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A slammin' time at the State

Alvin Lau performs during the 4th Annual IILL LIST IV Poetry Slam at the State Theatre. (Adrian Mendoza / The Modesto Bee)
Alvin Lau performs during the 4th Annual IILL LIST IV Poetry Slam at the State Theatre. (Adrian Mendoza / The Modesto Bee)

Hundreds of people lined up outside. Raucous cheering inside. Disappointed fans being turned away at the door.

What is this, a surprise Hannah Montana concert?

Or a monster-truck rally?

Or a Kathy Griffin show?

No, no and no.

This is poetry. Yes, you read that right -- poetry.

The Ill List IV, an invitational poetry slam, has become an annual sellout, and for good reason.

The high-energy, high-emotions show is a standout because of the caliber of the performances and the enthusiasm of the crowd year after year.

This year's event, held Saturday, was no exception. The sellout packed almost 600 spoken-word enthusiasts into the State Theatre, with the ticketless being turned away with sad faces before the show.

Who says the Central Valley doesn't appreciate culture like the Bay Area? We got your culture right here, baby.

The slam-bam-thank-you- ma'am event is both a crowd favorite and a reminder that in our increasingly digitized and isolated culture, there still is real power in hearing words spoken live.

The event's performers came from near and far -- Modesto to Virginia, Oregon to Ohio, Texas to Chicago. The night ended in a tie, with a slam-off required to determine eventual winner Sonya Renee and two-time runner up Alvin Lau's positions.

But the real winner, as usual, was the audience. Hooting and hollering was the norm. Booing low scores was the game. And alternating between laughing and crying was the payoff.

Poems ranged from the humorous to the morose. Everything from AIDS to gay marriage to short stature was addressed in a blur of passion and poetry.

Event organizers Sam Pierstorff and Greg Edwards were the night's tireless emcees and comical commercial endorsers. Their ability to bring sellout crowds year after year for a night of poetry is both astounding and encouraging.

In fact, the show even may be suffering a tad from its own success. Popular Ill List veterans like Scorpio Blues (who won last year's event), Anis Mojgani and "Mighty" Mike McGee turned in repeat performances this year.

But with an audience as loyal and returning as that of the Ill List, repeating poetry simply doesn't wash -- no matter how hilarious it is to hear about a man's love for pudding, again.

But repeats or no repeats, seeing poetry in motion is always better than not seeing poetry at all. And that, my friends, is the word.

( For video from the Ill List IV, visit

Elsewhere Around the Scene:

Clear Channel Vice President Market Manager Gary Granger has left the company.

The man behind several of the changes at the Central Valley radio station cluster -- including the staff shake-ups at B93.1 FM -- is now working for Clear Channel as a consultant. He left his position in late November.

Rich Hawkins, who previously managed Clear Channel stations in the San Luis Obispo area, replaced Granger and is now the market manager for the Modesto/Stockton stations. ...

Looking to laugh? Then check out a two-night engagement from funnyman George Lopez at Stockton's Bob Hope Theatre this weekend.

The comic's self-titled sitcom ran for six seasons on ABC before it ended in May. He also was part of "The Original Latin Kings of Comedy" tour and film and earlier this year filmed the HBO special "America's Mexican."

Lopez will play 8 p.m. shows Saturday and Sunday. Tickets are $45-$60. Call 337-4673. ...

And finally, if you want to rock, check out Los Angeles-based hard rockers Melotia on Sunday at Modesto's Sidelines.

While now based in Southern California, the group has valley roots. Drummer Clark Skelton is from Ripon. The band played a homecoming show in his hometown earlier this week.

Also on the bill are Victoria Elm, The Cavalry and Deriva. Show starts at 9 p.m. Tickets are $8.

Bee entertainment writer Marijke Rowland can be reached at or 578-2284. Read her blog SceneIt at