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June 14, 2013

Rumor has it when Eddie Van Halen, at the height of his career, was asked, “What does it feel like to be the best guitarist in the world?” he responded, “I don’t know.  Ask Tommy Emmanuel.”  Whether or not this is true, Emmanuel certainly lived up to the title last Friday night at the Music Hall.

A guitarist of ten years, I had mixed feelings of awe and failure, as I realized that I would never be able to make a guitar sing like Emmanuel.  Two-time Grammy nominee, Emmanuel is one of Australia’s most respected musicians. The legendary guitarist has a professional career that spans five decades and continues to intersect with some of the finest musicians throughout the world. A household name in his native Australia, Tommy has garnered hundreds of thousands of loyal fans worldwide. Tommy’s unique style – he calls it simply ‘finger style’ – is akin to playing guitar the way a pianist plays piano, using all ten fingers. Rather than using a whole band for melody, rhythm, bass, and drum parts, Tommy plays all that – and more – on one guitar. Guitar legend Chet Atkins was one of the first to inspire Emmanuel to try this ‘fingerpicker’ style as a child. Decades later, Atkins himself became one of Emmanuel’s biggest fans.”

The 600 people who came out to the show Friday night certainly were inspired.  I kept getting phone calls the week before the show from fans asking if they could bring their guitars to get signed.  I figured it couldn’t hurt but was blown away when over fifty people brought their guitars in toe.  We ended up placing most of the guitars in front of the stage, and it made a beautiful image:  guitars offered to the guitar king.

South Carolina native Jacob Johnson kicked off the evening.  “Johnson sounds like Norman Rockwell paintings and the open road. He is a virtuoso, expressing a working comprehension of dozens of techniques and styles. He has blended and blurred the lines of genres to craft a sound he calls ‘Neo-Acoustic Folk/Funk’.”  It was difficult to pinpoint Johnson’s style.  His songs were mostly humorous with a lot of spoken word, and his guitar technique went all over the place.  However, there is no doubt that Johnson is a virtuoso.  He seemed perfectly at home up on the stage, and he wowed the audience with his guitar techniques. By the end of his set, the audience was on their feet; he doubled his record CD sales after the show.

Cool, calm, and collected, Emmanuel whisked into the theater a few hours before the show, tall, lean, and dressed in a floor-length black pea coat in June.  He was extremely polite and welcoming and even remembered the names of the Music Hall’s lighting tech, Dany Kapp, and his dog Margaret after two years (Emmanuel played at the Music Hall back in 2011).

He played for almost two hours, from new original songs to a medley of Beatles covers. Periodically, he would offer the audience fast-talking tutorials on his techniques, which were greeted mostly with awed laughter. Above all else, he is a brilliant showman, moving from song to song, and proving no matter what he played, he loved what he was doing.

 

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June 6, 2013

The Charleston Music Hall and Awendaw Green celebrated their second installment in the Grass in the Hall series Friday night.  Grass in the Hall began back in March with The Barefoot Movement, Cumberland River, and Town Mountain.  It was as if the imprints from the stomping and the vibrations left in the rafters from the March show were still shaping the stage, The Black Iron Gathering, The Bushels, and Nu-Blu certainly brought on the stomp.  Bringing the natural outdoor liveliness of Awendaw Green’s barn jams to a more polished indoor setting has been fun for everyone involved.  The Music Hall staff and Eddie White from Awendaw Green are working hard to bring the best local, regional, and national bluegrass talent to the Charleston Music Hall stage.

The lobby of the Charleston Music Hall was alive with The Black Iron Gathering, The Bushels, and Nu-Blu’s music before the show.  Merchandise from each band was abound and the good times were rolling.  Along with information about each band and Awendaw Green, we were all lucky to have the Lowcountry Biodiversity Foundation set up with information about local flora and fauna. Run by president Dr. Edward G. Farnworth, PhD, and vice president Dr. Merle Shepard, PhD, the mission of the Lowcountry Biodiversity Foundation is to “promote educational and scientific activities that support the value, awareness and conservation of the South Carolina Lowcountry’s rich biological and ecological resources.” Information about animals such as the American Bittern, an assortment of wood storks, different types of grasshoppers, and a wide variety of mosses were displayed.  Proceeds from the show went to this fantastic organization.

With the powerful riffing of The Black Iron Gathering, the smooth vocals of The Bushels, and the hilarious on-stage antics of Nu-Blu the evening was a raucous event for all.  The Black Iron Gathering, composed of Billy Ray, Charles Fun, Josh Latham, Chris Paget, and Charlie McLinden loosened up the room with their Columbia, no frills grunge-grass sound.  Blue Grass deviants, The Black Iron Gathering ruffled the frills of a few folks, but brought on the noise all the same.  The Bushels, a band from Mount Pleasant brought a smooth, classic blue grass sound that was sweet to everyone’s ears. Finally, Nu-Blu, with founding members Carolyn and Daniel Routh up front, took stage to the delight of everyone in the audience.  With a #1 hit on the Airplay Direct Top Bluegrass Album Chart, and celebrating their 10-year anniversary as a band, Nu-Blu was polished, precise, and powerful.  Lead singer, Carolyn Routh powered out covers, hymns, and originals.  With all three bands touching different parts of the bluegrass spectrum, this installment in the Grass in the Hall series was not only an amazing concert, but a valuable way to look at just all that bluegrass has to offer, after all, in the words of Carolyn Routh, “Rock and roll is just bluegrass played slow.”  The next show in the series is July 12th with Underhill Rose, The Barefoot Movement, and Flatt City.

Bennett MacNath – Administrative Assistant, CMH

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May 10, 2013

Solas’ performance at the Charleston Music Hall last Friday, May 10th, was one of those nerve wracking let’s take a chance because we believe in this music shows, and it ended up being a smashing success. I had never heard of Solas when we started discussing hosting the band back in January, but I was quickly won over by their amazing musicianship and songwriting skills. However, the main reason I got behind Solas was because of the stories that were told through their music. The Music Hall is a listening room, a story telling room. It is a room where 900 + people can intimately gather and be brought together by story, song, and art. The fact that the Music Hall almost forces people to pay attention and really engage with what is happening on stage is one of the main reasons why I love this venue so dearly.

If you have not heard of Solas, they are described as “the quintessential Irish-American band recording and touring in the US today. Fifteen years ago, in a manner befitting their name (Gaelic for “light”), Solas burst onto the Irish music scene and instantly became a beacon – an incandescent ensemble that found contemporary relevance in timeless traditions without ever stooping to clichés. Anchored by founding members Seamus Egan (flute, tenor banjo, mandolin, whistles, guitars, bodhran) and Winifred Horan (violins, vocals), Solas is rounded out by Mick McAuley (accordians, low whistle, concertina, vocals), Eamon McElholm (guitars, keyboards, vocals), and newest member and lead singer, Niamh Varian-Barry. Through fresh and unexpected arrangements of age-old tunes, compelling and topical originals and covers, and unparalleled musicianship, Solas continues to define the path for the Celtic music world and drive the genre forward.”

The night was kicked off with a dynamic set from The Hungry Monks, a local group led by Hazel Ketchum and John Holenko and described as an eclectic, acoustic group performing traditional and original roots music featuring guitars, mandolin, fiddle, banjo, bass, and vocals. The band was so wonderful and easy to work with, and they brought out quite the crew. I was so happy to get them into the Music Hall, and you will more than likely see them on our stage again.

Solas stepped onto the stage around 8:30 and flew into their wonderful concept set, Shamrock City. “With ten albums under their belt, Solas’ band leader Seamus Egan was inspired by his family history to create Shamrock City – their most ambitious project to date. Shamrock City tells the story of Butte, MT, a mining town at the turn of the 20th century, as seen through the eyes of an Irish immigrant and Seamus’ great-great uncle, Michael Conway. In 1910 he sailed from Cobh, Co. Cork in Ireland to Philadelphia and then made his way to Butte to work in the copper mines. Six years later, at the young age of 25, he was dead from a blow to the head. With audio recorded in Philadelphia and film footage in Butte, Shamrock City seeks to not only uncover the life and young death of Conway, but to also illuminate life as an immigrant during the Industrial Revolution.”

Solas used beautiful visuals to compliment there playing and to help tell the story of Shamrock City, and it was exciting to see our new projector and screen put to good use. Above all else, the members of The Hungry Monks and Solas are just plain wonderful people. They are legends in my eyes, and I hope to host both bands again soon.

– Charles Carmody, CMH Director

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May 8, 2013

Deflorate is the post-pollination stage; a time in a flower’s life when it can no longer produce and has spread its seed only to be left to wilt and have its nutrients dissolve into the earth.  What the Off-Broadway troupe that performed in the Charleston Music Hall managed to do was to take the, shall we say, naughty novel Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James and breathe life back into the masochistic, dominant literature by making it an evening full of well written crudity and hilarious songs about nudity.  The play opened with a women’s book club gushing over the raunchy content of Jame’s book that centers around a young female, Anastasia Steele, played by Amber Petty, that has not yet been deflowered and is low on self-esteem.  Her friends make her the focus of their jokes, and she does not feel like a rose, more a thorn bush, when along comes Christian Grey, a stout, young business magnate with a libido that would make Dionysus squeamish and played by a rather surprising Chris Grace.  The rest of the story can pretty much be summed up as a cookie cutter love story made famous by the fact that the author refers to genitalia more times than not.

It was an evening that promised to let more than a few cats out of the bag, and the Music Hall was filled with over 500 women and a few reluctant husbands and boyfriends.  While the musical has received amazing reviews, even the staff at the Music Hall was a little worried about the content and quality of the performance.  However, we were delightfully surprised, as the writing, music, acting, and vocal performances were of top-notch quality.

When the theater emptied during intermission everyone had a smile on their face.  Friends joked about the different songs ranging from “There’s a Hole Inside of Me” to “Red Room of Pain,” discussed the deflowering of the protagonist, and gushed about the breathtaking vocal performances by each of the characters.   As the Chardonnay, Merlot, and Westbrook IPAs took full effect, the droves of patrons grew all the more excited.  It was a night filled with mature themes, beautiful voices, and plenty of wine that culminated into an event to be remembered.  With the Merch table selling explicit items, some of rubber, some of leather, others of a more slippery variety, each patron left with a smile on their face, a belly full of cheer, and the rest of their evening to stew over their wonderful night at the Charleston Music Hall.

– Bennett Jones, CMH Assistant Director

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Thanks Dave Brown and The College of Charleston for putting this great video together

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April 13, 2013

We had a fantastic time hosting DIG SOUTH, Charleston’s premier tech conference, all weekend long.  As mentioned in the former post, Rosco Bandana and Dangermuffin kicked off the DIG SOUTH festivities Friday evening with a smaller show but a show full of heart, rock n’ roll, and crunchy jams.  Saturday night we hosted Entropy Ensemble and Lee Fields and The Expressions.

Entropy Ensemble is an amazing local group that is made up of some of the strongest musicians in Charleston, a couple of whom happen to be some of my closest friends, so I was thrilled to have them on the Music Hall stage.  Entropy EnsembleThe band was made up of Andrew Walker on piano and Rhodes, (Andrew also is the creator of JAILBREAK, an amazing bi-annual mutli-media arts night at the old city jail), Lonnie Root, (Charleston Music Hall’s resident cellist), Ben Wells on stand up bass, (I saw Ben play with Elise Testone last night opening for BB KING, kudos Ben), Stuart White on drums, Clay White on trumpet, Jonathon Kammer on alto-sax, Peter Dimery on baritone sax, and special guest Steven Fiore on guitar and vocals (Steven’s new album Youth and Magic come out Saturday, check it out).  Entropy Ensemble is a unique instrumental group that presents performances that blur the lines between musical styles and genres.  Whether it be an original piece or a loose instrumental arrangement of popular music, Entropy Ensemble’s main goal is to perform “good music”. From classical to jazz, to rock and popular music, each member of the group comes from a diverse musical training and background, bringing something different to the table.  Saturday night they were doing one of their favorite and most popular shows covering the beloved Radiohead.  Most people did not know what to expect but were immediately blown away especially when they went into “The National Anthem.”  Stan Grey, DIG SOUTH’s founder, came up to me screaming over the raging horn section “They are killing it!,” and they certainly did kill it.  Radiohead would have been proud.  I know I sure was.

Lee Fields and The Expressions, billed as the headliner of the entire festival, took to the stage next.  “There aren’t too many artists making soul music today who had a release in 1969, back when R&B was first beginning to give the drummer some. Lee Fields, however, is one such artist–or maybe he’s better labeled a phenomenon. Since the late sixties, the North Carolina native has amassed a prolific catalog of albums and has toured and played with such legends as Kool and the Gang, Sammy Gordon and the Hip-Huggers, O.V Wright, Darrell Banks, and Little Royal. With a career spanning 43 years, releases on twelve different record labels, and having toured the world over with his raucous-yet-tender voice, it’s mind-blowing that the music he’s making today with Brooklyn’s own Truth & Soul Records is the best of his career.”*Lee Fields

In the last week I have seen Lee Fields, Charles Bradley, and BB King, and might I add what an honor it has been to have seen such amazing performers back to back to back.  If you know me, you probably have heard me rant many times about how strong the music scene is in Charleston, made apparent by the musicians flocking here from music capitols, such as Nahville, Austin, and Brooklyn.  The fact that I was able to see these three musicians at three equally amazing and distinct venues, The Charleston Music Hall, The Pour House, and The North Charleston Performing Arts Center, all within a week is yet another testament to how amazing the Charleston music scene is and to how hard promoters, venue managers, and music enthusiasts are working to put on some great shows.  I was amazed at how similar each set / set up was from one band to the next.  Lee Fields and Charles Bradley almost had the exact same backing band, young white boys playing trumpet, sax, piano and organ, drums, bass, electric guitar except Lee had the addition of two beautifully rambunctious female singers.  At each show, the band came on the stage first and played two instrumental songs to get the crowd riled up.  I really liked this intro.  The audience got to see and feel the band and sink into the music before they focused on the frontman.  Each frontman was then victoriously announced and came out to do what they do best, win over the audience and put on an amazing show.  Lee Fields blew the roof off the Music Hall.  People could not stay in their seats, as they danced along the aisles and in front of the stage.  His style and enthusiasm and appreciation for the few hundred that showed up was so refreshingly honest.  All three artists have such a great sense of humility that puts them far above the rest.  Thank you DIG SOUTH for a wonderful weekend. We look forward to working with you again next year!  And thank you Charleston for keep the soul alive.

– Charles Carmody, CMH Director

*http://leefieldsandtheexpressions.com/biography/

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Rosco Bandana

April 12, 2013

DIG SOUTH Interactive Festival came to the Charleston Music Hall Friday night with two of the best musical acts for their Sideshow. As this being the very first festival of its kind on the East coast, the Charleston Music Hall couldn’t be more excited to be a part of it. All attendees were able to explore the intersection of technology, social media, marketing and the arts in the heart of downtown Charleston. Smart companies and leading innovators from all over the country came together to spread their knowledge to the general public all weekend.  DIG SOUTH’s Sideshows are an aspect of the festival that integrates music into the scene by bringing up and coming performers to the stage.

Dangermuffin and Rosco Bandana both played two separate shows for a very intimate crowd. The night kicked off at 7pm with local band Dangermuffin giving us everything they got. Since they are so well known in the Charleston community, everybody loved them. They have a true variety of styles from one song to the next that always captures the audiences attention. The Folly Beach trio know exactly what they’re doing as they already have four albums under their belt in just five years. Ranging from roots-rock, calypso, Americana and a little bit of ska, Dangermuffin put on a great show for us and we can’t wait to have them back on stage.

Rosco Bandana hailed all the way from the Gulf Coast of Mississippi just to join us at DIG SOUTH. The Music Hall thoroughly enjoyed what they had to offer, keeping the room energetic the whole night through. Even with two shows, they never skipped a beat. Rosco Bandana considers themselves an “Indie Folk Rock Band” with a little bit of blues, americana and gypsy fanfare thrown in. The seven piece band was a fantastic compliment to Dangermuffin. Even though they have just started out, Rosco Bandana is making a name for themselves-and they’re doing it big. The Charleston Music Hall would be lucky to have them grace the stage with their musical talent again.


-Sarah Roza, CMH Intern

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Bill Burr

April 11, 2013

If you’ve never heard of Bill Burr, chances are you’ve seen him before.  Actually, you’ve definitely seen him before, probably many times.  It may have been in one of his Comedy Central specials, or one of the several major movies that he’s co-starred in, or on Letterman, Conan, or Fallon, or maybe you were lucky enough to catch one of his 300 or so yearly stand-up shows.  If you were at the Charleston Music Hall last Thursday night, you were one of those lucky people.  Bill and his crew packed the house at the Music Hall as part of their ‘Dirty South Tour’, which has sold out shows in over a dozen southern states so far, which is impressive considering Burr’s roots in Los Angeles and New York City.  Before he had even arrived at the theatre, there was excitement and anticipation in the air as the venue staff awaited Bill’s arrival.  There seemed to be more security guards present than for any other show at the Music Hall.  Finally, about an hour before show time, the tour bus pulled up on John Street, and as Bill and his crew walked off the bus, it looked like one of those slow-motion movie scenes with “Damn It Feels Good to be a Gangsta” playing in the background.

Two opening acts entertained the crowd, playing two short 15-minute sets and left the crowd in hysterics.  We already thought it couldn’t get much funnier, and then, finally, the man himself walked onstage, and 900 people went crazy.  Bill shouted, “I haven’t even done anything yet!”  The following 2 hours were filled with nonstop laughter and hilarity.  Burr’s lively and intense style of comedy, ranting, and storytelling can captivate any audience for hours.  Bill is the type of comedian who can insult a person right to their face, and leave them laughing with tears in their eyes.  His subjects of humor range from religion and politics to the absurdity of life in show business, and everything in between.  He delivers his ideas effortlessly, while seamlessly transitioning from one subject to the next, all the while making his audience think about important issues without even realizing it.  Bill closed out his monumental two-hour set, and was kind enough to stick around after the show to meet the audience, sign autographs, and promote his new DVD special “Let It Go”.  Then, as quickly as they arrived, Bill and his crew boarded the tour bus and they were off to their next stop on the tour.  This was a truly special evening for the Charleston Music Hall.  If you ever get the chance to see Bill Burr perform, do yourself a favor and buy a ticket, you won’t be disappointed.

– Michael McCrea, CMH Intern

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Live!

March 30, 2013

Nothing feels quite as rewarding as that moment when events from all directions crash and culminate in one moment. When divergent thinking patterns break linear trends and a multitude of stakeholders can all be satisfied within the greater accomplishments of the group product, something bigger than the sum of the parts is created.  An experience such as this happened at the Charleston Music Hall on March 30th when the ideas of Charles Carmody (director of the Music Hall), Mike Bryan (guitar player in Hootie and the Blowfish), and promoter Rob Lamble crashed together to synthesize into an unforgettable evening of music and filming.  With help from Trident Tech and College of Charleston Students for the filming process, the finished product is to play on network television.  Cranes, scaffolds, and tripod lights were set up throughout the theater to get shots from all angles, both of the performers and of the audience members.  Great ideas blooming into great products cannot be successful however without great patrons to consume the finished labors of love.

Our hope at the Charleston Music Hall is that when people come to events that they feel that they are part of something larger. Community is the backbone of a successful music hall, because without connection to the local scale it is hard to reach those that will ultimately benefit the most from the arts inside the theater.  Each event is a long process, starting months before the artists actually get to do what they do on stage, but none of it matters if people do not come to enjoy.  Live at the Charleston Music Hall starring Edwin McCain and  Sam Bush is one event in which this was all the more prevalent because without audience participation the Austin City Limits style performance would have fallen flat.  Without the excitement that the crowd on Saturday night brought the two episodes produced from the concert would have looked unentertaining, which they were far from.  I saw people singing along, yelling their admiration at Edwin McCain and Sam Bush, and dancing in the aisles.  When the finished product is cut, after editing and post-production polishes are placed on the film, what I think will really shine through is that people that came to the event had a great time.  Not to mention Bush and McCain played two of the most solid live performances I have ever seen.

– Bennett Jones, CMH Intern

 

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It makes me proud to call the Charleston Music Hall the Charleston Jazz Orchestra’s official “House of Swing.”  This year marks the CJO’s fifth season playing in the Music Hall, and I love them all dearly.  They are a hard working bunch with an insane passion for Jazz and spreading Charleston’s Jazz history.  Charleston actually has a very rich and deep relationship with Jazz and many of the instrumentalists who were responsible for the development of the genre have hailed from our little coastal town.  Big band jazz is certainly a sight to see.  The force and movement that comes off that stage is astounding.  Charlton Singleton, the CJO’s maestro and lead trumpeter, leads a strong team of seventeen instrumentalists made up of piano, stand up bass, guitar, drums, and a thirteen piece brass section. 

The CJO plays six shows at the Music Hall each year.  They kicked off 2013 with a tribute to John Coltrane back in January.  Saturday Night, the CJO performed their second show of the year and paid tribute to Count Basie playing through his most renowned album, The Atomic Mr. Basie, which was originally recorded in 1958.  On top of composing, conducting, and leading on the saxophone, Mr. Singleton also has a beautiful voice, and he started off the evening vocally leading his band in Basie’s The Late Late Show.  The band then jumped right into the show and played two hour and half sets.  One thing that I really appreciate about Charlton is that he is a passionate teacher, a prophet of his craft if you will, and wants people to really understand the depth and gravity of the songs that are being played on stage.  At every show he makes a connection between the music that is being played and Charleston.  For instance, two of the original members of the Basie orchestra were from Charleston.  He truly loves both Charleston and Jazz and wants people to make the important connection between the two.

One of my favorite mental images of the night was when I was sitting side stage looking out at the band, and I saw all seventeen members’ feet tapping, well more like bouncing, to the tunes.  These musicians certainly love the music just as much as their maestro.  The CJO ended the evening with a sneak peak into their next show, Porgy and Bess, which will be performed at the Charleston Music Hall May 18th.  If you have yet to see the CJO, then I would highly recommend coming out to their next show.  I cannot stress how important it is for us to support our local arts and music groups.  Charleston certainly is a beautiful place to live, but this beauty would amount to naught if it were not for the people and artists that make this city such as great place to live.  Check out the CJO’s website here for more information on this fantastic organization, and I hope to see you at the next CJO show.

 

– Charles Carmody, CMH Director

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