Monday, June 11, 2018

Spoleto SCENE makes the most of an underwhelming finale at The Joe

Missing Middleton

Posted by Caroline Enten on Mon, Jun 11, 2018 at 2:22 PM

Smiling through the sorta empty finale at The Joe. - TAYLOR DRAKE
  • Taylor Drake
  • Smiling through the sorta empty finale at The Joe.
Well, I have good news and bad news.

Starting on a positive note, let it be known that SCENE throws down, even in the direst of times. Wet Hot American Summer met Sandlot as members gathered at The Joe last night for the highly anticipated Spoleto finale. Picture pink flamingo-headed innertubes, beach balls, and baby pools full of cheap drinks, overlooking the diamond rounding first base. Off in the outfield, the mainstage was too far to see clearly from the stands, but SCENEsters could grab a thoughtfully provided blanket, and make the short trek onto the field if so desired to get closer to the action.

I use the word "action" here lightly, because folks, the finale saw about as much excitement as my teenage years spent at an all girls boarding school on a horse farm in Baltimore County; in short: not much happened.

A few hundred people spread out leisurely between the stands and field, and a handful of the Joe's regular vendors opened up shop to serve their normal fare including dogs, fries, barbecue sandwiches, pizza, and ice cream. The gucci hotdog stand near the water wasn't even open. So much for Homewreckers.

Frankly, the whole thing left most of the festival-goers with whom I chatted feeling pretty disheartened, and having attended the last five finales myself, I felt it too. Even the fireworks couldn't seem to get it up — literally. They lasted all of two minutes, which when I think back to last year's brilliant and emotional display (seemingly choreographed to the Revivalists' cover of "Hey Jude" — I didn't cry, you cried!) makes it all the more depressing in comparison.

Thankfully SCENE provided a nice little refuge from the otherwise lackluster conclusion to the 2018 season. As usual, plenty of alcohol, including a tasty red wine sangria from MIX bartending service, helped keep spirits high (you're welcome), and Home Team BBQ proffered an eclectic spread including slices of skillet-hot pork belly, succotash, salad, and a couple of passed hors d'oeuvres. I think the general consensus in re: food aired on the side of "stick to what you know," but with one traditional barbecue already under our belts, I see the logic behind an attempt to try something different and upscale.

In conclusion, to paraphrase Scar from the Lion King as he preaches to his hyena henchmen, "Stick with SCENE, and you'll never go hungry again!"

At least not until you turn 40.

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Friday, June 8, 2018

The penultimate Spoleto SCENE party at Tu had 'em dancing the night away

Hipsters and BMWs, unite

Posted by Caroline Enten on Fri, Jun 8, 2018 at 3:57 PM

AMY SULLIVAN PHOTOGRAPHY
  • Amy Sullivan Photography

Mercedes Benz. BMW. Infiniti. Lexus. Tommy Baker’s showroom on Highway 17, or a succession of luxury vehicles parked tandem style on Woolfe Street? Both, it turns out; at least for one night.


This parade of pomp, an unusual site for the East Side, could only ever mean one thing: a SCENE takeover at restaurant Tu, which is exactly where the penultimate party took place last night. Members came together to celebrate Spoleto’s presentation of "post-modern ballet" New Bodies. Touted as the 'cool, late-night' installation of SCENE events, this party usually culls together the rowdier patrons from the group. Just ask Carter Joyce, who admitted he'd already warned his boss to expect a late arrival the following morning.


SCENE took a risk with the locale for this particular fête. For the past two years, the same version of this party was held at Restoration on King, sprawled out over two connected suites, with everyone corralled snugly together til the wee hours.


But just like Zebo's, Cumberland's, and Gentry Bar (last one there’s a stretch), all good things on that particular section of King have given way to the siren call of hipper, more distant destinations. As AC's and O'Malley's once obliterated King Street, so has Charleston’s CommoTuMustardoré District (we're still workshopping the name here, suggestions welcome) enticed bar-hoppers away from the hullabaloo of the crowds towards a sparser side of town.


To keep SCENEsters at peak contentment, the planning committee must pay attention to these trends and fresh, innovative ideas year after year. Which brings us to Tu, the brainchild of Josh Walker and Joey Ryan where delicious food meets haunted house, and where we boogied down beneath the soft glow of the Exxon sign next door.


Handheld chicken sammies, touted as a Japanese version of Chick-fil-A, were plentiful and 100 percent necessary to fuel the dance party. What began with the funky, eclectic beats of Joel Tarpin aka deejay “Mr. Lauper,” supposedly gave way to an after dance party at the Commodore, but I didn’t make it long enough to confirm that particular rumor. The evening heat and salty fare magnified thirst, and drink lines remained thick throughout the evening. In the airy restaurant courtyard, fan favorites Virgil Kaine and Cathead Vodka crafted ginger-heavy cocktails, but the real standout had to be the Blackberry Plum Saison, both served and brewed by Cooper River Brewing Company’s own Katie Powers.


With only the Finale remaining, the big question on everyone’s mind is, “When are these goddamn party recaps going to stop?”


That and, “Will the Joe provide a suitable replacement for the most highly attended Spoleto event of the festival?” Word on the street is that attendees will be allowed on the field, rather than restricted to the stands, which is a huge win for SCENEsters, old fogies, and normals alike.


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Thursday, June 7, 2018

Tuesday's Spoleto SCENE happy hour was more Instagrammable than your last vacation

Do it for the 'gram

Posted by Caroline Enten on Thu, Jun 7, 2018 at 1:27 PM

TAYLOR DRAKE
  • Taylor Drake
Tuesday's SCENE happy hour at Basic Kitchen was pure torture. Let me explain.

Before arriving, I committed to abstaining from all food and alcohol, having promised myself an evening run. Apparently, the older you get, the more heat intolerant you become. Even as recently as two years ago, I thought little of spending a midday hour crushing the bleachers at Burke’s practice field next to the Joe, perversely cherishing the oppressive summer heat. Today, I get annoyed when King Street storefronts skip an awning, forcing me to spend .5 seconds in the direct sun. This newfound, vampiric aversion to the elements provides a great excuse not to exercise, but doesn’t hold up come dusk, which is about the time happy hour winds down.
Location Details Basic Kitchen
Basic Kitchen
82 Wentworth St.
Downtown
Charleston, SC
(843) 789-4568
L, D, (Mon.-Sat.) Sun. brunch
Cafés

This brings me to Tuesday's event. I counted no less than five servers toting countless plates piled high with teetering towers of tempura battered cauliflower “wings,” and trays of nachos dripping with the best looking vegan cheese you’ve ever seen. I’m sure the attractiveness of food amplifies relative to (self imposed) deprivation of it, but you can bet your bottom dollar I’ll be having a redemption meal at Basic Kitchen in the very near future.

TAYLOR DRAKE
  • Taylor Drake
Ole standby Cathead Distillery satisfied the alcohol quotient with Silver Fox cocktails (vodka, Earl Grey simple syrup, lemon), and Basic provided a few other choice beverage options including Negronis, beet margaritas, beers, and pinot noir*.

Dressed in blue and white, Basic’s back patio invited guests to plop onto to picnic benches, crowd beneath striped umbrellas, and wind down the workday in preparation to attend a performance of The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk at the Dock Street Theatre.

Cat Taylor, SCENE co-chairperson, marveled that everyone seemed to get the memo to dress according to venue, and she was right; together we presented a majorly Instagrammable still — a sea of teal, azure, cornflower and cobalt. St. Tropez’s “Le Club 55” would seem amateur compared to our unintentionally coordinated clique. The whole setup is a far cry from Andolini’s storage-cum-outdoor seating area of yesteryear, amirite?

Oh — and to answer the question burning on everyone’s mind: yes, I did manage a loping tour of Hampton Park at sunset. And while fitter and smugger for having done so, I’m quite sure it wasn’t worth the sacrifice.

*Actually, they served rosé. Because duh. It’s summertime in Charleston. This was a test to see if you were paying attention.

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Thursday, May 31, 2018

Spoleto SCENE boogies down with barbecue, Jenga, and emerging artists

The manse on Montagu

Posted by Caroline Enten on Thu, May 31, 2018 at 12:36 PM

TAYLOR DRAKE
  • Taylor Drake
Charleston City Councilmember Mike Seekings and wife Michele Seekings of SPIRE Art Services opened their Montagu Street manse to SCENE partiers last night, hosting a fete destined for the Spoleto history books.

According to one veteran SCENEster, who wished to remain anonymous, a previous year’s residential party ended with a splash after members and performers alike decided to jump into the host’s pool — not exactly the type of behavior expected when a S.N.O.B’er. opens up their home to you, so yesterday evening presented a shot at redemption for SCENE Class of 2018.

Don’t worry, Seekingses; it appears the only things which took a dive last night were the tumbling towers of giant Jenga blocks, and Rodney Scott’s hands as they dipped over and over again into a whole hog of signature ‘que at the dinner buffet.

Ain't no party without barbecue. Rodney Scott knows barbecue. - TAYLOR DRAKE
  • Taylor Drake
  • Ain't no party without barbecue. Rodney Scott knows barbecue.
The vibe teetered on country chic, but felt more like a throwback garden party — the kind that our parents or grandparents may have attended as young Charlestonians. When people from older generations allude to their social lives ‘back in the day,’ it always seems to me like there was one place where everyone who was anyone would just know to go on any given night. That would be the place where lovers first met, friendships flourished, and tragedies unfolded; minor events and incidents bonding a group of individuals together over the course of a summer, Great Gatsby style. Perhaps clubs and membership-based organizations such as SCENE will revive these lost traditions of yesteryear. Can a girl get a good ole fashioned sock hop up in here, please?

One person bent on helping the cause is Matt Mill, of Art Mag, INTRO pop-up art exhibition, and SCENE royalty, who fosters community with some damn good ideas. For example, last night Mill hand selected local artwork to display around the outside of the party. A massive piece by Paul Cristina, of two women locked in a passionate embrace, hung behind the Cathead Vodka speciality cocktail bar on the upstairs porch. Chambers Austelle’s contemporary figurative work provided a cool and colorful pop of interest against the formal backdrop of the Seekings ca. 1849 homestead. Introducing budding visual artists to emerging patrons at an event held during one of the most celebrated festivals of art in the country?! Color me impressed.

The troupe from Gravity & Other Myths appeared a little later in the evening following their final performance of Backbone, and were delighted to mingle with guests, fortified by James Beard award-winning southern grub, and soak up praise for their triumphs on stage at a party in their honor.

One performer, Lewis Rankin, raved about a $100 tomahawk steak he’d enjoyed the previous night at Halls, while fellow performers Lewis West and Mieke Lizotte waxed poetic over Jestine’s Kitchen. Welcome to Charleston, ya cunts! (I’m told that the c-word is actually a term of endearment in Australia, yes? No? Back me up here, someone).

SCENE is keeping the magic alive this season, and I expect more fun is on the way next week at an after party hosted by Tu. Bring on the mischief.

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Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Drink this now: Two Spoleto-inspired cocktails that will see you through any opera

Art in a glass

Posted by Mary Scott Hardaway on Wed, May 30, 2018 at 3:33 PM

The egg white foam on the Two Worlds In Thyme is a sight to behold. - PROVIDED
  • Provided
  • The egg white foam on the Two Worlds In Thyme is a sight to behold.
Art can inspire myriad reactions — awe, joy, utter confusion. As CP theater critic Maura Hogan writes in this week's Spoleto Festival USA overview, art can also make one question the very framework of our every day: What is time, really, and how should we spend it?

"In the first days of Spoleto Festival USA 2018, artists everywhere are minding the time," writes Hogan. "They rue how it slips through their fingers. They chase it dancing from past to present and back to the past. They pine for earlier eras, adding poignant, plaintive context to the here and the now. And they reanimate artists whose time on earth may have ended, but their relevance and resonance endure."

During the 17-day international arts fest, the theater/opera/dance/concert-goer may be inspired to throw back a libation or two, pre-show, time permitting. If you happen to be taking in operas Tree of Codes and/or Pia de' Tolomei, be sure to taste test their accompanying cocktails.
PROVIDED
  • Provided
Zero Restaurant + Bar
Two Worlds in Thyme
Made with thyme-infused Aperol, rum, vermouth, gin, lemon, egg white, and citrus-thyme syrup, this refreshing sip is inspired by Liza Lim's contemporary opera Tree of Codes. The production produced more questions than answers for this reviewer, but as Hogan allows, "You may find, like I did, that it will permeate your psyche in strange, new ways." And if anything will prepare your mind for a trippy trip into the unknown, a tart/herbal rum beverage served up at the oh-so-charming Zero Restaurant + Bar should do the trick. 

Remaining showtimes are Fri. June 1, Mon. June 4, and Thurs. June 7 all at 7:30 p.m.

MARY SCOTT HARDAWAY
  • Mary Scott Hardaway
Le Farfalle
A Fiery End
Made with vodka, chile liqueur, citrus juice, and Campari and served with a hunk of ice sprinkled with cayenne, Le Farfalle's A Fiery End cocktail is inspired by Italian opera Pia de' Tolomei. Reviewer Heath Ellison says that "Finding problems with Cigni’s adaptation of Pia de' Tolome is kind of like looking for flaws at a five-star restaurant, just because you want to tell your hipster friends that it wasn’t that good." Same goes for the drink. With just the right kick of heat, the concoction is made to mimic Dante's Purgatorio; it's layered so that the sipper feels as if they're traveling (in a good way) to a fiery end.

Remaining showtimes are Sun. June 3, Wed. June 6, and Fri. June 8.

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