Scenes of Secrecy
Center for Documentary StudiesThe USA PATRIOT Act endowed the Bush administration with expansive surveillance powers, which, the president defended, were necessary to thwart another terrorist attack. Besides, Bush said, the government isn’t interested in ordinary Americans, only in “suspected Al-Qaeda” members.

Yeah, right. Last week, ABC News reported that the National Security Agency had illegally eavesdropped on phone conversations between ordinary Americansjournalists, service members and aid workers overseas and their friends and family in the U.S.

Given that revelation and the Bush administration’s slow circling of the drain, the timing of Scenes of Secrecy is perfect. The photography, film and mixed-media by Trevor Paglen, William Noland and NC Stop Torture Now comments on political secrecy, covert government surveillance and the denuding of civil liberties and constitutional rights.

This is the new world, one where hidden cameras, wiretaps, computer traces and secret operatives track us in our public spaces and private domains. (Even North Carolina has tinges of a panopticon: At a March anti-war protest at UNC, a man identifying himself as a member of the state’s domestic spying agency, Information Sharing and Analysis Service, was keeping tabs on the evil puppeteers.)

No longer the purview of the paranoid, it’s real: The government is watching you.

N.C. State Fair
The Fairgrounds The N.C. State Fair begins today.

Chapel Hill
Auxes, Hammer No More the Fingers
NightlightIt seems less and less like Milemarker member and Auxes frontman Dave Laney inhabits either Chapel Hill or Chicago. It’s more like he dwells in some Interstate Purgatory between the two cities. Laney had been living in Chicago since the Milemarker days, but moved back to Chapel Hill in 2005, started Auxes and recorded (virtually by himself) a debut album, Sunshine, before promptly returning to Chicago. And now he’s backat least for a nightwith his winding guitars and nervous anthems. Check the serpentine riffs and shout-along perfection of “Radio Radio” or the lockstep rhythms that propel “The Things Lovers Do.”

Just like old times, right? Well, kind of. Sunshine‘s most surprising detours find Laney dipping into alt.country territory (fittingly, as it’s a genre with roots in both the Triangle and Chicago), using lap steel and acoustic guitars as textures. Mostly, it’s a toe-dip into the country poolexcept on “Hometowns,” the closing track on Sunshine, a minute-and-a-half of casually strummed acoustic guitar and dusty group vocals aching with hopefulness. As much as it showcases a promising new lead for Laney, this show is a celebration of jerky rhythm and wiry guitars as Laney and opening act Hammer No More The Fingers each offer their own take on the sound that made Chapel Hill (somewhat) famousguitar-centric rock ‘n’ roll skewed just enough to be both catchy and fresh. The 9:30 start time should wrap things up early enough to justify the weeknight jaunt. Bryan Reed

Cowboy Mouth
Meymandi Theatre at Murphey School AuditoriumSometimes it’s startling to realize what interesting and varied lives people have. While theater and music fans have their separate impressions of the careers of playwright Sam Shepard punk songstress Patti Smith, they might not realize that the two were lovers at some point in the Arcadian era of mid-1970s New York City (no doubt they stayed at the Chelsea Hotel). Under the auspices of the St. Marks Poetry Project, they wrote and performed, for one night only, a play called Cowboy Mouth. The title is taken from Bob Dylan’s 12-minute epic that closes Blonde on Blonde, “Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands.” Starting tonight, the redoubtable Lucius Robinson and the Delta Boys troupe tackle the show. The director is Sylvia Mallory, and Elsbeth Cassandra Taylor and Frank Lentricchia round out the cast. The show opens tonight and continues through next Friday, Oct. 24. For more info, visit www.burningcoal.org. David Fellerath

Paglen launches Scenes of Secrecy with an artist’s talk today at 5:30 p.m., followed by a reception. The exhibit runs through Jan. 4, 2009. Lisa Sorg