Thursday, May 27, 2010

"What's brown and rhymes with Snoop Dogg?"

With local record labels gaining ground in Charleston, it was only a matter of time before vinyl itself did as well. There's something to be said about small joys and habits associated with records. The smoother sound. There's more room for art. Splitting open just the top of the plastic, so the jacket remains unscathed--don't be like my father and write "D. Bowers" on the front of every record you own, especially not Michael Jackson, "Thriller." It's even almost fun having to remember to tread lightly on the floor around the player.

David Sedaris described the joy of a new record best when referencing his O.C.D. in his essay "Letting Go", "My room was clean and orderly, and if I'd had my way it would have smelled like an album jacket the moment you removed the plastic. That is to say, it would have smelled like anticipation."

Websites like United Record Pressing make self-production of an album easier for musicians. (They change specials monthly. This month they're offering completely recycled vinyls and jackets.) And the production of new albums make the old ones even cooler.

Jimbo's Rock Lounge in West Ashley is enriching the trend. DJ D-Rock has been spinning in Charleston for years. You may have seen him at Voodoo. He's now switched his cause to Jimbo's, the bar hidden by D.D. Peckers on Hwy. 17. Every Thursday night Jimbo's hosts Vinyl Night, where local DJs take to the tables with full creative liberty.

D-Rock says, "I'm just trying to get a better following. My set up makes guys really accessible, and that's what I want: real guys with their own collections coming out."

Two of the guys he's attracted are Dr. Fuzz and Matt Blaster. Dr. Fuzz plays vintage tracks from the 50s and 60s, obscure records he's found for sale. Matt Blaster slides from old school rap to Steely Dan.

There's definitely something everyone can dance to.

And to answer the question posed in the post title: Dr. Dre! Yes, I heard that joke at my first Vinyl Night experience, so you know it has to be a good time.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Charleston, S.C.! (To Be Sung to the Tune of Y,M,C,A!)

I kept remembering that I wasn't just walking.

I was marching.

Today, Charleston started a tradition, a movement of love. The first annual Pride Festival paraded its way down East Montague down to Riverfront Park.

Before the event started, I listened to reasons of why gay pride parades are important, how they change and promote growth in a community. Tracey, a parade-goer, says, "When you're coming out to people, they learn something about you, and you learn something about them too. By how they respond."

The same can be said of the parade: You learn something about those that show up and those who don't, the positive and the negative. Well, it's almost that cut and dry. Surprisingly, and thankfully, no protesters showed up. Their absence was positive.

Charleston as a whole showed up in full force.

Churches marched with their banners.

The Lowcountry Highrollers--Charleston's own derby team--skated as Roy G. Biv.

A local politician made a huge, and very commendable, statement. He was also handing out bottles of water, so if nothing else, he's smart enough to think ahead. (I can't say the same for myself.)

We asked around, "About how many people do you think are here?"

"I'd say a 1,000," said one lady.

"At least 4, 500," said another.

So, we'll go with anywhere between 400 and 1,000 marched for gay rights in Charleston over the weekend.

That's a start.

Friday, May 14, 2010

My One Year Anniversary!

It's been six years since I went through the Senior Thesis process? Really?

And the differences are astounding.

Though the process is the same--a one hundred page manuscript written over the course of several months then beautifully published by a local publishing company--the venue in which it's completed has drastically changed.

Wes Snell is one of the 13 students in this year's Senior Thesis Creative Writing class at School of the Arts. In his collection of poetry Spelunking, Snell has a poem named "Projects." Of the government housing, he references the boxes of houses held together "by duct tape and prayer."

That was the School of the Arts I remembered: the one held together by duct tape and talent, right in the middle of project housing. Now, after joining with the Academic Magnet, the campus across the street is pristine. Complete with separate wings for the middle and high schools and a new performance space, which pretty much looks like a mini-North Charleston Performing Arts Center. Jean Olsen, teacher at School of the Arts, says of the new Rose Maree Myers Theatre, "Now we have a venue worthy of our student's talent."

(Sidenote: To check out the new campus, go to the school's open house this evening. Performances and tours are lined up.)

Split pretty much down the middle between novels and poetry, the students honestly shared their work in the new theatre, their glossy book covers hanging from the ceiling. (My cover wasn't glossy.)

First up was Allison Hilton and her novel Letters to My Grandmother. At a funeral, the narrator of the novel notices "the best looking black man with smoky gray eyes heavier than the clouds outside."

"Why, thank you," whispered Marcus, my editor, sitting next to me.

Part of the school-year-long process is seeing a mentor once monthly, who will help find your voice, critique your work. Marcus was mentor to Caroline Rogers. In her introduction, Caroline mentioned that she finds religion in nature. Illustrated that fact with the opening lines, "I will talk to God for days, until I realize that I am talking, like Sylvia, to the sky."

Following tradition, Mrs. Miles, the Creative Writing teacher who started the process at the school, closed with a poem written for the class. Before she began--both crying and reading--she announced that this was her last year working with the Senior Thesis class. She commenced to read, no, choke through, beautiful phrasing like, "You are stones that have settled at the bottom of my heart." The poem ended with, "Now is the time for letting go." And more crying.

Maybe the upcoming students will have a better performance space, glossy book covers, but I--and I don't mean to brag--had Mrs. Miles.

Monday, May 10, 2010

My Derby Name Would Be Beezlebeth

Redux's artist in residence, Cory Oberndorfer, and I went to the Lowcountry Highroller's practice on Sunday. We overheard one girl saying to another, "You have crappy wheels."

"Is that the equivalent of 'I think you're fat' in the derby world?" I asked Cory. He's got the derby knowledge; the subject matter of the majority of his paintings are derby girls infused with candy, so I figured he'd have a good answer.

"No, I think it's more like 'You have ugly shoes,'" he replied quickly.

"Yeah, you're right," I agreed, "'She's a bad skater' is probably the taboo phrase."

Oberndorfer is using the local derby team as inspiration for an installation at the Redux. He just got into town and will work through the 26th. The public is encouraged to stop by and see his progress.

For more information on the artist, visit

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Reggae Infinity

What I learned first last night: Keyboards have a steel drum setting.

Reggae Infinity is a band out of Columbia, S.C. They introduced themselves by saying, "We're here to bring you positive vibrations with reggae music."

The performance was part of the North Charleston Arts Festival. The week-long event held a children's festival, a film screening, and tons of music. Gospel, Irish, Australian, you name it. The main event of the festival was held at the North Charleston Performing Arts Center. Four stages showcased music, and the rest of the venue housed photography, crafts, and other art.

The event was described as "sensory overload."

The reggae block party was one of the concluding shows of the North Charleston Arts Festival. It was held in the re-vamped Park Circle area. Olde North Charleston--more specifically the part of East Montague Avenue past North Charleston High, that's home to EVO, Madra Rua, and The Mill--is becoming a popular hang out. All the street's businesses opened their doors for the block party. Cork even served drinks in to-go cups. Music blasted until 10 p.m.

Block parties are becoming more prevalent in Olde North Charleston. Cop cars park horizontally, a stage is erected, and chairs are set up in the street. The crowd thickens, but ample room is left for dancing.

And speaking of dancing: What I learned second on Friday night was the difference between 13 and 23. At 13, dancing in front a crowd with your mother is totally embarrassing. At 23, it's fun.