Three Shows in One Night? Sure, Why Not
I'm a sucker for a good movie quote. You know, like "I'll be back," "Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn," "You talkin' to me?" or "May the Force be with you." In the "Lethal Weapon" action film series Danny Glover has a great one, which he exclaims at least once in all four films in the series. "I'm getting too old for this s**t," mutters Glover's character, Detective Roger Murtaugh, every time he and his partner get in a tight spot. I was tempted to utter those same words this past Sunday morning as I tried to stand up out of bed. Between the walking around downtown on a bum knee, slogging through the typical Lowcountry humidity, and downing one too many cocktails, I was hurting.
But oh, the memories that were made the night before.
Normally when I go out for an evening of musical entertainment I limit myself to one particular show. Now given the amount of good stuff that is normally going on in various venues around Charleston, I inevitably get to see something great, while also likely missing a couple other potentially stellar shows. Last Saturday night there were several choice performances happening around the peninsula. Americana artist Carrie Rodriguez was performing at the Circular Congregational Church on Meeting Street, while just up the street at the Charleston Music Hall local '90s stalwarts Childrens Choir was melting faces, playing a free show in honor of the wedding of a couple of friends of the band. Finally, another great local act, A Fragile Tomorrow, was playing up at the Royal American, a venue I had yet to visit. Any of these would have made for a fine night of music listening and viewing, but which one to choose?
My brain, forgetting for a moment it was housed in a 43-year-old out of shape body, piped up and said, rather gallantly, "Ha! We can check out all three shows!"
"But," said my body.
"Silence!" barked my brain, "We can do this!"
So off I went. Am I the only one who has these conversations with myself?
My first stop was the Circular Congregational Church. I'd seen Carrie Rodriguez a few years back when she'd performed with songwriter Chip Taylor at the Village Playhouse in Mount Pleasant. A great songwriter, and a gifted singer and fiddle player, Rodriguez was discovered by Taylor, and has since made a name for herself in the Americana music world. The CCC, which is one of the older churches in Charleston, has been being used for shows put on by local music promoter Dan Henderson and the folks at Awendaw Green. A little more than a hundred people had shown up for the show, which began with an unplugged acoustic set from local musician Rachel Kate Gillon. Gillon, who has a new studio album on the way, did a superb job of projecting her big voice around the building's high ceilings. Armed with just an acoustic guitar, she charmed the crowd with a set of original songs, and even sold copies of her forthcoming album to a few lucky early birds.
After Gillon had finished, Rodriguez took to the church's altar, which was doubling as the stage for the evening. Accompanied by fellow musician Luke Jacob, Rodriguez wasted no time getting down to business. Her performance style can only be described as dynamic. While playing her fiddle in between sung verses of her songs, Rodriguez dips and twirls, obviously having a great time. She's a born performer and obviously love being on a stage in front of an audience. My favorite tune she performed Saturday was the title track to her 2006 release "Seven Angels on a Bicycle." Jacob did a great job supporting Rodriguez, inserting guitar and lap steel just when it was needed. I hated to leave the show before it ended, but it was time to head out to stop number two.
Walking into the Charleston Music Hall a little after 9:00 p.m., I expected Childrens Choir to already be playing. To my delight, I walked into the performance hall just as Paolo Licciardi and brothers Kevin and Richey Isaacs settled into place onstage. I'd been a big fan of the band back in the '90s while I was working at radio station 96 Wave, and I always tried to slip a song by the band into the "Locals Only" segments that ran a couple of times a day. Aside from a maybe a few gray hairs, the members of Childrens Choir sounded just like they did 20 years ago, and for the hundred or so folks that came out to see them play, it was a nice, loud, rowdy trip back in time. I saw a few old friends at the CMH, including Deena Frooman, who I'd worked with at Wave, and local punk rock aficionado Johnny Puke. Johnny greeted me with a big grin, saying, "The last time we were here we were listening to jazz!" Indeed, the last time I'd seen Johnny was at one of the Charleston Jazz Orchestra's recent performances at the CMH.
All too soon it was time to move on to the next and final venue of the night. I drove up Morrison Drive looking for the Royal American. I'd never been to the venue, but I'd heard all about it from a few friends. I found it just past the overpass of the Ravenel Bridge. Just as advertised, the Royal American was not your typical bar. Housed in a building that looked like it might have once served as a metal works or garage, the bar has a huge front porch with several tables and chairs, and a large bay door that opens into the bar area. The most curious thing about the place is its performance space, which sits just to the side of the bar. The band is literally right on top of the bartenders, and while it might not sound like it would work, it's actually a very good use of space. Occupying that small stage Saturday night was A Fragile Tomorrow. In the few short years I've known of this band it has become a favorite of mine. The band was already playing when I got there, and I arrived just in time to see them play a great cover of "I Got You," the '80s new wave hit by Split Enz. The Kelley brothers, who comprise three-quarters of the band, are big fans of Neil Finn, who played in Split Enz and later in Crowded House, and they absolutely nailed the cover. The boy's parents were in attendance at the show as well, and I sampled a tall cup of the Royal American's signature bourbon punch while I watched the remainder of AFT's set. I also bumped into fellow Grit writer Tim Brennan, who is also a big fan of the band. Afterward, the band hung out for a while, and we talked about the fact that AFT will soon be opening for Toad The Wet Sprocket on a few dates, and later traveling to Europe to support K's Choice for a string of shows.
Finally, it was time to call it a night. I drove home, collapsed into bed, and was awakened several hours later by my sons, who wanted to wish me a happy Father's Day. As I struggled to stand up out of bed, I thought for a moment of uttering that classic Danny Glover line from "Lethal Weapon." Upon further reflection though, I decided against it. Sure, I was going to be hurting for the next few days, but all in all it was worth it.
"You see," groaned my body to my brain, "I told you we'd be overdoing it."
"Eh, shaddap," replied my brain. "Put a sock in it and grab the Aleve."
I may try to limit myself to two shows next time...