It’s too bad there weren’t more people in attendance when Paige performed at Mad River on Wednesday evening (June 6) as part of Piccolo Spoleto’s ongoing Blues & Jazz Series. There was a small crowd on hand — a few uninterested couples eating in the booths, a handful of lively music fans sitting along the bar, and series organizer Smoky Weiner’s pack of buddies at a table up front. Fortunately, Paige wasn’t fazed by the low turnout, and she played with the cheerful vigor she normally displays.
It was an odd set-up on stage, though. Her regular Original Recipe bandmates weren’t around, but drummer Ian Dunning Brown was sitting on an abbreviated three-piece kit with an oversized kick drum. A capable timekeeper with a nice, jazzy touch, Brown often jams with Paige during open nights at the Wolf Track Inn in West Ashley. Rhythmically, Paige and Brown clicked pretty well, but it sounded strange to have drums without any low-end support from a bassist or additional guitarist.
Paige and Brown played two full sets of rock ’n’ roll show, only some of which seemed particularly bluesy. They included a lot of fun songs from Paige’s 2010 album Whole Lotta Woman. The country-styled title track and the raunchy blues-rock of “Paint the Town Red” were highlights. The sparseness of the simple instrumentation allowed plenty of room for Paige’s sneering, gutsy slide work and distorted guitar tones to ring out nicely. Some of it resembled the swampy jams of the Flat Duo Jets and the White Stripes.
The admission price might be a bit high for happy hour shows like this. I saw more than a few touristy types peek in, hear about the cover charge, and walk away. It’s one thing to ask $11 at the door for a well-established touring artist who rarely visits Charleston, but it’s pretty pricey for a local act that plays regularly for free around town. Piccolo’s Blues & Jazz Series offers a mix of local talent and out-of-town headliners. Local musician Andy “Smoky” Weiner’s efforts to book solid shows at Mad River for Piccolo festival deserve praise, for sure. But when a local artist who’s featured in the Piccolo lineup puts on their usual show — particularly a stripped-down version of their usual show — one might feel slightly overcharged.