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DVR Alert: Tift Merritt

TiftMerritt Tuesday night marks the return of Raleigh’s Tift Merritt to network TV with her appearance on Last Call with Carson Daly (NBC 1:30am). The show’s website also shows a Merritt appearance on Friday night. Note that Merritt will appear in approximately the final 10 minutes of the show, so extend your recording times to insure that you record her full appearance.

Merritt’s next full release, Traveling Alone, is set to hit stores on September 17.


Download/Subscribe to the Hurricanes ’14 Calendar

image Canes hockey fans who like electronic calendars rejoice! I’ve uploaded the 2013-2014 Carolina Hurricanes schedule in .CSV, .ICS, and Google Calendar formats. This way you can easily port the schedule over to your Android phone, iPhone, Blackberry, Google Calendar, Outlook, and more!

Without a doubt, the gogoraleigh Hurricanes Calendar is the best on the web. Not only is the complete calendar available, but also a home-only version is available. For each event, the teams playing in the event are listed in 3-digit codes (ie “CAR/BUF”), so the entire event is easy to see on devices that can’t display wide paragraphs. Additionally, the game locations are listed, so on excellent phones one can tap the location field and see a map to the arena. This is perfect if you are going to the game in an away city!

Finally, with the synced versions of the calendar, game time changes and television information are automatically updated as the information becomes available. Those who are subscribed to last year’s Hurricanes schedule, your schedule has already been updated with the upcoming season’s dates.

All you do is point your device to the Calendar tab at the top of this page, scroll down to the Hurricanes calendar, and follow the link/instructions there. Go Canes!


Calendars are apt to change, so check back occasionally for updates. To determine the version of your schedule, open the note associated with any event, and look for the version number. If your calendar is older than those listed above, simply delete the events in Outlook in your old one and import the events of the newer file. Google Calendar is dynamically up-to-date. Use at your own risk. I do not accept responsibility for any consequences resulting from errors in the schedule.



statuevisversa Cirque du Soleil’s touring company of Quidam (KWIH-dam) opened their run in Raleigh tonight, and the show is nothing short of amazing. The acrobatics, music, and production did  not disappoint and had the Raleigh crowd standing on its feet throughout the bows.

Quidam is an engaging show that features several sets of solo and small group acrobatic performances. From the classic diabolo (Chinese yo-yo) to the incredible Aerial Contortion in Silk, the show is classic Cirque. I was totally impressed with even the simplest accomplishments, such as the clown’s rolling of a hula hoop across the floor back to himself, but not before completing two complete circles.

The highlight, however, was the act called “Statue”; an incredible display of  slowly transitioning 2-person yoga poses. The amount of strength required to do something like this act is unimaginable, to be honest. It is the act that is worth the price of admission.


The production is fantastic. Quidam’s staging features 5 arcing trusses along which trapeze setups travel, allowing for some dramatic entrances for some characters. There are several tricks with the stage, too, but I won’t give that away. The backdrop, however, is a pair of small compartments for the seemingly live band. The roof of the band shells, as it turns out, is the staging area for the 5 trusses.

Quidam is staged in the PNC Arena’s “Twilight Theater” configuration, which means that only the southern 1/4 of the lower bowl is available, and the stage is essentially where the basketball court baseline would be. Third level and the other 3/4 of the arena are curtained off, making the acoustics excellent. Sightlines are outstanding in this configuration, however the best seats are in the lower rows and require a treacherous climb for some to reach the restrooms. (Consider this if you are taking older and less mobile family and friends). Tonight’s performance was surprisingly full, so hopefully more of these performance will return.

Quidam runs through Sunday with matinee and evening performances on Saturday and Sunday. Tickets start at $35.


Red Hat’s Latest is a Bad Sign

Red Hat has removed the scaffolding to reveal its bold, red sign atop its new headquarters in downtown Raleigh, and, eh….oh dear. First of all, I’ll admit to being biased by saying that I liked the big grey schmoo that topped the building in the Progress Energy era. It not only gave the building some much needed asymmetry, but it also complemented the outlines of the taller buildings on Fayetteville Street, especially when viewed from the south.

The new, rectangular bright red facade atop the building is eye-catching, but only in its garish amount of bright red which stands in stark contrast to every physical structure in downtown Raleigh. It’s as if Red Hat got a waiver on the city’s unusually harsh sign ordinance. I’m sure the CityGate Real Estate owners who are being assaulted not by both the joe schmoes of the Twitterverse and by city councilors for CityGate’s street level video signage, are taking due notice. BB&T and PNC Bank, with their little bitty tower-top signs, are probably also noticing.

Not only is the sign “not in keeping with the neighborhood”, the logo’s vertical alignment is too low in the red billboard to be fully seen from the south (see photos). Whether exiting Memorial Auditorium or entering the city from South Saunders Street, there is no good place to view the sign due to its layout.

Hopefully Red Hat will notice the problems with their sign and correct it. I’m all for tasteful signage, and don’t want a bad sign to cause a knee-jerk response from lawmakers that would would restrict the good signs.

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Man vs. Food (Durham) to Air Again Tonight

manVfood The episode of Man vs. Food shot in Durham will be run tonight on Travel Channel (TWC 1354) at 9pm. From the Man vs. Food website:

In this episode, Adam created the 2009 Doughman race and a team called the MvF Food Fighters to take on a series of events for the overall title!

The final leg of the race was consuming four Sunny Side-Ups, maple cupcakes topped with cream cheese frosting! They placed a dissapointing [sic] 19th place.


Austin: A Fourth To Remember

IMG_20130704_213500 Fourth of July is a big day for Americans to sit back and take a breather and relax, right? Unfortunately it means that everyone will ruin the second half of their afternoon fighting traffic to get a spot under the umbrella of one of America’s great fireworks shows. This year we had the chance to watch a fireworks show from the balcony of a skyscraper.

A friend of a friend has a 23rd floor condo in the W Residences tower in Raleigh, a hotel/condo complex not unlike the once-planned Soleil Center, but in Austin’s downtown. Austin features a waterfront fireworks display each year, and people come from far and wide to get a spot in the symphony’s field on the banks of the river, on one of the downtown bridges, on top of a parking garage, a spot on the sidewalk, or even in a kayak on the river itself. The number of programming options was fascinating, especially from a birds-eye view.

The show itself was nice. While higher and more elaborate than Raleigh’s downtown fireworks shows, the production wasn’t close to the show quality typically executed on Wilmington’s waterfront. That one is a show . Nevertheless, it was great to get an elevation reference during a show like that. The fireworks were bursting at an altitude only slightly higher than our perch, perhaps near the 30th floor’s elevation.

Life up in a $2M+ highrise is certainly not like that in suburbia, and I felt myself wondering I could really live in this incredible space. My only experience living where I couldn’t put my feet on the ground in fewer than 10 seconds was in college, and I hated it. This condo was different, and looked like something from an issue of Dwell. My wife and I got to spend time just sitting on the ball-burningly-high balcony, and in a few seconds we ironically felt an overwhelming sense of calm watching the dozens of other fireworks shows out on the horizon. The experience isn’t that different than that from West at North or from the PNC Plaza Condos, but for us the experience was a nice escape and marks as one of our most fun 4th of Julys on record.

While all of Austin comes out of the woodwork for this show, we were surprised that beyond this spectacle, 4th of July is a low-key event in the city. We didn’t see many flags at all; no “sale-a-thons”; no giant flags. I guess that’s more of a Dallas thing?

We poked around the surrounding blocks of downtown a little later, and surprisingly, the bar scene was dead. So we headed back to our friends house, and couldn’t resist stopping at the Taco Cabana for a quick taste of a different Mexican fast-food chain experience. The Cabana is better than Taco Bell, but the fillers of the tacos are not better than Moe’s. What is fantastic about Taco Cabana is the corn tortillas. I’ve written this ad nauseum, but for some reason people in Raleigh know very little about soft corn tortillas. Even most nice, talked-about, chic “Mexican” places in downtown and Cameron Village, for instance, aren’t keeping up with the tortilla level of even Taco Cabana. Gonza Tacos is one of the few exceptions in Raleigh. If we could be like Austin in just one way, my first pick would be for Raleigh restauranteurs to learn how to make good corn tortillas.

How did a discussion about America’s 236th birthday boil down to a diatribe on the bread of Mexico? If you have to ask…

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Austin: Day Two – Tearing Thru the ACL

IMG_20130704_132027 It took us a while to get rolling on the second day, but when we finally did, we had lunch at La Condesa, one of the city’s best Mexican restaurant. We ate outside as it was only 94 degrees at lunch. It allowed us to take in the pedestrian experience along with the food. We started with a great guacamole medley featuring four great guacs and four great salsas. My favorite was a basic guacamole topped with a chipotle puree and almonds. Also fascinating was the guac with pomegranate. The restaurant’s conchinita pibil and chicken tacos were fantastic. The restaurant is doing a great job with its ingredients, but probably could do some work with its tortillas. The tacos’ tortillas had a good taste, but probably could have spent a bit more time on the griddle. The fried chips with the guacamoles were very average. Overall, the restaurant is fantastic, and stands as a solid recommendation.

We moved on next door to the home of Austin City Limits where we got a personal tour of the facility. The auditorium is a half octagon with three levels, and seats around 2500 people. It is much more stacked than it appears on TV, and is so black that even Johnny Cash would be proud. The facility is just 2 years old, and is a $200 million joint venture with a W Hotel and a high-rise condo complex above (because someone has to pay for all of this).

The ACL facility is not just a venue for TV. It’s used 25 times a year for taping shows, but is used the rest of the year for concerts. Many of the acts performing at the DPAC hit this facility, but some other really interesting shows hit it, too. While the backstage areas are interesting, we spent quite a while in the ultra-contemporary lounges of the middle and upper levels. The middle level’s lounge features a gallery of photos taken from the Austin City Limits performances through the years. The company intends to implement NFC features, though, so that people can see the performances from their smartphones as they peruse the gallery. The upstairs lounge features a huge collection of original photos by rock photographer Jim Marshall. There are some precious items here, including color photos from the stage at Altamont, Woodstock, in the recording studio with the Rolling Stones, etc.

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Austin has a ton of hotels for its size. Intercontinental, Hyatt, Omni, and several boutique hotels are up and running in downtown. However none is as impressive as the W hotel in the ACL complex. This hotel is the chic-est space I’ve ever seen, and likely has hotels in Manhattan drooling with envy. The perchtop pool area was a mob scene of beautiful people, lemme tell you, but we kept moving into the beautiful spaces of the W’s lobby, bars, and restaurant. There are several drinking lacunae, but the coolest is the room with thousands of vinyl albums….no the dark red bar with the vintage MacIntosh audio equipment and precision turntable take the cake. Ever Tuesday night is an album listening party, and it goes on and on…

Austin’s population is a big surprise. In 24 hours of milling around downtown, I have run across no more than 12 black people. The cultural mix here is decidedly white and Mexican, not the melting pot of white, black, and numerous variants of Hispanic origin in Raleigh. In my 24 hours I’ve encountered exactly one homeless person, a guy sitting on the corner outside of Whole Foods’ HQ. It is extremely unusual to be in an up-and-coming urban setting with no panhandlers; none. This could be the seed of a weeks-long discussion about migratory patterns, history, economics, and more, but the fact is, it exists for whatever reason.

It’s July 4 in Austin, TX. We will take in the night’s fireworks from a downtown balcony. However it will be the first display of contrived patriotism I’ve seen all day. There are no displays of flags, no temporary fireworks stands to be found.


Austin: The First Night

IMG_20130703_212518 After an incredible meal at Uchi, we explored a bit and found ourselves at Lick, an extremely interesting ice cream parlour. The flavors are certainly creative, and not something we’ve found in Raleigh. I opted for a scoop of Mexican Marigold and Blueberry Swirl and a scoop of Roasted Beets & Fresh Mint. Both didn’t disappoint, with the beet and mint being a perfect combo. The cream itself was light, with only a slightly greasy component, and neither was particularly sticky. No bad aftertaste, too.

We checked into the Omni, a pretty nice convention hotel that I got for a steal on Priceline ($95). Driving thru downtown Austin on what is effectively a Friday night does not in any way feel like Raleigh. Austin has gotten a nice influx of local and chain retail stores downtown, and there are several very tall condo/apt towers. There is a thriving row of bars on 6th street, however outside of that, this roughly 12×14 street grid is plagued by street after street of faceless development and tumbleweed blowing around. The strip downtown is equivalent to Glenwood South, and there is no real equivalent to the more hipster-oriented development around Hargett and Wilmington Streets.

We did Exhaustive study of places to eat and drink in Austin, and it seems the most highly sought after stuff is actually in the suburbs. The neatest stuff simply isn’t downtown. We’ll keep an eye on this matter over the next few days.

We needed up at the legendary Continental Lounge just south of downtown, and saw a couple of Rockabilly bands. It’s in a neat little pocket reminiscent of Five Points, maybe, and usually has some late night eats, but not on July 3. We ended up at Whataburger, and it was a forgettable piece of meat on a delicious bun (probably doused in butter before hitting the griddle).

Tomorrow is July 4, and I plan on celebrating by eating tacos all day!



Austin: Discovering Uchi

IMG_20130704_122029 After leaving the dreadful remnants of Terminal 1 in Raleigh, we landed in Nashville to change planes. Nashville has a reputation of being one of America’s cities with the most personality. However their airport is one of the blandest I’ve ever seen. The food selection exists as a 4-store food court, O’Charley’s, and the Gibson Cafe. Of course, we did the latter and it wasn’t anything to rave about.

Landing in Austin, however, one is greeted by an airy steel and glass room, a live band, and a good food selection. The Austin terminal feels like Raleigh’s Terminal 2 concourse, but isn’t as beautiful. There is one arc-shaped concourse, and the ticketing and concourse areas are essentially one big room  separated by a glass wall and a split level offset. Very unusual.

IMG_20130704_175723 We headed straight to Uchi, one of America’s most celebrated restaurants. Chef Tyson Cole is a Top Chef, James Beard, and Nation’s Restaurant News award winner, and Uchi carries a rare “29” Zagat score. Known as the “Sushi Capital”, the understated little house on South Lamar doesn’t disappoint. We got Miso, Panko Fried Green Tomatoes, the steak special, the shag roll, and the tempra shrimp roll. (We stuck with cooked items because I have spent enough time in microbiology class that I’m not eating anything out of the world’s toilet without cooking it). What was so impressive was Cole’s blending of flavors and layering of flavors. For instance the Miso wasn’t just broth with a little green onion, it had a nice, sweet seaweed flavor to it.

The steak special was just that, special. A top quality flank steak, cherries, sunchoke, and ramps on a sunchoke purée. The blend was delicious, and the ramps added that little punch the dish needed given the understated sunchoke flavor in the purée.

The salmon roll was fantastic as well. It includes avocado, sun-dried tomato, cilantro, watercress, and sits on a mild mustard based sauce. The sauce was the notable point of excellence. Once again, flavors are blended so well, no one stands out and the dish becomes more than the sum of its parts.



Austin: Why Austin?

I’ve always been fascinated by cities and development. The product that a particular culture builds is fascinatingly different than another culture’s product. All cities have their own signature, however there is always an interesting compare/contrast exercise that can be performed between two cities.

Cities are shaped by their people, an expression chiefly made of ancestry, geography, and climate. For instance, where non-swampy land was a premium, Mahatten development started as urban and stayed that way. Raleigh, on the other hand, started with the urban Christmas pattern, but quickly morphed into an irregular, land gobbling pattern once the city grew out Wake Forest Road and Hillsborough Street over a century ago. It’s easy to understand how cities can be similar and different, however there are always surprises.

My best friend from high school and her husband moved to Austin, TX from Los Angeles about 6 years ago and they love it there. As a Raleigh development enthusiast, I’ve heard much about Austin. Austin, like Raleigh, is a government town with the state’s largest university. It, like Raleigh, was a pretty sleepy government town until the ’60s as big sisters Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio scraped up all of the oil money and beat their chests to the rest of the world.

Like Raleigh, Austin is a political town, and is the largest collection of people leaning to the left and/or creative young adults in a state full of conservatives with traditional values. The unusual position in which these cities find themselves leads many to feel that Austin is like “a big Raleigh”. So with a close friend there, a voracious appetite for Mexican food, and a comparison project, I’m headed to Austin! (Cue the food network non-descript bump music.)

More, including my visit to one of America’s best sushi restaurants, coming soon!



Bad Draft Night Shows Many Chinks in ACC Armor

It’s sad. The team ranked #6 by the AP going into the season ended up with only 1 of its 3 stars being picked, and only at position #52? It was that kind of night for the ACC. With only six players drafted in the 60-pick draft, the ACC finished the night a forgotten memory. This was to be a “weak draft”, which enticed players like Lorenzo Brown and CJ Leslie to enter the draft. In retrospect, these guys had a horrible night, and perhaps sent a big message that not only should they work on their games, they will likely need to learn another language.

Here are a few takeaways from the evening:

  1. Ignore all preseason talk, because the media doesn’t have a clue about these teams and players
  2. Kudos to NCSU fans for NOT beating their chests going into this season
  3. Nevertheless, this NCSU team may go down as the biggest bust in ACC basketball history
  4. I’m worried about Gottfried’s ability to help talent progress and mature. Hopefully with better attitudes in the locker room, we can see the players improve as the season progresses.
  5. The ACC is hardly a factor on draft night any more. Only 1 out of 10 players drafted were from the nation’s former best basketball conference (that should be at least a 1:7 ratio


Four Legendary Albums, One Stage

LP-Tour On Thursday, August 22, four bands will take the Red Hat stage and play their best albums in their entirety.

(links point to the album on Spotify)

Tickets are on sale now.


Details Emerge About the L Building

TheLBuilding Six years ago downtown Raleigh’s leader in development, Greg Hatem, started a project called the “L” building next to Poole’s Diner. The project was to have a parking garage flanked on two sides by an L-shaped office building. It was Hatem’s Empire Properties’ first from-scratch development, and its planning came at a time when downtown Raleigh development was on fire. Unfortunately was was beginning to burn down was the U.S. economy. By the time the project reached financing and leasing stages, the parking deck portion was built, but proceeding with the L section was impossible.

Since that period market forces have changed, and the demand for apartments downtown, especially south of Hillsborough Street, has never been higher. The new L building went before the appearance commission, and its site plan reveals a rendering of the updated project .

Ground Floor

The L portion will have a first level containing an egress for cars, a separate egress near the elevator/stair core for pedestrians, a residential lobby, an office lobby, and just under 11,000 square feet of retail/restaurant space. Its functional impact on pedestrians will be, thankfully, quite similar to the Hue. Given that Empire Properties is leasing the space, it will likely be filled with more interesting tenants.

Floor 2

Floor 2 will contain office space, but will only exist on the McDowell side of the building due to the upward slope on Davie Street. There is only about 6500 square feet of office space, and it is essentially one hallway flanked by offices and conference rooms, so it will contain space for precisely one business. This is where mixed use gets tricky, because this minimal commitment to office space is taking about 400 square feet from the street level retail space, and adding the cost of an elevator to the project.

Floors 3-6

There are roughly 19 apartments of varying sizes on floors 3-6, and from the renderings, it appears none of them has a balcony. This is a problem, as smoking tenants and guests will have to hang out the window to keep from violating the building’s rules. Additionally residents just like having a little getaway space from their interiors.

Floor 7

This floor only exists on the Davie Street side of the building, and contains 6 apartments, a fitness room, and a terrace. On this floor one will presumably be able to hold an event for guests, however it will likely become a smoking terrace most of the time, which is ironically next door to the fitness room.

* * *

Aesthetically the building is pretty forgettable. The palette of beige and gray isn’t particularly pretty, and most of the windows in the beige portion constitute a hideous square knock out. Still, this project doesn’t look particularly worse than the other rental offerings coming online in the Glenwood South portion of downtown, so it will be competitive, for sure.

More importantly I think that residents need more options for getting outside. As mentioned, each unit should have a small balcony, but there is another opportunity for some fantastic outdoor space. That exists on the roof of the McDowell Street portion of the L. This would be a terrific setting for a rooftop garden. Residents could basically co-op the space and plant small urban gardens of their choosing. If not, at least make it a much larger terrace. For this reason, it might make more sense to move the current design for the terrace/social room down to space adjacent to this rooftop area. The garden could become a focal point of the social space. Such an arrangement would give this project a big competitive advantage over the other apartment offerings in downtown.

I’m glad to see this project getting off the ground. Empire Properties did a wonderful job of cloaking the hideous parking garage with art, but the long term asset of more residents in the Warehouse area will be good for downtown. I’m sure that Empire’s financial team will be happy to see this project completed, and the bank note starting to move, too! With downtown seeming to get some forward momentum again, it seems the project wont be too far off now.

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