The Belk Theater at the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center is the premiere theater in uptown Charlotte to attend Broadway shows. Located at 130 N. Tryon Street, Belk Theater is surrounded by restaurants, bars, and other forms of entertainment in uptown. The theater hosts multiple Broadway shows, concerts, speakers and other events. While Belk Theater hosted many Broadway shows for 2018 including The Lion King and The Book of Mormon, the most anticipated show to come to Charlotte this year was Hamilton.
Belk theater offers multi-level seating with tiered ticket pricing. There are a few impaired viewing seats along the sides of the theater. I would not recommend purchasing any seats available with impaired viewing. If you purchase seats further in the back, consider bringing glasses or wearing contacts to see everything and everyone on stage. Each level has their own bar area and bathrooms. Bars are open before the show and during intermission. One great tip is to pre-order your intermission snacks and beverages for pickup. This saves precious time during intermission instead of waiting in line for the bathroom and bar. Pre-orders are arranged by last name and require a receipt or photo ID for pickup.
I was fortunate enough to purchase reasonably priced tickets through CarolinaTix for one of the Hamilton shows. Blocks of seats were released daily for purchase while Hamilton was in Charlotte, NC. Hamilton is an amazing show with incredible writing and creativity. It was the best written show I have ever seen. There is a reason why shows sell out even when tickets are twice as much as any other Broadway production. I highly recommend going to see Hamilton if you enjoy Broadway productions and want to see the best show currently on tour.
Online streaming of anime shows has evolved over the last few years thanks to Netflix and Hulu. The library of shows to watch on both platforms is incredible in both quality and quantity. In the past, the only legitimate way to watch new Japanese anime shows was to wait for them to either air on American television or release on DVD. Thankfully, Netflix and Hulu have helped to bridge this gap for American audiences. One fact worth noting is that each streaming platform offers a differentiated assortment of shows.
The quality of shows on Netflix is amazing. The streaming service offers fantastic shows such as Full Metal Alchemist, Gurren Lagann, and Soul Eater (a great choice for Halloween binge watching). You could spend many days watching highly rated shows. Netflix also offers exclusive shows and original anime content. Devilman Crybaby is an example of an original anime show on Netflix. In addition, Netflix has exclusivity distribution rights for a few shows. Some of the better Netflix exclusive shows are Knights of Sidonia and Ajin: Demi-Human. The only complaint with Netflix's offering of shows is the lack of newer episodes available. If you want to see new episodes of popular anime shows, you need to look else where.
The major benefit of using Hulu is to watch the latest episodes of your favorite anime shows. Hulu does an amazing job airing new episodes of popular anime shows like My Hero Academia and Attack on Titan. Hulu is able to simultaneously release weekly episodes as they air in Japan. Adding shows to your watch list will allow new show notifications to appear. Beyond new shows, Hulu offers a generous catalog of great shows from past and present. The amazing Hunter X Hunter and Cowboy Bebop are just two examples of Hulu's premier shows available. It is hard to find weakness in Hulu's anime offerings.
There are anime shows available on both Netflix and Hulu. For example, One Punch Man has been available on both platforms. You may not miss out on some shows by only having access to one streaming service. If you were to have to choose between Netflix and Hulu, it would be hard not to recommend Hulu as the service of choice. With access to new weekly content and a huge catalog of past shows, Hulu comes out ahead of Netflix. However, you should get Netflix if you are interested in some of their exclusive shows and other shows not available currently on Hulu. Either way, it is a great time to be an anime fan with so much content included with an inexpensive monthly subscription.
The AvidXchange Music Factory is an entertainment venue near Uptown Charlotte. There are multiple bars, restaurants, clubs, and concert venues located in one complex. World is one of the nightlife clubs at the Music Factory open on the weekends. The club focuses on hosting Electronic Dance Music concerts and other related events. I had the opportunity to visit World recently for a weekend EDM show featuring Tritonal.
I have been to the nightclub before when it was known as Label. New management took over the nightclub last year and made improvements in security and customer experience. Many of the events held at World are EDM concerts. You can except fast-paced music, flashing lights, confetti, and other visual effects. The opening act typically starts between 10 and 11 p.m. with the main act coming on around midnight. The concert usually ends around 2 a.m. There are three types of tickets available for shows. General admission tickets give you access to the floor space of the venue with bars on either side and bathrooms behind the stage. These tickets are the least expensive option with prices varying by show. You should expect to spend $20-40 for a general admission ticket. Prices vary depending on the popularity of the artist. The next level of ticket available is for the VIP area. This area is above the floor space on the right-hand side of the venue. You get a bird's eye view of the concert along with a separate bar and bathroom just for VIP ticket holders. These tickets range from $10-30 more than a general admission ticket. The third option to attend a show is to buy a service table service for a group of people. This is much more expensive than a normal ticket, but it does include alcohol, mixers, a private seating area, and table service for your group. It is common to see people celebrating a birthday or special event when purchasing a table service package.
Over time I have purchased floor and VIP tickets depending on the artist and pricing. I almost always buy a VIP ticket because it is less crowded and a better view of the show. However, you do not get the same vibe from the crowd and have much less space to move around in the VIP. The floor space is a better option for those that want to jump, dance, and be fully immersed in the show. World is one of the more intimate venues I have been in to see popular EDM artists like Hardwell, Blau, and Borgeous. The size of the venue allows you to always have a good view of the artists and visual effects. I am thankful to have a concert venue in Charlotte that brings my favorite EDM artists to town.
One of my main hobbies when I am not tied up with work, school, and other responsibilities is playing Magic: The Gathering. Magic is a trading card game that has existed for 25 years. I was introduced to the game in 1995 when a neighborhood friend brought over a starter deck they had purchased to show my brother and I. We barely understood the rules of the game at that time. Slowly, we build a card collection and decks to play against each other at home and with friends. I have played off and on over the years taking a large hiatus from 2005 to 2013. I entered back into the game with the release of the Theros set and never looked back.
One of the fun ways to customize a card game experience is to use a playmat. While not required, playmats help keep surface areas clean and come with many different illustrations and colors. Players like to use mats with popular Magic card artwork or ones that they received at a tournament. My favorite playmat is the one shown above that was illustrated by John Avon. The image is of dragon flying around the Kiyomizu-dera Temple in Kyoto, Japan. I acquired the playmat because of my love for Kyoto, Japan. John has done commissions for large Japanese tournaments incorporating various Japanese landscapes and locations. The created artwork is used for playmats, deck boxes, mouse pads, and other giveaways at the tournaments.
One of the required supplies for players to have is game dice. Players use dice to keep track of various game states and actions that occur. My dice are carried in a drawstring bag depicting sumo wrestlers. My fiance's mother gave me the bag as a gift after she attended a sumo wrestling event in Japan last year. It works perfectly for carrying dice and goes well with my Japanese playmat.
The most important supplies that players use for trading card games is deck sleeves. Different people have their own personal tastes, but I enjoy using the Japanese KMC Hyper Matte Black sleeves. They have held up well over time and I use them with all of my competitive decks. Having the same sleeve across multiple decks makes it easier to share and swap cards among them. The cards pictured above are park of my Standard format deck that I have played with since the release of the Dominaria set. The green and black cards have treated me well with great finishes in multiple tournaments and weekly events. The company that manages the Magic card game releases new card sets every three to four months. With the next set release in October, the Standard format will change again keeping the game fun and interesting.
Last weekend was the 2nd year for the Queen City Anime Convention in Charlotte, NC. The convention was held at the Hilton Charlotte University Place. There were multiple panel rooms, main event room, dealer room, game room, and a great outdoor area. This convention was one of the smallest I have attended, but still offered multiple panels and main event entertainment. There were plenty of water stations and the amount of people roaming the halls never felt overcrowded. The dealer room was surprisingly full of vendors and artists offering a wide assortment of merchandise. I enjoyed seeing many creative cosplayer costumes throughout the convention weekend. One of my personal favorites was a female cosplaying Veronica from Fire Emblem: Heroes, a mobile Fire Emblem game. I mentioned the game in one of my first posts on this blog due to its Gacha mechanic.
I attended a few panels including one hosted by my friend on Japanese baseball. Dan's panel content was interesting and information. The panel covered the history of Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB), star players that came to the United States, stadium information, and other informative facts. It was a great introduction to the Japanese national sport. Dan and I attempted to play a few video games in the game room on Saturday, but most of the popular console games were always full. They did not have any arcade games to try like some other conventions offer. I managed to check out part of a rap concert on Saturday in the main events room. While I was surprised by how few people attended the performance, I thought the gentleman did well.
My panel on traveling to Japan was on Sunday. I created a 40 minute presentation that is geared toward individuals who would like to plan a trip or visit Japan for the first time. Most of the information I cover is from previous posts and the other pages on this website. There were around 30 people in attendance for the panel. I was pleased with the great questions and engagement from the audience. I hope to have the opportunity to present again next year.