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Johnnyswim at the Charleston Music Hall. Photo by Jess Marie Spence.

It has been a while since we have done our monthly reviews, and it makes me sad, so here we have a look back at the amazing month of May.  2014 thus far has been an amazing year.  We have hosted over 100 events and have worked with over 50 different organizations!  We had events for 22 of the 31 days in May alone.  Do not worry we will not go over every single one.

May 1st – David Ford with Jarrod Dickenson

King Street Cookies presented the first show of the month.  They were great to work with, and you can now find King Street Cookies’ delicious cookies on the corner of King and Calhoun.  David Ford is a British singer / songwriter with a knack for loop pedals, and he was accompanied by Texan singer / songwriter Jarrod Dickenson.  It was a light crowd, but these two musicians played as if the Hall was sold out.  I tend to get bored with the one man loop pedal routine, but Ford really killed it.  The man is certainly passionate about his craft, and this passion exploded in his performance.  Was this show necessarily a good fit for the Hall, probably not, and I only say that because Ford is almost completely unknown in Charleston, but these guys put on one hell of a show, and I would love to help bring them back to a smaller venue and help build their presence in Charleston.  We need songwriters like Ford and Dickenson who push us to think rather than simply smile and dance awkwardly at shows.

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Conor Oberst, backed by Dawes. Photo by Julian Lanier via Instagram, juliansaysx.

May 11th – Conor Oberst with Dawes

Headlining at festivals, embarking on a national tour and releasing Upside Down Mountain has put the indie rock connoisseur, Conor Oberst, back in the spotlight. So it came as no surprise that when he stopped in Charleston, the Music Hall was completely sold-out with long-term fans of the mid-western musician. Primarily known for his major project Bright Eyes, Oberst brought his indie folk collection to the Music Hall featuring music from his expansive repertoire. Accompanying Oberst was the Southern California based bad, Dawes, a similar indie folk rock group who can play with your emotions as much as those Bright Eyes ballads. Unsurprisingly, the two have actually began occasionally playing together since 2008, swept up in producer Jonathan Wilson’s Laurel Canyon renaissance through impromptu jam sessions at his house. The chemistry they must have conjured up in California has lingered with them over the years and on their tour down the East Coast. If you missed the show, I’d suggest searching for their limited Record Store Day LP, where Oberst covers Dawes’ “Million Dollar Bill” and Dawes covers the Bright Eyes track, “Easy/Lucky/Free.”

May 15h – Artist Lecture with Shepard Fairey

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Shepard Fairey and Mark Sloan. Photo by Jess Marie Spence.

“I can either do well at finger painting or suck at regular school,” said Shepard Fairey to Mark Sloan as he recalled his decision to attend Rhode Island School of Design nearly thirty years ago. The conversation on art, life and politics filled all 900 seats in the Charleston Music Hall and gave Shepard the chance to share some of his antics and deeply rooted opinions. A Charleston native, Fairey’s graphic art has gained national attention with his Obey Propaganda, clothing line, sticker campaigns, and Obama HOPE graphic. However, this is the first time his work has been featured in his hometown with an exhibition inside the Halsey Institute of Art, in collaboration with Jasper Johns, and large scale murals along King Street. So of course, the Hall was honored to kick off the events surrounding the ‘Power and Glory’ collection, which is on display until July 12th. If you’ve yet to wander through, we highly suggest you take the time out of your next afternoon to check it out.

Amanda Sudano of Johnnyswim. Photo by Jess Marie Spence.

May 16th – Johnnyswim

Following the release of their first full-length album, Diamonds, and a performance on NBC’s Today Show, the critically acclaimed husband-and-wife duo stopped at the Music Hall to share their bluesy folk-rock anthems. After meeting in Nashville, Abner Ramirez and Amanda Sudano began writing music together and within five years had launched their career under Johnnyswim with only a few EPs to their name. At the hall, it was easy to see why the couple has received so much attention with their on-stage charisma and dynamic set. Even in light of a last minute cancellation from their opening act, they compensated by simply extending their own performance (no complaints here) and left us captivated.

May 17th – Jeanne Robertson

The Music Hall welcomed the six-foot-two comedian and former beauty pageant queen Jeanne Robertson this month for a Saturday night full of laughter. Relying on charm and humorous stories from her everyday life, Jeanne pokes fun at southern traditions and habits, often sourcing from her own mishaps. Her good-natured fun was perfect for an audience of all ages and whether you can relate to the cliche southern stories or not, you’ll be smiling with the rest of ’em. If you missed out of her live performance, there are several Youtube videos that capture the same essence of Jeanne’s on-stage presence and fine-tuned storytelling.

May 25th – Stand Up Series Finale

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Dusty Slay at the Stand Up Series Finale. Photo by Jess Marie Spence.

Hosted by Dusty Slay, the Hall welcomed Lauren Krass, Michael Brocki and Vince Fabra to the stage for a night of comedy yet again. In an attempt to feature local and regional comedians in addition to national acts, such as Aziz Ansari or Mike Birbiglia who were here last month, we partnered with Dusty for four nights of him and his alternating crew. With humorous stories of Lauren’s past, Michael’s jokes about hand dryers and Dusty’s playful bickering with the sound and lighting crew, it was a night we won’t soon forget. We hope to keep encouraging a local comedy scene, especially with so much talent right here in the Holy City. If you missed out on the opportunity here, Dusty will be at Theatre 99 on July 12th with Vince, Derek Humphrey and Evan Berke as a part of their Road Trip Comedy Tour. Dusty and Lauren are also featured at the theatre on Wednesday night’s “Laugh for a Lincoln” event (only $5) and if Vince Fabra was your highlight of the evening, you can keep up with him on Facebook for his upcoming performances.

Scene from A Midsummer Night's Dream. Photo by Jess Marie Spence.

Scene from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Photo by Jess Marie Spence.

May 28th – 29th – Columbia City Ballet presents A Midsummer Night’s Dream

In celebration of Shakespeare’s 450th birthday, the Columbia City Ballet performed the classic romantic comedy, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, for two nights at the Music Hall. Directed by creative master mind, William Starrett, the ballet was one of the highlight of our Piccolo Spoleto series.  Dancing fairies, a tangled love affair, a mischievous Puck and a vibrant finale had us enraptured, and while it may be tempting to write off a ballet for it’s fluff (confetti, glitter, extravagant tutus, etc.), it was obvious to see how much dedication and ambition the ballerinas brought to the stage.

May 30th – June 1 – Charleston Jazz Orchestra: Piccolo Spoleto Series

To finish our month off with a standing ovation, the Charleston Jazz Orchestra filled our halls with a tribute to Duke Ellington on Friday, Basie on Saturday and put on a family oriented show Sunday afternoon. With Charlton Singleton’s charm conducting each performance, we couldn’t have been more inspired by our locals, which is no surprise considering our town is arguably part of the roots of jazz. Compiling compositions that are meant for swinging to sultry blues and easy rhythms to TV show tunes, there was a performance everyone could enjoy.

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July 26, 2013

To start this blog post off with a snag line about the history of comedy, or tie it into the City Paper article about headliner Evan Berke, then flow into the success of the show, and the great support the Charleston comedy scene got Saturday night would be fine, but it would only tell a part of the story.  This show almost did not happen. That is the truth, and if you are reading this post, it is important to know the struggles leading up to this show in order to understand how amazing the night was. Everyone involved was worried about how the community of Charleston would support their brightest stars.  Is the scene saturated? Are our friends as funny as we think they are? Do people really locally support the arts? It is like a slow and constant anxiety attack.  But to ease the pain I will let loose the ending, we did it.  The positivity and gusto of everyone involved made the show a roaring success.  Over four hundred showed up in support of their local comedians, the City Paper ran a great cover story on locals that leave to big cities to pursue their dreams, and above all else, the comedians brought their A-game to the stage.

It seems that running a venue is all about tipping points.  The writer, sociologist, bestselling author, and all around guy-that-makes-statistics-cool, Malcolm Gladwell, wrote a whole book about tipping points, apply titled The Tipping Point.  Gladwell explains the phenomena of social tipping points being due to, “ideas and behavior and messages and products sometimes behave just like outbreaks of infectious disease.  They are social epidemics.”  Basically, success is often times counterintuitive, unusual, things just happen without immediate explanation.  This can be used to explain The Lowcountry Comedy Tour’s final night.  The buzz grew in an exponential pattern.  Unlike linear graphs that move in constants upward by addition; 2+2=4, 4+2=6, 6+2=8, etc., exponential functions move by multiplications; 2×2=4, 4×2=16, 16×4=64, 64×16=1024, so things escalate quickly.  Word-of-mouth, according to Gladwell, works in much the same way; groups of people spread popular events and sociological phenomena exponentially.

We at the Charleston Music Hall love comedy and have housed famous comedians such as Aziz Ansari from Parks and Recreation, Bill Burr from The Chappelle’s Show, and Wyatt Cenac from The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.  The Charleston comedy scene has been on our radar for a while, so when we decided to do a local showcase we already had a few comedians in mind.  Vince Fabra, hailed as “The greatest comedian of all time” by his mother, told jokes in a sketch group translation similar to his work in “Peanut Butter Buddy Time”, and his co-writer credits on “The Importance of Being Awkward”.  Dusty Slay, winner of the 2011 and 2012 Charleston Comedy Festivals Stand-Up Comedy competition, and “2013 Best Local Comic” by the readers of the Charleston City Paper, told a set of relatively clean material accented by his unbelievable whit and ability to lead the listener through a hilarious journey with punch lines built up to perfection.  Evan Berke, the night’s headliner, performed a bitter sweet show, as he said goodbye to Charleston.  Berke says in his interview with the Charleston City Paper that “Charleston has been a very productive place for me to build and practice my routine, and I wouldn’t have wanted to get started anywhere else.”  One of our goals at the Charleston Music Hall is to nurture local talent and be a place that supports the local arts. We hope that with the success of this show ,the Charleston comedy scene grows exponentially and that when looking back, this show is a tipping point for many comedians.

– Bennett Jones, CMH

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