Literary Death Match

The Pour HouseGreg Behr and Billy Warden are the enthusiastic, cheerfully irreverent literary impresarios who want to bring the spirit of P.T. Barnum to the hidebound conventions of book readings and author signings. The duo was responsible for such happenings as a downtown Raleigh scavenger hunt and an “erotic” literary reading at last year’s SPARKcon. They’ve also begun publishing a more traditional literary magazine, The Raleigh Quarterly. September is shaping up to be a big month: Not only will they be rolling out creative literary events for SPARKcon next week, but tonight they team up with Opium Magazine for Literary Death Match, a cheeky spin on the usual literary conventions. Several writer-contestants will compete, including Scott McClanahan, Lockie Hunter, Warden himself and, appropriately enough, fellow literary impresario Jeff Polish of The Monti StorySlam. Then there are the celebrity judges: Chapel Hill author Daniel Wallace (see cover and page 31), KGBebe of the Carolina Rollergirls (see Friday, page 27) and popular Internet sensations Rhett & Link. Tickets for the 9:30 p.m. show are $5. Visit www.literarydeathmatch.com. David Fellerath

James McMurtry

Cat’s CradleYou’ve heard it before: The works of [insert songwriter’s name here] are short stories masquerading as songs. Thing is, making that claim for James McMurtry would be shortchanging him. The songs of this Austin, Texas, native are more like novels and screenplays and such. A threesome of songs from his most recent record, Just Us Kids, showcases the range of his storytelling talents. “Fireline Road” is a harrowing documentary, the camera holding steady on an American underclass that few feel comfortable discussing; “Hurricane Party” is a cable series set in a coastal-town watering hole, its scenes built on such lines as “Some insurance man-biker is yelling out for one more beer/ But a part-time pirate just can’t get much respect around here”; and “Ruby and Carlos” is an indie film that explores such themes as the delayed casualties of war, May-December romances and, above all else, the psychology of longing. McMurtry then backs his tales with inventive guitar work, while the rhythm section that rounds out the power trio somehow manages to be both fiery and understated. The results are stories brilliantly told and slyly sold. Jonny Burke opens. Music starts at 8:30 p.m., and tickets are $15-$18. Visit www.catscradle.com. Rick Cornell