by Paul Bowers
The music of the Ben Folds Five has always had a special place in the hearts of the geeks, the losers, and the dumped, so at Wednesday night’s Performing Arts Center concert, it almost felt natural when a guy from the audience who introduced himself as “a singer in a failed rock band” stole the show. Toward the end of the set, Ben Folds invited a regular dude from Folly Beach up on stage to sing the Five’s 1995 song “Philosophy” — and he nailed it, more or less.
In answer to your first question: No, he wasn’t a plant.
Lewis Dodson isn’t quite as much of a failure as his introduction would suggest. He’s the owner and operator of the Drop In Gourmet Deli & Bar, and he was also voted Charleston’s Hottest Bartender in 2010, partly on the merits of his meticulously coiffed mustache.
During one of the inevitable pauses when the crowd shouted out song requests, Dodson’s voice could be heard booming above the din, “PHILOSOPHY.” Folds heard him and asked, “Where’s that coming from?” Dodson replied, “A singer in a failed rock band!” Folds said something to the effect that whatever band Dodson was in must have sucked, because he had a great singing voice, and then he invited Dodson onstage to sing the song in his place.
To everyone’s surprise — perhaps even Folds’ — Dodson climbed onstage and took the microphone. His vocals were OK, even though he had to defer to bassist Robert Sledge when he forgot one of the verses, but what got the audience on their feet was his flamboyant stage presence. He strutted and swung the mic cord around like it was second nature, getting big cheers every time he high-kicked and touched his toes like a hair-metal rock star.
After the show, standing in the aisle while people congratulated him, Dodson revealed the secret of his success: “You’ve got to make up with showmanship for what you lack in talent.”
Dodson, it turns out, really was part of a now-defunct Mississippi rock band called Your Mama that made some waves with a KISS-inspired live show including smoke bombs in the back of a guitar and sparklers taped to shoes. They recorded an album in 2004 (“Check out our MySpace,” Dodson says jokingly) but broke up partly because the members lived in different cities. These days, whenever a band plays at the Drop In, Dodson asks if he can join in and improvise a song. So far, he’s freestyled lyrics for local bands including the Royal Tinfoil, Yellowknife, and the Fairy God Muthas.
One more burning question for Dodson: Where’d he learn to high kick like that? “I graduated Magna Cum Laude from the David Lee Roth School of High Kicks,” he says.
By the way, it looks like somebody caught Dodson in the act on a cameraphone. The audio sounds like a bomb detonating, but at least you can make out his sweet, sweet moves: