Monday, June 12, 2017

Spoleto 2017 ends with a bang

Revival time

Posted by Caroline Enten on Mon, Jun 12, 2017 at 10:45 AM

CAROLINE ENTEN
  • Caroline Enten
If there’s one thing the SCENE committee knows how to do really well, it’s craft a VIP experience for their constituents. Every event over the past few weeks was carefully planned, and then executed to a seemingly effortless degree. It’s to the point where even the organizers themselves lack any physical signs that they’ve been busting ass for hours to prepare a space for the arrival of party-goers. Hair, makeup, outfits — not only all in place, but also incomprehensibly traceless of the labor necessary to take a venue from sparse to spectacular.

As someone who day-of coordinates weddings, you have my word: pulling that off is a physics-defying feat of nature (one I, personally, have never accomplished. “Welcome to the wedding! Don't mind the sweat dripping off my head onto your gift wrap!”), and proves the high level of dedication among staff to curate a perfect party.

Scenesters try out the Lumos photo booth. - CAROLINE ENTEN
  • Caroline Enten
  • Scenesters try out the Lumos photo booth.
Never are the stakes higher than at the Spoleto Finale, and yesterday was no exception. SCENE knocked it out of the park, err plantation, with a party to rival even the inaugural kick-off at Memminger back in April. I imagine the Finale is the best chance for attracting future scenesters. After all, sponsored parties are private affairs, so the public never really gets to see firsthand what’s on the table if interested in purchasing membership. And despite access to what some have called Pulitzer Prize-worthy recaps in the newspaper, which offer a glimpse behind the curtain, there’s nothing quite like seeing it with your own eyes to understand the level of cool we’re dealing with here.

Firstly, SCENE fences off their own little plot of paradise, and much like the land runs of our country’s pioneers, those with a little status get a headstart. Secured thus is one of the best spots available: a giant oak-shaded grassy knoll, which hugs the entrance to the lovely Middleton Place gardens, and lies within decent proximity to the Port-a-Potties (though not close enough to risk offense). Even though yesterday wasn’t a total scorcher, it still felt like air conditioning beneath the canopy of trees compared to the open expanse of field beyond our sanctuary.

CAROLINE ENTEN
  • Caroline Enten
Next, no need to lug coolers or chairs along with you when you’re in The Club. How about Lewis BBQ catering? Brisket (lean or marbled), pulled pork, slaw, pickles — the works. Thirsty? Name your poison. Charlestowne Fermentory tapped kegs of their Sungazer IPA (try it! Not bitter in the least!) and Ralf; Underwood, an Oregon-based winery served CANS of rosé along with pinot noirs and gris (half a bottle of wine per can, imbiber beware); and old standby Cathead Vodka held court with their inventive “V for Verdita” cocktail. Teddy Nixon of Bar Mash mixed the Cathead with chile liquor, lime, cucumber, pineapple, and mint. It tasted identical to the candy the Mexican students at my boarding school used to receive in their care packages from home. Sweet eighth grade nostalgia.

In addition to refreshments, Christina Lor of interactive photobooth “Lumos” — which uses a little halo of the world’s most flattering light to frame photos — indulged a steady stream of selfie-takers, while somewhere off to the side, a casual game of bocce ball helped pass the time until nightfall. Get the picture?

CAROLINE ENTEN
  • Caroline Enten
Any passerby could glimpse upon our gathering, but only those with names on the clip-boarded lists could enter. I did manage to ferret out some brisket to our friends from Compagnie XY (remember them?), but there’s really no reason to leave the comfy confines of the SCENE compound until the headliner takes the stage.

The evening ended in the usual way: you know, brilliant fireworks accompanied by The Revivalists’ cover of “Hey Jude,” and ending, sweet and strangely enough, to George Michael’s “Faith.” I think it’s fair to say that Mr. Michaels would appreciate that in the dark, scenesters are indistinguishable from mere mortals, and that artificial explosions of light summon the inner child in all of us.


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Friday, June 9, 2017

Spoleto SCENE's penultimate party has scenesters gearing up for Sunday's finale

Insider info

Posted by Caroline Enten on Fri, Jun 9, 2017 at 10:26 AM

Hamida Ravenel, Charlie Patrick, Daniel Kfoury - CAROLINE ENTEN
  • Caroline Enten
  • Hamida Ravenel, Charlie Patrick, Daniel Kfoury
Not much news to report on last night’s SCENE sponsored happy hour from the Blind Tiger. Though the sun reached her full glory in the late afternoon, bathing the back courtyard with warm light, attendance hovered near the low end of the spectrum. A smattering of loyal regulars arrived eventually, with loosened ties and discarded sports coats, who treated the event as a means for unwinding after a long day at the office rather than a prelude to the evening’s featured show, Waiting for Godot.

CAROLINE ENTEN
  • Caroline Enten
As someone who wasn’t born here but who has called Charleston home for roughly 14 years, I marvel at how many true locals, around my age, have either boomeranged (left Charleston for a period of time for school or work and then returned) or never left at all. What remains are groups of people who have a shared history spanning a few decades; whether or not they were in the same high school clique, played for rival sports teams, or ended up at different colleges doesn’t matter. Attending any SCENE shindig often feels like stepping into a reunion party for a school I never attended. And while it isn't unpleasant, it can be a little intimidating. Luckily, everyone I've met is friendly, good-humored, and obliging of my request to take their photo, even when it's for the 10th time in two weeks.

So if you’re new to town and looking for a way to integrate yourself into this exclusive club, SCENE provides a great angle. While you may not pick up the meaning of every inside joke, or remember that one time in 1990-something when some kids from BE and Porter Gaud vandalized each other’s school property before the BIG GAME, the networking you accomplish during Spoleto season may fetch you an invite to someone’s family’s 112th Annual Oyster Roast next winter. And that’s pretty neat.

Kyle Nichols and Tyler London - CAROLINE ENTEN
  • Caroline Enten
  • Kyle Nichols and Tyler London
But back to the party. As usual, snacks were provided and included dry-rubbed wings alongside pickled shrimp. We laughed, we drank, we praised the sun and mostly talked about how excited we are for Sunday’s finale at Middleton Place.

WORD TO THE WISE: Last year’s finale was held on what may have been the hottest day of the year. I cursed my choice of dress: a long maxi with some sort of unbreathing, wretched lining; what was I thinking!? Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats? More like Nathaniel Rateliff and the Heat Strokes.

Though the forecast for Sunday looks tolerable, and scenesters receive access to one of the better (read: shady) patches of earth out at the plantation, I highly recommend to everyone planning on attending to wear your lightest, most Charleston-in-the-summertime outfits you can muster. 100 percent cotton or linen. And bring sunscreen; you’ll thank me later.

See you there!

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Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Rain and floods couldn't stop Spoleto scenesters from schmoozing with French performers and downing Veuve Clicquot

Dial French for fun

Posted by Caroline Enten on Wed, Jun 7, 2017 at 10:52 AM

Guests enjoyed local brews and bites at last night's SCENE party. - CAROLINE ENTEN
  • Caroline Enten
  • Guests enjoyed local brews and bites at last night's SCENE party.
There’s nothing quite like a shared hardship to really bond a group of people together. A sense of camaraderie blossoms when we feel like we’re all in it together, battling as one force has caused us to sharpen our survival skills, dig in our heels and declare, “Not tonight, Universe!”

Last night, that force arrived grâce à Mother Nature in the form of a torrential, late-spring, good ole fashioned Charleston downpour. The kind that barricades rows of streets at a time, strands King Street shoppers inside of whatever store they happen to be passing by, and fills normally busy traffic intersections with, what else — kayakers!

All the muck and mess rendered a magical effect on last night’s SCENE party at the Restoration Hotel. Pretenses were checked at the door along with umbrellas, and we all determined to have a grand time, frizzy-haired and wrinkly-shirted though we were.

It didn’t hurt that before even stepping foot onto the elevator, we were handed a speciality cocktail of fernet, violet extract, and lime topped off by a freehand pour of Dixie vodka, which packed a huge punch. Most managed a few sips, but ultimately trash bins overflowed with half-drunk cups of this decidedly sulfuric-smelling beverage.
Bites on bites. - CAROLINE ENTEN
  • Caroline Enten
  • Bites on bites.

Besides, there were far more enticing choices at either of the two bars, spread out between dueling hotel suites. Found behind Door No. 1: A sweeping, two-story room, brightly lit and bustling with guests. The Lowhills, a Johns Island-based “Americana/roots Family Band,” showered their melodies down upon us from the second floor balcony, while bartenders from The Watch poured sparkling Veuve Clicquot Rosé, Smoke Tree wine, and select Revelry beers. An impressive spread of handheld munchables included beef sliders, tuna tartar, hushpuppies, charcuterie, and more. This is where the heft of the party occurred.

But lest we forget Door No. 2: A modest room, slightly quieter and moodily lit, cleared out save for a couch, round table adorned by trays of bite-sized dessert tarts, and DJ Party Dad spinning beats from a corner. This room beckoned to those seeking a cozy spot to have a conversation or escape the throngs. It’s also where I found David Badia, Andrés Somoza, and Evertjan Mercier, all of Compagnie XY and in whose honor, along with the rest of the troupe, the party was held.

The common language erred on the side of French (the company is based out of Lille, France) though I learned the members hailed from all over, including Spain, Belgium, Canada, Hungary, Sweden, and beyond. Fortunately, I can speak French, juste un peu, and among the dozen or so performers in attendance, everyone spoke at least a little English and at most, totally fluently.

My takeaways from chatting with as many of our guests of honor as possible: Charleston is way better than Houston, their first stop on this tour (duh); Women in this city are beautiful (nicely done, ladies — sorry dudes, no love for you); Most feel that newly-elected French President Emmanuel Macron isn’t great but is “less bad” than Le Pen; and you should never leave your phone with a bunch of eccentric strangers because they will take 100+ photos of feet, cleavage, and of each other making out.

Members of Compagnie XY chatted with guests. - CAROLINE ENTEN
  • Caroline Enten
  • Members of Compagnie XY chatted with guests.

Each and every person was approachable, friendly, and very happy to be mingling with cool, young locals. They openly expressed a desire to chat with more people and make new acquaintances, though understood it can be a bit intimidating for plebs like us, even hip scenesters, to cross that boundary between a member of the audience approaching a star, to a 30-something from Charleston engaging in conversation with a 30-something from Budapest.

My advice? Drink more Veuve (it’s free!) and remember: the Spoleto performers are just like us, only in this case much stronger and more bendy.

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Saturday, June 3, 2017

Chatting with Jenni Lyn Gardner, salsa-ing to Cuban Garage Band, and having a damn good time at Spoleto SCENE's after-party

Get up, get down

Posted by Caroline Enten on Sat, Jun 3, 2017 at 11:10 AM

CAROLINE ENTEN
  • Caroline Enten
I know what you’re thinking: Must be nice to be a SCENE reporter. You think it’s all bopping around town checking out cool venues, rubbing elbows with Chucktown’s young movers and shakers, eating and drinking somewhere new each night. Well, you aren’t wrong. It’s really nice. Heck I’d even say it’s awesome.

There is one small misconception about the gig, however, which is that as a member of the press (I use this term loosely when describing myself) I get to attend all the performances that we're celebrating at each of these little get-togethers. Sadly, my credentials only get me as far as the parties, and when it comes to Spoleto, I’m just like the 99 percent — counting my dollars and painfully using process of elimination to pick out which opera or play or dance performance and so on I just can’t bear to miss.

Jane Stoney and Aaron Sumpter - CAROLINE ENTEN
  • Caroline Enten
  • Jane Stoney and Aaron Sumpter
So when a friend scored two free tickets to see Della Mae at the cistern last night and invited me along, to say I was ecstatic is an understatement. After all, I’d be covering the after party for this very show mere minutes after it ended! And then not only could I share the experience with the scenesters and have a point of reference for their observations, but now I can also recount to you the adorable hilarity that is the fine women of Della Mae.

Guess what? The five musicians on stage last night are adorable and hilarious, and perhaps more noteworthy, talented out the wazoo. It’s not my job to talk about the shows and I’m under qualified to do so anyhow, but just know that this Grammy-nominated Bluegrass troupe, who hail from all over the country and between them have called South Carolina, Tennessee, Maine and Massachusetts “home” (to name a few), brought the house down. Literally the power went out in the last few moments of the concert, and the audience sat in darkness while Kimber Ludiker’s fiddle solo reverberated between the ancient oaks of the yard. So cool, y'all.

Kate Archibald and Eliza Collins - CAROLINE ENTEN
  • Caroline Enten
  • Kate Archibald and Eliza Collins
Moments later, at marketing agency Blue Ion’s swanky headquarters off King Street, the first official SCENE after-party kicked into high gear. Arielle Stratton of Pure Fluff greeted attendees upon entrance, spinning out her unique flavor creations like vanilla-lavender, while dozens of D’Alessandro’s pizza boxes formed a sauce and cheese-lined tunnel towards the bar. Mix Charleston stepped up to the plate with several enticing concoctions like the Peach Huddle: Peach Bourbon from Whiskey Girl mixed with tart, raspberry lemonade. Veteran scenesters recognized a bottle of AIX Rosé from last year’s finale, roughly the size of a healthy toddler, and of which there may or may not be a photo of your’s truly planting a kiss upon somewhere in the CP archives.

Chef Sarah Adams, Charleston it-girl and former Bad Bitch, got the dance party started, and we all attempted to salsa while the Cuban Garage Band jammed out on stage. It was easily the most heavily attended SCENE event to date, verifiable by the amount of sweat collecting at my collar as I pushed my way through the throngs of hot bodies to snap photos and chat with guests.

More Spoleto scenesters than usual hit the party last night. - CAROLINE ENTEN
  • Caroline Enten
  • More Spoleto scenesters than usual hit the party last night.
Finally Della Mae themselves made an appearance. I caught Jenni Lyn Gardner (vocals and mandolin) perched on the edge of the stage, sipping a club soda and reminiscing about her days in Charleston. Hailing from Conway, S.C. Jenni Lyn spent a few years in the Holy City, picking her mandolin in such revered performance spots as Southend Brewery, O’Malley’s, and the Blind Tiger. Now she calls Nashville home, and confirmed the following about living there: UAL is one of the best places to shop (UAL if you’re reading this, please open a store in Charleston); Prince’s has the best hot chicken; and celebrity sightings of Nicole Kidman, wet-haired and make-up free, happen in the humblest of all places: Whole Foods.

Oh, and Gardner also confirmed that the power outage was truly unplanned, but the band enjoyed the experience so much, it just may become a standard operating procedure for future shows. You saw it first here, people.

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Thursday, June 1, 2017

Drink this now, a Spoleto cocktail in a quiet space

Zero to one hundred

Posted by Mary Scott Hardaway on Thu, Jun 1, 2017 at 12:39 PM

SPOLETO FESTIVAL USA
  • Spoleto Festival USA
Charleston, on the cusp of summer, can feel flooded: flooded with tourists (the standard brand and those of the Spoleto variety), flooded with foodie and cultural events, flooded, really, whenever it rains. It's nice sometimes to slip away, even for 30 minutes, to regather yourself before diving back into the fray.

Might I recommend a stop at Zero George. The boutique hotel's diminutive bar is both cozy and fresh, tucked away in a gorgeously restored 19th century building. It's not an after-work happy hour to frequent (I prefer my HH prices to be dirt cheap and I'm not too picky about the booze, either), but Zero George bar is great for an every once in a while evening. When better to spend some dough than during Spoleto season?

The Spoleto-themed cocktail the bar is serving up is not some derivative bubbly "festive — for the festival!" concoction. It's thought out, perfectly executed, aesthetically stunning, and tasty. And boozy, very boozy. The Black Rabbit, created by beverage director and restaurant manager Kendall Moore, is made with Beefeater Gin, Cointreau, egg whites, lemon, and activated charcoal. If you're wondering what the hell activated charcoal is, research suggests it is safe to ingest on occasion, and is one of many new health food trends.

Moore says he wanted the cocktail to look dark and daring, but to taste light and fresh. And it does. He describes it as something that would remind you of your childhood, like an Orange Julius on a hot day. Best damn Julius I've ever had.

If you have a Spoleto ticket for a Gaillard performance that is happening the same day, the drink costs $10 (otherwise it's $14).

Editor's note: We've included links to some research above regarding activated charcoal and have asked Moore for more info on his cocktail creation. Of course, always consume alcohol at your own discretion. We here at City Paper are not medically trained and can speak to taste and personal experience only.

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