Elton John's "Don't Let the Sun Go Down On Me" was inspired.

Of the many strange conversations that night, the strangest was with a man named Lewis who, even though I wasn't inquiring, kept insisting that several of the platform-dancing men in the bar were, in his words, "100 percent straight." Call me old-fashioned, but I think that a man who dances on a platform in a gay bar and rubs his crotch in other men's faces while wearing nothing but a Speedo has got to be at least a teensy bit gay.

Attitude adjustment: On Thursday, eleven50 hosted an Eastern-themed music, dance and video presentation called Inner Forms. Despite the quasi-mystical jibba-jabba in the program about the event's goal of exploring "humanity's search for meaning" (are you really gonna find it at eleven50 of all places?), it was visually and sonically mind-blowing. Dressed like an Egyptian cabaret dancer with a sword on her head, Ferasha started the show with sensual belly dancing. She was followed by the explosive Senegalese drumming and dancing of Oginga and Ajile. Every performance was accompanied by freaky cosmic video projections on the walls and ceilings.

Perhaps because it was drawn from a wider circle than the usual eleven50 bunch, the audience wasn't shy about screaming approval. The show was clearly a success. But it wouldn't be eleven50 if it wasn't tainted by attitude (nor would it be my column if I didn't notice). Fortunately, the attitude stayed mainly in the upstairs VIP area, which should perhaps be renamed VSIP (Very Self-Important People) because it was filled with snooty 29-year-olds sprawled across divans with cocktails in hand, mostly indifferent to the spectacular show. One couple was looking at beach vacation photos the whole time. Somebody needs to explain to them that feigned indifference is not the same as charm or grace.

I am Andisheh: Honey Magnolia is an R&B package show aiming to take up-and-coming performers out of smoky nightclubs and put them in front of supportive audiences. Patrons were met at Seven Stages in Little Five Points Saturday by live, high-fashion mannequins on platforms and a light show fit for a big-name artist. The theory seems to be if they put on a famous person's show, they'll become famous in their own right more quickly. Christine Horn and her band Iyalocha looked and sounded incredibly famous for people who aren't. Funk band Freestyle took it one step further, abandoning all pretense of humility by spending half their set on a song that victoriously repeated "We are Freestyle" over and over. They got a standing ovation.

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