The lively and diverse Upper King Street around the John Street area is a mecca of shops, restaurants, and bars. Last night, the outdoor temperature was perfect for taking a window gazing stroll or for doing some people watching at the outdoor venues of the local establishments, such as 39 Rue de Jean, Hall's Chophouse, Republic, and Joe Pastas, which were all standing room only. Everyone was having a howling good time pre-concert and then around 8:00 pm, the whole affair took the expected turn.
The Charleston Music Hall proceeded to go to the dogs - more appropriately, the Blue Dogs. It was a celebration of their 25th Anniversary Show and from the front doors to the backstage - where the real party was obviously taking place - it was a rockin' good time. They picked and sang to a sold out Hall with a 3 1/2 hour, non-stop parade of special guests including Radney Foster, Edwin McCain, Don Lotti, Danielle Howle, John Satterfield and the Archtypes to name a few, but that was just the 'Dog' treats.
Bobby Houck, acoustic guitarist and vocalist for the Blue Dogs, tossed out a 'Dog' biscuit when he lightheartedly proclaimed his long-time partner, standup bassist Hank Futch, had been cheating on him by his Occasional Milkshake collaboration with high-spirited guitarist Mark Bryan of Hootie and the Blowfish, who joined the group on stage. Hank and Mark along with Doug Jones and Gary Greene performed a couple of their songs and Mark did a duet with Danielle Howle of Firework Show.
To top off the highlights, the big 'Dog' bone came late in the second set when Bobby invited Charleston's favorite son, Darius Rucker, out from the backstage to sing the Blue Dogs hit song "Isabelle" and it was a free-for-all from there. Darius and the Blue Dogs next sang the Bob Dylan-Old Crow Medicine Show inspired song that has become the now famous Rucker version of "Wagon Wheel" from his "Lady Antebellum" album and the roof blew off the house.
Hootie and the Blowfish joined the pack and performed a couple of their hits including the song "Time". Radney Foster rejoined the group with a couple more songs. Daren Shumaker dazzled on the mandolin and David Stewart artfully played the guitar. The night was closed out with the whole gang of performers joining the Blue Dogs in a climaxing tribute to their Mama's with their "Make Your Mama Proud" song from their 2004 album "Halos and Good Buys". In the finale, there were so many musicians on stage Radney Foster couldn't find an available plug-in for his guitar. So, he did what all good musicians do - he improvised.
Everyone present, including yours truly, had a doggone good time, but the continuous parade of honky-tonkers and bluegrass musicians gave fits to the stage hands that handled the assortment of guitars and mandolins with their array of plug-ins and foot pedals. Despite a couple of glitches, they handled the challenge superbly accompanied by a well orchestrated light show. It was well worth the $21.05.
The Charleston Music Hall, one of the oldest buildings on the block, was constructed in the mid-nineteenth century by the South Carolina Railroad, known historically as The Tower Depot. It was designed to resemble a Medieval castle and featured a three-story tower that was unfortunately destroyed in the Charleston Earthquake of 1886. The rest of the building sat vacant for sixty years, until 1995 when it was transformed into the intimate, first class performance space it is today.
"There is not a bad seat in the house," is an appropriate slogan. I can attest to that fact. My seat was in section H-REAR, Row 9, Seat 9, the bird's-eye view on the second level. I could still see the facial expressions of the performers.
Click on Charleston Music Hall for upcoming shows and performances. February 13th will be the Elise Testone Album Release Show. You can purchase tickets here.