Brendan James with Steven Fiore

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July 13, 2013

Our Youth Will Never End: Why is nostalgia so powerful?

            I think it is due time Charleston admits openly, once and for all, that it has a major man-crush on Bill Murray. Who can blame us? From the kooky groundskeeper in Caddyshack to the sardonic scientist in Ghostbusters, the guy has a direct tap to our funny-bones. Brendan James, Steven Fiore, and the staff of the Charleston Music Hall are a group of fan boys just like the rest of the Holy City, overcome by the charm of Mr. Murray’s certain brand of comedy, so when we were brainstorming set design for the upcoming CD release show of Simplify by Brendan James and Youth and Magic by Steven Fiore, Wes Anderson’s most recent film Moonrise Kingdom, starring Bill Murray, was first on the list.

For those who have not seen the film, the film’s TRAILER is good enough for this blog to make sense. Anderson’s aesthetic is the ultimate in post-modern-super-stylish-hipster-dreamy-nostalgia.  The Charleston Music Hall, stepped in history since 1849, is no stranger to nostalgia with a major draw of our venue being the fact that the stage used to be a train turnaround table.  The combination of the childhood wonder of Moonrise Kingdom,  the message of Brendan James’ album, specifically lyrics such as, “You are my ally/ If you can so can I / SIMPLIFY,” and Steven Fiore’s love of laser guns, childhood bedtime stories, and his cat made so much sense to us.  Simplicity. Childhood. A time with less worry but potent confusion. Growing up.  The stage was set, pun intended, for a night of wonderment.

DSC_0049Steven Fiore’s vocals came off as a tour de force, reverberating off the bodies, walls, and columns of the hall with meaning. Music is his medium, and he sings to explain his past, present, and future.  Sultry lap slide guitar (Josh Kaler) mixed with the soft, yet powerful, horn section (Hooray for the Whites!) bounced up and down to the driving kick drum (Michael McCrea), complimenting the falsetto qualities of a capoed acoustic guitar at center stage.  Fans of Fiore’s music expected quality, but this was a performance of another level, something special, ethereal, that everyone watching grasped to understand, and then when each chorus drove the point home, we all sighed in mutual admiration for the performers on stage. The crowed was hungry for more.

Brendan James started his set with a teaser to his new music video, the single track off his newest release Simplify.  The curtain raised as the band began to play along to the video, and then they charged ahead through the piano-driven set.  The precipice came when James, accompanied by an extremely talented guitar player and drummer, danced through “Girl from the North Country” by Bob Dylan.  “If you’re traveling in the North Country fair/where the winds hit heavy on the borderline/remember me to one who lives there/for she was once a true love of mine.”  The song was set-up with a great anecdote by James about his journey to climb a mountain, sheer, slick, and terrifying.  Covers of famous songs are always dangerous; What if you don’t do them justice? What if the crowd likes the original better? How do I make someone else’s art my own? No worries Brendan James, you absolutely killed it.

This show was one of the most rewarding shows that the Charleston Music Hall has ever done.  Planning the show was unlike anything done before.  We want to do more than just put on shows.  We want to create unique experiences for both the artist and the audience, and this show was a test of how a venue can customize for artists.  The artists were some of our personal favorites.  Set designing took skills that we had never flexed before.  All of the hard work paid off with a night that will live on in our memories, and one day we will look back and there will be nostalgia for history’s perfection.

– Bennet Jones, CMH