The Scene 

Improv-a-thon, Kulture Klash, Bright Eyes, Moscow Circus

"You have just 18 minutes left to get your picture taken with SpongeBob and Dora" —a heavily accented Russian emcee at the Moscow State Circus.

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(Mostly) All Night Long
Lionel Richie ain't funny, but these guys are

The folks at Theatre 99 put on a marathon night of comedy Saturday — they call it Improv-A-Thon, funny that — with non-stop shows from 6-11 p.m. Though I didn't make it for the entire night, I showed up before 8 p.m. and stayed until the end — and surprisingly, I didn't even get antsy. Perhaps the comfy chairs, cheap beer, and Mellow Mushroom pizza had something to do with it. More likely, it was the constant laughs provided by the comedians, who didn't let up as the hours sped by — not even the ones who played multiple shows. It was a great chance to get a feel for all of the offerings at Theatre 99, with performances from acts like Big Dicktionary, Doppelganger (a mix of VH1's Storytellers and Tenacious D), The Have Nots! (company founders and crowd favorites), and Improv Riot!, which brought together about 15 of the company's players. It's always impressive to watch people who are so naturally funny they can pull a hilarious performance right out of their ass. It's even more impressive that I can't think of one awkwardly un-funny moment from the whole night. —Erica Jackson

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Town and Country
Broken hearts and a hip-hop art exhibition on a Saturday night

Driving out to the Navy Yard might not sound like a good time for some. But not last Saturday night. And not for Kulture Klash. It was a night for the beautiful people.

Big white banners showed drivers the way to the event at 10 Storehouse Row, but that didn't keep some from getting lost on the dark roads of North Charleston in an attempt to find the bash. For those that made it, they found the parking lots surrounding the industrial warehouse packed with cars and a line of sharply outfitted, frozen Charlestonians anxiously waiting to get in the party for a night of wine, Red Bull, gourmet food, and art.

The industrial warehouse proved the perfect setting for an urban groove event. Outside there were breakdancers, hula hoopers, and a head-bopping crowd watching a turntable battle between DJ Kurfu and Krugrr. Cheering accompanied the endless tag-team of breakdancers and booming beats, while interactive art, photography, and a graffiti battle raged on to the side.

B'zar's Gustavo Serrano proved an awesome host as he calmly moved the crowd from one rousing installation to the next. Inside vendors hawked their goods, while the black-clad dance trio, ARC, stunned the audience inside, bending their bodies into impossible shapes. The events raged on, while everyone in their colored jeans and super-hip garb mingled and gossiped. Kulture Klash did not disappoint.

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While Kulture Klash seemed like a walking fashion installation at B'zar itself, over at the Pour House they were serving up one big shot of honky-tonk in celebration of the second annual Holy City Cold Heart Revival. The corduroy-and-velvet-blazer-wearing crowd swayed to the soft sounds of beautiful voices, tambourines, banjos, and an injection of ukuleles. And the heavily draped stage was a sight to be seen. Soft white lights cascaded down the walls like a waterfall, while metallic stars twinkled up above. Red and white balloons floated around stage, moving to the beat of static electricity and the musical saw. Drink of the night: whiskey and PBR.

Members from Lindsay Holler & The Dirty Kids, Kentucky Shoes, and the V-Tones, made Charleston feel honored to be blessed with such homespun talent, while Runaway Dorothy, Caitlin Cary and Lynn Blakely, and The Silos wove in more upbeat tempos. LASSO, the loose, renegade a capella gospel choir, stunned the audience as they bridged one set to the next; they even plucked other local musicians right from the crowd.

As the grateful crowd hummed along and yeehaws were wailed, everything and everybody was blanketed by the sound of sweet broken-hearted voices. —Svetlana Minx

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Their Eyes Were Watching Oberst
Emo giants Bright Eyes plays before subdued crowd

Thursday night's Bright Eyes show at The Plex attracted a sizeable crowd of skinny-jeaned, chain-smokin' emo kids. The Omaha-based band was preceded by an enthusiastic set by the Felice Brothers followed by a sleep-inducing performance from Nik Freitas that had me fantasizing about that scene in Animal House where John Belushi smashes a guitar. (Granted, it got better when he was joined by a band, but it was too late.)

Though there was some excitement when Bright Eyes took the stage, the crowd was pretty subdued throughout the performance, with gentle head-bobbing the main indication of their enjoyment. The stern-faced Conor Oberst interjected a few comments here and there, including a rundown of the band's previous two visits to Charleston (the first resulted in a rudely abrupt cancellation of their show, the second in a gunpoint robbery). The crowd cheered when he shared his sentiments on the Iraq War, though arguably their most enthusiastic moment came when he randomly mentioned the name of another local venue (Whooo! I've been there!).

Overall, Bright Eyes played a great show featuring some new and a lot of old stuff, but the crowd was just a little too ... emo. Loners leaned against the wall suspiciously eyeing others, couples stood intensely staring into each other's eyes, and one kid even huddled in the corner with his head in his hands. We know these lyrics can be moving, but maybe you should just stay home and listen to your iPod. —Erica Jackson

Circus Borat
Moscow performers make big top surprise for glorious city of Charleston

When the Great Moscow State Circus came to the Gaillard Auditorium on Friday they had it all ... and then some. Clowns and acrobats. Check. Sno-cones and popcorn. Got it. SpongeBob and Dora the Explorer. Don't tell the execs at Nick.

But while the Moscow Circus was not without skilled performers — a contortionist who balanced upside down on a pedestal while juggling comes to mind — the most entertaining features of the show were the near-constant sales pitches. Moments before the greatest show on Red Square began, the ringmaster announced that children have "one minute and 45 seconds to purchase our very special circus coloring book." And like that, hordes of frantic 4-year-olds went running with dollar bills in hand toward the scantily clad women hawking the books. By the end, many parents had shelled out gobs of cash so their kids could have their faces painted, eat cotton candy, hold aloft "very special circus balloons," and stand side by side with SpongeBob and Dora, or at least their cardboard and foam likenesses captured by a Polaroid for $10 a pop.

Not that it was all so money-minded — the acrobats thrilled, the clowns made us laugh, and an archer dressed in wildly colored Native American regalia shooting an apple off his squaw's head was downright scary. But the most honed talent of this circus troupe was its ability to milk the pocketbook of nearly all of the parents in attendance. —Stratton Lawrence

The Coast Is Beer
Local micro brew unveils new ales at Beer Works

Newly-opened Charleston micro Coast Brewing Company (located in North Charleston in a renovated warehouse space in Noisette on the site of the Navy Base) celebrated the release of three fine new ales on Thurs. Nov. 8 with a rousing happy hour tasting at Charleston Beer Works. Brewers/proprietors David Merritt and Jaime Tenny were on hand at the King Street tavern to sample and discuss their craft-brewed beers — a light and malty 32/50 Kölsch; a highly-hopped, full-bodied, Hop Art I.P.A.; and an intensely malty Chocolate Rye Brown ale.
Kölschbier (usually ordered simply as “Kölsch” and enjoyed in little, cylindrical glasses) is a top-fermented, straw/golden-colored specialty from Cologne, Germany. Soft, slightly bready, and highly drinkable, it’s difficult to find in the States. Coast’s 32/50 Kölsch is slightly darker in color and fuller in body than the stuff in the Rhein. Coast’s Chocolate Rye Brown ale bursts with dense chocolate and caramel malt flavor and aroma, and, at around a seven percent alcohol content (by volume), packs a big punch. The I.P.A. (short for “India Pale Ale”) stands between seven and eight percent alcohol content (by volume). Copper in color, it’s the hoppiest, best conditioned (the head retention was impressive), and most intense of the three.
According to Merritt, kegs of all three styles are en route to several select restaurants and bars, including EVO, Gene’s Haufbrau, Charleston Beer Works, Taco Boy, El Bohio, Red Drum Gastropub, and Johnson’s Pub. (Visit www.coastbrewing.com for more). —T. Ballard Lesemann

Never-fail
The Pat McGee Band plays ass bongos

Pat McGee told the crowd Friday night at the Windjammer that he was a little worried about whether anybody would show, this being the band’s first show outside of the tourist season on Isle of Palms. It wasn’t packed (everybody had a little personal space), but there was a healthy audience of mostly late-20s, early 30s fans of the Pat McGee Band.
With a new album out to peddle, These Days (The Virginia Sessions), there was reason to worry that the audience would be hit by an 11-song set of all-new material, but while the band showcased a few strong new ones (most notable was “Come Back Home”), McGee and company know their livelihood is based on the tunes the crowd has been singing back to him year after year. Never-fail numbers like “Rebecca” and “Haven’t Seen in a While” showed why the faithful are faithful to McGee and the evolving band behind him.
McGee was billed as “co-headliners” with Josh Kelley, whose soulful lyrics made for a good fit. Keepers included the radio hits “Amazing” and “Only You,” along with “Almost Home” and “Lover Come Up.” The opening act, Sons of William, also provided a solid set. But we were a little disappointed when we hit the internet after the show to collect a few songs and found both acts’ studio stuff to be a little less energetic than the rousing stage show. Let’s get those live discs on the shelf, folks.
As the second to last stop on their tour, the bands were in high spirits and ready to jam. It certainly felt like the last night at summer camp — from the impromptu jam sessions to Kelley’s crooning of “Dick in a Box” from SNL to more impromptu jam sessions to his drummer doing a romantic duet in his underwear (briefs) with McGee to even more impromptu jam sessions to precisionist Chardy McEwan playing bongos on a drunk girl’s ass.
No word on when McGee will be back in Charleston, but we’re sure Friday’s ready-to-play crowd has him less concerned about an off-season booking. —Greg Hambrick

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