We may have another month of summer left, but the Music Hall’s weekend of local music, poetry and art felt as if it was a celebration to say farewell to summer and hello to the autumn breeze. The hotter season usually implies less shows at the Hall and although we’ve had our film series and some amazing acts (Strings & Salsa, Average White Band and Moranz Variety Show, to name a few), it can’t compare to the Spring and Fall schedule.
The Summer Harvest festival packed so many features, new and old, into just three days that it was an initial sensory overload just walking into the lobby. One could imagine that just the three consecutive nights of entertainment were enough, but there were additional exclusive features that ran parallel to the music all weekend: Charleston’s famous Mr. Bonetangles danced in our lobby before each show, Lagunitas fueled the bar, The Charleston Coffee Intiative had a pour over station and ‘wich cream? provided handcrafted ice cream sandwiches. The Music Hall itself also announced a new feature: a Local Listening table. Albums from local musicians, such as Jordan Igoe, Elise Testone, Honeysmoke, and nearly the full roster from the indie label Hearts and Plugs, were laid out with an old school Walkman for anyone passing by to listen and purchase. This listening table will permanently stay in the Music Hall’s lobby and be open during shows and regular business hours (Monday – Friday, 10am – 6pm), so if you’ve been trying to hunt down a copy of your favorite local artists’ album, stop by and take a listen.
While the Music Hall’s downstairs lobby had all that going on, the upstairs stole the evening with a pop-up art gallery from four significant Charleston artists; Mark Avery, Anna Mossman, Dana Thieringer and Sophie Treppendahl. Each creative brought a different style to hang on the old brick walls, from Mark’s pop art graphics and Dana’s simple yet elusive paintings, to Anna’s wire-sculpted animals and Sophie’s impressionist style oil paintings. The exhibit is still on display and while it may be small, it’s definitely worth checking out the next day you find yourself with a little extra time.
So yes, the Music Hall was overflowing with excitement, especially compared to the slow ease I’d grown accustomed too in the past three months, and I haven’t even talked about the music yet. All in all, it was a well needed and oddly comforting excitement that I’d been longing for, even if I wasn’t fully prepared for it yet. The energy carried by Charleston’s creative community is truly unique, as it invites old acquaintances and newcomers alike. No wonder Charles Carmody supports them all so strongly; reminding us that if we want our artists to stay, we have to remind them we care.
THURSDAY – Word Perfect Poetry Show / A New Foundation Album Release show
The three-night festival began with the Word Perfect Poetry show on Thursday featuring Marcus Amaker, Derek Berry, Matthew Foley, Sara Peck, Nick Jenkins and Carlos Johnson, just to name a few. Their spoken words yielded so much raw power, as Marcus encouraged us to live each day as if it was our first, not our last, and Laura Cox reminded us to be proud of all our little imperfections, whether it be stretch marks or pinches of fat. A few of the poets integrated music into their performances as well; Nick Jenkins helped create a visual experience exploring words and chess with Sara Peck, and Quentin E. Baxter accompanied Marcus on drums and percussion.
The evening was created to help support Charlestonpoets.com, present a stage for our amazing spoken word poets, and celebrate the collaboration album between Baxter and Amaker: “A New Foundation.” Charleston Poets’ mission is to unite local poets and promote their work in hopes of creating more collaborations, to help poet’s get published, and to bring the Louder Than A Bomb competition to our city. This show It was admittedly the first time I’ve seen the poets perform, the only exception being Marcus Amaker whom I’ve seen just once before at Pecha Kucha 20. Although I am not too familiar with poetry, the evening brought a realization of just how brilliant Marcus and all our local poets are.
*Full List of Poets: Joey Tucker, Laura Caitlin Cox, James Harris, Ellen Hyatt, Paul Mount, Matthew Foley, Derek Berry, Sara Peck & Nick Jenkins, and Marcus Amaker with Quentin E. Baxter
FRIDAY – Michael Flynn’s Album Release Show
Friday evening changed the atmosphere from silent appreciation to light-hearted indie music as local musicians took over the stage. Johnny Delaware began the evening with an acoustic set list, pausing between songs to sip Lagunitas and joke back and forth with the crowd. I have seen Johnny perform once before at Redux with a full band, but this show felt much more intimate as he sat alone strumming some known and notably new material. He spoke of times on the road with Lucia Garcia (they recently got back from a two month tour) whom he dedicated a piece that I’m assuming is titled “Our Time is Coming” and included a new song he referred to as “Truthful.” Of course, he also included favorites from the Secret Wave EP recorded here in Charleston with Wolfgang Zimmerman, such as “Primitive Style” and “Sea of Fields.” Delaware had a unique blend of folk and indie rock as he moved from croons to reverb to touching ballads.
Grace Joyner stepped on stage afterwards; Dan McCurry on keys, Nick Jenkins on drums, Clay White on bass, and Amber front and center in a stunning red dress, which seemed perfect for her first performance at the Hall. The set consisted of honeyed serenades from her recently released EP Young Fools, such as “Be Good” and “Young Things.” I have seen Amber once before in a much more low-key atmosphere, yet still witnessed a crowd become enraptured. The Hall only emphasized her ability to hush audiences, touch a vulnerable side within listeners while also empowering them. Halfway through the set Hunter Park, of She Returns from War, joined Amber to sing harmony on a few tracks, including her signature Leonard Cohen cover of “One of Us Cannot Be Wrong.” Grace will be at The Royal American next weekend if you missed her breathtaking performance, which happens to be where I saw her perform live for the first time in celebration of the EP (see that review here).
The final headlining act of the evening was Michael Flynn. Previously known for his role in Slow Runner, Flynn has branched off to ignite his solo career with the release of his new album “Face in the Clouds.” A few of my favorites were “Bird in the House,” which has a bittersweet happiness to it, and “Holy Ghost,” an eerie and spacey composition. Something not on the album but a highlight of his set was Flynn’s instrumental cover of FKA twigs “Water Me,” with the snapping interludes and all. As explained in his latest interview with City Paper, he wanted an anti-dynamic record, so he developed an album with a more hypnotic rhythm. Know for his comical stage banter, he was on point, as he poked fun at his presentation and material. Before moving into “Arrow at Your Feet,” he sarcastically noted, “It might shock you, but it’s a bit of a slow jam with some keyboards. We’re gonna mix it up this time.” Thanks to the support of Ron Wiltrout, Dan McCurry and Nick Jenkins, Flynn was able to easily navigate and expand upon the dimensions of his multi-layered, entrancing symphonies.
SATURDAY – The Tarlatans’ Album Release Show
On Saturday, another collaboration of local musicians took the reigns to finish out not just the evening, but also the whole weekend of excitement. Siblings Drew, Hannah, and Gabrielle Hadley opened the night with their upbeat bluegrass/folk rock sound comprised under the whimsical name, Volcanoes In The Kitchen. Hannah whistling on harmonica, Gabrielle hovering over the keys, Drew yielding his guitar with ease, and all three effortlessly singing in unison, created a wholesome authenticity in their presence. The trio performed pieces such as “You Can Close Your Eyes,” and “Running Around” from their EP “From the Hill Where We Counted Stars,” released earlier this summer. It was obvious their inspirational music has resonated with Charleston, as they received resounding cheers and a standing ovation.
The veteran musician, Steven Fiore, who had as much energy as the siblings but many more years of experience under his belt, embraced the crowd next. He had a charisma that charmed the audience, even though there was a little technical adjusting when him and his band mates first took the stage. A charisma that likely developed upon his tours with Slow Runner, Jay Clifford and Howie Day. Compositions from his album “Youth and Magic” made up the majority of his set list. As described by Paul Pavlich for The Post and Courier who said it better than I can, “[Steven Fiore] is a barebones, soothing acoustic rock outfit that is both heartfelt and thought-out.”
The grand finale of the evening and the Summer Harvest Weekend was The Tarlatans. In celebration of the release of their latest EP “Good Luck,” the Clemson graduates mixed a sunnier folk vide with strong rock and Americana roots. Capturing a disheveled-yet-polished gentlemen style, they enlisted the production of Jay Clifford and the notable G. Love for help with their new EP. “Home Sounds Fine to Me,” which features G. Love, is definitely a favorite on the new album, along with “Fancy Things.” Of course, they also included material from their self-titled album released two years ago, such as the well-known “Been Dreaming” and “Coffee and Rain.” Their music is the type to easily get stuck your head with catchy repetition and an irresistible tendency to smile while you’re listening. It’s a perfect soundtrack while driving in your car with the windows rolled down, or when you’re at the beach with friends. Lead guitarist, Taylor McCleskey, definitely brings the energy of a front man, but as mentioned in their recent interview with the Charleston City Paper, it’s a strong group effort: Ryan Williams on guitar and vocals, Eric Mixon on bass, and Blake Shorter on drums. The brotherly connection is easily identifiable between the four. Perhaps that’s why you can’t help feel you’re surrounded with friendly love while listening to their music, which aligned with the Summer Harvest weekend vibe almost too well.
– Jessica Spence, CMH Intern
I have to thank Jess Spence for this fantastic review (that she did on her own accord!). The First Annual Summer Harvest Weekend was a smashing success. We saw 800+ over the weekend. We will definitely be bringing it back next year with three new album release shows and a barrage of local musicians and artists. Thanks to everyone who helped support this first year event including but not limited to Andrew Higdon, Andrew Smith, Mike Rogers, Cory Stegelin, Bennett Jones, Megan Ladd, Mark Yoder, Christian Neal, Ballard Leeseman, Charleston Scene, Scene SC, Counter Culture Coffee, Charleston Coffee Initiative, ‘which Cream?, Lagunitas, Anna Mossman, Sophie Treppendahl, Mark Avery, Dana Thieringer, Joel Frank, Michael Flynn, Johnny Delaware, Steven Fiore, Amber Joyner, Volcanoes in the Kitchen, The Tarlatans, Charlestonpoets.com, Marcus Amaker, Quentin Baxter, Nick Jenkins, Will Shutze and Mr. Bonetangles, our brilliant usher team, Sam Bell, Kimi Hrivnak, Dan McCurry, and of course the 28 local musicians who now have albums displayed on our permanent local merch table – it takes a village.
– Charles Carmody, Director – CMH