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How strains of Mozart became mosh-pit roars

Carolina town fights over its concerts, revealing splits of taste, class, and culture.

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By day, it's a land of suits and skirts, a maze of tidy lawns, two-story houses, and sprawling office complexes. And at night, many here hoped, that sense of civility would linger, with strains of Mozart and Brahms spilling across Symphony Lake from the amphitheater nearby.

But somewhere in the last three years, as this bedroom community of Cary, N.C., built Regency Park - a modernistic performance complex abutting a high-tech mirrored-glass officespace - a band that calls itself Poison took the stage instead, crooning, "Talk Dirty to Me."

The trio of '80s big-hair bands that headlined here this weekend, was another in a flurry of aging rock acts taking their shows to uncommonly genteel venues, sending mosh-pitters' roar and beer breath where the smell of magnolias once drifted. But the push by this town-owned stage to broaden its bill has touched off, also, dueling solos of class distinction. As highbrow suburbanites have turned up their noses at bands and fans that define their eras, it's become, to some, a lifestyle issue: Late-night headbanging concerts are hardly conducive to sleep or property values, after all. But to others, the rockers of Regency Park are a sign that rich little Cary is finally confronting a bit of suburban egalitarianism.

"If they're rich enough to buy a house here, they're rich enough to buy 100 acres out in the country and enjoy the quiet," says Gary Ammons, a lifelong Southerner from the mill-and-farming town of Sanford, N.C., tailgating here. Despite his tattoos and Harley, he came to Regency Park last week to see chick-crooner Chris Isaak. On Saturday, though, he's here with his friend Kelly Olsen, who wears a snug Poison tank top as "Highway to Hell" belts out on a Harley's beefy sound system.

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