I left my liver in South Carolina

A three-day there-and-back trip involving airports and road trips is not my idea of a good time. However, I was promised two things: Charleston, South Carolina, and time with my little brother.

Jake, a group of our friends, and I left Ohio Friday afternoon to head south via Cleveland airport, flying into Myrtle and then, driving to Charleston. By the time we finally arrived at our hostel Friday night, I was in desperate need of beer.

We went out that evening, did a quick tour of downtown—which had changed markedly since my time living there nine years ago—and headed back to the hostel for some sleep. Everything felt crowded thanks to the Charleston Pride Festival, an event taking place in conjunction with our trip.

The thing about hostels: you share the area, which meant six of us friends had to share the room with two strangers, one of whom snored like a grizzly bear. I acquired approximately three hours of sleep from 2 to 8 AM, which was when I finally admitted defeat and took a shower.

No wonder horror movies take place in hostels.

(I did, incidentally, chat with Grizzly Bear Saturday morning. I jokingly asked him if he slept well. He didn’t get the joke.)

Pretty quickly, I realized Saturday was going to be a good day, though. Jake and I ditched our still-sleeping chums and headed to Sunrise Bistro for the best breakfast bagel in history, followed by The Bearded Café for cold brew coffee, where we were charmed by the cheerful owner.

With “the kids” awake (Jake and I call our friends “the kids” because they’re all about ten years younger than us), we headed to Folly Beach in our rented minivan. We stopped on the way for Firefly—sweet tea vodka, a Charleston staple. Cocktails in hand, we attacked the beach … or maybe the beach attacked us. The height of the waves was alarming, but we dove in headfirst. I only lost my top twice.

My bro and his wife arrived, and off we went to Taco Boy for margaritas and Mexican snacks. Something I love about Charleston is the endless beach vibe. The music, the clothes, the décor: everything screams, “You are on vacation,” even if you live there.

By the time I returned to my friends on the beach, I had a stomach full of tequila and quickly realized that, despite this, I was one of the most sober of the group because my gang hit up a bar and did shots in my absence.

Back at the hostel, we met a dozen other party animals, including travelers from France, England, and India (by way of New Jersey). As a massive group, we Ubered our way to the Recovery Room, where shenanigans included foosball, dancing to 90s rap, and having drinks spilled all over us by drunken strangers.

Following the purchase of thirteen-dollar burritos—worth it—we went to bed around 3 AM and got up at 8:30. Overall, I slept a total of about nine hours over the course of two nights. Again: worth it.

Sunday was spent reminiscing as we walked the Battery and Rainbow Row, stared over the edge of the Pavilion Hotel rooftop, and ate pralines before rushing to make our flight and, yes, almost missing it.

Whether it was the bit of confusion in regards to my guy friends (“Y’all must be here for that gay pride parade”), fear of the minivan back seat, or the realization that we were in “the path of totality” all weekend, I laughed for two days straight.

Did I feel worse Monday than Sunday? Of course, which means I must have still been drunk all day Sunday and the hangover just kicked in Monday morning. Am I a little old to be doing shots and dancing until 2 AM? Nah. That’s like saying I’m too old to laugh, and the laughter, the inside jokes, the awkward TMI conversations … those memories are evidence of a fabulous trip.

Good friends are great, but friends who can make you laugh until you might vomit are priceless.

12 Tumblr moments that make me love life

Now that I’m living life without antidepressants, I’ve learned ways to cope with creeping sadness. I’ve learned you gotta kick that sadness right in the ass, and there’s no better place to be surrounded by beauty and laughter … than Tumblr.

There, I said it. Make fun of me all you want, but the following round-up will remind you: life is tough but it’s funny and beautiful, too. I present my 12 favorite Tumblr moments.

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1. When David Tennant made this face on Doctor Who.
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2. When Mulder made this face on The X-Files to scare Scully.

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3. When Harry Potter pretended to be a spider with fangs while high on Liquid Luck.

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4. When this dog took a second to enjoy the sun.

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5. When Bill Murray pet Benedict Cumberbatch like a dog.

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6. When Jerry wore glasses on Seinfeld.

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7. When Chandler told a secret on Friends.

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8. When I thought a shark was beautiful.

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9. When a strange little picture made me slow down.

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10. When the ocean looked like a mountain.

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11. When this dog had a very bad day.

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12. When the Sirens boys had an even worse day.

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If you need more funny, beautiful things, join me on Tumblr. Be sure to find what it is that brightens YOUR day, whether it be silly pictures, a cuddle with your pup, BBC murder mysteries, or singing Total Eclipse of the Heart at full volume.

Best Day in Charleston 2011

I could tell you about reuniting with “the girls” at Social. I could tell you about sand between my toes and Shem Creek dolphin-watching with my family. Or maybe the fact that Charleston left me a reminder: bronchitis and an ear infection. Fact is the trip was too chock-full of good stuff to tell you about the whole thing. So instead, I’m going to tell you about the best day: Thursday, June 23rd.

The day began with grocery shopping. Jake and I needed ingredients for mojitos. We headed to Crickentree: the apartment complex I first called home in SC, where I met current resident and amazing gal, Becky. Becky, her sister Mary, and I used to spend afternoons by the Crickentree pool, so in homage to those days, we did it again on Thursday. Although Becky was under the weather, Mary, Jake, and I concocted our beverages and spent the early afternoon floating around a clear pool. We talked as if not a day had passed, and we laughed (when was I not laughing with Mary?) until finally, it was announced Jake and I had to leave for our “date.”

Our “date” was simple—I told Jake we would go wherever he wanted to go in downtown Charleston, before heading to my brother’s gig at The Pour House at 9 PM. We began our tour at Magnolia’s on East Bay. Magnolia’s is a classic Charleston restaurant, known for expensive lowcountry dining, white tablecloths, and pleasant wait staff. Jake and I ordered a bowl of Blue Crab Bisque—a fancy name for She Crab Soup. She Crab is maybe the most famous dish in Charleston, and it should be. It’s damn delicious. The key ingredient? Crab eggs.  Although Magnolia’s Blue Crab was good, the best She Crab is at Mistral on Market, which tragically no longer exists.

Next, we were off to Pearlz, where we each did an oyster shooter, composed of Pearlz special blend of pepper vodka, cocktail sauce, spices, and a huge raw oyster. I did about a dozen oyster shooters last week, which still wasn’t enough. I also enjoyed a bubbly glass of champagne, while looking out over the slate sidewalks and pastel paint of lower East Bay Street.

Stepping outside, we took a moment to wander past Rainbow Row and into The Battery. I came to realize on this trip that I don’t miss Charleston as much as I thought I did. I don’t miss the tourist hubbub. I DO NOT miss the humidity. I don’t miss the packed bars and lack of taxis. However, I do very much miss walking through The Battery, up Church Street, and over to Broad. I miss the look and feel of Charleston, but I’m not sure I could ever move back.

We headed to dinner at Bocci’s, an Italian restaurant down Church Street off Market. The food wasn’t mind-blowing, but the ambience made the place, as did the sudden (and very Charleston-esque) thunderstorm that descended with no warning outside. I love this about Charleston. I love that it’s sunny one moment and a deluge the next. In Charleston, the streets don’t get wet when it rains; the streets flood. I’ve seen it, first-hand, and I even used to know which streets to avoid when driving home because I knew they’d be two feet under water.

Jake and I paid our tab and ran outside, having missed the lightning and thunder now that we live in the desert. We walked down to Amen Street (it’s a bar; not an actual street). We did two more oyster shooters and headed to McCrady’s—a classy pub hidden down an alley. When we lived in Charleston, Jake and I spent many a quiet pre-party evening sipping scotch, just the two of us. Even the smell of the place reminded me of conversations once shared when Jake and I were still just two semi-strangers, learning each another.

At 8:30, we headed across the water to James Island, where Matt Dobie and his band were set to play at The Pour House. Matt is the lead vocalist and guitar player for Gangrene Machine. They’re four crazy dudes who play funk/psychedelic/rock music, featuring creepy lyrics, occasional costuming, and a wild headman. Matt Dobie? Wild? You heard me. If you met my brother off-stage, you’d think he was a low-key, funny, shy guy. Once on stage, he becomes a head-banging, dancing, theatrical genius. Tom Waits, step down. A new King of Weird has taken your place. My favorite song? “Meat my Friends” about a group of “reasonable cannibals … they just take what they need,” which may include your belly fat. Even though my mom looked a little disturbed on occasion over Matt’s less than politically correct lyricism, my dad walked up to me after the show to say how impressed he was with my little bro. I agreed. In fact, when I saw the boys outside, I pulled a Wayne’s World. (“We’re not worthy! We’re not worthy!”)

Thursday, June 23rd, was the best day of Charleston 2011 for me. The trip in its entirety reminded me how much fun I used to have talking with my gal pals. How much I miss having my little brother down the street. How much I love the ocean and Spanish moss on Church Street. I did see the ghost of my past self—unavoidable in the same haunts, doing the same shots of Van Gogh, with the same girls I was once single with. I blame my past self for my present bronchitis. But it was worth it, and knowing I’ll be back again in April for Mary’s wedding puts a wide smile on this Phoenician’s face.

The Best Concerts I’ve Ever Seen

Because Jake is the BEST BOYFRIEND EVER, he was sneaky and bought me and his mom tickets to see Norah Jones this past weekend at the Dodge Theater. A couple interesting items about this show: 1) Norah’s opener and backup singer, Sasha Dobson, may have outshined the headliner. 2) Norah’s new album, sadly, feels very pop princess. I don’t know if I’m even going to buy it, which makes Sara sad. 3) Norah did wear yellow pumps with her bright green dress. That, my friends, is awesome. You can read the full write up about the show on the Phoenix New Times website.

This blog entry isn’t about Norah, because Norah didn’t impress me as much as I’d hoped. The lack of impression got me to thinking about the concerts that have impressed me in my life. So, in celebration, this blog post is about those concerts—the ones that really stood out. The ones I will remember until I’m old and senile, and even then, I’ll be saying, “Remember how Neil Young looked like he was having a seizure in the middle of ‘Cinnamon Girl’ back in 1999? Well, I do!”

BEST OLD GUY WHO STILL KICKS ASS
Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band
North Charleston Coliseum, Charleston, SC
Everybody loves The Boss. It’s the American way, I don’t care who you are. And who knew a guy so dang old could still do running knee slides on stage? I think the best part of this concert was when Springsteen reached out into the crowd, plucked a sign from some little girl’s hands, and said in front of the whole audience, “Well, it’s Jenny’s first concert and birthday today. Boys, let’s sing ‘Jenny Take a Ride’ for this young lady.” And he did! It was the way he accomplished a personal touch, even when playing in front of a sports arena, that stuck with me. (And well, playing hits like “Born to Run” and “Streets of Philadelphia” didn’t hurt his cause.)

BEST GUITAR PLAYER
John Mayer
North Charleston Coliseum, Charleston, SC
Yeah, he’s a jerk. I would hate to actually hang out with the guy, and my brother says most of his early acoustic stuff is so easy, a toddler could play it. However, John Mayer has come a long way. Talking about sexual relationships with the media notwithstanding, Mayer wails on that electric guitar. Through songs like “Slow Dancing in a Burning Room” (my favorite) and the slow, sensual “Gravity,” this guy-you-should-never-date rocked my world. I think I listened to the majority of his concert with my eyes closed; I wanted to focus on every riff, every chord, every moment of silence between every riff and every chord. A helluva show. If you can see him in concert, see him in concert. (Here’s my write up from the Charleston City Paper.)

BEST SHOW IN THE BLACK OF NIGHT
Les Claypool and The Frog Brigade
All Good Festival, Marvin’s Mountaintop, West Virginia

Les Claypool

All Good Festival is a three-day music festival in the middle of nowhere. It features famous and up-and-coming bluegrass, folk, and rock musicians, and I attended two years in a row. The first year, I was lucky enough to spend the weekend in a tent with two of my favorite dudes on earth—my buddy, Nate, and my brother, Matt. Every morning, we would make our coffee and Maker’s Mark and wander down to the music area. Past Shakedown Alley. Past the dread-locked hippies selling grilled cheese and oatmeal cookies. To the green hill overlooking the raging crowd and the wide stage, set at the base of West Virginia half-mountains. The one night, me and the boys were … um … we had a sugar high … from the brownies … yeah … and so Les Claypool (best known as vocalist and bassist for Primus) was playing at All Good with a side project of his, The Frog Brigade. Well, I was transfixed by this fluorescent, glowing object, floating in the sky above me, carried through the air by balloons, when the Brigade started jamming. Then, all of a sudden, the lights went out. There was a moment of silence as a cloak of black covered the crowd. Then, Les Claypool’s grainy, low, and kinda creepy voice echoed over our heads. “Well, we’re gonna keep on playing,” he said. “But for now, why don’t we all just space out on that glowing thing in the sky?” And we did. And he did! Claypool kept playing, in the dark, with only his fingers and a microphone to guide him. It was like an extended trippy dream, but even better, it really happened.

BEST SHOW FOR MAKING MY DAD GREEN WITH ENVY
Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young
Sports Arena, Toledo, OH
I was raised listening to Neil Young. Neil Young is my father’s favorite artist, and he has passed this trait onto my little brother. So when I had the chance to see CSNY and my father didn’t, well, he wasn’t too happy. I know their voices aren’t quite like they used to be. Steven Stills can barely hold a note anymore. But there was nothing better—nothing—than when Crosby and Nash stepped forward from the rest of the band. Crosby shushed the crowd. He shushed us! And these two musical moguls sang “Guinevere,” a cappella, on perfect pitch, until tears were rolling down my face.  Why was I crying? I dunno. It’s what music does to me sometimes, so I cried. And then, I cheered, because when Neil Young plays guitar, you have to cheer.

AND FINALLY … (drum roll, please) …
THE BEST SHOW EVER!!!!!!!
The Punch Brothers, featuring Chris Thile
Spoleto Festival, Charleston, SC
No show will ever rise beyond the beauty, skill, or setting of The Punch Brothers show at the College of Charleston Cistern Yard. I’m sorry, but it’s true. I already knew Chris Thile from his days as the mandolin player for Nickel Creek. I also knew him from his solo career, but his new group—The Punch Brothers—was new to me. Until Spoleto. Until the man came on stage and announced that he wasn’t used to playing beneath Angel Oaks and Spanish moss. (Who is?) I fell in love immediately—with the music, the lyrics, and with Chris Thile. When he played his four-part “symphony,” I couldn’t speak. In fact, I think the audience was afraid to make a sound. It was all too beautiful. Too hard to believe that we were all THERE under the Angel Oaks with this MUSIC! And a song I can never get enough of: “How to Grow a Woman from the Ground.” I could go on forever about The Punch Brothers, but for the full write up, hit up an earlier blog entry of mine. And if you ever hear about The Punch Brothers or Chris Thile coming to your town, buy tickets. Immediately. You’ll never see anything like it.

Chris Thile.

Micah McLaurin Makes Me Cry

I don’t remember when I fell in love with Frederic Chopin. I’m not sure when I first heard Clair De Lune or Debussy’s Beau Soir, but both still give me goose bumps. I know I hated playing piano as a child, so where did the love come from? What formed the fixation? Was it my mother, playing the ancient piano in our downstairs family room? The piano player at our church growing up? Maybe. I wish I could remember, because at least I would have someone to thank.

A couple weeks ago, I accepted a story assignment from the City Paper—a feature article on 15-year-old pianist and Charleston native Micah McLaurin. In the words of my editor, “What’s his deal?” I contacted the McLaurin family, and I delved into “his deal.” I did an interview, and you can read the full story HERE. One of the perks of writing the interview? I got free tickets to see Micah LIVE, and this happened last night at the Sottile Theater on George Street.

Sottile Theater, Charleston

The Sottile Theater is located in downtown Charleston. It is an attractive building, beautiful in its simplicity, and as I learned from Micah’s father, it used to be a movie theater. At present, it hosts College of Charleston and community events, ranging in theater to music to dance. For the International Piano Series, the stage is adorned with a piano, white barriers to aid in acoustics and volume, and…a performer. The performer last night was fifteen, and well, I know I did the interview, but well, I forgot how YOUNG fifteen is. Micah, decked out in a nice black suit and tie, was just a kid, but watching him play, it was easy to forget.

Honestly, he looked awkward walking onto the stage. He took long, meditative pauses before each piece, and in free moments, he wiped sweaty palms against the sides of his pants. I liked the opening arrangement—French Suite No. 5 in G Major—by Bach. It was okay. It was jubilant. It was…Bach. He followed this with Chopin’s Ballade No. 4 in F Minor, and I was done for. Part of Micah’s self-proclaimed mission as a pianist is to make audiences cry. Micah, mission accomplished. He went on to play a neurotic piece by Prokofiev, followed by a choppy Haydn sonata, and closing with an emotional rollercoaster by Rachmaninoff. He even did an encore. I was sitting beside his first piano teacher, and she told me the encore had to be Rachmaninoff, too, since Micah only moves his body onstage when playing good old Mr. R.

Micah McLaurin

Micah did an exceptional job. He is a talented young man who has many years to hone his craft. Watching him, he not only knows every note, but he feels every note. You could see it, in the slight Forrest Gump head tilt; in the focus of his face toward the keys and away from the audience; and in the way his fingers caressed and attacked and tickled that ivory, until the piano seemed to speak for each long-dead composer on Micah’s set list.

Although I loved the entire presentation, I cannot forget the feel of the Chopin ballade. What is it with me and piano? I like the way pianists (Micah included) develop Fuzzy Hand Syndrome, when their hands move so fast, they blur. I like the way the music feels on my ears. I like the feeling so much, I’ve been known to crank etudes and nocturnes until neighbors call the cops. Somehow, to me, piano feels soft. It feels warm. It makes my heart want to explode, but I take comfort in my auditory gluttony. It is nice to know that always, no matter what catastrophes descend, there is always a place to go for reassurance. There will always be warmth, safety, and goodness, as long as musicians like Micah keep the faith and keep on making audiences cry. Bravo, young sir. Bravo.

Dirty Dozen Brass Band celebrates 25 years and the Saints

Mardi Gras came early this year, thanks to a Saints’ NFL playoff victory Saturday afternoon. It’s a good thing, too, because it gave the renowned New Orleans Dirty Dozen Brass Band an excuse to invite young women to dance on stage at the Pour House … as long as they were wearing Saints jerseys.

Saturday night, crowds trickled in from the rain, hiding in the dank corners until the band went onstage. Once the boys hit the mics, it was a rush to the front, as young and old alike boogied and chanted, “Who dat!” over the jubilant sounds of brass, snare, and sax. Several spectators, adorned in Saints black and gold, reveled in team victory and tunes. And there were so many Reggie Bush jerseys, we could have summoned him in spirit.

Led by trumpeter/vocalist Gregory Davis and sax players Roger Lewis and Kevin Harris, the lineup also featured drummer Terence Higgins, guitarist Jake Eckert, trumpeter Efrem Towns, sousaphonist Julius McKee, and trombonist Revert Andrews.

The current DDBB tour celebrates the 25th anniversary of their debut album, My Feet Can’t Fail Me Now, recently remastered and available for sale. In 1977, the Dirty Dozen Social and Pleasure Club in New Orleans inadvertently created a phenomenon when they developed a house brass band. Since this unexpected foundation, the ensemble has continued their brass band traditions, spreading Deep South soul to audiences worldwide.

The soul-stirring music was impeccable, and the enthusiasm was catching. The DDBB was a well-oiled machine, capable of hitting all the right notes. However, it wasn’t just the perfection of their craft that impressed; it was their passion for performance. The boys loved to move and talk with the audience. The DDBB’s strong faith in brass and its jazz roots inspired the rest of us.

I didn’t earn any Mardi Gras beads Saturday night, and I didn’t wear a feathered mask to the show, but for one night, I felt like a Saints fan. I joined in a “Who dat!” or two, and danced to a triumphant rendition of “When the Saints Go Marching In.” For a night, we were all transported to Bourbon Street. So when’s the next bus leave for New Orleans?

To see more of my Charleston City Paper articles, go to the website.

The Halsey New Moon: New Museum celestial celebration

The Halsey Institute’s 5th Annual Membership Event felt a lot like Heaven: bright white light, walls covered in what looked like stain glass, and crowded with people who seemed confused, wondering how they had gotten there. On the topic of Heaven, if the Friday image stands true, there will be wide food spreads, free wine, and no option of coat check. That being said, the warmth of the Halsey interior was pleasant, considering the chill of the Charleston night. The upbeat tunes of Garage Cuban Band increased the illusion of summer heat, as did the aforementioned overhead lighting.

For me, a Charleston artist’s single print set the tone. Colin Quashie, whose “wry, ironic, and irreverent art” shoved the night full-force into an unavoidable religious epiphany, opened my eyes to a thematic stage of Holy City delight. Quashie is one of many “Hall of Patron Prints” creators. These featured patrons have had shows at the Halsey, and in remembrance, they leave a special print with a Halsey focus when they leave. Left by Quashie was a print of the fictional magazine CQ, featuring a bearded man on the cover with the headline, “Can the Lord Jesus Christ Be Gay?”

The unexpected celestial imagery continued in the main hall. The College of Charleston Art History and Studio Art departments collaborated to create an “Illuminating Pages” series, wherein the students copied medieval style in what resembled church stain glass windows. The featured artist of the night in the main gallery was Aldwyth, a collage and assembling artist, and yet the idea of God watching carried forth into his Casablanca (classic version), including a multitude of famous artists’ works, surrounded by eyes of all sizes and shapes, watching the audience. (Perhaps, judging the audience?)

The patrons of the Halsey event were somewhere between Heaven and Hell, drinking their wine and dancing to the percussion. Some even resembled works of art themselves, and as they interpreted the works of talent—Charleston and beyond—they fit in with the bright overhead lighting and the old school foreign beats. Dancer Beth Coiner portrayed a drunken and yet precise Cuban gentleman, in her wide-brimmed white hat and black ensemble for an upbeat audience. Romantic couples took their turns on the full-sized Halsey signature moon backdrop, doing their best to make it into the celestial sphere. What can I say? I suppose attendees touched the heavens upon entrance, whether they expected a heavenly journey or not.

See more Charleston events in the City Paper HERE.

Pecha Kucha 4 reminds us why we live in Charleston

Holy City Idol Worship
By Sara Dobie, for the Charleston City Paper

One of Pecha Kucha’s taglines? “Thinking and drinking.” Standing at the Music Farm in a crowd of beer-holding, Buddy Holly glasses-wearing, demographic-defying participants, I’d have to say that yes, there was much thinking and drinking going on. There was also the embracing of our fair city and the celebration of the artists, authors, musicians, and doggone talent Charleston has been known to encompass. I’d say the centerpiece of this event was, in fact, the city itself, while the presenters formed a talented worship circle, idolizing The Holy City and all her historic glory.

“Pecha Kucha” is Japanese for “the sound of conversation,” and when I was asked where I would be spending my Wednesday evening, it took three tries for me to say it right. It’s a high class open mic slash happy hour, where creativity is discussed like an old friend you’ve known since kindergarten. Presenters get only six minutes, forty seconds to present, while 20 slides flash above their heads — images that make you want to believe what each presenter is saying. The event occurs in over 135 cities worldwide as an informal celebration of intrinsic creative talent, buried in the participants and perhaps, the onlookers, as well.

DJ Natty Heavy at Pecha Kucha 4

DJ Natty Heavy at Pecha Kucha 4

As I said, the centerpiece of Pecha Kucha 4 was Charleston, and this was apparent immediately, thanks to one of the only man in a tucked-in shirt, Bill Eubanks, from Urban Edge Studio. The mission of Mr. Eubanks was to make us laugh. The mission of Urban Edge Studio was slightly more important. They want to keep Charleston beautiful and not just down Broad Street (which was paid at least thirty precious seconds of hero worship from Eubanks over the course of his pitch). No, they want to go after the horrendous Rivers Avenue, turning it from a nondescript line of fast food joints into a quaint neighborhood with palm trees, without drunks and prostitutes. Of all the presenters, Urban Edge definitely made the best use of their slides.

Other highlights included painter Michael Gray, who may have missed his calling as a stand-up comedian. When he discussed “The Greatest Mud Painting Ever,” I just about dropped my notebook. DJ Natty Heavy added a live crowd sample to an impromptu mix and made even the most corporate of corporate men want to get up and dance. Children’s book author Jonathan Miller embraced the association of artists as poor and yet triumphed the profession, highlighted by a hand-written note from an elementary school kid who told him to keep getting that “cash money.”

Pecha Kucha 5 is January 21, 2010, location as yet to be identified. It is an event that embraces Charleston, and it embraces the talent inherent in this beautiful city. We all owe a lot to The Holy City, and Pecha Kucha might as well be Japanese for “Charleston is the best place on Earth.”

For more things Chucktown, visit the Charleston City Paper website. And have a thrilling weekend, people. Enjoy that weather!

Fletcher 3 rocks the Charleston Righchus Renaissance

Fletcher III Self Portrait

Fletcher III Self Portrait

I felt like the oldest person in the room. I also felt extremely untalented, surrounded by artists of impressive caliber who were barely old enough to buy beer. I’m talking about Friday’s Righchus Renaissance, hosted by Eye Level Art at their Warehouse Gallery on Heriot Street. The Warehouse Gallery is high up on the far reaches of the peninsula, and you’d miss it if you didn’t know it was there. However, it was an ideal location for the grand, colorful paintings of 22-year-old Fletcher 3 (a.k.a. Fletcher Williams III), who modestly stole the show.

Seemingly, this young artist does not paint small portraits. His portraits were each at least three feet high, two feet wide, with colors that echoed as loud as the bass beats from hip-hop artist and event coordinator, Righchus (a.k.a. Matthew Bostick). On display were different eras of Fletcher 3’s artistic career. Half the murals were on the abstract side, making use of bold hues and strong lines. The more recent — and in one case, brand new — pieces featured realistic subjects, twisted into Dali-esque contortions and scenarios. I had a chance to talk to Fletcher 3’s mom, and she told me that all his art means something; he just won’t tell her what.

Other artists at the Righchus Renaissance included Dalia Dalili of Mock Couture, whose Nintendo-themed jewelry took me back to the days of Super Mario Brothers. There were the Brwn Drby crew, screening T-shirts for the crowd. Then, of course, there was the music. DJs Joeski and John Kutter did a good job of warming up the crowd. Spoken word artist Rasheen Maliek (a.k.a. RaRa) carried the frenzy forth.     Finally, Righchus made his way on stage, with a distinctly Rage Against the Machine meets Jay-Z feel, and got the crowd moving.

The event outgrew its planned space at 103 Spring at the last minute, which turned out to be fortuitous for the event; the bareness of the warehouse walls made Fletcher 3’s art pop, and you could practically see the music pumping through the high ceilings and melding with the emotive faces and bold backdrops of each painting.

Mock Couture reminded me what it’s like to be a kid. Brwn Drby made me a T-shirt and introduced me to Eye Level Art’s Mike Elder. (“They’re all solid people,” Mike said of his featured artists.) Righchus showcased his music videos, projected floor to ceiling behind his three-man band. Through all this, an unassuming Fletcher 3 happily wandered the floor. He only looked uncomfortable once, and that was because I made him pose for a picture.

See additional images on the Charleston City Paper website: http://www.charlestoncitypaper.com/charleston/fletcher-3-rocks-the-righchus-renaissance/Content?oid=1460348.

My Charleston City Paper Debut (in homage to Edgar Allen Poe)

From The Charleston City Paper:
Back from the Grave side shows took center stage: Poe would have approved
by Sara Dobie

The setting was ideal. The weather was threatening. And the performances, high caliber. However, that being said, we think that Edgar Allan Poe would have been most attuned to the female talent and the side show entertainment that made Saturday night most memorable.

BellyDancerPoe_thumbThanks to the Creative Spark Center for the Arts and the Sullivan’s Island Park Service, Edgar Allan Poe: Back from the Grave did not disappoint. Standing in a slow moving and lengthy line before the show, attendees were mystified by projected images on the front of the decrepit yet creepily charming Fort Moultrie on Sullivan’s Island. What made the wait worth it? Belly dancers, casting their undulating shadows on the backdrop of moving flames and the ghostly image of EAP.

Inside this tomb of a fort, voices echoed like screams of soldiers long dead, thanks to the talented participants from Contemporary Theater Lab. A Poe look-alike greeted us at the door, and things just got more freakishly uncomfortable as actors addressed the audience like old friends. The spectators were close enough to the actors and actresses to make eye contact and feel as if each performer told secrets for our ears alone.

Highlights from the actors included a bloody Pit and the Pendulum, a haunting Fall of the House of Usher, and a full-on dance and sword fight to celebrate the terror of The Masque of the Red Death. However, the side shows truly stole the spotlight. Whether it was the undulating hips of the coin clad belly dancers outside, the haunting vocals of Cary Ann Hearst (a woman I deem the creepy gothic version of a modern day Billie Holliday), or even the blood-sucking mosquitoes terrorizing onlookers,  it was an event Poe could have organized himself. Or at least, it was an event Poe would have attended, enjoyed, and haunted, to the terror and fascination of a Halloween happy Charleston mob.

(See more images at the Charleston City Paper website.)