Monday, June 29, 2015

A "river" is not always a "river" in New York City

It is SO much fun to slowly go through 8 days of photos and select some for enhancement.

Sometimes I go a bit overboard - sez some people - but I am creating something special for ME.

I really could care less about their criticism.
Case in point: my shot from Brooklyn, looking across the East river at the mid-town Manhattan skyline.

I learned that the East River is NOT really a river.

It's an estuary or a tidal strait.

Both ends are connected to the Atlantic Ocean!

I used a medium setting on my fisheye lens effect and, in processing, added a splash of random color to the formidable concrete and steel buildings.

From the 101st floor of the newly-opened One World Observatory, I claimed a spot by a window looking down on the Brooklyn Bridge.

I shot late afternoon pictures and stayed there as twilight made the lights start to appear. 

I was jostled by people behind me but, I was sitting on the floor, so many just leaned in over me and snapped their pictures. 

As soon as we got to the top floor and I saw the bridge, I envisioned what a twilight shot would look like.

My camera had started acting up - shutting down a lot and showing an error message. So it became a challenge to get the shot at all.

One highlight of this trip was going into the massive Madison Square Garden.

Had grown up hearing about great boxing matches and talented performers appearing there, but this was my first time inside the round structure.

It IS huge... inside and out!

Did not see any Jumbotron screens for the people sitting high up and far from the stage.

 I was there to see Billy Joel in concert. 

Apparently, he comes "home" one Saturday night each month and the show usually is sold out, as it was this night.

What a setting and what a professional staff. 

Was in an aisle seat so I saw how crowd control kept the lanes open and security made sure people did not rush forward at all.

We had seats on the floor, about 14 rows back, and my zoom brought me in very close. 

And...the folding seats were comfortably padded!

Once the show started, I saw the overhead screens that enabled all to see the performers on stage.

Looking around, I saw the large circular marquee hanging overhead also had large images.

And the sound system was exactly what you would expect from a major venue in the middle of New York City.

We had seen Billy Joel in Columbia a few years ago so had high expectations and were not disappointed.

It started on time with Gavin DeGraw as the opener and he roamed among the audience while singing.

Nice touch and great camera work to keep him in sight on the giant screens.

The band was exciting with a 3-man horn section.

I counted several guitars and a local man was invited up to play a song with the "big guys."

Joel's voice is strong and he played Piano Man and many other favorites for the appreciative crowd.

His big encore number was "We didn't start the fire," with outstanding visual lighting effects.

The dark hair is gone but the showman is still there!

Another exhibition that just opened on 5th Avenue was the 40th Anniversary Salute to SNL.

I am sure I "discovered" the show soon after it started.

Visiting my brother in Washington, D.C, he pointed to a tv in some bar we were in and explained this was a new Saturday night show that we HAD to watch.

I even remember one sketch that night involved the trial of Andy William's ex-wife and the accidental shooting of her lover, an Olympic skier nicknamed "Spider."

They were VERY irreverent and I have enjoyed the show ever since.

Impressive layout of props, costumes, the weekly planning session and even Lorne Michael's desk.

I found a dressing table and made sure I was presentable. 

The display was broken down into the 7-day structure leading up to TWO tapings on Saturday.

Yes, the final dress rehearsal is taped and then, a bit later, the actual show is taped again as it goes on the air.

Saw many reminders of special moments on the show : the Church Lady (Isn't THAT special!), the shark that ate people who opened the door and the cellar "studio" of "Wayne's World."

Reminders of Chris Farley and John Belushi, two talented men who passed too soon.

I stood on the set of Jeopardy, next to the big cowboy hat worn by "Burt Reynolds."

The two gents with special Christmas packages were presented. "Look, no hands!"

New York had more to offer so I'll add more pictures later. Thanks for going on a brief vacation with me.

(Click on the photos and links for more details.)

Labels: , , , , , , , , , ,

Saturday, June 27, 2015

CHS - a "Terminal Case!"

What a great way to start a vacation trip!

Traveling? Try to exit or return though the CHS International airport's expanded Terminal B.

Wow. So very 21st Century.

Lots and lots of convenient plug-ins for electronic devices.

Seating of various heights. Comfy chairs and - of course - free Wi-Fi.

Not a bad place for waiting. It's a longer walk to baggage claim but so worth it!

I am retired, like to travel and keep  my eyes open to different things all around me.

Like the young girl and her dolly sitting across the aisle.

It jarred me at first because I thought it was a real baby, propped up on the pull-down tray.

I know that seat backs and trays have to be in the upright and locked position for take-offs and landing.

You hear that a lot during the safety spiel but there never is a mention of what to do with a baby and it's bottle.

There's not even a seat belt where you insert the metal end into the other metal buckle.

I did see a new sign on the overhead display.

The usual pictograph of a cigarette with a slash through it and the informative graphic that clearly solves the dilemma of the two parts of a seat belt.

This flight to New York has added a Wi-Fi signal.

Not only can you now leave on those ubiquitous electronic devices, the airlines apparently have mastered how to provide the missing link to make them work in the air.

One major stop during my Big Apple visit was to go to the 101th floor of the newly-opened One World Observatory.

I carefully managed to zip up there late in the day for the "golden hour" lighting and then stuck around to use my camera as twilight signaled the city starting to light up.

I kept my eye on a view of New Jersey as the sun was going down. The clouds were fantastic.

Oh, earlier in the day, next to the two ponds/waterfalls that mark the twin towers footprints, I saw a bird-like structure.

That was not there last year when I visited the site.

A policeman said it was a new transportation center still under construction.

It sits next to the 9-11 memorial museum.

I though of a Phoenix rising from the ashes.

I will have more posts about this trip but I'm still unpacking and need to catch up on my sleep. The cat also has let me know she was lonely while I was gone.

A friend sent me a cartoon that sums up our cat/master relationship. (Credit to Whyott.)
Displaying 1455885_851684488207741_2958915557943696258_n-1.jpg

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Musical Medley....What a week!

The night before I drove to Atlanta to see the Rolling Stones, I was at the Windjammer on the Isle of Palms.

A band I have enjoyed many times - usually in a much larger venue - is Robert Randolph and the Family Band.

He did not disappoint!

Except for the times I saw the late B.B. King, most musicians I like do not sit down.

Even Buddy Guy.

But Robert sits to play his steel pedal guitar so that's OK.

Especially when he stands and violently kicks away the chair and starts dancing around.

Friday, after Tuesday in Atlanta, I was back at the Pour House for the long-awaited return of Tab Benoit.

He told us he promises it won't be so long between appearances here in Charleston.

Same bassist from several years ago and maybe the same drummer.

It was a shoulder-to-shoulder almost sold-out crowd so Tab saw ample proof he has a loyal and local following.

He made sounds come from his Fender Telecaster Thinline electric guitar that I've never heard before.

Banjo with a hellish backbeat and even a staccato washboard rhythm beat.


The joint was jumpin'.

A crowd pleaser, this native of New Orleans has won the B.B. King Entertainer of the Year award twice.

On the merch table I saw several of his albums, highlighted by the 2012 "Legacy: Best Of."

He is an American Blues guitarist, musician and singer of primarily Delta Blues.

Tab also is in the forefront of Louisiana environmental protection for his endangered hometown.

The threatened wetlands are being washed away which greatly increases the flooding danger from hurricanes.

The Pour House recently went through some extensive renovations.

Special attention was paid to its always pitch perfect sound.

I also saw there now is an expanded lighting system.

I stood back by the control booth to see how the magic is produced.

Very impressive. Computer-controlled and handled by two pros who are good at what they do.

One does sound and the other makes the lights perform intricate patterns on command. **

To round out a busy, exciting musical week, I headed to the Music Farm last night to hear Gary Clark, Jr.

He was the opening act for the Stones at the start of their Zip Code Tour in San Diego several weeks ago.

Fitting end to a week that included my seeing the Rolling Stones for the first time.

It has been exceptionally hot - and humid - the last few days so I smiled as I realized this would be an indoor show at The Farm. Blessed AC.

The show had sold out months ago but I had not counted on the effect 700+ fans, crammed into the venue would have on the climate inside.

Yep, hot and VERY humid in there as I jostled and wiggled my way to a railing behind the sound and lights booth. Something to lean on and actually some space for the almost stifling heat to waft back and forth.

Talking with a staffer, he explained the combo of so much heat outside and the massive crowd inside, overwhelmed the air conditioning.

They were hustling around, opening windows and doors to gain some needed circulation.

Meanwhile, onstage, the intensity and sound of Gary, his bassist and bare-chested drummer was generating it's own warmth to the room.

The lighting here was superb as I come to expect at such music halls.

The opening act was Black Pistol Fire, a Canadian Rock & Roll duo, usually playing around Austin, Texas.

They had added heat as the Toronto guitar & drums act worked up a sweat.

In fact, as they left the stage, it was apparent the drummer was wearing only a baggy blue swimsuit with a red stripe down the side.

My shirt and pants came close to being a sweat suit but the music was fantastic.

(Click on the photos and links for more details.)

As we left the Farm, I asked the harried bartender if I could have a cup of ice.

She complied but waved off my attempt to pay. I left a grateful tip instead. I knew there was a bottle of water waiting in my car.

First I turned on the car's AC.

On high.

**I wanted to show a picture of the opening act for Tab Benoit.

A very talented 18-year old Marcus King had a stage full of his band.

Wish you success.

Appears  you have the chops and good stage presence.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , ,

Friday, June 12, 2015

"You don't always get what you want." Well, I sure did!I

My buddy was given two tickets to the Rolling Stones concert in Atlanta.

Two REALLY good - expensive - seats.  More than I have ever paid to see a concert.

Paul McCartney was cheap in comparison!

So Tuesday morning, we took off for the 310 mile, 5-hour, drive to see Mick and the gang.

Kept an eye on the weather on my Smartphone app. Green and yellow with a red cluster was NOT good news, but none was near us.

Really just a little rain.

Until we were 30 miles from downtown Atlanta. It was a little after 3:00 pm when the skies opened, traffic slowed and hydroplaning started happening as we tried to be in the correct lane in the snarl of blending freeways. Yikes.

Then, suddenly, it stopped raining.

We parked, dropped our bags at the Marriott and took the MARTA to the Georgia Tech campus and joined the milling crowd and found the gate we needed to enter out onto the actual football field.

White folding chairs - hundreds? Thousands? - were set up in neat rows on interlocking white panels that protected the fake grass.

Seats in one end zone were not being used - they were behind the huge stage - but the chairs on the field added to the total of 42,000 seats for this musical setup.

The opening act was St. Paul and the Broken Bones who had closed the Spoleto Festival on Sunday. We saw him about a year ago at the Pour House. His gigs have grown enormously as he travels overseas and all over the U.S. He wowed the Atlanta crowd.

We were there to see the Rolling Stones and they gave the impressive high-energy performance we had hoped to see.

The staging was first rate. The sound quality belied it being in an open  air stadium.

The lights were a bright, dazzling show in themselves.

Did I mention we were in the 14th row, on the aisle, so I had legroom and could stand and zoom in when needed.

Jagger was in continuous motion.

No exaggeration.

Prancing, dancing, skipping, hopping.

Arms raised, arms flapping.

Hands clapping. Singing while running.

Racing along with his shirt flapping from one side of the stage to the other and back again.

Then strutting out on the catwalk.

Keith Richards had his time in the spotlight as did Ronnie Wood and other members of the band.

Charlie Watts manned the drums for the 2-hour show and for the two encore songs.

I brought my camera up to my eye for a brief moment Jagger actually stopped and stood still, opening a bottle of water.

I clicked and didn't realize I had caught the arc of water as he doused a few in the audience and laughingly said "Hey, cool off!"

Luck was with me. LOL.

Then he was off running again, darting back and forth in front of the other three main band members.

I wanted to get all four in a tight shot together in stage center.

Will need some more of that lucky shot karma.

 Well, these ARE the main four faces gathered together, but not quite what I meant.

Outside the stadium a radio station had a small jazz band playing and Stones-on-a-stick for people to use for their selfies.

Or other photos too, I suppose.

The Atlanta Journal Constitution the next day ran a review of the concert and recapped the last two times the Stones were in the city.

Guess this is where I'll find statistics and I did learn the name of the little jazz band playing outside to amuse the crowd was "Wasted Potential Brass Band."
Here is one of the few moments I caught when the core Stones are relatively close together.

By this time, Jagger has changed clothes several times, played a guitar, blew an harmonica and has moved on to a pair of maracas.

He also has raced from side to side of the main stage and numerous saucy jaunts out on the catwalk.

Two huge steel towers were erected about the 30 yard line that housed huge speakers for the fans in the upper tiers as well as the spotlights that tracked the band.

At the conclusion of Sympathy for the Devil, Jagger let the bright red feathered wrap he was wearing drop off his shoulders and slide to the stage.

Another rare moment of motionless drama and my zoom lens brought in the details that delight a photographer.

I sense he also was catching his breath and gathering his strength to jump right back into his restless pace.

The link to the AJC newspaper stories about the Stones' tour stop contain great tidbits such as the proposed set list and, the next day, the list of actual numbers played.

Perhaps ALL of the show is carefully choreographed and planned but I felt Mick would just take off in any and all directions as he felt moved by the music.

He has lead this tight band for many decades so I am sure they are totally in tune with whatever he decides to do.

(Click on the photos and links for more details.)

A nice guy with a camera sat in front of me and he mentioned this was his 15th Stones show.

He added that others in the national fan club had attended many, many more.

He asked how many I had seen.

I said "Counting tonight, I have seen one."

This final photo shows how 42,000 people can see what's going on.

Tall vertical screens were placed on either side of the stage and a giant horizontal screen was in the middle.

As we slowly filed out of the stadium, I looked back at the sea of white chairs, now empty and not as neatly aligned.

I savored just how nice it was to be seated up close to the action.

(Be sure to click on the photos and links for more details.)

There's a stadium link that shows the behind-the-scenes 5 days it took to put this all together! Also some more great concert shots.

Hmm, they play again in Raleigh on July 1....

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Comedy Fringe ...and a broken dream

 You know the expression "I guess you had to be there."

That pretty well sums up the Piccolo Comedy Fringe show at Theatre 99 a few night ago.

That's Stuckey on the left and Murray on the right. They are Stuckey & Murray.

The third guy was introduced as "our back-up band" as he strapped on an accordion. I'm sure his name was mentioned during the 55-minute show but I didn't jot it down.

In fact, I only know the other two because each has his name stenciled on his guitar strap.

Would it have been too hard to do that for one of the straps worn by "the band?" Obviously, he also plays kazoo. 

During the set, he broke out his saxophone so it sort of was band-like. 


But, music was only part of the show.
Special video spoofs were shown and hilarious silliness prevailed.

I sat next to a couple who said they live in Charlotte, have a place on the Isle of Palms and came down for Spoleto.

I pointed out this was a part of Piccolo and they looked confused.

Needless to say, it was their first time at Theatre 99 and they did not know improvisation was the usual fare. I hope they come again and check it out.

Meanwhile, a young man with a dream - and a vision for a food truck in Charleston  - had to face reality.

It was NOT going to happen and he was faced with having to "pull the plug" on his plans.

He got very, very close to serving delicious Dim Sum here.

I really like those dumplings!

I saw his request for funds on Kickstarter, mulled it over and decided to be a backer.

He said sponsors at my level would receive 25 entrees when the truck was bought, outfitted and cooking commenced.
 He was good about communicating progress. Or lack of progress. Even setbacks.

He had us vote on several designs and he announced he thought he had found a cook/manager who would handle the day-to-day operation.

He told his patient sponsors he would up the reward to 50 (fifty) entrees.

My mouth was watering.

From enthusiastic start to crashing finish, it lasted about a year.

I salute his perseverance and his honesty.

He promised a total refund to all of the investors and my check arrived today.

I will miss tasting 50 sample entrees.

Hope his next enterprise is successful.

He knows how to reach me.

(Click on the images and links for more details.)

Labels: , , , , ,

Friday, June 05, 2015

Taylor Mac and precious tiny tapas....

Taylor Mac has a lot to say.

And reform programs he wants to see moving forward.

The Woolfe Street Playhouse was his venue and he was all dressed up to sing - and tell - his story.

"Songs Of The American Right" uses music from the past 24 decades to take right-wing conservative songs and spin out a different meaning.

He said this is a sample of a 24-hour event he has planned where he will be onstage for the full time..even with bathroom breaks.

"I'll pee while standing behind a waist-high curtain, and keep singing," he laughed.

This was an evening of audience participation to a high degree.

Two men were asked to come up on stage and embrace as same sex dance partners.

Naturally, then the audience was told to turn to the person of the same sex next to them and hug them close.

We did just that and a slow dance tune was played, the lights dimmed and we swayed back and forth. It was quite a new experience moment for many of us.

Taylor Mac prefers to use the pronoun "judy" instead of him or her and removed the elaborate headset as the show progressed.

A scroll with words from Merle Haggard's "Okie From Muskogee" was unfurled by two young men brought up from the audience.

A scantily-clad stripper was used to help us sing along by "following the bouncing boobs."

The serious-but-amusing conclusion involved Sin, the Garden of Eden and Apples.

Baskets of apples were distributed and we all crunched a bite in unison as "judy" said the real culprit back then actually was the tree!

Before the show, I was hungry and enjoy looking around at all the new places opening on upper King Street.

A few days before I had stopped and looked inside and decided tonight I'd eat at the beautifully-designed Restaurant 492.

The space is functional and fascinating.

An array of seating includes a quiet table for two in high backed chairs or a community table about 40 feet long. Or the outside patio.

I chose a kitchen counter seat so I could watch the chef and staff at work. Each plate is carefully crafted and inspected several times before it is sent out to the diner.

I saw a nice fish plate for $15 on the menu. Man, that's reasonable for such a swanky place! Would go well with my beer.

I ordered the "Olive oil poached Cobia with turnips, chickpeas, and beet-brown butter."

And, that is what I got.

About 3 ounces of fish and the rest in miniscule portions.

Later I learned they encourage people to order several  dishes from the Field & Stream/ Pasta & Grain/The Sea/ The Land menu. Then you share with each other.

Didn't know this was a "small plates" place so I added the Geechee Boy Grit Loaf, cultured butter and local sea salt for $4. Hmm. many places bring you bread for free.

During the Taylor Mac show my stomach started to growl and I hoped I didn't distract others.

(Click on the photos and links for more details.)

Oh, and if you are trying a new restaurant, take a moment and look at comments and reviews.

Don't go away hungry after a $30 meal.

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

Thursday, June 04, 2015

Not shy, but very retiring....

A good buddy of mine retired yesterday from The Post and Courier newspaper and I headed downtown to The Alley to enjoy his long-awaited "Freedom" moment.

In fact, Leon shared with me that with all the uncertainty in the newspaper business,  he had devised a plan to avoid being cut loose early.

Back in 2011, he went to management and announced his intention was to retire in four years.

There were layoffs and buyouts all around him, but Leon felt secure because he had an announced departure date on record. Looks like it worked.

After Leon and Jane left, and his former fellow employees had departed, I wandered over to the lanes where the actual bowling was being done.

My eye caught a young lady - with perfect form - approach the line, release the ball from her right hand and a few seconds later, pins scattered all over. A perfect strike!

What had grabbed my attention though, was during all this, Andrea Hellinhhausen's left hand held her cellphone pressed firmly against her ear.

Later that evening, I was at Fratello's on East Montague, digging into a delicious chicken piccata and sipping a cold beer.

There were clouds about and scattered showers were predicted, but this dining outside experience went well. Not a drop of rain.

Just around the corner was The Sparrow,  a favorite place I go to for good music and unusual acts.

This is where I saw a man have patrons staple money to his body. Well, I guess you had to be there. Right Marty?

Tonight was Herbie D and The Dangermen.

An excellent foursome, tight and well-versed in a swampy blend of Appalachian acoustic Blues and New Orleans-style Jump Blues.

Their site says this is music taken from the hills to the juke joints.

I believe that!

They deserved a larger crowd but a Tuesday night is what it is. I hope they'll come and play Charleston again.

I suggested they get in touch with the booker at the Pour House, the Tin Roof and Home Team BBQ.

I sent them this shot and Herbie very graciously thanked me.

(Not the one with the crisp, sharp beer glass and the band fuzzy in the background. That's  just "artsy.")

And then he posted it on their Facebook page.

With a nice credit and a link to this blog.

Wish more groups would do that. Very professional, Herbie!

Have had several "Trifectas" so far during this year's Spoleto.

That's when there are three music or comedy night events in a row. Get home late, maybe post something and then sleep till the break of noon the next morning.

As my buddy Leon will now discover: go to bed when you're tired and get up when you aren't.

(Click on the photos and links for more details.)

Did I mention W-O-R-K is a 4-letter word. LOL.

Labels: , , , , ,

Monday, June 01, 2015

"If I Were A Carpenter....."

 It was good to hear Dead Winter Carpenters again.

They were the free Sunday night show at the Pour House.

Good planning: the Phish cover band show was coming to an end out on the deck.

About the same time they took the stage in the main room, the crowd surged in - ready for more music!

Jenni Charles is a fiddle master and added the string element needed for progressive bluegrass, roots rock and folk.

The entire band had played here October 5 2014.

Jenni was amused when I said there had been a fan wearing a long cape in that crowd that night.

Of course, my photo then made it look like he was "flashing" the band.

She did not remember that event but told me they had just played an outdoor set in Charlotte amid water slides and several Zip Lines.

"Kinda distracting to be playing and someone zips past - right in front of you - and you have to keep concentrating on your music," Jenni said, laughing.

No, I don't think he was nude beneath that cloak. LOL.

But, I was standing behind him, so can't be sure.

The 5-piece band from North Lake Tahoe, California, is now doing close to 200 nights a year on the road.

Charlotte the night before and Nashville tomorrow. Their schedule is on the link as well as how to order CDs and other merchandise.

I saw several hand-made leather drink koozies for $25 on display, along with t-shirts, hoodies and even some free stickers.

During their break, I wandered up close to the stage to see what kind of preparation and equipment goes into such a delightful music evening.

Being a creative photographer, I added some visual elements to the pictures.

I am learning to rein in over-doing such embellishments.

For example, now I seldom use the Fish Eye lens effect I worked to an extreme when I first got this camera with that feature. Sometimes, just a subtle "posterizing" effect is all that is needed to make an eye-catching result.

Moderation in my photo moderation.

(Click on the photos and the link for more details.)

The five players for this Alt-Country have started to soft-pedal the Jam Band influence.

They are Miss Charles, Bryan Daines, lead guitar; Dave Lockhart, upright bass; Jess Dunne, rhythm guitar and Brian Huston on drums.

Play well and travel safely.

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,