Saturday night at the Hippodrome, everybody had something to say about local songwriter Mac Leaphart, who is still recovering from brain surgery. A series of video segments and live performances created a special rhythm at Mac'n at the Drome, organized by local promoters Ben Bounds (of Follywood Productions) and Joel Frank, with assistance from Awendaw Green's Eddie White and many others. The concert and presentation was designed to benefit Leaphart as he recovers.
The night was a massive success with a sold-out crowd a ton of special moments. The echo of "We love ya, Mac" followed each song as the performers proved the eminence of the now-powerful Charleston music scene, coming together to support their friend by singing his songs with a passion reflecting their love of the writer.
There was the time Bounds and Leaphart visited Nashville, and Leaphart said of its famed Broadway section, "This is where dreams go to die." There was Five Way Friday's Luke Cunningham, who lived with Leaphart in L.A., recounting a night in Tijuana, Mexico, when Mac insisted on buying a chair he'd broken at a bar, and then carried it around all night, showing the receipt to anyone who asked.
Songwriter Jamie Resch stood on stage and stared up at herself on the huge widescreen behind her. In the footage, she told a story about when Leaphart surprised her with a gift of Van Morrison's Veedon Fleece and a new turntable. It was just one of many intimate stories that painted a picture that fit perfectly with what most of the audience already love about Leaphart.
Sitting in the front row, flanked by family, hands clasped over his interlocking knees, head back and beaming, Leaphart was awe-struck but calm, letting himself drink it all in.
"We talk about creating a Charleston music community," said emcee Mike Allen of 105.5 The Bridge. "This is the Charleston music community."
"We lived in L.A. and I grew up in Nashville," Cunningham said after the show. "And this doesn't happen in those places. If tonight doesn't prove what a great scene this is, nothing will."
Special guest vocalists and players included members of Five Way Friday, Joal Rush, Mark Bryan (Hootie and the Blowfish), Danielle Howle, Bobby Houck (the Blue Dogs), John Wesley Satterfield, Greg Payne (of the Piedmont Boys), and Shovels and Rope.
One big highlight came when Guilt-Ridden Troubadour frontman Reid Stone looked up from his Ray-Bans and confessed, "It's not easy to get along with someone when you travel with them every second. But Mac and I have remained best friends, and I've never had that. We've been through thick and thin the last few years, and I figure, hell, you can be the godfather of my kid." The collective sniffles all around me told me he may have worn those Ray-Bans to contain his tears.
As musicians gathered on stage to sing "Confederate Roses," one of Leaphart's most popular tunes, their heads turned and watched Leaphart sing it to the camera. The musicians were still, sharing this moment. John Wesley Satterfield and Stone led everyone through it, a la The Last Waltz, with three voices to a mic. And just like "I Shall Be Released" from that famous film, it wasn't as good as the acoustic version. But that's not the point. At the end of the day, songs are just vessels of brotherhood; moments to share and lose yourself in.
After the raucous celebration, Leaphart hugged his way up to the mic. "Wow. Let me catch my breath," he managed. "I should have surgery more often. True expression is limited by vocabulary. Or maybe I just have a limited vocabulary. I don't know what to say, I'm floored, this is amazing."
A communal exhale took hold as he led everyone through the Faces' "Ooh La La." Singing clearly taking its toll on Leaphart, but he looked determined to hit the final notes. "I know that was supposed to the be the last song," he said. "But I have to play this one because it's so appropriate. Here's one by the Rolling Stones." They went straight into a boisterous rendition of the Stones' "Let it Bleed." At the song's conclusion, Leaphart turned around, extended both arms up and then brought them to his chest and clasped them together, thanking all of his friends.