Friday, May 30, 2008

Eats Shoots And Leaves ...

No, this is NOT a story about a restaurant diner who pulled a gun and refused to pay for his meal. It is the headline I saw several years ago over a story about the eating habits of pandas.

I was reminded by a terrific Piccolo Spoleto Fringe show I enjoyed last night at Theatre 99, called “I Eat Pandas” featuring two VERY imaginative - and energetic - young ladies and their off-stage piano player.

In my role as a SpoJo (Citizen Journalist) I enjoyed the hour improv presentation which started with a whacky 30-minute skit inspired by the audience suggestion of “laundry.” A large clock on the stage allowed the audience to do a “count down.”

Glennis McMurray (L) (blonde) and Eliza Skinner then did an hiliarious 15-minute reprise of the main characters and, finally, a 5-minute wrap-up of what had become a musical. No, really. Both ladies sang well and the piano/harmonica accompaniment was excellent.

On the keyboard was Jonathan Wagner, a last-minute fill in, and - he said - a member of Second City.

They announced they were doing two more shows at the Meeting Street venue so go check them out. It’s a nice “Fringe” benefit.

(Check all the Festival coverage at

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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Very Early, Early Bird Blues Show

Since I was selected as a "SpoJo" (Spoleto Citizen Journalist), I try to keep on top of what interests me during our annual Arts Festival.

As a live music fan in general - and Blues in particular - I am looking forward to the Piccolo-Spoleto Early Bird Blues show starring OLD CROW downtown today from 4-7 pm.

The venue is the Mad River Bar & Grille at 32 N. Market and the admission is only $10.

This former church building - just off East Bay - is known as a High Energy Sports Pub/Tavern with 23 hi-def tvs but it also has become a mecca for Blues music since Cumberland’s closed, according to Gary Erwin, producer of Charleston's annual 10-day Blues Bash each February.

OLD CROW, from North Carolina, plays Delta Blues, Ragtime and Old Timey Bluegrass on harmonica, fiddle and Dobrow. If you’ve enjoyed The Wiyos or our local musicmakers The V-Tones, you should have a rollicking good time today at Mad River.

Gary has Blues acts booked at Mad River almost every day - check the schedule at - and Wanda Johnson is set for Friday June 6.

Please check out my SpoJo entry at and follow ALL the great contributions in print, blogs, on Twitter, Videos and even Podcasts.

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Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Band As Backup....

Wanda Johnson really packed the house at A Dough Re Mi Sunday night. Not an empty seat in the place.

Except hers.

A serious illness in the family had Miss Wanda headed home to the Upstate instead of to Mt. Pleasant for a scheduled evening of Piccolo-Spoleto Blues.

Shrimp City Slim (Gary Erwin) was there with his band which had backed her on her new CD "Hold What You Got."

They sent her their love and prayers and then played her music to a capacity crowd of more than 130 patrons. Extra rows of chairs were placed in front of the stage and they filled early, attesting to the appeal of the popular young Blues singer.

Gary announced he expected Miss Johnson to be back for two scheduled appearances elsewhere in town June 5 and 6, also part of Piccolo-Spoleto.

This is a follow up to my posting that she would present a Sunday Blues treat. I looked forward to hearing her again.

Unfortunately, on arrival, a sign at the door informed us a medical emergency forced her to immediately join her family out of town and she would not perform.

The sign stated the Shrimp City Slim band, her backup band on her CD, would perform and they did a great job, playing most of the songs from her two CDs.

The crowd - many in town for Spoleto and quite a few first-timers at the Blues club - showed their appreciation to Gary Erwin, keyboard; Jerome Griffin, bass; "Silent Eddie" Phillips, guitar and Lamont Garner on drums.

It was a different evening than I had planned but the music was great as the band showed its respect.

Full Festival coverage at

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Friday, May 23, 2008

High Tech Spoleto....

Hey, I'm now a Citizen Journalist, invited to give some "electronic" blog coverage for this year's Spoleto.

Officially, I am known as a SpoJo.

This Sunday evening, May 25, Spoletians can experience the wonderful Miss Wanda Johnson, a highly-talented Lowcountry Blues specialist, at A Dough Re Mi Pizzeria in Mt. Pleasant.

The 3-hour show starts at 8pm so, for heaven's sake, get over there and check her out. I've had the pleasure of listening several times and can attest she is fantastic. The venue has a great sound system and is ideally suited for both performers and for the audience.

And, in addition to a great serving of Blues, you can munch a hot slice (or two) of delicious pizza as you support the arts.

Be sure to check for FULL Festival coverage at

[Miss Wanda is pictured at The Mills House during a February Blues Bash]

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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Free Popcorn.....

The good news is having a "loyalty card" for Palmetto Grande means free movies, free popcorn and free sodas.

The bad news is Regal Theaters bought the place and now that card is no longer accepted.

The good news is my last free admission from my old movie card WAS accepted by the new ownership. I still have a free soda coupon from several months ago tucked in my wallet but why push my luck?

Because I go see a lot of movies, I already have the card for Regal that I use at the "Summey Palace" in North Charleston.

(Did you know the front of that brightly-lighted place can be seen at night when you're landing at Charleston International airport?)

Regal also bought the Theaters at Mt. Pleasant and plans to re-open it serving food and drinks. Real food. Real drinks.

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Sunday, May 18, 2008

Step Away From That Beer .....

Last night I was kicked out of a bar.

Well, actually, the bar suddenly announced just before midnight that everyone had to stop drinking or ordering beers. We were to quickly turn in the unconsumed portion of what we had and could not expect any more to drink the rest of the evening.

So the crowd really left on its own.

A great band from New Orleans was taking a well deserved break after pounding out a set of songs such as Beer Town, USA and Whiskyville. All of us obviously were in a cozy Saturday night relaxing and drinking mood.

All of a sudden, about 11:50, a manager - or maybe it was the owner - grabbed the mic on the empty stage and shouted "I am to blame. It was strictly my error. We did not renew our Sunday license so please stop and surrender what you are drinking. I will give you a refund on what you have in your hand right now."

The crowd responded with loud catcalls and shouted rude comments including opinions on the married status of the young man's parents. It now was midnight and he reminded us that he did not want a ticket for the club and he did not want us to be ticketed either(?). mention was made of refunding the $8 cover charge we all had paid earlier.

This sudden suspension of beer sales was a first time experience for me and, as Mark Twain said of the man who was being tarred and feathered, "except for the honor, I'd just as soon pass."

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Saturday, May 17, 2008

Musical Countdown To Spoleto...

Todd Wolffe, down from NYC, by way of Pennsylvania, had us rockin' last night at A Dough Re Mi in Mt. Pleasant.

In keeping with my plan to talk mainly about acts you still have a chance to see, it was announced the trio will be on that same stage again in 3 weeks.

So circle Friday June 6 on your calendar now for a great evening that's NOT really part of Spoleto but offers several sets of raucous rocking and rolling.

Rev. Dr. Johnny Mac opened the 4th annual Blues By The Sea down at Kiawah last week but he is VERY active locally and you can catch him at clubs all over town.

Keep an eye out for his high energy music popping up somewhere soon.

My Spoleto/Piccolo/Fringe plans are in the works and 10 tickets have been ordered so far. Naturally I will have my camera with me but many places bar my simple camera - even if I shoot with no flash - but I am surrounded by crowds of people holding up their cell phones.

Must be an important call they want to share.

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Friday, May 09, 2008

A "Green" Mini-Vacation

It's not that I dislike hiking and camping but staying at a hotel with speedy and efficient room service beats sleeping on the ground under the stars.

And anytime you can hike woodsy trails without walking is pretty good too. Nice Segway.

Asheville, N.C. is laidback and even described as a hippie town. It sits at 2,000 feet near the start of the Blue Ridge Parkway that rises much higher.

Everywhere you look, you see a Prius. Guess these hip people are watching their carbon footprints.

The Parkway has a speed limit of 45mph, with many scenic turnouts, so it takes several hours to reach the switchback road that snakes its way from Cherokee, NC to Gatlinburg,TN, through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Clingman's Dome
is a little more than 6,000 feet elevation and there is a trail you can walk up from the parking lot to get to the absolute top. A sign says it takes 30 minutes but I doubt the view is much better than from where I sat by the car sipping from a bottle of mountain spring water.

I was saving my strength for touring the Biltmore Estate.

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