During our Spoleto-induced break, we delved into the rich history of eccentric and eclectic characters that have contributed to Charleston’s diverse social makeup. Legends Dawn Langley Simmons, Ms. Africa Brooks, and other unconventional characters had us intrigued. Mentions of highly lauded venues like the King Street Garden & Gun Club, Les Jardins, or private clubs South of Broad had us wondering where the eclectic crowds and sideshow type spectacles hang out now. Serendipitously, after Spoleto rolled out of town, a cast of freaks, artists, and rag-tag revelers came to the Lowcountry.
Air Sex, Redux, and Holy City Cirque
The most scandalous stories we researched always revolved around relations (of the copulation kind), so we thought it only natural that we may find our new crop of deviants at the Tin Roof last Wednesday during the Air Sex Championships. During the competition, participants were to simulate sex acts with an invisible partner — basically air guitar, but with humping. The crowd looked pretty tame that evening, so we were interested to see who amongst us was harboring an inner freak. Chris Tew, the MC for the night, mingled with patrons to convince them to sign up to go on stage. We weren’t swayed, but a few last-minute entries were emboldened with enough liquid courage to put their moves to the test. After some jokes about seersucker condoms and a warning that “All climaxes must be simulated,” it was time to turn up the raunch.
“Xantastic” was the first contestant and the only female to compete that evening. While we don’t remember her song, we were mesmerized by her gyrating posterior and her ability to keep her balance while executing some rather difficult positions. “Nathaniel Action Finger” was the first participant to de-pants on stage. This guy had a plan as he came to the competition with his own custom-mixed theme song and a clearly planned narrative, complete with shirt ripping. Despite the creativity of the next three contestants, (who knew you could grind to “Piano Man?”) Nathaniel would go home with the title. Between the beards and beer guts, the competition was less Magic Mike and more Chris Farley’s Chippendales skit on SNL. We hope they get a few more entries next year.
Artists have always been some of the most interesting nonconformists, so we assumed we would find some bold characters at Redux on Thursday night. The art center and studio opened its doors for the Rhythm on Canvas event to raise money for the American Lung Association. The current exhibit from Andrea Stanislav, Nothing is True, Everything is Permitted, lent a fantastical atmosphere to the event, and guests couldn’t help but be intrigued by the taxidermied coyotes, glitter paintings, and mirrored sculptures. The most remarkable creatures of the evening, however, were Estee Gabay and her band. We’d never heard Gabay before that night, but were immediately mesmerized by her stage presence and voice. Blue Planet Green Events did a remarkable job of bringing together artists and donors for a night of fun — and eco-friendly — fundraising.
We culminated our search for spectacular individuals on Sunday with a trip to Holy City Cirque’s Variety Show at Brick House Kitchen. The crowd was filled with bohemians, performers, and extraordinary personalities normally reserved for Burning Man events. Colorfully dressed dancers from WoSe’ West African Drum and Dance Ensemble mingled with Ancient Echoes belly dancers and fabulously painted acro yogis. Guests were invited to try out the various workshops ranging from flamenco dance to juggling. Children lined up to have their faces painted, while the adults tried their skills at aerial silks.
The Cirque community welcomed everyone with open arms and encouraged all to get involved with any sort of artistic expression. Those on the shy side would have been content to watch the recurring stage performances from the various local participants, while kids excited to be out past dark took over the photo booth, trying on various costumes and wigs while their parents snapped pictures. Looking out over the scene, we could imagine that any one of the attendees or organizers would be happy to run away and join the circus. As the sun went down, the fire hoopers and poi performers amazed the audience with their blazing feats. Sleepy-eyed kiddos went off to bed as Rachel Kate Gillon performed for the remaining crowd. Not only was the event an awesome experience, but it also raised over $500 for Girls Rock Charleston. And we left satisfied that we had finally found the unconventional creatives we were looking for.