The Singer/Songwriter Series
The Pour House
If the folks behind the new Singer/Songwriter Series at the Pour House aimed to show off a few of Charleston's finest songwriters, they achieved their goal on Monday night. Some of the local scene's most expressive and lyrically creative musicians and poets put their best material on display to an appreciative crowd.
Unfortunately, things started a bit late and ran long. Booked and promoted as a rapid-fire showcase with a starting time of 8 p.m., the first performer didn't hit the stage until well after 9 p.m. Things slowly rolled along until last call.
The main room was practically empty at 8 p.m., but an impressive crowd was hanging in all corners of the back deck while Shovels & Rope — consisting of Michael Trent and Cary Ann Hearst — stomped through their final set. After a brief hiatus from their weekly Monday evening deck gigs, the duo was loud and lively. Hearst played a ramshackle drum kit (she damaged the bass drum pedal at one point) and swapped between singing and playing harmonica. Trent's reverberating electric six-string survived unscathed.
Gregory Scott, the organizer of the series, hustled across the floor as patrons shifted from the humid deck scene to the main room. Mild mannered and soft-spoken, he seemed like a reluctant emcee as he welcomed the audience and introduced Steven Hurst, the first of eight featured musicians on the bill. This was Scott's first time putting something like this together, but he didn't seem nervous or scattered.
In his original promotion, Scott stated, "This will not be your regular Pour House show, as there will be tables and chairs in front of the stage, candles strategically placed throughout the room as well as on the deck, and special lighting designed particularly for this event." The tables, chairs, and candles never showed up.
Hurst, a newcomer in the Charleston musical community, strummed and sang well on several melodic originals, providing a warm kick-off.
Local poet Marcus Amaker (the editor of Charleston Scene), stepped up for the first of several poetry performances, backed by jazz drummer Stuart White (on a full drum kit at the back of the stage). "If this is my path, then I'm unworthy of your incandescence," he recited in one of his opening lines. Heavy stuff. Other spoken-word artists performed with White's tasteful brush work, accents, and exotic rhythms.
The strongest poet set came late in the night from Mr. Enlightenment (a.k.a. Joey Tucker, a young Walterboro native). An optimistic performer with a cool style, he emphasized positivity in three of his works and explained his theme of "passing the L.I.G.H.T." (the acronymn stands for Language Incites Gestures That Highlight).
Scott followed with a quick, low-key acoustic set that grooved with ease. By contrast, Skye Paige, dolled up with a country-style dress and a flower in her hair, rocked an electric guitar with a distorted tone and impressive slide work. She seemed more poised and confident on the mic and guitar than at previous solo gigs.
A clean-cut James Justin Burke handled a red Fender Strat with a smooth tone during a set of originals from his latest solo album and recent demos. Playing an acoustic, Danielle Howle got big laughs during a few giddy quips between songs, many of which had a Latin feel. She wowed the room with an a cappella closing number.
Some of the most passionate and dramatic music came late in the night. Graham Whorley tastefully manipulated his acoustic with loop effects on several sophisticatedly funky originals. Lindsay Holler leaned into her guitar and closed her eyes while singing a few rarely-played gems from her catalog. Mac Leaphart claimed his voice was "shot" before walking on stage, but he belted it out with heart and clarity. Howle joined him on several songs, providing wonderful harmonies and moral support.
If the Singer/Songwriter Series tightens up just a bit, picks up the pace from set to set, and aims for a little more collaboration between the featured acts, it could become a monthly highlight at the club. Monday's showcase was a pretty good start.
James Justin Burke