To think, I was just there to see Ricky Skaggs. But here’s what happened…I fell in love with the Carolina Chocolate Drops. Let me back up. I hadn’t heard about the Boone Hall BBQ Championship and Bluegrass Festival. Thankfully, one of my friends HAD, because well, I would have been disappointed to hear about it from someone else.
Boone Hall Plantation is about two minutes from my house in Mt. Pleasant, SC, and yet, I’d never set foot on the property until Sunday. It’s set way back from the road, and there is the pleasure of driving beneath Angel Oaks, covered in Spanish moss, strategically placed ten feet apart. I mean, we’re talking move magic. So Boone Hall itself is an old plantation house. On the website, they say they’ve been “continuously growing and producing crops for over 320 years.” (I don’t think they mean the current staff, but you get the idea.) So the plantation house is this big, white thing that looks like it fell out of the sky from about circa 1820. I never got close to it. I smelled BBQ. I was on a mission.
BBQ. BBQ. BBQ.
There are people set up all over, and I’m not talking a bunch of Charleston restaurant owners. I’m talking locals, amateurs, people with three teeth who still manage to make damn find Southern cookin’. From what I’ve heard, there are BBQ people who travel far and wide for competitions. And I understand why. First off, they get to eat a lot. Secondly, they get to drink a lot. Thirdly, they make MONEY. I saw two dudes in t-shirts win $700 in the span of three minutes for their BBQ chicken AND BBQ ribs. This is no joke, folks. This is a dang championship.
Okay, let’s talk about the real reason I was there. I was really there for the music. I’m a chick who used to spend a long weekend of every summer at All Good Festival up in Masontown, West Virginia, hippie-dancing to bluegrass and the likes of Les Claypool, Keller Williams, Galactic, Umphrey’s McGee…I mean, I could go on FOREVER. Bluegrass (and the off-shoots it has created) is my thing. Ricky Skaggs is a name I know. He’s an old dude playing mandolin. Who doesn’t like that? And yet, it was the Carolina Chocolate Drops who had me at hello.They’re a trio, and they seem to be able to trade instruments on cue, depending on who feels like dancing or playing the wooden spoons. They bill themselves as an African-American string band. Instruments are banjo, fiddle, guitar, vocals, WOODEN SPOONS! I mean, WOODEN SPOONS! My favorite part about this trio was the dancing. In the middle of a song, one of them would stand up and start dancing around, barely making it back to the microphone in time to hit the chorus. Oh, and of course, there was that a cappella cover of Joplin’s “Mercedes Benz.” Despite a slight drizzle, the crowd was dearly devoted to these three. Now, so am I.
All in all, I had a nice taste of Southern cuisine, a heavy dollop of Southern tunes, and a visual education on belt buckles and grown men in Huck Fin overalls. An excellent way to spend a Sunday.