Saturday, April 22, 2017

The Sounds of Music....

 Music is in the air in our city, at the usual places like CMH (Charleston Music Hall) but also scattered all around.

I try to get out and literally support live music at the Pour House, Tin Roof, and other venues.

It's a labor of love and I flinch when security taps me on the shoulder and says I can't use my camera at a show.

I point out I am complying with the rules as stated at the front door - not using flash and not videotaping performers.

Also stressing I have a point-and-shoot small travel camera that does NOT have removable lenses like a pro DSLR. I am not a threat!

I am told I can use my phone but not my camera. It's possible I have the ONLY camera in the place now that the ubiquitous cell phone has taken over.

The problem for me is my camera has an excellent zoom lens that lets me get in close to capture beads of sweat, glistening on a performer's face.

Cell phone cameras are improving almost daily but can't match that critical excellence quite yet.

I assume technology eventually will bring them to the point that a cell could attain the crisp clarity I now can achieve with my shirt pocket-size digital camera.

The two photos shown here so far were taken with my Smartphone.

Instead of staying in my seat and capturing Jonny Lang and his band the other night, I stood up and walked closer to the stage.

They were taking their final bow after a 2-hour show at this stop on their 2017 national tour,

In this instance, I "was" the zoom lens.

Earlier, seated and using my phone, it performed well because it did not need to "move in closer."

I wanted to capture the overall scene of the solo encore when Jonny came out alone and played 3 more songs.

Then, the rest of the band came back out and joined the encore.

The lighting was moody and excellent.

Quinn Sullivan, the young man and his band who was the opener, really dazzled the crowd, receiving frequent and prolonged well-deserved standing ovations.

He said it was his first trip to Charleston and he appreciated the warm audience reaction to his band and their music.

Lang mentioned how pleased he was with the success of Sullivan as the opener and advised us to keep alert as his popularity rises. "You will hear a lot from this young man," Lang added.

Last Saturday, I was surprised by an elaborate and colorful music DJ setting up at Mellow Mushroom Pizza Bakers in North Charleston.

I had just finished a mini-Brewery Crawl and was ready to dig into a pizza or Calzone.

Well, and a beer.

The Calzone was great, the beer was cold and the music was unexpected.

Later learned it was an after-party for The Chainsmokers appearing that night at the Coliseum.

This is a walk-to-it event held at the Mellow Mushroom, sponsored by Yazoo Brewery.

Not a place to try for a quiet conversation but the fellow diners and party-goers seemed more than all right with it!

The party was to officially begin around 10 pm, after the show ended at the Coliseum and when the crowd started to arrive. As usual, I had my pro earplugs with me, so I slipped them in and enjoyed my meal.

The sound - and the lighting - was spectacular.

I wandered over to take a closer look at all the hardware it took to put on this show. There was a lot of it!

I also looked up some background on Yazoo Brewery  in Nashville, Tennessee. Very fitting because I had just visited four local breweries.

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

Thanks for coming along on this musical interlude...and the after-party.

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Sunday, April 16, 2017

Two Sets of far

Some know that I started growing a beard last year.

Movember to be exact. That's the month that a mustache is grown to show support for a worthy cause - awareness of men's health issues.

If you have not seen my moustache AND beard, here is a photo of what it looks like.

No, not really.

That actually is me standing behind a cut out of the distinctive photo on the label of a popular beer made by Holy City Brewing Company.

It is called Chucktown Follicle Brown and the cut-out that beckons you to poke your face through is at the brewery on Dorchester Road.

This was one of the three places visited Saturday on another rousing, brave but cheerful, Brewery Mini-Crawl.

There are several other clusters I plan to visit.

Cheerful because it was time to visit a trio of craft beer-making places.

It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon and my camera and I were among happy, cheerful people, chugging some fine tasting beers.

Looks like some breweries serve food so children are allowed to be there.

I saw lots of families enjoying an offbeat pre-Easter outing.

To wisely sample the offerings of many beers it pays to be sensible.

At each place, I looked over the menu and selected four small "samples" of the brewmaster's product by a particular brewing company.

Moderation in moderation.

Here I chose 2 dark stout and porter beers and two lighter ones:
Notorious Hen, an American Porter with a BBQ Rub; Fancy Stout with sweetteeth caramel added; Smells Like Rick, bourbon barrel aged and Kate the Great, red wine barrel aged.

While sipping and tasting, I saw a lady with a 4-glass flight, taking a sip of each glass in rotation so all four were now half-filled.

Hmm. Kind of defeating the whole tasting concept.

Might as well pour all four mixed together in a pint glass!

Looking to my right I saw a colorful, catchy mural by the artist Patch Whisky.

There was a sizable crowd this afternoon at the bar and I could not avoid having a man's head included in the lower left of the mural.

Not my best ever use of the clone app of Photoshop, but I did try to eliminate the fellow. If you can't see what I did there, I am sure the artist would have issues.

Let's just not tell him and keep this among ourselves. Thanks. Whew.

Hoping the get a view of the Ashley River before sunset, we headed over to nearby one-year-old FreeHouse Brewing Company.

 Known for its nice deck, picnic tables and spectacular sunsets on the river, it also prides itself on producing all organic craft brews.

Our friendly bartender showed a Thursday sunset photo she had phone snapped and I recalled it had
been a cloudy sky which usually adds bright colors to the end of the day.

Looking out past the tall, silvery beer vats and the bar, I saw it was a lackluster kind of sky so just sat at the bar and tried a 4-glass flight.

The organic beers I sipped included a Green Door IPA, the HooDoo Imperial Stout, Lucky Oyster Stout and a Battery Brown Ale.

These four 4 oz glasses held enough to really savor the taste, yet kept total consumption to a minimum.

Being an older native Charlestonian, I can remember when the Fox Music store was downtown on the corner of King and Beaufain Streets.

My 1950s high school buddies and I would go in to browse the vinyl records.

Then we'd select one or two albums and walk down the squeaky wood floor, enter one of several glass enclosed booths and play the record on a turntable. Some dancing often happened.

I had left town by the time it closed and moved out to 3005 West Montague Avenue.

Part of their building in the back was used to store pianos but, after a lot of work, that space was opened three weeks ago as the Rusty Bull Brewing Company, in Suite 110.

I peeked through the window in the front door and stepped in to be part of the "soft opening."

The Official grand opening is set for May 6. I like one of their slogans:"We make it. You drink it."

I chatted with the two Co-Founders, heavy-bearded Ben Mayer and Brian Bogstad. 

As usual, I ordered a flight so I could sample some but, instead of four, a fifth was added.

As the menu board on the wall behind the bar stated, right now they only make five offerings so they threw in the 5th to give me ALL of today's taste options!

Here is a shot of the menu on the wall of beers offered but many more will be added by the May 6 Grand Opening, Ben assured me.

Reason enough for me to swing by again. And again.

I saw something new being offered at these breweries.

I was used to seeing a large dark colored glass 64-oz Growler that can be filled and sealed (no open container in your car).

The new item is a Crowler. a 32-oz metal container that is sealed with a flip-top so you can conveniently - and legally -  take two pints home.

Currently, they are closed Sunday and Monday, but that is subject to change.

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

This is only the second mini-Brewery Crawl. As more are added, this could turn into a long-term writing odyssey!

That would be cool.

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Monday, April 10, 2017

13 is a lucky number....

Anthony "Packrat" Thompson and his harmonica, agree that Gary Erwin, a.k.a. Srimp City Slim, has been Charleston's Number One, main Blues Man for at least 20 years.

I've been back home about that long and I heard Shrimp when I first got back here from traveling for a long, long time.

He plays Blues on stage, spins Blues records on his Sunday morning radio show and performs a weekly Blues Cruise on Charleston Harbor with his tight band.

I came back home just in time to enjoy his 17-day annual Februay long-running Blues Bash.

This busy promoter and performer is a gift from Chicago and this weekend, he staged his 13th annual Blues By The Sea at Freshfields Village Green at Kiawah.

Gary "arranged" a cloudless, sunny Sunday event that draws hundreds each year to this free musical outing.

The printed program stated it was sponsored by the Cultural Events Fund of the Town of Kiawah Island.

Gary told us that the 14th annual has already been approved by the Fund for 2018. Hooray!

Happy dancers kicked up their heels when this was announced.

This year we were not only entertained by the opening act Chef Bill Wharton, we also were watching as he played and whipped up a tasty simmering pot of delicious Louisiana Gumbo!

Smelled so good!

The Sauce Boss started "cookin'" with his music about 28 years ago and we all were offered a bowl of happiness at the end of his second set.

He stopped once to add splashes of his "secret Sauce" into the pot.

A table was set up in front of the bandstand and, at the break,  we eagerly queued for our bowl and spoon.


I scored lots of okra, tangy sauce, and a good-size crawdad.

Gary had the Sauce Boss open the show, followed by Robert "Top" Thomas and the Packrat's Smokehouse. They are the purveyors of turgid deep Blues known as Florida Swamp sounds.

Featured on vocals - and harmonicist extraordinaire - was Anthony "Packrat" Thompson, pictured in the first photo above

The little kids - and their parents -  knew how to react to the hot, bouncy sounds this Sunday afternoon.

It was a good workout for my Canon SX280HS with its crystal clear images and crisp 500 mm zoom lens.

Children, especially, tend to freeze up - or strike a pose - when they see a camera pointed at them.

With the long zoom lens, I was able to remain seated in the audience beneath the huge white tent and zero in on the jumping, grinning and laughing activity in front of the stage.

I didn't stop and ask the name of the lady with the colorful parasol.

As the sun moved around from left to right, she adjusted her shade-maker accordingly to keep her cool.

Here she was being offered a bowl of Gumbo and had to decide how to handle the vittles.

It was definitely a two hand operation to spoon up the food, liberally enhanced by Bill Wharton's own formula Liquid Summer sauce.

The 3rd and final act of the day was The Lucky Losers, Click the link to see several of their videos.

Bay area notables Cathy Lemons (vocals) and Phil Berkowitz (harmonica and vocals) have joined forces in the Lucky Losers, a swingin', rockin' ensemble making their South Carolina debut.

Theirs is a classic sound with great original songs and female/male lead vocals and lots of spicy instrumental work.

The late afternoon cooling golden glow brought out the dancers of all ages.

Fueled perhaps by a helping of Gumbo, the couples - and singles - whirled around and around, moving to the energetic beat.

Thanks again, Gary, you gave us something for everyone for your lucky 13th.

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

It was a pleasant, musical afternoon down at the entrance to Kiawah.

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Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Something's brewing here....

I admit it was on my second visit to Ghost Monkey Brewery in Mt. Pleasant that I caught the joke.

Looking over the changing menu of freshly-brewed beers - trying to remember the name of the one which I had liked so much on my first visit - I spotted the bold sign about WATER.

Many restaurants with soft drink dispensers usually have one tap for water when you don't care for a sugary, fizzy soda.

Just didn't register until my buddy pointed at the sign and said, "That's funny."

Huh? What's laughable about knowing where to find the water?

Well, in a place that concocts its own types and tastes of craft beers, it produces a chuckle when you see what these brewers think a certain other national beer tastes like.

Actually, when I told the owner I liked his visual joke, he explained he didn't have a Bud Lite pull to sit on top of the tap.

I agreed that anything with "LITE" in its name is hardly a craft brew.

At the second stop along a recent Brewery Crawl - centering on East Cooper - I pulled up a stool at Two Blokes Brewery and tried to quickly slurp a Spilt Milk.

Didn't follow the physics exactly, but, similar to an Irish Car Bomb, when you combine two different elements together in a rush, there is an explosive effect.

Here you start with a tasty Milk Stout and a separate 4-ounce glass of coffee.

I was advised to sip some stout to make room to add the coffee for an interesting mixture and taste.

I also was warned there would be an overflowing surprise reaction if I added the coffee too quickly.

(The bartender stood nearby with a handful of paper napkins and a fluffy bar towel.)

He saw the look in my eye and knew there would be some soppin' up to be done.

The final stop on this Crawl was nearby at Westbrook Brewing Co.

I had taken its excellent brewery tour a while back and remembered it as one of the largest in the area.

Several restaurants offered the Westbrook Mexican Cake, it's first anniversary series, that contains aged cocoa nibs, vanilla beans, cinnamon sticks and fresh habanero peppers.

It is a chili beer, but it is not available year round.

 Evil Twin Brewing liked its contents enough that it collaborated with Westbrook to produce the Imperial Mexican Biscotti Cake Break.

Evil Twin is a gypsy, meaning its beers are brewed at/by another brewery. In this case, Westbrook.

As it was being poured the bartender made sure I knew it was the Biscotti version.

Tasted great!

Westbrook does not sell food so a few nights later I went to Zia Taqueria on Maybank Highway in West Ashley and ordered three enchiladas with chicken, pork, and steak.

I probably should have ordered the Mexican rice as a side dish or the black beans to add some variety.

The "Christmas colors" of red and green sauces, drizzled with sour cream, were the reverse of what I expected: the green was hot and the red was milder.

Oh, and no Mexican Cake or Biscotti here so I drank a Dos Equis Amber. Sorry, Westbrook.

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

Thanks for tagging along on this three brewery area "crawl."

Just heard a new one has opened so I will explore another area where several breweries are clustered.

I believe the number of breweries here in Charleston now is a "Baker's Dozen."

Look out Asheville!

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