Sunday, May 31, 2009

Uke Joint Jake....

I know the ukulele has 4 strings.

I understand it was created in Hawaii back in the 19th century.

It is small and easy to carry around.

Perfection in playing it was demonstrated last night during the Spoleto Festival by Jake Shimabukuro.

This young man stood alone on the stage at The Cistern on the College of Charleston campus and blew away the huge crowd.

We were in stunned silence.

We were in awe.

He was magnificent.

He told stories of traveling with various bands and picking up pointers. He loved the challenge of adapting songs for his ukulele that had been written for guitar, piano - even horns.

Years ago he popped up on Youtube as he played a George Harrison tune in New York's Central park for a segment of Ukulele Disco.

He had agreed to play "as long as I don't have to dance."

More than 3,000,000 online hits later, he said he gets amazing e-mails from all over the world inviting him to come and play in their town, in their state, in their country.

When the opportunity comes to go see Jake, do it.

Meanwhile, to sample just a bit of what he sounded like last night, look him up on Youtube playing "As My Guitar Gently Weeps." You'll be happy you did.

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Friday, May 29, 2009

Dial "M" for Musical....

The Emmett Robinson Theatre was a nice surprise last night for Spoleto's Addicted To Bad Ideas: Peter Lorre's 20th Century.

I had not been to this venue before and found it has a terrific sound system and great sight lines with steep comfortable stadium seating.

All of those elements came into play as we were introduced to Peter Lorre, the young Berliner plucked from obscurity in 1931 by director Fritz Lang and cast in "M" to portray a deranged child killer.

Unfortunately, Lorre played whining and unlikable bad guys for the next 30 years until he crashed to earth in a Hollywood cloud of drugs.

Hmmmm..this is a pretty far out basis for a musical.

It works very well though due to punk rock legend Jack Terricloth, who sang and danced the lead role and his extremely high energy band of talented musicians World/Inferno Friendship Society .

We also saw real time live media video feeds and 3-screen rapidly changing projected images.

Down front, the mosh pit was filled with some very excited and expressive SUPER fans.

Because it was a LOUD live punk cabaret kind of evening the ushers handed out sheets of lyrics... and, complimentary ear plugs.

Word is Inferno is working on a more upbeat topic for their next epic "A Prairie Home Companion."

I would certainly go to see that.

(Please click on the photos to see amazing detail.)

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Thursday, May 28, 2009

Back-to-back comedy fun!

My rage against the machine continues.

I just did a posting on spoletotoday.com and at first I thought "Ahah. This is simple." I was able to add photos to the entry.

When you see two Piccolo Fringe shows (8:30 and 10:00) and they are SO funny and visual, you want to add pictures.

Unfortunately I added them twice.

Could not figure how to eliminate the extra one so I canceled and started over. This time, however, there was no prompt to add photos?!

The Cody Rivers Show was visually funny (The Wrestling Team is in Town) so, I hope I can (eventually) get these onto the site.

The second show Frankenmatt channeled the hiliarious old comedy team of Abbott & Costello. ("Who's on first..").

Frank Caeti and Matt Craig romped all over the stage recreating a "road trip" down to Charleston.

There was a stop at a convenience store for road snacks, a courtroom scene in Mississippi (meet Charlemagne LeRoy on the witness stand) and a send up of how our Polite City REALLY gets into "Thank You."



Yes, that IS a talking/counting garden gnome.

These are two funny guys so ANY prop is just an added treat.

This is hardly a Carrot Top routine.

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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Cool Haircut Day....

Lee Barbour, on guitar, has formed and led several bands here in Charleston.

Pure jazz...Gypsy Swing ...Samba...you name, he can play it.

Then he moved up to New York and now just comes down to visit. It's always good to see - and hear - Lee again.

Here he is Tuesday night with his longtime band Gradual Lean.

The night before he performed upstairs at Mistral with his group Caravan.

Apparently Lee found the time to stop and get a latitude adjustment at a hair salon.

He remembered it's hotter here.

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Ship? What ship?

As you wandered around on the peninsula on Monday, it may have seemed extra crowded.

You also may have noticed a brand new 13-story building sitting at the foot of Market Street, next to the Custom House.

That would have been the "Fun Ship" Carnival TRIUMPH.

I hope the 2,758 passengers - and an international crew of 1,100 - had planned ahead to be part of this year's Spoleto.

As I finished dinner, I heard a series of loud blasts of its horn. She set sail around 10pm.

It's a 5-day Caribbean cruise so they'll be back in time to take in some of the 32nd Arts and Music Festival.

I saw the ship when I came out of Mistral Restaurant.

Lee Barbour(L) and his band Caravan had just entertained us upstairs with their great mixture of Django Reinhardt Swing, Flemenco and even Samba beats. (Jake Holwegner, bass and Kris Woodrum , guitar).

There is a week of great music up there at Mistral as part of the 2009 JAC Jazz Series. Last year, the new JAC was affiliated with Spoleto but is not this year.

The night before I had enjoyed a Spoleto show that also featured Gypsy swing/Jazz music. Florin Niculescu, backed by his excellent jazz trio of drums, piano and bass, performed at Charleston Music Hall after inclement weather (we call them T-Storms) forced moving from the great outdoor setting at the College of Charleston Cistern area.

Lee Barbour plays again tonight at Mistral with his earlier group - Gradual Lean.

I'll be there. It's just the Gypsy in me.

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Sunday, May 24, 2009

Spoleto Spillover...


Last year I was involved as a contributor to The Post and Courier's blog about the city's highly successful annual Arts and Music Festival.

I was invited back this year and went through a quick "training session" on how to upload and edit and stuff like that.

Hey, when a year goes by online - things change.

A LOT.

I must have missed one of the lessons because I could NOT get any pictures included in my posting on http://spoletotoday.com.

I really tried.

So, here are pictures taken last night at "The Dough" of Wanda Johnson, the Upstate Queen of Blues.

Behind her is producer/musician/friend Gary Erwin, aka Shrimp City Slim.

The story and headline worked ok but every time I clicked on these photos, the program asked "..and who exactly are you again?


I gave up last night - and tried again this morning. Still No go.

The 80's Blues Ladies, Charleston's own "Sensible Pumps," had disbanded in 1989 but two of the original ladies reformed as the Mattie Phifer Band.

I wanted to show pictures of them working hard getting the Friday night crowd into their rhythm. A Dough Re Mi pizzeria, in Mt. Pleasant, has become well known as a major Blues Spot.

Mattie told me she had grown up in Whitmire, SC, Newberry County, and the band played a circuit from West Virginia down to Key West, Florida, hitting Knoxville, Charlotte and Charleston.

After dissolving the band, Mattie (Mott Subert) continued in education at Newberry and up in Virginia.

About a year ago she got the urge to play again and - using her granny's name for the band - contacted Cathy Brinkly who came back on keyboard and vocals.

Willie Griffon is on sax and long time bassman Jesse Murphy eagerly re-joined the act.

I'm going to get some more computing pointers so I can add photos to all the stuff I blog.

You'll see me snapping away at music venues.

I just hope you'll also see them online.

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Friday, May 22, 2009

Going Postal ......

The US Postal Service has an enormous, uphill task.

And I'm talking about just a little project I launched today.

I am sending back coupons for free offers. The ads said to glue it on a "penny postcard."

Well, I had to add a 27 cent stamp as well on each card as I responded to ads in the 1939 issue of Popular Photography magazine.

The tiny coupon at the bottom of the ad had a dotted line so I knew where to cut. General Electric - and several other companies - had just their name, a Dept # and the city/state.

No street address or P.O. box.

Back in 1939 there were no ZIP codes either. Everybody knew each other I guess. Or the mailmen did.

The website for the magazine showed no snail mail address but I did find an 800# and a surprised clerk wished me well.

He told me the Chicago address I had was decades out of date and gave me the "new" one in New York.

My mail carrier will probably bring all of the others back.

I know I had the postage right.

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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

1960s "Rack & Roll"

Charleston News was a distributor. Of magazines, paperbacks and newspapers.

It was the 1960s and my Dad was REALLY busy making "racks" for this North Charleston company.

He had just moved from the peninsula and had his new shop set up in Hanahan.

The man made racks. Lots and lots of them.

At first the distributor gave the racks away free but my Dad suggested they require a small refundable deposit. "People respect things they pay for, " he reasoned.

My memory is Dad designed racks to fit certain stores and outlets. Custom pieces.

He made them with "toe space" so you could stand closer.

And top shelves that "reached out" to you with magazine covers.

I had gone away from Charleston and joined the Marine Corps but I came back to visit.

Each time, Dad always had a new rack design to show me.

Years later, in college out in San Diego, I made some brick-and-board bookcases.

I think I'm pleased that my Dad never saw my book "racks."

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Thursday, May 14, 2009

Long before I moved to Minnesota....

I remember having the picture signed in the 1960s but did not have a copy now.

THIS shot - angled away from the camera - is the only reminder I had of meeting the noted billiards man - Minnesota Fats.

I was a staff photographer for the San Diego Union-Tribune and took pictures of "Fats" in 1966 giving a demonstration of his skills at a Mission Valley shopping mall.

After going back downtown to the paper to meet deadline, I made an extra print and drove back to see if he would sign it.

He did. And my folks are pictured admiring it when they came to visit from South Carolina.

Move ahead 44 years. Thank goodness someone invented Photoshop.

I was able to use the photo of the signed photo tilted away from the camera and "correct/change" the perspective!

That is a new version - cropping out my parents - and The Fat Man is seen again.

Oh sure, if you look closely there are some "ripples" in the edge of the pool table but all in all, a satisfying use of high technology.

Now if only I could make Twitter work for me.

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Monday, May 11, 2009

Younger Than B.B. King.....

This guy calls me "kid."

The main star Saturday at Freshfield Village, was Travis "Moonchild" Haddix.

He brought his 6-piece orchestra to the FREE 5th annual "Blues By The Sea" and showed everybody what the bluez is all about.

Travis,71, has worked in the Midwest most of his career but Shrimp City Slim lured him to our coast for a first-ever appearance down on Kiawah Island.

I think I have a shirt like that in the back of my closet.

The 2-8pm show opened with local picker Davis Coen who had formed a Trio this time.

He was followed by Bill Lupkin - on harp - with his Chicago Blues Coalition.

It was a Low Country debut also for this fantastic performer.

The Larry Garner Blues Band filled out the bill.

"Shrimp" sure knows how to pick 'em.

Did I mention the show was FREE? The lawn was packed with fans in folding chairs, kids running around and vendors offering fish tacos, juicy burgers and hot pizza.

Some of us sipped a beer. Or two.



Gary Erwin (Shrimp City himself) was wearing a t-shirt from his 1st annual blues offering at Kiawah...and so was I.

He did tell me he planned to have a shirt available for next year.

Meanwhile, I carry a Sharpie pen with me to these blues festivals and often ask performers to pen their thoughts on my back.

Or on my front.

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Friday, May 08, 2009

Live Long and Prosper...

Yea! A downtown theater again.

The former IMAX (next to the Aquarium) is now the Terrace Hippodrome and Michael Furlinger, the owner, can proudly claim to have the largest screen in town. Wow.

The opening of Star Trek heralded the return of a first-run theater downtown in a first-class setting. Michael even did a drawing for a LIFE TIME free pass to the place.

The Terrace Theater's trademark sit-back-and-enjoy-a-beer was not flowing however, thanks to delays on the state level, but Michael says that'll be resolved shortly.

Meanwhile, popcorn sales seemed enormous among the nearly sold-out opening night crowd.

And, don't forget, the 7pm show was followed by 30 hours of repeat performances for avid Trekkers.

Once Leonard Nimoy came onscreen, you could see why William "The Shat" Shatner was upset he was not part of the production.

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Sunday, May 03, 2009

Let me make some corrections...


OK, there was no fire drill with people running around. No clanging smoke alarms. No firemen hauling hoses and waving axes.

Just a simple evening...with 70 flaming candles... on my birthday cake.

Yes, it took me FIVE deep breaths to blow them all out.

A few days ago, my brother and his wife had presented a small cake after we dined out. Stuck on top were two flickering number candles. Cute and neat.

It was the right size to share with a few family members. I thought that was it for birthday candles.

I forgot that my friends at the Low Country Bloggers like parties and they really like planning one.

Being able to surprise someone is, well, the icing on the cake.

I was totally caught flat-footed. I admit I did not see it coming.

My cousin in Camden also surprised me with an excellent - and totally unexpected - birthday present.

When I unwrapped a copy of Popular Photography magazine, I quickly noticed it was the April 1939 copy.

That was the same year and month as my issue date.

My apology is for not realizing she had the idea, went to E-Bay, found the magazine she wanted, went through the bidding process at auction and was successful!

Now, that's some planning. Thanks cousin.

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