Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Ok, OK, I was working on this for a while....

Going around town, seeking music and good wholesome fun, I stopped a few nights ago at Sparrow.

This popular small club with fancy painted murals of famous faces, is Unit D (around the corner) at 1078 E. Montague near Park Circle.

"Funky" comes to mind when thinking of music and entertainment I've seen there. This is one of my favorite "hole-in-the-wall" bars.

This evening the place was jam packed.

The Resonant Rogues brought a variety of entertainment - and Vaudevillian dancer Evelyn DeVere ably backed by a first class band, headed by Sparrow Pants.

Yes, I know, "Sparrow" is her name, appearing at a club by that name.

Miss Pants, and her band, are from Asheville.  She leads the quartet, plays the accordion, dances and sings.

Miss DeVere,  the featured ecdysiast, does amazing thing with feather fans and can magically make her clothes disappear.

Last night, at the Pour House, we saw the last stop on the tour by the Two Man Gentleman Band.

Well this "tour" included only the show here and a city in North Carolina the day before.

Because the "Councilman" Fuller Condon, on bass, lives in nearby Folly Beach, he sits in with several local bands.

His partner Andy Bean lives in Los Angeles, working on projects for Disney.

Some of the local band members were invited to join them onstage last night.  A joyous sound was heard.

At the end of the evening - early this morning - all the instruments were unplugged and the entire expanded band stepped down to the floor to continue playing.

They held quite a jam session as we all crowded around, dancing and clapping our hands.

Talking with Andy, I mentioned we first saw them perform at Tin Roof and I still had the free kazoo they were handing out.

He recalled he was wearing knickers  (Plus-fours) and said they still fit. He added that would have been about 2009.

This night they wore "matching" red jumpsuits and, during an impromptu Q & A, an audience member shouted out "Do you like the group DEVO?" Then I could imagine them with flower pot-like hats on their heads.

We had seen Devo perform at a Mid-Town Music Festival in Atlanta many years ago.

A nice pattern is emerging: a flurry of musical activity (a Trifecta), followed by several days to sleep in and get my breath back.

Did I mention I just turned 76?

So I knew what an ecdysiast was.

And actually wore knickers as a kid.

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Thursday, April 23, 2015

"Some restrictions apply...."

 At most concerts, the people sitting behind me are usually quit talkative.
It becomes really obvious when the musician is playing a quiet acoustic ballad.

Or the overwhelming urge that Charleston audiences seem to have to shout out comments, dialogues and song requests. Frequently and, often, long-winded.

The best response I heard, after several of his songs were loudly requested, was from Lyle Lovett who responded "Oh, it's a long show, we'll get to that."

I had just been to a Bob Dylan concert at the PAC and thought the rules against photography that night seemed quite stringent.


Apparently, if you talked, tweeted or texted during comedian Kevin Hart's program, you would be asked to leave. Kicked out.

And not get your money back.

Wonder if chuckles and belly laughs count as "talking?" Would "laughing out loud" be allowed?

A few years ago, at the famed Birdland Jazz Club in New York City, I entered the traditional music palace that was eerily quiet.

Oh, the music had not started yet but the sound was a low murmur like you might hear in a church.

R-e-s-p-e-c-t for the place and the performers was the feeling I got as I sat down at a booth close to the stage.

I saw a card, a table tent, that proclaimed this was a Listening Room. No talking, please.

I don't recall dire warnings of the consequences of having a loose lip. I did enjoy NOT having a spirited conversation going on right behind me. Thanks Birdland!

I also have noted that when people DO talk while the music is playing, their voices tend to rise as the music gets louder. 

Soon there is a terrific shouting match, fighting the booming heavy brass.

I don't think this was a statement to the crowd to keep it down while the Dirty Bourbon River Show was playing at the Pour House.

The man was simply proudly showing he could play TWO saxes at the same time.

Loudly, I might add.

I also have noted the persistent presence of people popping annoying extended multiple flashes while taking a selfie with their cellphone.

So far - Thank Goodness - music venues have not allowed the use of a "selfie stick." That could be a poke in the eye.

But, loud music happens. 

When it's played outdoors, usually a noise ordinance or curfew is involved.

Thinking of the neighbors who might be trying to sleep. 

Once, years and years ago, I was in a pretty loud party in a hotel room and was close enough to the door to hear someone knocking.

It was rather late and, even if we had whispered, it still would have bothered other guests nearby.

He stood in the doorway, wearing a bathrobe, and asked how much longer the party would be going on? I said I wasn't sure but why didn't he just come in and join us?

He said "OK," as he whipped out a red plastic cup, "Where's the beer?"

Hope that Kevin Hart was funny tonight at the Coliseum.

Bet the crowd was really "talking it up." Not.

(Click on the photos for details.)

 And check that printed warning. Yikes.

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Sunday, April 19, 2015

The NEW music and the OLDER...

Went to my second Bob Dylan concert the other night.

Not a sell-out crowd at the PAC (North Charleston Performing Arts Center) but an older, attentive and appreciative mix of attendees.

It appears Dylan likes to keep the lights dim with lots of shadows.

Going for an intimate, small club feeling in a place that seats about 2,000.

Had the same experience when I stood on the clay court at Family Circle a few years ago. In a drizzling sporadic rain. Moody.

I like to take a few pictures for possible use in my blog. Dim and back-lighted settings pose a real challenge.

But, the music was good and people all around me were singing along.

Multiple signs warned the concert-goers that NO recording devices were allowed, and no flash (well, DUH).

Cameras and cell phones were specifically banned so we knew going in that memories would be all that could be carried away.

And that's a good thing, I guess.

I quickly was reminded that people using cell phones as cameras did not turn off the multiple harsh flashes that are produced when taking an illegal/illogical image.

They were pretty constant throughout the show but even more intrusive were the high-powered flashlights used by the Security people on both sides of the audience. Guilty parties were bathed in a bright spotlight and, supposedly, they then ceased to disobey the rules.

Ah, but what about the music?

Dylan was backed by a tight 5-piece band and they were flawless.

Dressed in a white suit with a thin black stripe on the pant legs, Dylan either stood, feet apart, at the microphone or, after a further dimming of the lights, ambled over to the Baby Grand piano.

I noticed there were two microphones effectively blocking his face from the audience of his fans, so I waited for a moment when I had a quick glimpse to snap a  photo from my $100 seat.

True fans probably accepted his craggy voice and mumbled lyrics.

I keep my Pandora player at home on the Bob Dylan channel so I hear and enjoy a younger singer with subtle nuances as he delivers clever lyrics about protests, lost love and life in general.

Not at this concert.

Sorry, but I was painfully reminded of the late recording by Johnny Cash that come up on Pandora.

A tired, strained and forced remnants of a former glorious voice.

Sad that I missed seeing and hearing Dylan in his prime. That would have been a terrific evening.

This was less than great.

Obnoxious flashlights being shone on audience members and a ragged voice with just traces of yesteryear music.

However, a few nights earlier, I had enjoyed the Dirty Bourbon River Show at the Pour House on Maybank Highway on James Island.

Recent renovation of the lively night spot has added more space for dancing and easier access to the bar!

A new clever projection system now flashes the band's name on twin screens.

It alternates with random images and flashing lights add to the excitement generated by this lively band on a 4-month tour from its home base in New Orleans.

Get their newest album "Important Things Humans Should Know."

Leader Noah Adams has his full beard again and the new singer Sandra Love adds a sparkling, lilting element.

And, right across the street - in the Terrace Theater strip mall -  I enjoyed a Tuesday evening of Blues at How Art Thou music cafe.

Shrimp City Slim (Gary Erwin) was on keys and Eddie Vaan Shaw played the heck out of a borrowed guitar.

A sight behind the bar caught my eye.

"Put a cork in it," is more than just an expression here.

Actually, these champagne corks are used to keep the pouring spouts clean and ready in all of the bottles of booze. Neat.

Gary tells me he is laying down the Blues on Tuesdays at the music cafe.

This cozy neighborhood spot has really grown and evolved in the few years it has been opened.

Started out as a coffee, wine and juice bar a few doors down from the Terrace Theater.

A refreshing stop before or after a movie.

They soon knocked out walls and added seating and great sight lines for the talented entertainment they started bringing in.

Crafts beer and tapas were added to the mix. Oh yeah!

So, Gary on Tuesdays, Oscar Rivers Jazz on Wednesdays and Americana/folk music Thursdays by Mark Yampolsky and 40 Mile Detour.

Entertainment is in the eye of the beholder.

Go and behold!

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Wednesday, April 15, 2015

As I was sayin', more MUSIC.

I had heard that a light show had been added to the Deck at the Pour House.

Boy, Howdy.

There sure is a lot of flashing , pulsating colorful excitement.

Favorite cover bands play for the free shows outside.

The plan is for the outside show to end about the time the headliners inside start their performances.

Enjoy the fun free show then pay a small cover and move inside.

Yes, of course, there is cold beer at the bars in both.

The first act this Sunday evening inside the remodeled and expanded dance space PoHo, was an old favorite of mine.

Miss Tess and I go back a few years.
It has been a while though and she brought us up to date.

No longer living in Brooklyn, she admitted she had sucumbed to the lure of the South and now lives a lot closer.

New band members too and a name change to Miss Tess & the Talkbacks.

Same sweet voice and many arresting arrangements.

She can belt it out and then slow down the pace with a heartbreaking tale of love lost.

The stage quickly filled when the 8- members of the Los Angeles-based group Dustbowl Revival opened with a terrific horn section.

Technically, this is a Venice, California, collective that merges old school bluegrass, Gospel and jug-band.

And...swamp Blues and the hot"swing" of the 1930s.

Did I mention the two man, hard-working brass section?

Ulf Bjorlin on trombone and Matt Rubin on trumpet were stuffing their horns with a wide array of "mutes" (plunger, cup, bucket, and straight). The Harmon mute is known for the familiar "wah-wah" sound it creates.
There is even something called a Practice Mute designed for people living in condos or apartments to protect their health as they learn to play.

All mutes do lower the volume and alter the tonal quality of the brass horns.

Also on stage was  Z. Lupetin, the founder of the group on lead guitar, as well as a mandolin picker and a smooth violinist.

Backing Liz Beeber, vocals and washboard, was the upright bass and, of course, the drummer.

I did a lot of research on this group that roams up and down the highway, crammed into two vans in a small convoy.

This was their first visit to South Carolina and I hope they come back again.

Plenty of van parking.

Oh, and speaking of Vaans, on Tuesday night, I caught Gary Erwin and Eddie Shaw, Jr. (Vaan) jammin' at How Art Thou by the Terrace Theatre on James Island.

Gary presented the 11th annual Blues By the Sea that featured Eddie Shaw on sax and his son Vaan with his 3-necked guitar.

Gary apologized that the only guitar he could provide was one he uses for yoga sessions at Folly Beach.

Vaan just kept tuning and singing.

Niee guys, really nice.

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Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Music, Music and more Music. Whew!

What a musical weekend!

It started Saturday night in my neighborhood, around the corner, at The Mill in the ever-growing Park Circle nightlife area.

Headliner was Andrew Scotchie & The River Rats.

This divey bar is a prime example of the North Charleston decision to let individual businesses allow smoking or not.

The Mill - I think - encourages smoking.

Maybe even requires it. Get the idea?

It's a very smoky club where some funky music can be heard.

Have enjoyed this Asheville, N.C.-based band before and they are showing up locally more often now.

Really talented, they do The Blues and basic Rock 'N Roll as well as many of Andrew's own compositions. He started with a solo acoustic Blues set before plugging in the rest of the band.

Saturday meant a pleasant drive down to Freshfields Village, situated off the traffic circle between Kiawah and Seabrook Islands.

Gary Erwin (aka Shrimp City Slim) was presenting his 11th annual Blues By The Sea.

Two acts would perform from 3 pm to 7 pm and Gary even managed to hold off the rain.

The 3pm opener was a very talented singer and Sax player, the Vanessa Collier Blues Band.

Her musical background is as stellar as her voice and playing.

A graduate of the famed Berklee School of Music in Boston, she and her band are well-versed in jazz, soul, and dig deep into the roots of the Blues.

She set the tone for the day as a capacity crowd sat in lawn chairs beneath a huge white tent purchased years ago with Kiawah Island visitor tax money.

After her first song, the crowd rose to its feet and gave a warm welcoming ovation on her very first visit to South Carolina.

Gary said she will be appearing in some of his other Upstate Blues shows in the next few months.

I would go see here again!

Midway through her set, she hopped down from the stage and walked through the crowd, playing her mighty sax.

A similar walkabout was done during this Sea Island Saxophone Summit when Eddie Shaw & The Wolf Gang took the stage at 5 pm.

His son Vaan carried his famed 3-necked guitar into the appreciative crowd.

(Did you notice the top neck is a 12-string? The middle is 7-string and the bottom the traditional 6-string.)

I have seen him perform in Columbia and here at the late, great Blues place Mad River, but had not observed that the three were different. LOL.

While his son Vaan was moving about in the crowd, playing and posing for phone cam shots and "selfies," his dad Eddie Shaw, stayed up on the stage.

I noticed the stool but he stated he had just celebrated his 78th birthday - applause - and tended to sit down more these days.

He then quipped he still likes to keep an eye on the women... "I may be old, but I'm not blind."

The man had traveled with Howlin' Wolf for many years and when Wolf died, he vowed to keep the band together.

He did and tours extensively.

It was a great afternoon for Blues fans in general and especially for those who enjoy a wailing sax .

Gary announced that the visitor tax dollars were already pledged to support the 12 annual Blues By The Sea 2016.

Gary said that meant producing the art of the Blues instead of a string quartet.

(Click on the photos for more details.)

That evening, it was a quick drive back to Charleston and the destination was The Pour House.

Let's rest a minute, catch our breathe and take that up later.

From downhome Blues to a double bill of Miss Tess as well as the Dustbowl Revival.

Maybe I need a stool too?

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Friday, April 03, 2015

SPRING and my traditional Easter favorites.....

 Yes, it's Spring and Easter is just days away.

I shot this sign about 15 years ago when I first returned to Charleston.

I was renting a neat 800 sq.ft brick house, tucked in the woods down a tree-shaded dirt road, on James Island.

During the 4 years I lived there, I became good friends with the owner.

Each year he participated in his church's "drive through" celebration of Easter by supplying many sheep and goats.

One year, his animals were attacked by a pack of wild dogs and he had the sad task of burying them. The church decided not to have its annual event that year.

The other image I post this time of year is a cartoon I found online.

Very timely.

And funny.

I always feel bad about not giving credit to whoever created it and just noticed a credit at the bottom left. Duh.

(Never mind. That is just a company that makes t-shirts with images from many places. Not likely the source for this funny maimed duo.)

This year I had planned to actually buy two chocolate bunnies, alter them as pictured in the drawing, and post MY own version.

But, my diet does not encourage me to eat candy so maybe I'll do that next year.

It's also the time when Charleston azaleas burst into color.

Well, the timing is the dicey part.

Maybe it's climate change.

Or just shuffling dates around to balance Easter, the Bridge Run and Flowertown in Summerville.

Summerville moved its date up a week but not sure if Mother Nature was consulted.

That was held last weekend and my flowers are just starting to really bloom and look great. But, I also planted some of mine to be more than just pretty.

Several are finally beginning to "hide" the outside HVAC system by the side of the house.

I keep the bushes pruned so there is adequate ventilation for the mechanical unit.

My yard has flowers that are dark red, deep purple, delicate pink, and brilliant white.

My task of "gardening" is to do absolutely nothing else - other than trimming AFTER the blooms fall off.

The various bushes just continue to grow and bloom every year.

Whenever they decide it is time to do so.

I'm just the pleased observer. LOL.

Another sign of Spring would be new construction.

The house behind me has been vacant for more than a year and I assumed it eventually would be torn down.

I learned it was built in 1939, the same year I was, so it's not that the house is old.

Just rather small at 934 sq.ft.

Instead of a crew coming to knock it down, they arrived this week to add on an additional bedroom and bath.

I had not seen up close the steps involved so I had my camera handy.

First, a backhoe was brought on a trailer and the deep 3-sided trench was dug for the foundation.

One guy dug as another measured width and depth of the hole.

They had done this before I could see. Working together as a team.

No water pipes were hit nor gas lines. Whew.

The orange buried cable for the TV dish was carefully removed.

Later the reinforcing steel bar (rebar) was added and, the next afternoon, a huge concrete truck rumbled down the dead end street next to my house.

This truck carried a load of 11.5 yards of concrete and it took intricate, skilled movements to avoid oak and palm trees and overhead wires and cables.

The goal was to place the concrete in the trench and then men with long-handled paddles would "pull" it around to evenly cover the rebar to a certain depth.

A few neighbors joined me as the process was going on.

It's hard to ignore a truck that large, making rumbling, grumbling noises as the mixture was stirred in the slowly revolving tank .

The pouring was completed and the truck reversed its moves and trundled off, tank still turning around and around.

The next day, a large crew showed up with several truckloads of cinder blocks.

A large wheelbarrow was filled with a combination of cement and sand.

As water was added, it was all stirred together into a slurry of the right consistency.

This mortar would be used to hold the blocks in place.

Never having worked with either brick or cinder blocks, it was interesting to see many men at work, being precise but working quickly before the "glue"  dried out too soon.

(Click on the photos for more detail.)

There is an old song called "Cement Mixer, putty putty" but it would be more precise if it were called "Concrete Mixer, putty putty."

Not to put too fine a point on it.

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