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A&E Feature

What to Know Before You Go



Speech & Debate
8 p.m. Wed.-Sat., Sept. 10-13; 3 p.m. Sun., Sept. 14; through Oct. 5
Southern Rep, The Shops at Canal Place, 333 Canal St., third floor, 522-6545;

The First Amendment wasn't designed to glorify beautiful words and great thoughts. It was meant to protect unpopular ideas, keep the marginalized from being silenced by the majority, and as a byproduct, safeguard the vulgar, silly and absurd. In Stephen Karam's stuffily titled Speech & Debate, it's the illicit and the bizarre that are most entertaining. The Off-Broadway hit features three high school misfits who turn their disgruntled energies and knowledge of scandal into the premise for creating a debate club. They're less interested in academic subjects than extracurricular activities, and they set out to air the dirtiest of laundry, especially which teachers are taking special interests in which students. The plot goes absurd and hits the fevered pitch of a good witch hunt. Those who pronounce the greatest virtues often have the most to hide. Aimée Hayes directs James Bartelle, Natalie Boyd, Sean Glazebrook and Liann Pettison. Admission is free Wednesday. Tickets $18 for previews Thu.-Fri., $35 for opening night Saturday (includes reception), $20-$27 other shows. — Will Coviello




T.K. Webb and the Visions
10 p.m. Fri., Sept. 12
One Eyed Jacks, 615 Toulouse St., 569-8361;

Transplanted Brooklyn hipster T.K. Webb (a native of rural Missouri) looks uncannily like a scruffier, more robust version of the bloodless, doomed folkie Nick Drake, and he sounds like a freaked-out Delta bluesman in the middle of a psychedelic nightmare. His earliest records were direct and authentic distillations of unpolished Delta blues and country-church gospel stomps. His 2005 release, Phantom Parade, added dreamy notes of pastoral hippie folk in the Fairport Convention tradition. Recently, he has added a full band of Brooklynites (the Visions) who've filled out and rocked up the old-as-the-cotton-fields sound on Webb's Sept. 2 release, the appropriately titled Ancestor . The Swedish, psychedelic, doom-metal band, Witchcraft, which owes a heavy debt to Texas madman Roky Erickson's tripped-out monster-movie, garage rock and Black Sabbath's spooky, fantastical proto-metal, open. Graveyard, another weighty psych/sludge band with a taste for the blues from the land of lutefisk and Ikea, shares the bill. Tickets $10 in advance, $12 at the door. — Alison Fensterstock




Three Six Mafia
9 p.m. Fri., Sept. 12
House of Blues, 225 Decatur St., 310-4999;

The Memphis rap crew Three Six Mafia emerged from the Bluff City in 1991 with a gritty, hardcore style that catapulted them to the apex of the suddenly white-hot Dirty South crunk sound. One of its first major hits, "Sippin' On Some Sizzurp," introduced the outside world to the oddly trendy hip-hop high of drinking cough syrup. (Lil Wayne, who can afford to bathe in Veuve Clicquot, is rarely seen without his trademark Styrofoam cup.) In 2006, the track "It's Hard Out Here For A Pimp," the theme for the film Hustle & Flow, won an Academy Award for Best Original Song — cementing a place in history alongside Isaac Hayes, the first black artist to win an Oscar. (Three Six Mafia are the first hip-hop artists to do so.) The latest album, Last 2 Walk — referencing the staying power of DJ Paul and Juicy J, the only remaining original members — dropped in June. Lead singles like "I'd Rather," a frantic, hyperbolic litany of sexual fantasy, and "Lolli Lolli (Pop That Body)" take their focus off the street and into the club with the type of sparking, popcorn Southern dance beats that have created demand for Paul and J as producers for acts like Chingy and Ludacris. Tickets $25. — Fensterstock



Music James McMurtry
10 p.m. Sat., Sept. 13
One Eyed Jacks, 615 Toulouse St., 569-8361;

The son of Western novelist Larry McMurtry, alt-country singer/songwriter James McMurtry writes rough, bitter country ballads that are, in the family tradition, sweepingly literate. His songs are trenchant, with an ability to imply a great deal with an economy of words that's reminiscent of Kris Kristofferson, though with none of his floweriness. McMurtry sings with a growly, booze-and-smoke-roughened rasp that's the perfect vehicle for his wry bitterness and dark wit, sketching portraits of everyday Americana like John Prine without the warmth. That clear-eyed, black humor and full-force barreling twang propelled his 2005 release, Childish Things , to the top of the Americana music charts and earned him an armful of awards at that year's Americana Music Association ceremony in Nashville (although when the time came for him to step up to the podium, organizers discovered he'd slipped around the corner to Tootsie's Orchid Lounge). His latest album, Just Us Kids , features a track called "Hurricane Party," a wistful and lonesome tune that distills his style perfectly. It's also uncomfortably appropriate for this breezy season. Tickets $10 in advance, $12 at the door. — Fensterstock


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