The top five things to see at the North Charleston Arts Fest 

Best Bets

Be it American-folk-rockers like Zack Joseph & the Society (above) or the boldly colored paintings of Lisa Shimko (below), the North Charleston Arts Fest has something for everyone

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Be it American-folk-rockers like Zack Joseph & the Society (above) or the boldly colored paintings of Lisa Shimko (below), the North Charleston Arts Fest has something for everyone

While it would be an exaggeration to call Montague Avenue the new downtown, this stretch of North Charleston is far from sleepy. Park Circle is bustling every night — with good food, cold drinks, and plenty of live music and comedy acts. And the North Charleston Coliseum brings in loads of various nationally touring performers, from Amy Schumer to Cirque du Soleil to WWE wrestlers. OK, so WWE may not be considered a cultural contribution to the arts, but we still appreciate North Chuck's dedication to diversity in entertainment. Speaking of diversity, this year's North Charleston Arts Fest has plenty of it, from musical acts to belly dancers to a good old-fashioned comic book show. We picked our top five best bets for the nine-day long festival. Head online to see the full schedule.

Femmes Fatales Raqs: The Powerful Women of Dance
Sat. April 30, Noon
Free to attend
Charleston Area Convention Center Complex, 5001 Coliseum Drive

Every year the women of Palmetto Oasis Middle Eastern Dance Troupe present a belly dance performance at the North Charleston Arts Fest, and this year they're combining the styles of tango fusion, Bollywood, and Egyptian dance. The troupe's mission statement speaks volumes about the power of female dancers, saying that the women seek to promote "the ancient art of belly dance in a way that encourages self-esteem and wellness, inspiring them to bring forth their creativity and passion for life." Patty Snow (a.k.a. Nadiya), says that the performance will feature props like veils, swords, and wings for a flowing and graceful set. And belly shakin' isn't the only thing these dancers have on their minds — a quarter of the proceeds from their paid performances go to the Lowcountry Walk for the Cure.

Lisa Shimko: Air and Water
April 29-May 31, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
Meet the artist Sat. April 30, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. & Sun. May 1, 1-5 p.m.
North Charleston City Gallery, 5001 Coliseum Drive

Local artist Lisa Shimko is the winner of the 2016 North Charleston Arts Fest design competition, whose work focuses on the aquatic world, including her winning painting, Air and Water. Shimko's paintings zoom into and out of the water, highlighting horizons while also focusing on the details of ocean organisms. Shimko's paintings have a purpose — she's a big fan of sustainability and biodiversity, which may be why in the past few years, she's designed posters for both the Charleston Farmers Market and the Wine + Food festival. Shimko's work features graphics and bold colors and is currently on display at the Mitchell Hill Gallery. Head there to see a bevy of her animal-themed paintings, from fish to cats, to a pink octopus donning a halo. All octopuses go to heaven, after all.

Taking Flight Comic Book Show
Sat. April 30, 12-5 p.m.
$5 suggested donation
The Sparrow, 1078 East Montague Avenue

If it ain't broke, why not have 13 more? That seems to be the line of thinking for Park Circle's semi-annual Taking Flight Comic Book show. Now in its 14th iteration, Taking Flight features vintage comic books from the 1940s all the way to the present. And comic book fans can do more than just buy their fave picture stories, they also get to meet and greet with artists and sip on drink specials. This show's visiting artists include Tom Lyle, a comic book artist and professor of sequential art at SCAD. Lyle has also worked on the creative teams at both DC and Marvel Comics. The event's other artist-on-deck is John Hairston, Jr., a painter who blends satire with obscure pop-culture references and who's also a professor at UNC Charlotte College of Arts + Architecture. Donations from the event benefit Engaging Minds, a nonprofit that provides creative learning opportunities to help students achieve academically.

Courtyard Stage: Band Showcase
Sat. April 30, 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
Free to attend
Charleston Area Convention Center Complex, 5001 Coliseum Drive

Head outside of the convention center to groove to tunes during the arts fest's day- long premiere. The morning kicks off at 10 a.m. with Zack Joseph & the Society, an Americana/folk/rock band from Nashville. Joseph, a 25-year-old New York native, released his debut album, All in Time in 2014, and after a year-and-a-half tour decided to bring on an upright bass player and drummer. Here's to hoping Joseph plays the album's title track, because it's catchy as all get-out.

Crank things up at 11:15 a.m. with Mac Arnold & Plate Full O' Blues, an internationally touring blues band, featuring former Muddy Waters bass guitar player Mac Arnold. Cranford Hollow, a Hilton Head Island quartet, takes the stage at 12:30 p.m. with a blend of Southern rock, Appalachian fiddle music, and rock 'n' roll. John Cranford has the kind of gravelly voice and evocative lyrics that ring all too true on an album called Spanish Moss & Smoke. They make you want to put on boots ... and stomp the shit out of 'em.

At 1:45 p.m. Rendezvous & the Hookups — which is also the description of our first few years in college — will play blues and R&B. Charleston-based roots reggae band, ReggaeInfinity, rounds out the day at 3 p.m.

The Velocity of Autumn
Fri. April 29, 7:30 p.m.
$10
Old Village Community Center, 4820 Jenkins Avenue

The Velocity of Autumn, written by Eric Coble, is the story of 80-year-old Alexandra, a woman who chooses to barricade herself in her New York City apartment. Oh, and she's done so with a collection of explosives to blow the city to bits. Threshold Repertory Theatre is putting on a staged reading of this play, which shouldn't be difficult, since the performance only calls for two actors. The New York Times calls the play, "Bracing, honest, and often deliciously funny ... Anyone who's even reached the crest of middle age will have an innate feeling for this admirably drawn woman."


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