Congratulations to the Winners (and aren't we all really winners?) of the Summer Lovin' Lip Sync Battle to Benefit the Jasper Project

On Friday night, July 7th, a dozen intrepid members of the Columbia arts community brought their A games to the stage of the Tapp's Skyline Room and lip synced their hearts out all for the good cause of supporting this organization, The Jasper Project.

Congratulations to top winners Raven Black, Summer Lovin' Lip Sync Battle Champion, and Renee Bonet, Summer Lovin' Lip Sync Battle People's Choice winner. Pats on the back also go out to Kayla Cahill, championship first runner-up, and Abby Ludwig, people's choice first runner-up.

Thanks to our sponsors, Christopher Cockrell and Steve Wyatt, Wade Sellers & Coal Powered Filmworks, and J. Britt and Magnolia Productions, as well as to all our competitors, volunteers, and everyone who came out and cheered our performers on.  And special thanks to our emcee, Tony Tallent, aka Libba Rae Shun and photographer Kamila Melko!

Summer Lovin' Lip Sync Champion Raven Black

Summer Lovin' Lip Sync Champion Raven Black

Summer Lovin' People's Choice Winner Renee Bonet

Summer Lovin' People's Choice Winner Renee Bonet

Kayla Cahill - Runner Up, Championship

Kayla Cahill - Runner Up, Championship

Abigail Ludwig - Runner up, People's Choice

Abigail Ludwig - Runner up, People's Choice

Emcee, Libba Rae Shun

Emcee, Libba Rae Shun

O. Maya Gawdy

O. Maya Gawdy

Abi McNeely

Abi McNeely

Jennifer Hill

Jennifer Hill

Lee Snelgrove

Lee Snelgrove

Ashley Hayes

Ashley Hayes

Mark Ziegler

Mark Ziegler

Nancy Marine

Nancy Marine

Jordan Lawrence

Jordan Lawrence

Tiffany James

Tiffany James

Intern Jenna

Intern Jenna

Kamila and Abi

Kamila and Abi

Libba Rae Shun

Libba Rae Shun

Guitarist/Composer George Fetner Plays Tapp's Songversations Series

Jasper Intern Bradley Dountz Learns More about Guitarist and Composer George Fetner leading up to his July 11 Appearance at Tapp's Songversations Series

George Fetner originally started to play piano when he was a kid, then his family moved and that was when he decided to pick up the guitar.

“I had a summer where I just didn’t know anybody so I taught myself a bunch of stuff,” Fetner said.

This got him to start studying the techniques of musicians like The Dave Matthews Band, but it was his piano origins that still clung to his musical sensibilities. Fetner has a strong affinity for classical, chamber, and orchestral music, which has led him to compose more classical pieces on the guitar and in other outlets even as he pursues “popular” music at the same time.

“It’s always a balance for me; that’s just a big balancing act between wanting to do the rock stuff or focus more on composing,” Fetner said about his musical direction.

It wasn’t until he went to the University of South Carolina, when Fetner got to study under and become influenced by composers like John Fitz Rogers and Reginald Bain, that he really hit his stride.     

“In different ways, they’re very concerned with timbre and orchestration,” Fetner said. Rogers does more classical music while Bain does more electronic music, but Fetner connected with both, and the diverse lessons helped him grow as a musician. He has composed both classical and electronic music for musicians to perform in such far-flung places as the Netherlands and Italy.

“It was cool to go over there and work with musicians, most of them were American who had come over, too,” Fetner said about his time working in Europe. 

This past March Fetner released his latest album Some Things We’ll Change, a cozy booklet of acoustic folk ballads that call back to greats like Paul Simon and James Taylor. Fetner recorded the whole album by himself, a process which helped his perspective on music as a whole grow in a new way.

“It takes a lot of objectivity, a lot of cleansing your ears, your palate, to kind of go back and go ‘What am I listening for? Does my voice actually sound good? Is my timing right?,’” he explains. “I’m sure if I listened to it now I would find so many mistakes in it.”

This isolated way of working, of personally trying to be so many different elements to the recording process was something Fetner was glad to do, but he thinks he knows what truly makes music so important to so many people.

“Music is collaborative in general; I have been classically-inspired [and composition-driven], but music is meant to be performed, it’s meant to be heard. Up until 100 years ago you experienced it once and if you wanted to hear it again you had to wait until somebody was gonna perform it again. I still think that’s part of our DNA,” Fetner said.

That’s what makes his performance in Songversations on July 11th so special. After going to past Songversations, this will be his first time performing there as well.

“It’s pretty fun. It’s kind of a cool thing, I wish more solo shows would be like that where people could just yell stuff out,” Fetner said.  “Any chance I can get to do this format where it’s just me and the guitar and I’m super exposed and gonna mess up and kind of see what happens, I’m excited for that part of it.”

After Songversations, Fetner’s band, George Fetner and The Strays, will be recording a new EP in August, but he still loves to compose for other people.

“Just in the past couple of years, I’ve gotten comfortable with or more okay with the fact that every time I’m in the middle of something, I wanna do the other thing,” Fetner said. “Trying to continue to just write and just try and get better at it, that really is all that I ever want to do.”

The performance will be at Tapp’s Art Center on July 11th at 7 p.m. and will be co-hosted by Fetner and poet/arts organizer Al Black.


REVIEW: Sex on Sunday at Trustus Theatre

By Leasharn Hopkins

It has been many years since I’ve ventured to Trustus Theatre for a theatrical production especially since the addition of the Cohn Side Door Theatre.

The Side Door Theatre is a very small space (compared to Trustus Mainstage) however this was an excellent choice for the play.  The setting added a certain intimacy to the performance.  Rather than just watching the play the room made me feel as though I was actually part of the play.

Prior to attending the show, I viewed the online advertisement trailer which lead me to believe I was going to see a very risqué/avante garde play (reminiscent of Trustus’ Late Night Productions).

I was pleasantly surprised that the play was not as risqué or avante garde as the trailer led me to believe. The opening scene of Sex on Sunday (written by Chisa Hutchinson) was an “eye opener” to say the least, about S&M.  I started thinking am I watching a stage version of Fifty Shades of Gray?

Ms. Hutchinson added a few more components which made this play more in-depth (than the movie).  The play has the predictable story of the lead character trying to balance her sexually deviant lifestyle with a run-of-the-mill oneHowever, the addition of Laila (lead character) developing a relationship and sisterly friendship with her neighbor and a few other women really added a nice element to the story. The playwright did a wonderful job of intertwining the topic of deviant sexual behavior with the mask of living a more typical life inclusive of friends and building healthy relationships. 

The only low points were a few scenes that were too short (30 seconds to a minute long).  Hutchinson could have developed the scenes a little more; combined those super short scenes with another scene; or deleted them altogether.  The saving grace for those fragmented scenes was the director’s choice of music.  The music not only aided in filling in those very short scenes but also compensated for the use of actors changing sets between scenes.  The musical interludes took the viewers’ minds off of waiting for the next scene or knowing there was a set change.  There was an audience member so caught up in the music that she started singing along with a few of the songs.  This added another level to the play.

Another great compliment to Ms. Hutchinson’s script was the flawless casting of the ensemble cast.  Devin Anderson (Laila) completely committed to her role as the controversial dominatrix.  Her performance wasn’t one dimensional.  Ms. Anderson added subtle complexities and layers to her character trying to live two lives—the normal Laila and the dominatrix Laila.  I found myself hoping she would choose the normal life.  For an actress to have me drawn into her performance and have me rooting for a positive outcome speaks volume for the director and actor. 

Of notable mention was Arischa Frierson’s portrayal as Odette, the “perfect” noisy neighbor.  Although she played the character over the top, her portrayal was spot on and added the comedic relief needed for a play that could have gone very dark.  Ms. Frierson had the perfect balance of being larger than life in her portrayal but brilliantly brought out her character’s subtext which made us understand why she had a larger than life personality.  It was a mechanism to mask the pain of being in an unhappy marriage.

To round out this ensemble cast, Josh Kern, Jon McClinton, Mahogany Collins, and Felicia Myers did a wonderful job of committing to their characters and making viewers engaged and interested in the lives of Ms. Hutchinson’s characters.  Eric Bultman (Director of Sex on Sunday) did a fantastic job of guiding the actors in identifying and developing the subtext that was prevalent throughout the play.

Sex on Sunday runs 80 minutes with no intermission.  However, the storyline; the actors; and the music make you forget a need for an intermission and leave you looking for more from the story and cast.

I would highly recommend this play for an adult only summer outing.  This show would be a perfect girl’s night out or friends looking for something different to do. 

Sex on Sunday runs from July 7- July 15 at Trustus Theatre Cohn side Door Theatre.


Leasharn M. Hopkins is the author of more than 30 full-length plays and eight screenplays. Her play, To Touch God’s Hands, was performed across the U.S. In 2016, Hopkins wrote, directed, and produced her first short film, A Mother’s Plea which will be screened in August 2017 at the National Black Theatre Film Festival. She is the SC Arts Commission 2018 Screenwriting Fellow.

Summer Lovin' Lip Sync Battle Brings Arts & Culture Community Leaders Together for the Arts

By Bria Barton

Intern, The Jasper Project

Richland Library's Tony Tallent as Libba Rae Shun -- For the Arts & The Jasper Project

Richland Library's Tony Tallent as Libba Rae Shun -- For the Arts & The Jasper Project

What happens when you mix the refined art of lip-syncing, a fierce and fabulous drag queen, and a whole lot of Columbia talent in one space?  You get The Jasper Project’s highly amusing and much anticipated Summer Lovin’ Lip Sync Battle on July 7 at Tapp’s Art Center.


“You can think of the Summer Lovin’ Lip Sync Battle as a whole bundle of goodness wrapped up with a big, beautiful bow,” Tony Tallent, emcee and special guest performer, says.  “Summer Lovin’ offers the opportunity for anyone to take to the stage for the evening, get their moves on, and embody those irresistible songs that make them feel like a star.”


The fundraising event will go toward benefitting The Jasper Project and the many projects and happenings it organizes throughout the year.


“We've got a lot going on, and we can't do it without our friends, volunteers, and patrons,” Barry Wheeler, President of The Jasper Project Board of Directors, says.  “Fall Lines, our literary publication, is coming out August 6th and just before that on August 4th, we’re sponsoring the preview of the play, Black Super Hero Magic Mama at Trustus, and on Thursday, August 17th, we're putting on Syzygy: The Solar Eclipse Plays, a night of poetry and theatre.  Our next Jasper Magazine will be published in September and the 2nd Act Film Festival follows in October.”


The Jasper Project’s history of flamboyant lip sync showdowns has its beginnings in December 2016 when a Christmas-themed battle took place after the Jasper Artists of the Year Awards.  The success and enjoyment of the first show made for an easy decision to host another. Winners were Abigail McNeely, who is co-chairing this fundraiser wit Bonnie Boiter-Jolley, and Tallent, who was the People's Choice Award Winner.


“It was clever, playful entertainment that brought the crowd to its feet.  It was natural to bring this element into this July’s fundraiser and add a little summer lovin’ to it,” Tallent says.


The line up of performers features a wide array of talent from both members and admirers of the Columbia city arts and culture communities including Jordan Lawrence from the Free Times, Lee Snelgrove of One Columbia, Mario Guevara of Columbia Music of Art, Jenny Mae Hill, Ashley Hayes, Al Black, Kayla Cayhill, Mark Ziegler, Nancy Marine, Abby Ludwig, Chris Cockrell, Tiffany James, Kendrick Marion, Cory Alpert, and more. Celebrity judges, who are also slated to perform, will include Raven Black, Abigail McNeely, Wade Sellers, and Deborah Adedokun.


The master of ceremonies, Tallent will be hosting the event—as well as performing a special act—under his drag persona, Libba Rae Shun.


“One way to describe Libba Rae Shun is this: If Marie Antoinette married a Suffragette and they had a baby named Joan Jett,” Tallent says.  “So, Libba Rae is really a type of embodiment for the concepts and sometimes contradictions that keep me alert, fascinated or pleasantly confused and wondering.   Ultimately and obviously, Libba Rae is about liberating yourself, fearless expression and dressing-up-and-out for the occasion—all the occasions. And this is certainly one of them.”


Guests can expect a head-to-head lip sync off for the championship as well as many surprises thrown in throughout the night, Boiter-Jolley, an organizer of the Summer Lovin’ Lip Sync Battle, says.


Audience members can also get in on the action by buying votes for $1 to help support their favorite lip-syncing competitors and The Jasper Project.


“The Jasper Project illustrates what can happen when artful dreams and intentions come alive.  Jasper not only celebrates our community, it honors and supports the multi-faceted talent and vision flowing throughout our area,” Tallent says.  “Plus, this fundraiser is set simply to be a great deal of fun with some fantastic, supportive, progressive-minded community members.”


Although the arts can be a fairly serious matter, the Summer Lovin’ Lip Sync Battle showcases the perfect contrast for an evening filled with quirky characters, whimsy, and plenty of laughs.


“Creative people channel their creativity into projects that fulfill an itch, and sometimes that means creating an outrageously fun spectacle,” Wheeler says.  “A little fun and frivolity is necessary every now and then. And there's not much better than folks from our rich community of artists coming together to do some lip sync battles.”


Tickets are priced at $10 and can be purchased at

Reverend Marv Ward Launches First Book of Poetry

One Lone Minstrel cover photo.jpg

It’s no secret that singer-songwriter, Marv Ward, a staple on the local music scene, aka Reverend Marv, has many tricks up his sleeve, and given his penchant for evocative lyrics it’s no surprise to find that poetry is among them.

On Wednesday night, June 21st, Ward launches his first book of poetry, One Lone Minstrel, under the Broad River Books label, an imprint of Muddy Ford Press, at Grapes and Gallery at 1113 Taylor Street, near the intersection of Taylor and Assembly. The event will begin at 6 pm with a reception honoring the author, followed by readings from 6:30 – 7. Ward will sign books form 7 – 8. Light refreshments will be provided with drinks available for purchase from the upstairs selection of wines and craft beers. The event is free.

Jasper caught up with Ward to ask a few questions about the path to this place in time.


J: Congratulations on your new book, Marv! How long have you been writing poetry?

MW: I’ve been seriously writing since high school.


J: Other than in songwriting have you shared your poetry with anyone before?

MW: Well, in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, I was into writing poetry on walls and fences so I guess some people saw them but this is the first time anything has been in print.


J: Where do you look for inspiration?

MW: From everything, life experiences mainly. In the blues the old timers say that you have to live the blues to be able to write it and sing it and my poetry is the same.


J: Do you edit and rewrite your poems or do they come to you fully formed and you leave them be once they come to you?

MW: Both. Some times, I will get an idea or phrase and it will germinate sometimes for years until it finally comes to fruition. But sometimes they just write themselves.


J:  Who are some of your favorite poets and what is it you like about them?

MW: My biggest influence in poetry is Lawrence Ferlinghetti, I have devoured his work ever since I discovered him and was fortunate enough to meet him back in the early ‘70s and have a little chat with him. Then, I guess, Yeats, Baudelaire, Neruda, and I like Kerouac's poetry also.


J: How does it feel to launch this book?

MW:  I am amazed and feel so blessed this is a life accomplishment for me. I have had songs published since the ‘70s, but the poetry was different and I never thought this day would come. I really hope that those who read it will be able find a correlation in their lives with the meaning and rhythm of the words and be able to share the magic I felt when writing them.  



Author, Marv Ward

Author, Marv Ward

Soda City Story Slam - June 15th

The Columbia Museum of Art recently opened their summer exhibition ReTooled: Highlights from the Hechinger Collection, an exploration of utilitarian objects as art.  The gallery opened on June 2 and will be on display through August 27.  Throughout the summer, the CMA will host a variety of different programs and activities centered around the ReTooled exhibit, including a lecture from the curator, woodworking courses, Arts & Draughts, and Soda City Story Slam.


For those unfamiliar with the event, the first annual Soda City Story Slam occurred last June.  Inspired by The Moth podcast, the slam provides an opportunity for 10 local community members to share a brief, unscripted autobiographical story.  According to host Shannon Ivey, event participants include poets, seasoned storytellers, as well as first time performers.


“You’ll find that some of the less experienced storytellers can often be the most authentic.  I’m not slamming any professionals; I just really adore the process of someone who is really called to talk about the topic.  There is something really magical about that,” Ivey says.


In addition to the wide range of content featured, Ivey also emphasizes the diversity of both storytellers and event attendees.  By calling the event a story slam as opposed to a poetry slam, theatre performance, activism event, or competition, Ivey hopes to be more inclusive for those interested in participating or attending.


The slam also provides a unique experience for individuals to dedicate time to listening to the experiences and thoughts of others.


“There are very few times that you sit and listen to someone for 5-10 minutes without interrupting them — not even in our business life,” Ivey says.  “The opportunity to grow in empathy and understanding of our neighbors is really huge. In our political climate, people are pretty angry on all sides. This takes politics out of it and brings humans into it.  It’s a lovely bipartisan way to connect with each other. I’m hoping that this sort of model can catch on and even be used in a bigger sense for more community building.”


The Story Slam has even inspired different spin off projects.  Alison Salisbury, who will perform at the upcoming story slam, organized the Screendoor Storytelling group.  This organization meets monthly at the Richland County Public Library and allows community members to share stories and compete.  In addition, there are tentative plans at the CMA to host a female-centered story slam, a spinoff of Ivey’s projects titled “What She Said.”


“It is just really lovely to see how it can evolve,” Ivey says.


This year, there is one noticeable difference from the previous Soda City Story Slam.  Last year, the event included a panel of judges that decided the winner of the event.  However, Ivey said the winner will now be determined by audience reaction and participation.




Nancy Washington

Nancy Washington

Q&A with Barbarian Rap League Founders--Next Battle June 11, 2017 @ New Brookland Tavern

Interview by Jasper intern Jasmine Ranjit

Battle rap is an art form unlike any other, combining insults with beats and boasts with rhythm. None do it better than the Barbarian Rap League from Columbia, S.C. The BLR, founded by rappers Marvolus and Gemstar Da Goldenchild, aim to create a platform where talented musicians can reach a larger audience. I interviewed BLR and asked them a few questions about rap battles, their ongoing feud with SEBL, and their performance this weekend.

How did the Barbarian Rap League begin?

The Barbarian Rap League was founded by the artists Marvolus and Gemstar Da Goldenchild, out of Columbia, S.C. The League idea came up by us watching URL SMACK battle rap on YouTube all day, and we wanted to bring that kind of platform to talent from our city. We got a venue and booked 3 battles. The event was a success, and the rest is history.

What is a major goal for BLR?

Our goal is simply to create a platform for talented battlers that want to pursue a career in battle rap and get them the exposure that they deserve whether it is locally or nationwide. For example, helping them get on URL SMACK stage the biggest battle rap platform in the world was a big accomplishment.

So you have Rap Battles between other groups including SEBL…?

Well, it's just friendly competition between leagues, SEBL, a league based out of Greenville, and us, based out of Columbia. It's pretty much City vs. City, their best vs. our best. We've had two big events: ‘Civil War 1’ which was in Columbia and ‘Civil War 2’ in Greenville. After the first Civil War, we gained a lot of respect for each other. There was a lot of animosity between us, but now those guys are like our brothers, shout-out to SEBL.

Is the environment of the event different from a concert setting?

Yes and no, because the music is like watching spoken word, boxing, and a comedy show combined. You’re still putting on a show. It's a different feel, but a good feel because you’re up there watching raw skill and talent. Any fan that has never been to a battle event live that finally comes becomes a constant fan.

Why is it important that your music is introduced through a rap battle?

It’s a new audience. You have battles that reach 1,000-6 million views…that market of fans that are interested in you as a battler will be interested in your music too.

There’s a battle this Sunday; what should the audience anticipate from this performance? 

This is going to be a hard-hitting, super dope event on Sunday. The co-owner and talent scout from URL SMACK, the biggest rap-battle stage in the world, will be in attendance and will be looking to give these guys a shot. Everybody will be coming with their absolute best.

The Barbarian Rap League is hosting a battle this Sunday at New Brooklyn Tavern. The event begins at 7:00.

REVIEW: Rock of Ages at Trustus Theatre

Rock of Ages is a musical devoted to the idea of Rock Music as a distinctive character, or caricature, in the popular imagination. And while the actual story of rock ‘n’ roll may be a complicated, complex, and contradictory one, our idea of it is not—it’s sleazy, loud, showy, and, above all, gloriously debauched. It’s about Sunset Strip sleaze, leather-clad excesses, and arena rock choruses that thud through your head no matter how much beer, booze, or other substances threaten to overwhelm. It might occasionally be dumb, but it’s often with a knowing wink and rarely without a double dose of fun.

That, in a nutshell, is what the musical, which was a massive success during its lengthy run on Broadway, and the particular version of it that Trustus is offering, is all about. Artistic director Chad Henderson, who also plays the grizzled club owner Dennis Dupree, points this out explicitly in his program notes, that the troupe’s primary endeavor here is to offer “Nothing but a Good Time,” and they are hell-bent on delivering. How much they succeed though depends, to a certain extent, on how much you are willing to revel in the poppy glam metal songs that are the bulk of this jukebox-style musical. The narrative is more than a bit thin, to the point where the comedic meta-narrative commentary is the only thing that can save it, and it never rises above a sort of rote sense of genre. But that’s not the point—it’s the nostalgic power of these songs, their sound, and their mythos, all of which is difficult to deny.

Luckily, the usually capable casts of Trustus have always boasted standout singers (and crack stage bands), and Rock of Ages is no exception. Songs like “Don’t Stop Believin,’” “Here I Go Again,” and “We’re Not Gonna Take It” prove they were almost built to double as great musical numbers, and when the full cast launches into one of these familiar choruses it’s hard not to feel like things are right with the world. Individual performers may shine or falter at certain moments, but Trustus company standouts like Katie Lietner as the female lead Sherrie or Michael Hazin as the bar manager/ostentatious narrator, make it abundantly clear why they are familiar sights on the Thigpen stage.

But while Leitner is great in her role and the kind of powerhouse singer the part needs, she and the male protagonist Drew (played by Rory Gilbert) end up a little sidelined despite being ostensible leads. The weakness of their romantic plot line—she arriving in L.A. to be an actress but ending up as a stripper, he as an inspiring rock star-turned-fledgling boy band hopeful—makes them a little less memorable compared to the purely humor-driven B and C plots. It’s in those where the real chemistry and spark of the show happens. Henderson and Hazin obviously have some stage chemistry and comedy chops in their bromance friendship and constant fourth-wall-breaking commentary that the fact that they are trying to save Dennis’ rock club almost gets lost in the mix. Similarly, Kayla Cahill’s performance as the protest-leading Regina and Cody Lovell’s German businessman-turned-candy-purveyor sparkle in their own budding romance and brief stage time. Too, Jason Stokes’ turn as the spoiled rock star gone to seed, Stacee, is also quite winning.

But again, focusing on individual performances is a bit of misdirection here, for any lengthy attention to the plot detracts from the blown-own spectacle of the music itself. Director Dewey Scott-Wiley wisely puts the band in serious costumes and places them prominently right up front on stage, so even when not performing the need to keep the music central was apparent. Music Director Chris Cockrell brings plenty of the necessary glam and pizazz to fit the part, and his crew cranks through these tunes with glee. The scenic design itself was also quite clever, utilizing some scaffolding, and a few stairs, doors, and curtains to conjure up a number of different settings in a blink of an eye. So while not strictly necessary, the production notes here rang gracefully.

In the end, though, this is about as critic-proof a play as you can get, with the pure, unfettered (guilty?) pleasure of the songs themselves in the driver’s seat. Henderson notes that there are some parallels to a seedy rock club being challenged by a more bland business takeover has some interesting parallels to the history of Trustus in the now-sleek Vista neighborhood, and it’s tough not to draw some connections between our current growth-hungry (although also arts-supporting) mayor and the one in the play, but leading you down that road won’t be particularly fruitful. Spray that hair up, throw some glitter in the air and, uh, “come on feel the noise?” – Kyle Petersen

Disclaimer: Chad Henderson is married to the reviewer’s sister-in-law. This made his depiction of Dennis no more nor less ridiculous, although it’s not clear whether the same can be said of his ultimate fate.

Rock of Ages runs through July 1—for times and ticket information head to


Q&A with Barnwell Frontman Tyler Gordon, Who Plays New Brookland Tavern Tonight, June 1, 2017

by Jasper Intern Jasmine Ranjit

Hailing from Columbia, SC, Barnwell is an alt-rock band with a dash of country crooning. Barnwell’s lead singer, Tyler Gordon, answered a few questions about the development of the band, their first two albums and the future.

Q: How was the band formed?

TG: Barnwell started in 2014 when I had a set of songs I'd written and wanted to record. I hadn't really done much in the way of writing or playing live in a few years and I was very eager to get back at it. I recorded them with the help of a couple friends, and it became The First Ghost. From there we started playing live with some rotating people and now it's a set lineup with Ross Swinson, Nick Fogle, and Nate Puza. 

In Motel Art, your voice seems to take on different personas, from protective in “Some One” to vulnerable in “Talk Me Down.” Were your inspirations for these tracks different?

 Yes, they're about two totally different things. “Talk Me Down” has a lot more uncertainty to it, so much so that there's multiple people talking in that song. It's pretty common for a song I write to end up being about a feeling, or a broader concept rather than an event, or a specific person, or something like that. But both types of songs do happen. 

In an interview with the Free Times, you said that “faith in God” was a major theme of The First Ghost. Do you see that influence in your present work as well?

Not nearly as much. The First Ghost was, unbeknownst to me at the time, my processing religion through songs. Motel Art has some of that in there, but not a ton. My feelings about religion shifted drastically about 5 years ago, and The First Ghost was a reflection of that. It's still something that ends up in the writing sometimes, but I've never really sat down and intended on a theme for a record, or anything like that. 

Is Barnwell working on new music?   

Yes, we're writing a new record right now. It's much more collaborative as far as the actual songwriting process this time around, and it's really fun. It also makes for better songs than were on The First Ghost or Motel Art because Ross, Nate, and Nick are great musicians, and humans, and we all work well together. I like to think I know when to get out of their way at this point and let them take the song sketches I show up to practice with to a way better place.                        

Should listeners expect a departure from The First Ghost and Motel Art?

--There's definitely a different feel to the new material we're writing now. I'd say the new record will still sound like a Barnwell record, but so far it's got a lot of elements to the songs that we didn't really use much on Motel Art, which is exciting for us. 

Barnwell has a concert this Thursday at NBT, what should listeners expect from the set?

We're going to be playing some new songs (3 of them, I think) that we expect will be on the new record, whenever we end up recording. So we hope people will come out to have a listen to where the new material is going. But of course we're also still going to be playing a lot of the songs from Motel Art, and probably a couple off The First Ghost as well. Listeners should also expect to be super disappointed if they don't get there early enough to see the whole bill, because Mel Washington, Danny Black, and The Gardener and the Willow are all really great. We're excited to be on the bill with all those guys. 

This Thursday, June 1st, Barnwell is performing at New Brooklyn Tavern alongside acts Mel Washington, Danny Black and The Gardener & The Willow. The concert will begin at 7:30.

Pray for Triangle Zero Talks to Jasper About Their Music & Playing WXRY Music Crawl This Thursday, June 1, 2017

By Jasper Intern Bradley Dountz

With personal technology evolving every passing year, it’s not too surprising the way people make music would change as well. In 2009, University of South Carolina studio art major Lucas Sams hopped on the DIY element to music and hasn’t let up since.

“I got a Macbook for the first time, it had Garageband on it and it just kinda changed my life,” he says of his nascent musical identity.

After practicing his craft while attending USC, Sams is now the brainchild behind local Columbia band Pray for Triangle Zero, who will be performing at the WXRY Music Crawl at June’s First Thursday on Main. “I think we’re probably the weirdest band on that lineup,” Sams said.

Sams was inspired to get involved in music from an early age, with David Bowie and Peter Gabriel as his early influences. However, music wasn’t always a clear-cut path for him walk down. “I always wanted to make music,” he said. “But I quit piano lessons. I never would ever even now consider myself like a good musician at all.”

No matter what Sams says, his music doesn’t sound like someone who is not a “good” musician. His countless songs cannot be pinned down to one genre. His own words describe his music as “space age post punk, very 80’s inspired,” but even that doesn’t cover it that well. His latest self-released album, Pastel Seascape, sounds like a washed out drug haze, that keeps you alert with constant techno beats blaring and scorchingly layered echo drawls.


“I wanna make stuff that doesn’t sound like anything else,” Sams said.

Pray for Triangle Zero’s image has been marked by the rise of vaporwave, a form of electronic music that relies heavily on 80’s and 90’s production design and cultural ambiance. Sams now looks up to similar artists such as himself like Toro y Moi, Neon Indian, and Skylar Spence.

Sams says he was making music “under the radar” for a while, but it wasn’t until he fell into the “experimental crowd” when he arrived in Columbia almost a decade ago, and hearing bands artists like Space Idea Tapes and Jeff South, that his true ambition grew.

Sams looks at his work and how prolific he has been over the years as just a byproduct of doing what he loves to do. “It’s just mostly being obsessed with the work, with making music, especially since I didn’t come to it naturally,” he said. “That uphill climb, that learning curve kinda made me want to do it more.”

Pray for Triangle Zero still has more plans for the future, they are already planning on performing at Future Fest 2017 this year. But it’s the WXRY gig that has him excited.

“I feel good…it’s our first local show this year, pressure is on, it’ll be something,” he says chuckling. Even for all of his upcoming exposure, Sams still looks at the actual music as his end goal. “I still definitely prefer being a producer to playing live...that’s where I really find enjoyment from it.”

“We All Fall Down” about to hit Columbia


Local alternative circus is the perfect balance of theatre and circus.

by Jasper Intern Brad Dountz

Soda City Cirque, a Columbia-based alternative circus, is preparing for a brand-new performance that is designed to challenge your expectations of what performing arts can be. Combining different aspects of the circus and the theatre, Soda City Cirque has created an entirely new experience entitled “We All Fall Down” that is built for people of all ages and incorporates multiple fairy tale stories and circus performances into a cohesive narrative.

Performer Kendal Turner and Soda City Cirque stage manager Crystal Aldamuy sat down with

Jasper for a closer look at how alternative circuses have evolved over time and what people should expect from their forthcoming show.

Turner and Aldamuy point out that alternative circuses have been a part of Columbia for a decade and that Soda City Cirque is made up of performers who have had professional circus training from all over the country from, San Diego to Charleston. At first, performances started out in more humbler settings like Art Bar’s parking lot. As the performances became more serious for those involved, a change of venue was necessary, and the troupe has moved into increasingly more ambitious spaces.

That ambition makes sense given their success—since their founding in 2013, Soda City Cirque has steadily grown in numbers and respectability. “We’ve done five full-length shows, we’ve sold out all of those shows, and we’ve gone from having eight members to 13,” Turner says. “We just kind of keep upping the game every single time. We do it in terms of skills that we add, and the type of performances that we do,” she continues. They have performers who do aerial art, balancing tricks, juggling, and fire tricks. “We’ve got all kinds of different people doing all kinds of different things. What we do is kind of mush those skills into a cohesive show with a storyline.”

The company is also quite proud of “We All Fall Down” as an example of the synthesis they hope to achieve. “I’ve always been fascinated as a writer, as a theatregoer, of the show within the show,” says Turner on the production’s structure. “There’s no curtain, and the audience sees the setup of the show and what goes on behind the scenes. We can incorporate the moving [parts] of the show into the actual story.”

Soda City Cirque has worked with different nonprofits with each of their shows, this time with Turning Pages, which is dedicated to ending adult illiteracy. “It just happened to be so perfect—it’s a fairy tale show about stories and we’re partnering with a group that promotes adult literacy, so it just seemed to be such a beautiful fit,” Turner says. After months of preparing, organizing, and constantly changing what would be in the actual show, Soda City Cirque think all of their hard work will pay off and the audience will be rewarded big time. “This is the biggest and best show that we’ve put on so far,” Turner says of “We All Fall Down.”

Soda City Cirque has put in an effort into getting their message across of pushing the limits of what a circus is supposed to be. “It’s that dream of growing up and running away with the circus, it really is that sort of embodiment, it becomes very accessible,” Aldammy said. Their long-term goal is to truly create a circus scene within Columbia. “It’s about getting people excited about creating different forms of art,” Turner said.

“We All Fall Down” will be performed at 914 Pulaski Street on May 26-27 and June 2-3. Doors open at 7 p.m. Ticket prices range from $10-15 and $50 for VIP package.



New Voices of the Eclipse

Shining light on Underrepresented Voices & New Voices yet to be heard, The Jasper Project invites submissions of poetry from unpublished poets age 15 and up from the 8 counties of the SC Midlands.

Theme = the literal solar eclipse or the metaphor of transforming shadows.

A select number of poems will be chosen for presentation on Thursday, August 17th from 3 – 5 PM in Columbia, SC. One Poem will receive a cash prize and publication in the September issue of Jasper Magazine.

·         Poets may enter up to 3 submissions

·         NO multiple submissions or previously published poetry

·         Names should not appear on poems

·         Please send submissions along with a cover sheet stating  

  •  title of poem
  •  name
  •  address
  •  email


Deadline: June 30th, 2017


Judge: Cassie Premo Steele

Cassie Premo Steele is the author of 14 books of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction published by small, independent presses. She was featured as a speaker for TEDxColumbiaSC and has been a columnist for Literary Mama and a blogger for the Huffington Post. She works as a writing coach with women from around the world and has a special affinity for creating connections between people and the natural environment. She lives in Columbia with her wife and daughter.

Cassie Premo Steele

Cassie Premo Steele