Last Monday at The Rarebit, behind thick gray curtains, the jovial bartender Shep announced, “We are here to party."
And the party was for Hunter Park, "the friendly neighborhood troublemaking Southern Gothic Western deconstructionist" who both rips and serenades a la acoustic guitar as She Returns From War.
The event was a private concert featuring selections from the upcoming She Returns From War full-length album, Oh What A Love.
Rarebit’s notorious Moscow Mules and COAST brewery's HopART IPAs were on the house and there was plenty of chips and dip to go around. The low lighting and blanketing of candle light set the intimate feel for the evening, as prepared by McKenzie Eddy and Elliot Smith of 78B Productions.
The Rarebit's signature cocktail, the Moscow Mule
The show was of course meant to be Hunter’s friends celebrating her, but in her delivery between songs, it was clear that Hunter would rather celebrate her friends. That sentiment, a shared celebration, is a calcifying moment. It is defined as a scene, a community, which is something that is very hard to capture when written about, and always in danger of being simplified or, even worse, hyperbolically romanticized. However, in the moments when Park is up front, that idea is made more tangible through her love for the audience, her admiration for her peers, and of course, through the songs she sings.
Charles Carmody of Charleston Music Hall spoke to that in his genuine and thoughtful introduction of Park. The two have known each other since high school, and it was Carmody who taught her how to first play guitar, continuing lessons during their time together at College of Charleston.
“I have watched her grow up,” Carmody said, “I can’t think of someone more passionate about this community who wants to see it grow.”
Photo by Landon Neil Phillips
That sense of community is not lost on Park.
“The theme of the album is really Charleston based,” Park later commented, “It encompasses the themes of love and loss as done [on my] self-titled EP, but it's twists and turns are a little more ethereal.”
Park’s three acoustic offerings are a little more light than compared to, say, the one time she jumped on top of a picnic table in the backyard of former King Dusko to belt out words of discontent—but that is not to say that the songs lack punch or attitude, something that Hunter brings in spades. Throughout the set, the crowd watched with a quiet respect that seemed to almost shock Park.
“I’m feeling really sappy right now,” she admitted with the kind of smile that comes from holding back happy tears. "I kind of don’t know what to say. Thank you for supporting me. I don’t know if something like this just happens all the time."
It is evident that Park’s songs come from a deep place of emotion that of course feels personal, but like any great song, also universal. She sings to you, but also for you. In between verses of her first tune, she took a breath to say, “This one’s for you,” and it resonates. Then she sang out, “Oh what a love we have found.” And the smiles amongst the crowd agreed.
She Returns From War’s official album release show is Tuesday, September 29th at The Royal American, 970 Morrison Drive. 8pm.