Kendall Jason Writes About Being a 2nd Act Filmmaker


This is new…..


I was trying something different.


I am a “fan”… of art, music, film and generally anything you might consider “nerd” culture. I use this to deconstruct my own identity, masculine persona and cultural expectations of masculinity in hopes it will take me out of my comfort zone and keep me from doing the same thing over and over. The approach provides a launching pad for my ideas to develop and change while tackling new projects, which keeps my studio practice fresh and unpredictable.

This process is what drove me to enter the 2nd Act Film Festival this year. I needed to push my practice in a new direction and engage a different audience within the context of film culture. In past years the 2nd Act Film Festival has produced some amazing films by a talented set of filmmakers. Honestly, I had no expectation of getting in, since I was coming from an art making background. Although I tell stories in my art, I use a different approach that incorporates the manipulation of objects, image and space. I tend to allow the subject matter and materials to dictate what the final embodiment becomes, without considering constraints like length, cast and crew. So, when I received notification that I was chosen as one of the ten filmmakers I was in uncharted territory.

Before receiving the Artistic obstructions I considered a setting for this story. I wanted to use objects and locations that contained their own character and could hold up against another person’s actions. I also used my Dad’s recently sold elevator business to document the existence of a life long endeavor while allowing it to take on a life of it’s own in the film. This opened up the possibility to explore my relationship with my father in an unexpected way.


These lines of thought lead me back some music I wrote. It was a song that told a story that turned into an instrumental that bounced back and forth between different configurations within the same chord structure. In sections it reminded me of an engine or even crying. This birthed the idea of the guitar creating the atmosphere and dialogue in the film. As it started to become a lead character in the film I wondered how it would fit into the final film. I knew I could borrow from Jim Jarmusch, especially since I am a fan of his film “Deadman”.

When I received the script perimeters I labored to write the script. I could see the film in my head, but putting it down on paper was forced and didn’t flow with the images I was seeing in my head. I turned to what was familiar, drawing. I storyboarded the whole film, which fleshed out the entire narrative sequence. Then the script basically wrote itself. This in turned was used informed the cast and crew. The storyboards were a perfect tool to use to direct, without having to be behind the camera.

I have always been the sole contributor in the video based projects I have created over the years. With the exception of using my brother or other friends as camerapersons, I have rarely depended anyone else. Jasper’s film editor Wade Sellers suggested that I talk to other artists/ filmmakers who deal with similar issues in their work and have the same taste in films. He connected me with local artist Alex Smith. This was a true turning point in the development of the project. I sent Alex the storyboards and a few notes on what I was thinking about in terms of direction. When we met to talk about what he thought. The discussion sparked a friendship and provided a fresh take on how I could realize the vision I had on paper. One of the conversations brought to mind Pink Floyd’s song “Wish You Were Here.” It begins and ends in an old radio broadcast while the clean song plays throughout the middle. I wanted to attempt to incorporate that approach somehow. Little did I know the basis for the narrative would revolve around that concept.


Once the shooting began I captured as much footage as possible. Since I was accustomed to shooting live performances or approaching a video shoot as a live performance and in this process I was accumulating footage over several days was foreign. I was used to a one shot deal and using only what I had from that one take of the action. During this experience I could shoot, reshoot and if I thought of a new idea I could create a whole new scene right on the spot. As the footage was uploaded I broke up the scenes into sequences that represented each act and I started to “sculpt” the shots to reflect the narrative in the storyboards.

As the different section of the film became finalized I recorded the music. Most of those recordings simply got scrapped or didn’t work, but I eventually began to hear the sounds that would be part of the film. As the final version started to emerge, the ability to react organically to the project faded away, I found myself in an uncomfortable position of having to make editing decisions that only contributed to the strength of the film. I felt like a surgeon with a scalpel carefully slicing the ends of flesh or a butcher just hacking away whole sections of meat that might taste good but weren’t right for the meal I was serving.


All of a sudden the deadline had arrived and the film was somehow finished. Hesitation and self-doubt crept in like a demon in the night. I reached out to friends and colleagues to help calm my nerves. I was scared to death. I wasn’t a filmmaker. I’m a sculptor. A performance artist.

The night of the screening arrived. I took a deep breath and walked in the door at Tapp’s.

The lights went down…..I started sweating profusely.


This changes everything……


You wanted something different.




Kendall Jason or kendallprojects (Jason Kendall) depending on what artistic context you kendal5catch him in is a local artist creating multi-dimensional work (sculpture, performance, video installations and drawings) that rest on the conviction that art should generate an experience for the viewer which challenges them on a variety of sensory levels. His investigations are transformed into conflicts that engage the viewer on a visceral level. The encounters he creates exploit different stimuli to affect the viewer’s perceptions by using a combination of images, sound, smells or text to leave the viewers curious about what they are witnessing. In his first official endeavor into film making he attempted to balance his studio practice with the obstructions of creating a film.



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Ony's Bands -- Cazador releases new album "Can I Leave?"

cazador Local power violence band, Cazador, released a new album on October 1 entitled Can I Leave?, their second release since their debut at the beginning of this year. This album gives us more power and more agony-drenched heaviness. With a few re-recordings from their first demo, which was released in January, Can I Leave? makes the heavy guitars and seething vocals more prominent. Brandon Johnson, both the vocalist and drummer of the group, with splintering snarls, presents images of suffering, isolation, and disintegration within a society. Overall, the sound and the musicianship are tighter and more thought-out, as their sound has evolved, just from playing and writing more.

The use of sound bites moves the album along and sets the tone for the anguish to come. One of the album’s heaviest and most eminent songs, “Backyard Tomb,” opens with a sound clip of a man threatening to remove someone’s flesh with a cheese grater (for all the True Detective fans). “Drawing Strings,” the album’s single, starts off with a catchier riff and moves toward a darker and more dismal breakdown shouting “Hang the fake, die in chains.” Alex Strickland, vocalist of local aggressive bands, Bathe and Abacus, appears on this song doing guest vocals.

My favorite track is “Imprisoned,” which showcases more of the spirited nature in Cazador’s song structures. “We try to incorporate a heavy noise rock influence, while speeding it up a bit with a touch of power violence,” Johnson says, citing his main influences as Infest, Crossed Out, and Unsane. It’s clear that the group shares an array of musical influences, leaving them not only limited to one strict genre description. There’s a little something for everyone on this album, which is heavy, raging, and dense.


Columbia native Jeff Miller to screen new horror film “Clowntown” at the Nickelodeon Theater

 Baseball Clown from Jeff Miller's film Clowntown  


“If you’re terrified of clowns, don’t see this movie.” Jeff Miller says. Miller adds that his new film Clowntown has nothing to do with the South Carolina clowns that have been popping up in news reports around the state lately.


It is a bit of a coincidence though. Miller is a graduate of Brookland-Cayce high school and the University of South Carolina Media Arts program. His first steps in producing horror films came in and around Columbia with credits on Paul Talbot’s film Hellblock 13 and his own directorial debut Head Cheerleader, Dead Cheerleader.


In 2001 Miller made the move to Los Angeles and continued producing several features, mostly horror, such as Axe Giant: The Wrath of Paul Bunyan (which aired on the Syfy channel).


Clowntown is receiving heavily positive reviews around the country from many standard bearing horror film outlets. The film is inspired by the clown who terrorized Bakersfield, CA in 2014. Miller wrote the script and produced the film. The film also features music from Columbia metal stalwarts Isabelle’s Gift and South Carolina native Hick’ry Hawkins.


“I’d love to come back to South Carolina and make another movie” says Miller. But in the meantime he has his hands full as Executive Producer on the action film Kill ‘Em All starring Jean-Claude Van Damme, currently filming in Mississippi.


CLOWNTOWN screens at the Nickelodeon Theater on Main St. on Friday, October 21st at 11pm. Tickets available at

-- Wade Sellers

REVIEW: Jason Isbell @ The Township Auditorium

img_0048 By: Kyle Petersen

When Jason Isbell took the stage at the Township Auditorium this past Sunday, I wanted to tell you that it felt a little weird, mixed with a little sense of triumph. As if this was the apotheosis of the hard-touring rock ‘n’ roll musician done good, a story that countless musicians toiling in tour vans day in and day out could look up to and aspire to. I wish I could say that.

But the reality is, over the last few years Isbell seems to have matured seamlessly from seedy 300-person rock clubs to stately 3,000 seater auditoriums, and it felt surprisingly inevitable. Four years into sobriety and three years removed from the breakthrough success of 2013’s Southeastern, Isbell looked trim and dapper on stage, carrying himself with the air of a consummate, perhaps even slightly bored, professional. That’s not to say that the performance wasn’t amazing—after all, he is undisputedly one of the preeminent songwriters of his generation, with the kind of hotshot guitar skills and booming, soulful voice that would allow him to get away with songs as tenth as good. As he generally does these days, Isbell opened with a salvo of electric rock songs (including the old Drive-by Trucker Southern rock staple “Decoration Day” and the 2016 Americana Music Awards “Song of the Year” winner “24 Frames”) before switching to acoustic guitar and diving deep into his last two more songwriting-oriented efforts. The fact that the set is loaded with stunners (“Speed Trap Town,” “Cover Me Up,” “Alabama Pines”) helps, along with the fact that Isbell is at this point adept at balancing the more somber acoustic tunes with more sprightly ones like “Codeine” or “If It Takes a Lifetime.”


Still, there were relatively few moments or features that genuinely stuck out thanks to the unerring professional consistency. One notable element for sure, though, was the elegant, top-notch staging and lighting, a new feature for longtime Isbell fans. Backed by pseudo-stained glass windows and often bathed in multiple spotlights when he stepped out to take a solo, there was an element of grandeur to the proceedings which felt wholly new. Another great moment was the knowing inclusion of “Palmetto Rose,” a welcome nod to the audience with its South Carolina subject matter. And, ever so slightly, the genuine joy the bandleader seemed to take in the ostentatious stage interplay he had briefly with keyboard/accordionist Derry DeBorja on "Codeine" and then, later, with guitarist (and SC native) Sadler Vaden during a staged-but-electrifying guitar duel. That latter moment, which took place during an extended take on the gnarly and riveting “Never Gonna Change,” felt like the most significant addition to the band’s live show and allowed them to end the regular set with a bang.

Perhaps the most telling moment, though, was when Isbell brought opener (and contemporary) Josh Ritter out during the encore to cover John Prine’s “Storm Windows.” Isbell briefly mentioned that he used to pay to go to Ritter’s show rather than bringing him on tour, an oblique reference to his newfound stature, but really it was the cover choice itself, along with the “Prine/Isbell” campaign ticket shirts at the merch table, that suggested the songwriter’s intended route in the coming decades. Having arrived at the upper echelon of the music world on his own terms and on the strength of his artistry, Isbell clearly intends to stay on that level with the consistency and persistence of his 70-year-old forbear.

And, judging by Sunday night's show, that shouldn't be a problem.

Tamara Finkbeiner Takes 2nd Act Win for 2nd Year as SC Indie Film Community Grows

Painting by Cedric Umoja from which the 2016 2nd Act Film Festival poster was created Last night, the Jasper Project wrapped our third 2nd Act Film Festival, under the direction of Wade Sellers, to a sold-out crowd at the always hospitable arts refuge, Tapp's Arts Center. (It was an added bonus that the Tapp's walls were hung with art from another Jasper Project endeavor, Marked by the Water, commemorating the first anniversary of the 1000 year flood.)

This morning, we're seeing a Facebook full of  photos of filmmakers, most of whom didn't know each other before the project started. Some were first-timers and some were alums, appearing in groups of 2 and 3 and more, laughing with each other, mugging for the camera, embracing, being new friends and colleagues.

Being a community.

2nd Act Film Fest Audience Award Winner Tamara Finkbeiner with friend, colleague & fellow 2nd Act 2016 Filmmaker Tyler Matthews

2nd Act Film FEst 2016 Filmmakers Cory John, Tamara Finkbeiner, and Ebony Wilson mugging for the camera after the fest

The Jasper Project has a number of missions, but underlying everything is the fostering of an interdependent community of multidisciplinary artists and arts lovers who recognize and honor the implications of community -- simply said, it means having each others' backs.

The 2nd Act Film Festival exemplifies this goal. Filmmakers loan equipment, technicians, and advice. They encourage each other. They root for each other. This year, one filmmaker even sent a pizza to another filmmaker who was struggling with the kinds of obstacles only other filmmakers can understand.

The 2nd Act Film Festival Audience Award for 2016 went to Tamara Finkbeiner for her film, Bait. For the third year, Columbia-based sculptor Matthew Kramer created a one of a kind trophée de l'art, pictured below.

2016 2nd Act Film Festival Audience Award by Matthew Kramer

Congratulations to Tamara Finkbeiner and all the selected 2016 2nd Act Film Festival Filmmakers.

Finkbeiner with 2nd Act Film Festival director Wade Sellers

2nd Act Film Festival Audience Award Winner Tamara Finkbeiner

Wade Sellers interviews 2nd Act Film Fest Filmmakers 2016 during tallying of Audience Award ballots.


The 2nd Act Film Festival 2016 was sponsored in part by a grant from the South Carolina Arts Commission.

The 2nd Act Film Festival 2016 is an endeavor of the Jasper Project.  


An Interview with J. Henry Fair about his exhibit at the Columbia Museum of Art

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Photographing coastlines from airplane windows, photographer J. Henry Fair aims to broaden people’s awareness of both the allure of our coastal areas and the environmental degradation that has occurred, and continues to occur, to our beaches, marshes, wetlands, and waterways. His latest exhibition, entitled Eyes on the Edge, currently on display at the Columbia Museum of Art through October 23rd, accomplishes just this, captivating viewers with artistry and technical expertise, while at the same time inspiring awareness of the fragile environmental conditions.

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Photo: Coastal Wetlands Meet the Ocean, 2 July, 2015, J. Henry Fair, Winyah Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, SC, 2016, Color photograph.

Composed of large-scale photographs of the South Carolina coast, all of which display rich colors and detailed clarity, Fair’s aerial shots reveal the beauty of the natural landscape. At the same time, his photos document the detrimental and intrusive effects of human-made developments, seen, for example, in the form of high-rise condos jutting out into the ocean past the edge of the dunes and tide-lines, with golf courses buttressed against it; cookie-cutter subdivisions squeezed tightly together; and geometrically-dizzying views of rows upon rows of automobiles, RV campers, and beach umbrellas galore. Complex coastal topographies, composed of various inlet formations, resemble root and vein-like structures expanding into tree-type shapes and alien landscapes. Ultimately, they serve as foils to the human-made constructions, intermingling in both apparent and dangerous ways.

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Photo: Ocean Undermines Beachfront Condominiums, 16 April, 2016, J. Henry Fair, Isle of Palms, SC, 2016, Color photograph

Eyes on the Edge reveals to viewers in South Carolina what Fair eventually aims to document along the entire coastline of the United States – the precarious and vulnerable interspersion of the oftentimes destructive encroachment of human development on the naturally-formed landscapes and waterways of our country, and how, unfortunately, that balancing act is well on its way to tipping the scales much too far toward the side of irreversible damage to the splendor and geography of Mother Nature.

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Photo: Morning Beachgoers, 2 July, 2015, J. Henry Fair, Myrtle Beach, SC, 2016, Color photograph.

A visit to this photographic exhibit offers eye-opening views and rarely seen perspectives of familiar coastal locations and landscapes. Perhaps more importantly, it reinforces and reminds viewers that we must strive to protect and conserve what remains of the natural world before it is too late, and that while development may be beneficial at times, it is imperative to remain cognizant and respectful of the need for a harmonious relationship between nature and humankind.

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Photo: St. Helena Sound Wetlands, 13 October, 2015, J. Henry Fair, Beaufort, SC, 2016, Color photograph.

In the following interview, J. Henry Fair offers insight into his artistic and environmental work.

How did your interest in photography begin? Did you always aspire to be a professional photographer?

I stole my father’s old Kodak Retina as soon as I could figure out how to use it, and started photographing the same things I’m doing now: people, machines, icons. I like to tell myself that I have figured a few more things out since then.

Please explain your photographic process behind the creation of the exhibit Eyes on the Edge.

I start with an idea of what images I want to make, then I go look for them, which involves hiring a plane and pilot, and plotting the ideal time for the light and the tide for this project. The pictures were made with a medium format camera for maximum detail on the prints, which are photographic “c” prints, done by a lab in Frankfurt.

What initiated your passion for environmentalism?

I have always had a deep concern for the environment and our heedless abuse of these systems that provide us with free air and water. That and my fascination with the beauty of machines (as a pinnacle of human achievement) led me to try to create images that would provoke thought about the impacts of our consumer society.

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Photo: New Cars Queued for Loading onto Transport Ship, 16 April, 2016, J. Henry Fair, Charleston, SC, 2016, Color photograph.

Does your concern for environmental issues always go hand-in-hand with your photography? Would you describe yourself as an environmental photographer?

My pictures are always about subjects that concern people, whether that be environment, racism, gun control.

Is photography your primary artistic medium?

I do some film as well as photography, and the presentation of image and science is starting to become for me its own artistic medium.

What do you expect or hope viewers to take away from this exhibit?

I hope my pictures will help people realize the power they have as consumers. Everything that we purchase has a hidden cost to our planetary life support systems that is usually not included in the purchase price. Our situation is dire, but we can all affect it by changing our buying habits, which will force the producers to change their methods, and by demanding that our governments enact regulations to protect our children.

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Photo: Yellow Haze Over City of Charleston with Industry in Foreground, 9 October, 2015, J. Henry Fair, Charleston, SC, 2016, Color photograph.

Is there a certain piece in Eyes on the Edge that you find particularly compelling in terms of artistry and/or environmental issues?

Each of the pieces in the show tells an important story about an aspect of the Carolina coast. My favorites are the inlet on Edisto Island and the three rivers entering St Helena Sound.

Where else can people view your work?

The next show in the USA is a group show about climate change at the University of Denver in the spring. But my website is

Do you have any future projects in-store that you would like to tell Jasper readers about? Will your emphasis remain primarily on photographing coastal areas only?

I will continue to photograph the coasts of the USA, and actually just did Maine. Another project on my mind is slavery and racism.

What advice would you give to aspiring photographers and environmental activists?

My advice for aspiring photographers would be to get a real job. It’s too hard to be an artist. If one must do it, one should enroll in a good art school. Environmentalists I would suggest to think small and local and focus on something for which one has a passion.

Did any unusual or interesting experiences occur during your aerial photography sessions?

The process begins with a lot of research: the nature of the industry, environmental impact of their practices, different operators and locations. Then it’s a matter of logistics. Once, with a pilot from Alabama, on a trip to explore the lower Mississippi River, we had landed at a small airfield to warm up, hit the head, and begin. After takeoff, I asked if it was safe to open the window, and proceeded, only to have it come free in my hands. As this was a push/pull plane, there was a prop behind us, and the aileron. Had I released the window (in the 100 mph airstream) the results might have been problematic.

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Photo: Wetlands in Long Brow Plantation, 14 October, 2015, J. Henry Fair, Green Pond, SC, 2016, Color photograph.

For exhibit info, please visit:

For more information about Fair’s work, please visit:

REVIEW: Trustus Theatre's The Rocky Horror Show

open-uri20160909-3-dd1x7c By: Alex Smith

Trustus Theatre has made something of a one-show franchise out of Richard O’Brien’s 1973 musical THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW. Their current production of the show (the sixth in 24 years) is yet another fine production of a musical whose tightrope walk between cult status (the film adaptation, THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW, has run in midnight showings at movie houses around the world since its release in 1975) and mainstream standing (countless tours, two Broadway runs, a brand new television film premiering at the end of this month) mirrors the fine line it also walks between over-the-top, drag/camp musical comedy, and something much more thoughtful, substantive, and, ultimately, timeless.

Pilfering tropes from the best and worst of A-, B- and Z- sci-fi and horror movies and mixing them into the melting pot of a gender-bending, sexually promiscuous and experimental London of 1973, still fully in the thrall of David Bowie’s bisexual starman Ziggy Stardust (who Bowie would officially “kill” onstage just over two weeks after ROCKY’s premiere at the Royal Court Upstairs theatre), O’Brien tells the story of a hapless, hopelessly square couple of “asshole” Brad Majors and “slut” Janet Weiss. A wedding, a proposal, a stormy night, a flat tire, and the light from a castle(?!?) they passed a few miles back, and suddenly, the recently betrothed graduates of Denton High find themselves plunged into a world of incestuous servants, tap-dancing lackeys, muscle-bound monsters, and otherwise unbound and unhinged partakers of the “absolute pleasure” which the “man” of the castle, Dr. Frank N. Furter, entreats the virginal lovers to give themselves over to. Being the good, red-blooded, all-American kids that they are, it only takes a nudge from Frank, a healthy dose of lipstick and eyeliner, some fishnets, stiletto heels, and “just a little bit of stee=hee-hee-hee-mmmmm…”, before Brad and Janet find themselves cavorting with the Doctor and his whole odd, unearthly(?!?) crew in the most intimate of manners.

Reanimation! Betrayal! Murder! Infidelity! Necrophilia! Heartbreak! Aliens! O’Brien throws in everything up to and including the kitchen sink, and ends the whole shebang (like any good sci-fi/horror romp, especially ones from the Cold War-era) with a “moral”: our hero and heroine, searching for each other in the dark, smoky air where the castle once stood, finding each other but lost to themselves, it would seem, because of their transgressions…but in the final analysis (did I mention there’s a narrator commenting upon and guiding us through this brilliant madness?), we are told, these kids are actually just foolish for being so hung up over such frivolity as sexual freedom and exploration because, you know, when you think about how minuscule we are on this tiny floating blue rock, does any of it really matter?

On its own, this odd, convoluted story would flounder, however fabulously, just as the stories in many B- science fiction and horror or exploitation films often did. But playwright O’Brien dipped into not only the pulpy murk of bad double features for inspiration, he also trolled the American rock and roll and R&B airwaves of the 1950s and 1960s, eventually mixing in a little fanfare and elegance via Hollywood studios themes, and came out with that rarest of gems in the deep mine of theatrical musicals: a set of songs that could each stand completely on their own as fine individual examples of the genre to which they belong, while at the same time providing a cohesive musical whole which leads us full circle from the opening number, “Science Fiction, Double Feature,” to its show-closing counterpart “Science Ficton (Reprise)”.

A further achievement of the songs (true musical classics: “The Time Warp,” “Sweet Transvestite,” “Hot Patootie, Bless My Soul,” “Toucha Touch Me,” “I’m Going Home”… if, for some reason, you don’t already know these songs, go see the show: you’ll never forget them once you have) is that, lyrically, O’Brien makes each one as integral a part of the overall story being told on stage as the dialogue and action - there is no filler here whatsoever - a far cry from what many musicals can claim.

The final triumph of O’Briens songs is that, in a musical theatre which, at the point ROCKY was being created, had hardly strayed from its classical cliches and methodology, he created a bunch of songs that sound and feel like they could be taken out of the context of the show and performed, one or all, anytime, at any place by a bunch of musicians with electric instruments, and they would sound just as good…in short, great songs that actually rocked.

That’s no mean feat in musical theatre, where, often, everything is necessarily softened, watered down, caricatured, or otherwise compromised in such a manner as to make it palatable and easily disseminated by the audience. This works terrifically when you’re, say, telling the story of an impressionist painter, or a gang of singing cats, or bohemians in New York in the early nineties. Rock & roll is not soft, however, and so it always seemed out of place or as though it were being turned into Muzak (with rare exceptions) when it played any part in musical theatre up to ROCKY HORROR. Just as O’Brien made a terrific set of individual songs that could stand on their own, he also proved that there was a place for harder edged music in musical theatre, that rock & roll could sustain a whole show. With ROCKY, he effectively created the Rock Musical.

THE ROCKY HORROR show changed so much about the musical theatre (and eventually the movies and the world). It un- self-consciously tipped its hat to all of its influences while simultaneously sending them up and utilizing them as the glue that held the pieces in place. Put together, O’Brien’s clever book and brilliant songs, his unforgettable characters and that never-ending sense of wonder over the idols it was at once holding up and smashing (which is nothing so much as a parallel for the pubescent feeling of liberation and awe upon one’s discovery of those old friends sex, drugs and rock & roll) melded perfectly to create what has become one of the great musicals of all time. Trustus Theatre’s 24-year hold on the ROCKY HORROR brand continues, starting this Saturday 8pm (after a slight delay for Hurricane Matthew), and the production, from front to back, could not have been placed in better hands.

Scott Blanks, an actor of the highest calibre, stood tall, over the course of almost twenty years, in the stack-heeled shoes of ROCKY’s antagonist and bustier-bedecked master of ceremonies, Dr. Frank N. Furter. Blanks played the role in no less than five separate productions over two decades (full disclosure: this reviewer portrayed the doomed “delivery boy” Eddie in the third production of ROCKY at Trustus and has fond memories of being chased every night to his offstage “doom” by a pick-axe wielding, rubber gloves wearing, surgeon’s gown draped dervish in the form of Blanks-as-Frank from December, 1999 to January 2000). His spot-on portrayal of the fetching, gender-fluid “Doctor” cast a long shadow over any hopes of a subsequent revival of ROCKY at Trustus when he announced that with the theatre’s fifth production in 2009 that he would be hanging up his fishnets for good, and that he would not portray Frank again.

So what better choice of a director to oversee the proceedings in Trustus’s ROCKY #6, could there have been than the man who stood, onstage, at the center of each previous production, Scott Blanks? Having seen the latest incarnation of the show, one would be hard-pressed to make a better selection. Blanks’ direction of the show is lean and tight, and each act flashes by swiftly in a trail of glitter and pheromones. Blanks’ solid choices with regard to staging, along with Caitlin Britt’s elegant, energetic choreography, make the action of the play, which gallops apace from start to finish, convey far more nuance than a show which runs as fast might lead one to expect.

Brandon McIver’s set and Barry Sparks’s lighting design are of the usual excellence which Columbia theatergoers have come to expect from these two veterans. Baxter Engle’s projections add the perfect amount of texture to the entire stage picture when and wherever they are utilized, especially in the opening and closing use of rainfall. From a technical angle, the stand-out part of the evening is the sound. The show’s excellent band, lead ably by Musical Director Chris Cockerel, could be heard loud and clear, each instrument coming through the system without any distortion, and none of it interfering whatsoever with the actors voices coming from the stage. Trustus has always been problematic when it comes to amplified sound, so to hear everything so clearly was an absolute revelation.

Costumes by Clay Owens and props by Nathan Herring are appropriately campy and kitsch, respectively, and the wigs were an unexpectedly tacky delight. But, “I see you shiver with antici…pation.” So let’s get to the heart of things.

Blanks has assembled a remarkably young performance ensemble for the sixth incarnation of THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW at Trustus, whose collective youth is only matched and exceeded by its talent. This is an excellent cast.

The always outstanding Katie Leitner starts the show out in the guise of the oft-forgotten “Usherette,” and returns in short order as the servant Magenta, who she plays with eerie, unblinking and hilarious “bride of Frankenstein” look frozen on her face. We also meet the “Phantoms” or Transylvanians as they are sometimes called, the “background” players who seem to constantly be everywhere at all times, as dancers, singers, windshield wipers, party guests, and just about any other thing the show requires. They are excellent here, turning the stage from flats and platforms into something more akin to a living, breathing organism, and their collective work is so good that they deserve to be pointed out individually: Allison Allgood, Sara Blanks, LaTrell Brennan, Brittany Hammock, Parker Byun, Jackie Rowe, Abigail McNeely, Mario McClean, Blair Baudelaire, and Matt Wright.

Possibly the youngest member of this young cast, Gerald Floyd plays the no-named, no-necked Narrator with the poise, dignity and sophistication of a much older gentleman, even when doing the pelvic thrust. Cody Lovell and Anna Lyles are hilarious as, respectively, everybody’s favorite asshole and slut, Brad Majors and his fiancée Janet Weiss. It’s especially fun to watch these two transform from the sweet kids from Denton High at the beginning to the insatiable beasts of excess they become by the end of the show. Michael Hazin is great as the “butler with a secret” Riff Raff, playing him with a barely perceptible half grin and hunchbacked swagger.

Kayla Cahill is fabulous as tap-dancing groupie Columbia, her portrayal significantly less ditzy and squeaky than most, which is a breath of fresh air. Josh Kern is more than sufficiently well-suited to play the titular “creation” Rocky, and Percy Saint Cyprian is terrific as Eddie, ex-delivery boy and organ donor. And GREAT SCOTT! I swear I recognized that (uncredited and unlisted in the program) actor playing Eddie’s uncle, Dr. Everett Scott, from somewhere…something about a pig and a spider, maybe? Anyway, whoever he was, he was, and is, always fantastic.

Have I forgotten anyone? Ah! The “man” himself, Dr. Frank N. Furter, played with fearless bravado and boundless talent by Walter Graham, who clearly benefitted from the tutelage and direction of one who knew the character inside and out, but who also brings such a fundamentally different take on the “sweet transvestite” to this production that he does what any actor playing this legendary role must do: make it their own. Graham meets and exceeds this task (“In abundance!”), gliding through his performance as though he’d been preparing his whole life for it. To point out any one moment in his performance as Frank is unfair to the strength of the whole (harharhar), but, in all seriousness, if Graham’s emotional, soulful, show-stopping delivery of ROCKY’s most gentle, beautiful number, “I’m Going Home,” doesn’t bring tears to your eyes, then you simply must not have eyes. Or a heart. Where’s Eddie? He might have one for you…

Blanks, Cockrell, Britt, and the whole cast and crew have done Trustus Theatre proud with this sixth incarnation of THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW, bringing such a wealth of talent and energy to the production that, like Brad Majors, you would have to be an asshole to miss it. So, put on your fishnets, slather on mascara and lipstick, make sure to pack a spare tire if it’s a rainy night, and get ready to swim the warm waters of sins of the flesh: there’s a light over at the Frankenstein place, and it’s the glow coming from this production of THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW at Trustus Theatre, which absolutely sparkles!

THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW Book, music and lyrics by Richard O'Brien Directed by Scott Blanks Musical Direction by Chris Cockrell Choreography by Caitlin Britt Runs Saturday, October 8 through Saturday November 5

Meet the 2016 2nd Act Film Fest Filmmakers

2nd act 2016 Back for our 3rd year, the 2nd Act Film Festival, under the direction of Emmy-nominated filmmaker and Jasper film editor Wade Sellers, hits the screen Friday night at 7 pm at Tapp's Arts Center. Tickets are just $10 and are available by clicking here! Past festivals have sold out to SRO audiences and tickets are going far quicker online this year than in years past, so a word to the wise ...

But no need to wait until Friday night to meet this year's filmmakers. Here's a brief intro below to what you have in store on Friday night, October 14 at 7 pm.



Cory John

Cory John

Film: At Last

Columbia, SC actor, screenwriter, producer, and director Cory John began performing at his hometown high school Spring Valley. There he noticed and embraced his love for theater and acting. He later became part owner of Real Records LLC where he was a writer and director for their original film series, which included "Spare the Rod" and their feature film, "Addiction: What’s Yours?" He has since gone on to star in productions such as Yesterday Is Still Gone, Finding Hope in the Struggle, and Thee Final Destination 2 Love, to name a few. His recent endeavors include being director for the EmPOWERment Corp, and appearing as co-writer, co-producer, co-director, and lead in the Horror film Bag Lady set to premiere in October of 2016. Cory is also the director and founder of Cory John’s Murder Mystery Dinner Show, which will soon celebrate its one year anniversary of bringing fun, food, and horror to the Carolinas. Cory is a lover of the arts and credits his writing and directing of his latest short film "At Last" as his best work to date.


Tamara Finkbeiner

Tamara Finkbeiner

Film: Bait

Originally from Barbados, Tamara is married to Janson Finkbeiner and a stay at home mom with my joys; King Kai, Big Jon and Benji. She graduated from Columbia College with a Bachelor of Arts in Music. She works in graphic design and is a co-founder with Josetra Robinson of our company One7evenOne Productions LLC.


Collins White

Collins White


Collins Abbott White is a filmmaker born and raised in Greenville, SC. He directed his first film when he was a senior in high school, and went on to study film in college. Upon graduating, Collins founded Other Vision Studios, a film and video production company with the goal of producing feature films in Greenville and helping to establish an industry presence in the upstate. For the past 5 years, Collins has worked with upstate businesses to help them capture the essence of their brand in video while producing several short films and the pilot of a mini-series as well as several YouTube Channels. He is passionate about the art of filmmaking and is determined to push himself in terms of story and quality every chance he gets.


David Holloway

David Holloway

Film: Botched

David Holloway is a freelance Cinematographer from Greenwood, South Carolina. He specializes in commercial and documentary projects. He is the owner operator of StoryReel Productions. He has a history degree from the University of Plymouth, UK. David is a self taught filmmaker, however, he has taken several workshops through Maine Media College. David is a passionate and dedicated film maker who is always looking to work with and learn from others.


Chris White

Chris White

Film: All Seeing

Chris White is an Irmo High School grad who now resides with his family in Greenville. His first film, ED THE MOVIE, was shot thirty years ago with a camera he bought at the old K-Mart on Bush River Road. Chris' next film is a rock-n-roll road movie about a kid who becomes a roadie for his favorite Christian hair band during the summer of 1986.


Kendall Jason

Kendall Jason -  kendallprojects

Film: Tonewood

Kendall (Jason) kendallprojects was born and raised in Columbia South Carolina. He briefly majored in Studio Art while participating in the football program at the University of South Carolina and North Greenville College. Leaving South Carolina he attended Art school at Ringling College of Art & Design in Florida where he received his BFA in sculpture. Upon graduating from Ringling he and his wife moved to New York where they lived in Brooklyn while working at Dia Center for the Arts (a nonprofit organization that initiates, supports, presents and preserves art projects “whose nature or scale” would preclude other funding sources). Also while in New York he received his MFA from New York University while teaching undergraduate classes in the fine art department. In 2009 Jason returned to South Carolina after his twin girls were born. Now back in Columbia Kendall works as an art teacher and spends most of his time in the studio developing new projects around ideas involving southern masculinity and blue-collar work ethic.


Ebony Wilson

Ebony Wilson

Film: W H O R L

Ebony is a returning filmmaker to the 2nd Act Film Festival from the Columbia area. She currently owns and operates her own independent production company, Midnight Crow Productions, is the administrator of the Columbia Film Community networking group, and manages branding and online positioning for media, talent, and film professionals in the Film Community Directory. Her latest works include Divine Intervention (a 48 hour film project), Underground 13 (web-series), and Prelude to Infusco (feature length sci-fi drama).


Michael Tolbert

Michael Tolbert

Film: Parental Guidance is Suggested

Michael Tolbert is an actor/director based out of Columbia, South Carolina. Over the course of four years he starred in Operation Adventure, hosting the documentary travel series. Most recently, Tolbert appeared in science fiction horror film Alienography and made his directing debut with the documentary film Wood: A Family Affair. Previously, Tolbert worked as a production assistant on films such as 50% and the short film Drifts. Both films have made their way across the nation screening at both Campus Movie Festival and Frameline Film Festival.


Jennifer Baxley

Jennifer Baxley

Film: Reality Really Bites

Jennifer Baxley is an amateur filmmaker whose inaugural music video “Jenny Saves Trump’s Jewels” allowed her to meet Donald Trump during the auditions for the Apprentice. This launched her very fruitful but profitless filmmaking career.  She’s produced five music videos, won a Palmetto Pillar Award and performed assorted production tasks on a few awesome films.  In her other lives she is a software developer and adjunct instructor for Midlands Technical College.


Tyler Matthews

Tyler Matthews

Film: Mr. Wonderful

Tyler Matthews is an equally adept filmmaker and music producer. After a four year stint in finance, he taught himself how to create video and music professionally. He's an artist on the Post-Echo Music label, an active member of two arts groups (Moas Collective and Scenario Collective), and a member of the SOCO Co-Work community. He produces two podcasts professionally and operates in the Vista under his business name Tyler Digital.


The 2nd Act Film Festival is a production of The Jasper Project.


The Jasper Project is a project-oriented, multidisciplinary arts facilitator serving the greater Columbia and South Carolina arts community by providing space, resources, and collaborative engineering for emerging artists and new projects by established artists. For more information go to

It's JAY Season - Vote Now! VOTE HERE!

2016-jays A really good year.

Every artist has one now and again. A period of time when the universe smiles upon you, life just seems to click, and you have the energy to get done all the jobs you need to do.

It’s a brilliant feeling. And we like spreading that brilliance around. That’s why we asked our readers to nominate the artists in their lives who have had one of those really good years. Then, our panel of experts took a look at the list of nominees and winnowed it down to the top three artists in each discipline who seemed to have the very best years of all.

Below, you’ll read about these 12* artists and have the opportunity to register your vote for which artist in each field should be named 2016 Jasper Artist of the Year.

Winners will be announced at the 2016 Jasper Artist of the Year Gala & Columbia Christmas Carol Lip Sync Championship on December  2nd.




Literary Arts

Carla Damron

Carla Damron’s most important work for the year was the publication of her literary novel, The Stone Necklace, by Story River Books, a division of USC Press. The Stone Necklace was also chosen as the One Book, One Community selection for February 2016 which led to multiple events and appearances, which gave Damron the opportunity to explore the intersection of art and social awareness with hundreds of people (including a presentation at the SC National Alliance for Mental Illness conference). Damron has completed approximately 30 book club presentations thus far, with more scheduled. Damron’s other works include a submission to the Jasper Project’s Marked By Water collection, monthly blogs on the Writerswhokill website, a quarterly column in the SC Social Workers newsletter, and the completion of her fifth novel, which is now in her agent’s hands.

Len Lawson

Len Lawson’s many poetry publications this year have included the following: “Briefcase of Little Tortures,” in Up the Staircase Quarterly, “Down South,” in Charleston Currents; “I Write My Body Eclectic” in [PANK] Magazine; “Feel the Vibration: Marky Mark & the Funky Bunch, A Retrospective” in Yellow Chair Review; “Church Fan,” “Niger (Or the Country Missing a Letter,” and “When a White Man in Camden Tells You to Act Like  You Got Some Sense,” in Drunk in a Midnight Choir;  “Google Search for Black Lives Matter” in Winter Tangerine Review; “ The Black Life Anthem: Unarmed Black People Killed by Police or Dying in Police Custody Since 2012*” in Free Times; “For the Dead Whose Caskets Flowed Out of Graves After the South Carolina Flood,” “12 Year Old Inside Me Seeks a Father Figure,” “Uneasy Dreams of a Presidential Hopeful,” and “The Body is a Cave” in Connotation Press; “  George Zimmerman as Jack in Titanic Painting Trayvon Martin as Rose” and “Krack” in Public Pool; and, “The Invitation” in Get Free Books.

Ray McManus

This year, along with R. Mac Jones, Ray McManus co-edited the anthology Found Anew: Writers Responding to Photographic Histories which was published by USC Press and nominated for the Lillian Smith Book Award. He published the following poems: “Caveman Survey,” “How Boys are Measured,” and “Manspread,” in The Good Men Project; “For the Hardest to Reach Places” in Prairie Schooner; “Dog Box,” “Disturbing Remains,” and “Staying in the Truck” in Hard Lines: Rough South Poetry from USC Press; “When a Dog Comes Back Rabid,” “We Were All Dead Once,” and “Natural Selection,” in Red Truck; “Ask Your Doctor,” “Origin of Species,” “In the Absence of Protection,” and “The Descent of Man” in The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature; and, “Ruts” in The State of the Heart Volume II, from USC Press. McManus participated in community projects that included the Tri-District Arts Consortium, The Carolina Master Scholars program, Serious Young Women Writers Workshop, Poetry Out Loud Region II Competition, High School and Middle School ABC Site Training, Word Fest Charlotte, and the Center for Oral Narrative and gave readings at Festival for the Book in Nashville; Pat Conroy Lit Fest in Beaufort: LILA Author Event in Charleston; Book Tavern in Augusta GA; Deckle Edge Literary Festival as well as Mind Gravy in Columbia; the Upcountry Lit Fest; Two Writers Walk into a Bar in Durham NC; and, the Scuppernong Book Store, Greensboro NC.




Visual Arts

Kendal Jason

Kendall Jason's work this year has included quite a few multidisciplinary performance art pieces including the following at The 701 CCA South Carolina Biennial 2015 comprised of Speak to Me: "I've been mad for fucking years, absolutely years, been over the edge for yonks, been working me buns off for bands..." as well as, "I've always been mad, I know I've been mad, like the most of us...very hard to explain why you're mad, even if you're not mad" and Far away across the field, The tolling of the iron bell, Calls the faithful to their knees. To hear the softly spoken magic spells, both with reconstituted performance costumes; Lunatic on the Grass and

Breathe, a single channel video. Jason also created the "Goin Down the Road Feelin Bad" performance at Tapp’s Arts Center In conjunction with Michaela Pilar Brown, and The Transitioner Episode 1- "Who Do You Love"- 3 night performance at 701 CCA. For the Da Da Desque Exhibition 701 CCA, he created The Bags (50lbs Zombie Drawings), The Uniform (Custom Uniform for Work and Play), Episode I, Who Do You Love (Live video), and Ol' Man. He performed at Artista Vista as The Transitioner Episode 2, producing Corn hole Bags (50lbs Zombie Drawings), Extra Large Corn hole boards (Fear Vs. Fan Zombie Cheerleader drawings), and Zombie Drawings.

Michaela Pilar Brown

Among the programs that have occupied Michaela Pilar Brown’s time of late are Summer Arts Residencies in both Sedona Arts Center in Sedona, Arizona as well as one in Kunstlerwerkgemeinschaft Kaiserslautern, Germany. She also served as a visiting artist at Claflin University, Central Piedmont Community College, and at Tapp’s Arts Center, here in Columbia. She was featured in a film by Roni Nicole Henderson as well as one by Wade Sellers, and her work, Speak No’, 2011 was acquired by the Columbia Museum of Art. Her exhibitions included 15-Jahre-Künstlerwerkgemeinschaft volksbank Kaiserslautern; Artfields in Lake City; a solo exhibition and site specific performance, I’m a boss my house, at If Art Gallery; a two-woman show and site specific installation and performance called Making Time Marking Forever at Carrack Contemporary Art in Durham, NC; The Mother Wound site specific performance at Spelman College in Atlanta; Remix – Themes and Variations in African American Art at the Columbia Museum of Art; Wet Hot Southern Summer Group Exhibition at The Southern Gallery in Charleston; Where They Cut Her I Bleed – Site Specific Installation/ Solo Exhibition and Performance at Tapp’s Arts Center; The Space Between – Solo Exhibition and Performance at McMaster Gallery, University of South Carolina; Ruptured Silence Multimedia Performance and Collaboration with Wideman Davis Dance and Darion McCloud at Drayton Hall, University of South Carolina; Liquor and Watermelon Will Kill You – Solo Exhibition at Rebecca Randall Bryan Art Gallery in Conway; and Red Dirt and Doilies – Solo Exhibition at Sumter County Gallery of Art in Sumter.

Lauren Chapman

Among Lauren Chapman’s accomplishments this year was winning second place in the 61st Annual USC Student Art exhibition for the painting Still, and her painting The Flood was featured at the ArtFields Festival 2016 in Lake City as well as being published in the 2016 ArtFields catalog. In May, Chapman had a joint exhibition at Tapp’s Art Center and in August she showcased 25 oil paintings in her first solo exhibition and artist talk, titled Repetitions at the Pearson Lakes Art Center in Okoboji, IA. Chapman was awarded the Yaghjian Studio arts scholarship at USC and received a fully funded art residency at the international center for the arts in Monte Castello, Italy which she attended in June. Finally, Chapman’s oil painting the white rabbit was selected for the "Figure Out" Planned Parenthood exhibition in August.




Music Arts

Mark Rapp

If there’s a linchpin of Columbia’s jazz scene, it’s probably trumpet (and didgeridoo) player Mark Rapp. In addition to balancing a steady stream of gigs around the city with his constant national and international travel, Rapp has kept busy orchestrating a steady stream of recordings, including a long overdue set from jazz patriarch Skipp Pearson and two efforts under his The Song Project Series with guitarist Derek Bronston. And, as part of the Harbison Theatre Performance Incubator Series, Rapp teamed up with professional choreographer Stephanie Wilkins to create Woven, a unique collaboration that combines jazz and contemporary dance that stands as one of the most innovative original performance pieces created in Columbia in recent years.

Dylan Dickerson

Although he’s one of the most affable and easygoing artists in town, when Dylan Dickerson steps on stage with his band Dear Blanca and starts playing music that person seems to slip away. With his post-punk-meets-Hendrix approach to playing guitar and an unadorned bawl of a voice, Dickerson stands clearly out among his peers. His lyrics, pondering and painstaking, feel like anthems for twentysomethings who want to make it plain that their disaffection and distress should never be mistaken for apathy.

Dear Blanca started out slowly but over the past year seems poised to make the next step, releasing two EPs--one produced by Triangle veteran Scott Solter (Mountain Goats, St. Vincent, Spoon), the other by Charleston’s producer-of-the-moment Ryan “Wolfgang” Zimmerman of Brave Baby--that hold to Dickerson’s idiosyncratic vision of folkie Townes Van Zandt drinking at a bar with D. Boon of the Minuteman while proving that Dear Blanca is a band capable of making music every bit as captivating as their heroes.

Justin Daniels

As much as Columbia has begun to champion its hip-hop veterans like FatRat da Czar and Preach Jacobs, there’s no denying that much of the energy of the genre still lies with a powerful younger generation that is still forging its own identity. Of the newer crop of emcees in the Capital City, Justin Daniels, who raps under the moniker H3RO, is one of the best. His December release Between the Panels, despite its DIY sensibility, plays like a masterclass in how to embrace youthful swagger with a keen sense of history. His comic book motifs and love of pure bars harkens back to Wu Tang Clan; the joyful soul samples and backpack rap self-consciousness to Lauryn Hill and early-period Kanye West; and his charismatic exuberance not unlike current rapper-of-the-moment Chance the Rapper. Daniels is still hustling, but his past year suggests the sky is the limit.




Theatre Arts

Baxter Engle

A perennial behind-the-scenes magic maker, Baxter Engle has served over the past year in the following productions: Marie Antoinette (Sound Design); Blithe Spirit (Scenic Design); Peter and the Star Catcher (Scenic and Props Design); American Idiot (Scenic and Video Design); and, Anatomy of a Hug (Scenic and Video Design.) In addition to handling the creative aspects of design, Engle is hands-on throughout the productions from conception to the birth of the show.

Robert Harrelson

The consummate theatre man, Robert Harrelson is the executive director and owner of his own company, and all the hard work and minutiae that implies, with On Stage Productions, a non-profit theatre company in West Columbia. This year, Harrelson directed Little Shop of Horrors, Twisted Carol, Miracle in Memphis, Crimes of the Heart, and Oz: Dorothy’s Return, which he also wrote. He also teaches ongoing acting classes.

Hunter Boyle

In January 2016 Hunter Boyle performed in a staged reading of Composure, a screenplay by Jason Stokes at Trustus’ Side Door Theatre, playing “Pitchfork” Ben Tillman and several other characters. Next, he performed at Trustus Theatre, where he is a Company member, in Peter and the Star Catcher, playing the roles of Mrs. Bumbrake and the mermaid called Teacher. Following that, Boyle performed with the South Carolina Shakespeare Company, where he is also a company member, playing Sir John Falstaff in The Merry Wives of Windsor. Boyle taught several Master Classes in Musical Theatre (how to tell a story through song) and Acting (how to develop/train your voice effectively for stage work) for the Trustus’ Apprentice Company, as well as a total of five classes (three classes in the fall and two classes in the spring) of Introduction to the Theatre at USC Aiken. Boyle is currently a member in good standing of the Actor’s Equity Association-the union of professional actors in the US, as well as the Screen Actor’s Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists in the US. As of the nomination cut-off date, Boyle is currently rehearsing the role of Dr. Scott in The Rocky Horror Picture Show at Trustus Theatre, being directed by Scott Blanks.




(*The 2016 JAY in Dance will not be awarded this year.)

REVIEW: USC Theatre's Production of A Midsummer Night's Dream

midsummer-4-500px By: Kyle Petersen

There’s a reason A Midsummer Night’s Dream ranks as one of the most oft-performed of Shakespeare’s plays—it is, quite simply, fun.

The plot is familiar to many if not most casual theatregoers or folks who actually did their reading in intro Brit Lit classes in college—a comical quartet of lovers both paired and unrequited dash into an enchanted forest full of fairies for an evening, and hijinks ensue. Because it’s a Shakespearean comedy and not a tragedy, all is well at the end, people get married, and a ridiculous play within a play is staged.

For all his breathtaking inventiveness, the Bard loved to return to what works well, hence the many frequent plot devices that appear here, like the use of mistaken identities, romantic comedy of errors or the role of mischievous interlopers, but it’s hardly a bother. It’s such an extraordinarily well-written play, full of his signature lyrical mastery and unfailing blend of bawdy humor and devious social commentary, that any production of it has an automatic head start.

So really, your attention is more drawn to the unique spin and context from which any new production emerges than the play itself—and there’s a lot of that here. As the opening play of USC Theatre’s season and the first with Aquila Theatre and Folger Theatre veteran Robert Richmond at the helm of the department as chair (he also directs here), expectations are high to see some of the brilliance on display with his many re-imaginings of Shakespeare on national (and international) stages. That the production itself features some steampunk-esque promotional material and that Richmond invokes the TV show American Horror Story as we as the recent passing of such flamboyant and gender-bending music icons as David Bowie and Prince also heightens interest, even as it suggests some fairly daring creative risks.

Given Richmond’s pedigree, it’s no surprise that these risks never impede on the play itself—from the moment Puck, played with dashing glee by William Quant, bounds on stage to open the show clad in charismatic leather and retro goggles, it’s clear that the thematic spins put on the play are going to be careful not to get in the way of the story’s considerable power and appeal. And although the staging, costumes, and special effects here are incredibly effective, it’s restraint more than anything that wins the day. The scenic and lighting design, delivered by guest artists Bruce Auerbach and third year MFA student Neda Spalajkovic, is sharp and stunning, featuring chairs fastened to the back wall of the theatre and an elegant use umbrellas hanging from the ceiling as well as on the stage floor itself, easily moved around or manipulated to mimic the twists and turns in the forest. It’s both a highly effective and polished while also staying true to the simple, minimal use of props and production in keeping with Shakespeare’s original minimalist productions. Puck’s costume is a standout, as is the bespectacled Peter Quince’s and the darkly grand feuding fairies Titania and Oberon’s black leather and glam-inspired creations.

While some dancing choreography and modern music have been added to spice up the proceedings as well, what shines most after set and costume are the actors themselves. It’s fun to see the Lysander-Hermia-Demetrius-Helena quartet played by age appropriate actors, and each shines here. Freddie Powers plays Lysander with a young, almost smirking charm, while Tristan Hester’s Demetrius takes on a sort of peevish jock flare. And while both deliver strong performances, it’s the female half of this equation that really brings the hijinks to life, with Allie Anderson’s Hermia zeroing in on the angsty self-absorption of her role and Kelsie Hensley playing the absurd demonstrations of Helena with a captivating and knowing satirical wink. Some weaker links inevitably appear further down the totem of this large cast, but it’s tough to argue that they don’t shine as an ensemble. If there’s a star among them, though, it’s likely John Romanski, who seemed born to play the comical and boisterous Nick Bottom. He had the audience rolling in the aisles with almost every line he delivered, with a dynamic stage presence and an infectious energy which appeared to lift up the actors around him.

All in all, this production of the Shakespearean classic is a remarkable one and well-worth seeing, and one that portends a winning season from USC Theatre.

The Best of Figure Out 2016

It's part of the changing seasons. As people all over Columbia anxiously await the suspension of the heat index and a reason to put on more clothes, Planned Parenthood Health Systems sponsors an exhibition at Tapp's Arts Center in which all the subjects of the art take them off. It's no secret; Figure Out, which just finished its 4th iteration at Tapp's Arts Center, is one of Jasper's favorite yearly exhibitions. And though the show came down this weekend, the art will linger on in our memories and on some of our walls.

But if you missed it, here are just a few of Jasper's favorite pieces from Figure Out 2016.

Kristi Berry

Lauren Chapman

Lauren Chapman - detail

Lyon Hill

Ansley Adams

Will South

Billy Guess

Kim Fabio

Anne Marie Cockrell


Until next year.





New Ticket Level Announced for Marked by the Water - INFO here

New Today: Tickets for admission to the event without the purchase of the book available for $15 at Brown Paper Tickets ****************************** Artist Lauren Chapman offers a sample of the work appearing Tuesday nigh tat the opening exhibition for Marked by the Water

please join us for

Marked by the Water

Artists Respond to a 1000 Year Flood

Tuesday, October 4th at 7 pm at Tapp’s Arts Center

as more than 50 artists commemorate the first anniversary of

South Carolina’s 1000 Year Flood


Presented by the Jasper Project, tickets are now on sale for Marked by the Water: Launch, Exhibit, Performance, Reception at

New Today: Tickets for admission to the event without the purchase of the book available for $15 at Brown Paper Tickets ******************************

A multi-disciplinary arts project involving more than 50 visual, literary, and performing artists, “Marked by the Water – Launch, Exhibit, Performance, Reception” is the culmination of more than 10 month’s work and will serve as a commemoration of the first anniversary of the devastating 1000-year flood suffered by Columbia, SC and its environs on and around October 4, 2015. The purpose of the project has been to allow for recollection and critical aesthetic processing by Columbia’s artists of events surrounding the flood and its aftermath, resulting in meaningful, complementary, artistic documentation.

The evening’s event will include the opening of a visual art exhibition, curated by Mary Bentz Gilkerson; the launch of a 100 page book of visual and literary art, edited by Cindi Boiter and Ed Madden; a dance installation by the Power Company under the direction of Martha Brim with Amanda Ling; a staged oration by Vicky Saye Henderson of the essay, Spill, written by Nicola Waldron; and the premiere of an independent film, “Rising,” by Ron Hagell with Terrance Henderson, and Katrina Blanding, art direction by Eileen Blyth with Alex Smith. Tickets are $30 which includes all the above including a first edition copy of the book, Marked by the Water.

A champagne reception with the visual and literary artists will precede the event AT 6 PM with a portion of the proceeds benefiting One SC Flood Relief Fund ($50).

This project was supported by a Connected Communities grant from Central Carolina Community Foundation. A portion of the proceeds from this event will benefit the One SC Flood Relief Fund.

The commemoration will include the launch of a 100 page book of poetry, prose, and visual art with readings from it by the authors; the opening of an exhibition of visual art; a world premiere dance performance and film; a theatrical reading; and a reception celebrating it all.


Participating Artists Include

Lauren Chapman  Mary Robinson  Jennifer Bartell   Mary Bentz Gilkerson  Michael Dantzler  Stephen Chesley  Mike Williams  Billy Guess  Claudia Smith Brinson  Bugsy Calhoun  Laura Spong  Ed Madden  Worthy Evans  Susan Lenz  Eric Morris  Nicola Waldron  Kara Gunter  Lindsay McManus  Gina Moore  Lee Malerich  Tim Conroy     Eileen Blyth   Cindi Boiter   Barry Wheeler  Vicky Henderson  Glenn Saborosch  Laurie McIntosh  Rachel Haynie  Bill Higgins  Len Lawson   Martha Brim   Amanda Ling  Paul Brown  Michaela Pilar Brown  Allan Anderson  Alex Smith   Tyler McNamara  Carla Damron   Nicole Seitz  Don McCallister  Katrina Blanding  Wade Sellers  Molly Harrell     Kendal Turner  Emily Oliver  Ron Hagell  Terrance Henderson  Power Company    

Tickets are available at

clothespins from an installation by Susan Lenz

New Today: Tickets for admission to the event without the purchase of the book available for $15 at Brown Paper Tickets ******************************

Ony's Bands - King Vulture Plays the Jasper Magazine Release Party Concert Tonight at Art Bar

JasperProjectLogo King Vulture is an eletro-pop group formed by wife and husband, Kate and Jared Pyritz. Their live band includes Evan Simmons (bass), Patrick Funk (guitar), Steve Sancho (drums), and Thomas Hammond (saxophone), giving them a fuller sound, ranging from ethereal pop to a more energetic rock. The project started after Jared encouraged Kate to record some songs that she had written over several years. She wrote them without the intention of starting a band, but they eventually started recording her songs at home, which led them to make King Vulture an official band.

I asked Kate and Jared about their music and their future plans (which right now include awaiting their soon-to-be-born baby) and how they write and record their music, which they answered in the following interview. You can find some of their earlier recordings on their Bandcamp page (, and watch their more evolved performance at the Jasper fall 2016 release party TONIGHT at Art Bar, with other performances by Autocorrect, The Moon Moths, and Tyler Digital performing a DJ set.


Can you describe what your music is like? Jared: It's kind of all over the board. Sometimes sultry and slinky and at other times it's an energetic, fun poppy mess of sound. We try to make each song achieve something different.

Do you have any other shows or releases coming up? Kate: Jared and I are about to have a baby, so we’re actually going to take an extended hiatus following the Jasper Show at Art Bar this Thursday.  As far as releases, we have been in the studio recording our first official album this year.  We’ve completed tracking and are in the middle of mixing and mastering.  We’re shooting for a spring release so we can have time to promote it and play some shows to support it.

What is your philosophy as a band, if you have one? Jared: I think if there is any philosophy we have, it has something to do with approaching collaborative artistic ventures in a rather egoless and democratic way. All ideas (amongst members) are considered valid which allows us to experiment a lot.

Kate: It’s been a communal process. This is my first experience playing in a band--I’ve really lucked out being friends with some incredible musicians.  I’ve learned a lot watching them and listening to how they talk about music.  I know we definitely don’t try to take ourselves too seriously.  That said, we’re really proud of the music we’ve been able to create and play and record.

What is your songwriting process like? Kate: I usually have a small kernel of a song--some lyrics, general chords.  Sometimes it’s a fully realized structure, sometimes it’s just a beginning.  I usually bring it to Jared to get his input to flesh it out a little more before we bring it to the whole band.  Then, when the whole band starts to attack the song we get into orchestration and arrangement.  It’s been a nice formula so far.  These guys have played together in other bands before King Vulture so they have a short hand and a music theory background I just don’t have.  The orchestration and arrangement sessions are a lot of fun for me because I get to see this small idea or chord or lyric I wrote down get turned into something much more realized.

Who/what are some of your musical influences? Kate & Jared: We definitely all have musical likes that inform the spirit of the band:  Gillian Welch, Bowie, David Byrne, St. Vincent, T-Rex, steely Dan.

What are your goals for the band/its future? Kate: Our immediate goals will be to put finishing touches on our record and release it by Spring.  I know it’s important to Jared and I to find time to make music and play shows after our little boy is born.  We’re lucky to have supportive friends and family that will hopefully make that possible.  We’d like to come back with new song ideas--so when we release the album we can show people something different than our typical set list.

Hop Along, Or One Man’s Stray Thoughts and Observations About Hopscotch 2016 (Part III)

hopscotch-music-festival-raleigh-city-plaza Jasper asked Free Times music editor emeritus, Those Lavender Whales guitarist, and Hopscotch veteran Patrick Wall to go the festival and gives us his thoughts. This, in three parts, is what he wrote.

Part I is here; Part II, here.




I’m pretty sure I was lost somewhere in William Basinski’s haunting and ethereal tape loops and drones at Nash Hall when I checked my phone to a litany of tweets and texts about the life-affirming set Savannah metal band Baroness was throwing down at Lincoln Theatre.

As Hopscotch has expanded and broadened its rock ‘n’ roll offerings, I’ve moved away from them more. Saturday offered plenty of stellar rock options, and, indeed, I caught many of them: the Impressionist soundscapes of 1970s Film Stock; the nervy, rumbling post-rock of Maple Stave; the chirping indie rock of Mac McCaughan; and, later, the warped psych-rock of ET Anderson.

The final day of Hopscotch is the hardest, the final hours especially so. The fatigue from a long Thursday evening followed by back-to-back all-day marathons hits in full force around the time the club shows start on Saturday night — or earlier, if you’re unlucky (or, like me, aging). A band like Baroness, one that’s loud and determined and that melds accessible hooks onto corrosive metal, makes it worth pushing through those final few hours.

But as I get older, I find I no longer need that shot of insurgent energy dangled like a carrot at the end of my night. I no longer find moments of affirmation in bleary, blustery solos or colossal walls of distortion. (As much as I might still like either.) Instead, at Hopscotch, I find them in other places, and in smaller moments.

Patrick Haggerty of Lavender Country didn’t play too much material in the early part of his set; his backing band — comprising members of fellow Paradise of Bachelors bands Promised Land Sound and Gun Outfit — mostly stood idle as he told long, engrossing stories about growing up gay in rural America. It was particularly given how timely Haggerty’s stories of struggling for gay rights felt in the current political climate.

Seeing William Basinski at Nash Hall was about as exciting as one would imagine. Dressed something like a cartoonish representation of spaceman come to earth in oversize sunglasses and a sparkly purple sportscoat, Basinski mostly stood motionless over his setup of two tape machines and a laptop. Occasionally, he’d bend over and tweak a knob. Sometimes, he’d just sit down and lean back. But the gauzy drones his machinations were producing were a hypnotic treat — a sort of lullaby that seemed to me just as fitting a way to close out a festival of mesmeric wonders as any ballistic metal band.

As is my tradition, I ended with a brass band — The Stooges Brass Band, which wound up the would-be winding-down crowd Kings Barcade — to burn off what little energy I had left. Baroness, I was told, was still raging just down Wilmington Street; their first encore wouldn’t come until at least 2 a.m., I’d find out later. And there was an afterparty, too, that some friends from Charlotte told me about that was to be DJed by Sylvan Esso.

Still, I was sated. I had no need to push through anymore. Instead, I biked back to the hotel, got stoned with a friend, and went to sleep. It was the earliest I’d turned in on a Saturday night cum Sunday morning since the first Hopscotch festival in 2010.


Sunday morning, I took my sister to the airport. She’s lived in the Triangle for about as long as Hopscotch has been around; if I don’t stay with her during the festival — I haven’t for several years, as the drive from Carrboro to Raleigh is a long one (and especially ill-advised if you Hopscotch as hard as I used to (buy me a beer sometime, and I’ll tell you about the worst driving decision I’ve ever made; it involves Hopscotch, Drive-By Truckers and weed treats)) — we get together for brunch on the Sunday morning after.

Invariably, we end up at a Whole Foods, and, invariably, she asks me what my favorite act of the festival was. Invariably, I freeze at the question. Invariably, I stammer through an answer, even though, as I’m giving it, I know whatever response is fumbling out of my mouth is variable. I know I will invariably give a different answer every time someone asks me.

I prefer to take, especially these days, Hopscotch as a whole, to judge the festival holistically as an end-to-end experience. (Indeed, trying to justify Hopscotch’s ticket price with just one set would be incredibly silly.) I have, I suppose, more regrets about this Hopscotch than any other. Yes, missing Erykah Badu and Young Thug were disappointing. But waiting around for either would have effectively eaten up all of Friday night, and I’d have missed two of my favorite sets in Dai Burger’s and Julien Baker’s stunner at Nash Hall. Yes, if I’d had to do it over again, I’d have traded the disappointing Television for the avuncular 12-string slide guitar of Don Bikoff, or the good but enervating metal band Cobalt for DJ Spinn and the Era Footwork Crew. Or maybe I’d have braved the maddening horde of young, hip white people waiting in line to see bounce queen Big Freedia. Or stayed for those last few minutes of William Basinski’s dissolving drones.

I’m 34 years old, now, and growing up, I’ve realized, is recognizing — and maybe even embracing — your faults and your flaws. And maybe Hopscotch is, too. For all its flaws and foibles, Hopscotch still offers a lot to the music lover with a broad palate and appetite for live performance. And for as much as it’s changed and for all its foibles, Hopscotch hasn’t lost what makes it a great — essential, even — festival.

So has Hopscotch changed more, or have I?


Patrick Wall is music editor emeritus of Free Times. He now lives in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where sometimes people pay him to write things. He is carbon-based.

Ony's Bands - Tyler Digital - Appearing Thursday Night at the Jasper Release Party

JasperProjectLogo Columbia may not be the epicenter of the electronic music scene, but there are artists who are trying to broaden our scene with more of it. These artists are usually either on mixed bills or performing at house shows, but there is more going on in this sector of our music scene than some may realize. A few of these acts will be performing at Jasper’s fall 2016 release party at Art Bar on September 29, including Tyler Digital.

Tyler Digital is the electronic project of local musician, Tyler Matthews. Matthews has been producing seriously for about three years, and makes dance pop fit for house parties and DJ sets. His influences range from Hans Zimmer to Led Zeppelin, and he hopes to one day be a soundtrack producer as influential as the likes of Zimmer. I asked Matthews more about his music and the local electronic scene in the following interview.


Matthews will be performing a DJ set as Tyler Digital at the Jasper release along with Autocorrect, The Moon Moths, and King Vulture.

Can you describe what your music is like? On some days it's energized left-field dance pop — and on another day it's an emotional hybrid of synth-wave and symphonic house. I try to not sound like anyone else, but that doesn't make life easy for writers.

What is your songwriting process like? I like to make a good synth sound, then make a 1-2 bar chord progression, put together a beat and then make a bass that goes well with both. After that I like to chop up some vocals turn that into a lead instrument. Everything else just builds around those components.

What bands/DJs/acts do you typically play with? Is it usually a mixed bill/house show sort of situation or would you say there is an active scene? And if not, do you wish there was one/think it's possible that it will emerge? Long answer: Mixed bill/House Shows - Yes. Mason Youngblood runs Moas Collective; he's done a great job of getting electronic producers together. But he moved to Brooklyn for his PhD and then several of our friends spread out to Atlanta, Portland, Nashville, New York, Puerto Rico, etc in just the last year. But we still talk music often and collab because internet life. Right now I do shows with Anissa Armaly (Dulce De— DJ and producer) and also Wright Clarkson (OS3) who is a baller. I also do shows with Contour and some other producer friends from the Charleston scene. Ahomari (Cyberbae) plus the Tri City Rec crowd is making amazing music right now. So there's definitely talent in SC, but quite the limited audience; I think any musician here would admit that. Regarding the scene now, we blend in with the bands in Scenario Collective and they have events all the time. I'm confident we could expand the live scene in 5 Points, Main Street, and the Vista if any owners were looking for that. Ideally I'd love to have a space in Cola similar to Common Market in Charlotte - the crowd and atmosphere there is amazing and one we need in Columbia. Or maybe I should just ask the Whig for a residency.

Do you have any other shows or releases coming up? I'm doing a DJ Set for WUSC on October 27th. And once a month there's usually some house show or dance party that I'll get asked to do. From a creation standpoint, I'm writing a soundtrack for a short film which I plan to make myself. And then I'm producing a rap EP for a couple of talented bosses. They are Columbia's next hope.

What is your philosophy as a musician, if you have one? The best music you will make are the songs that happen naturally, fluidly, and quickly. Translated to philosophy: just keep making music - you will surprise yourself. You can't do anything wrong when making music anyway.


Hop Along, Or One Man’s Stray Thoughts and Observations About Hopscotch 2016 (Part II)

hopscotch-music-festival-raleigh-city-plaza Jasper asked Free Times music editor emeritus, Those Lavender Whales guitarist, and Hopscotch veteran Patrick Wall to go the festival and gives us his thoughts. This, in three parts, is what he wrote.

Part I is here.



Let the drummer get some, sure. But this was fucking ridiculous.

The rumors started flying some time during Anderson.Paak’s electric mid-bill set at City Plaza. Erykah Badu — the festival’s marquee name, scheduled to go on at 8 p.m. at the Red Hat Amphitheatre — had missed her flight out of Dallas. Her set would have to be postponed. If there was any official announcement from Hopscotch, it went entirely unnoticed.

(Quick aside: Anderson.Paak’s might have been the best set of the festival. It was certainly the best City Plaza set, though it’s followed closely by Vince Staples’ Saturday night slammer.)

Come 9 p.m., after Paak’s magnetic performance and a workmanlike, though perhaps a bit staid, blues ramble from Gary Clark Jr. at Red Hat, Badu still hadn’t taken the stage. Rumors started flying again — she’d missed another flight, and her performance would have to be delayed again.

Only at 10 p.m. did Badu’s band take the stage, though they only launched into a meandering funk jam. Five minutes in, the drummer began his solo. Five minutes later, when it was time for the bassist’s extended solo, I threw up my hands, exited the photo pit, got on my bike, and high-tailed it to Memorial Auditorium, where Boulevard’s Jamil Rashad, shirtless and glistening with sweat, was leading a master’s course in gritty, urbane funk.

Badu didn’t take the stage 10:15 p.m., until more than two hours past her scheduled start time. Hopping from Boulevards to Dai Burger, who delivered an animated, regenerative set at Lincoln Theatre, I could hear her songs echoing down Cabarrus Street. Thankfully, it wasn’t “Trill Friends,” or her long-ago hit “Tyrone” — if it were either, I’d probably have lost it.

For the first time, the headlining shows were split across two venues: City Plaza, where Hopscotch headliners have played every year, and the Red Hat Amphitheater, a venue a five-minute walk away but one the festival has long avoided nonetheless. But its size and permanent stage allowed Hopscotch to expand its talent roster considerably this year and bring in some marquee names. If night one felt like a confirmation of Hopscotch’s past, night two offered something of a glimpse into its future, of Hopscotch’s need to balance growth with dependability and intimacy. By adding Red Hat this year and by putting Memorial Auditorium back in the rotation after a two-year absence, Hopscotch, of course, increased its star power and ticket-selling potential. (And increased its need for sponsors: Street-team reps from Motorola, Mati energy drinks, Kind bars and Mist Twist soda were slinging product and vainly soliciting mailing list signatures at seemingly every outdoor concert area and alternate intersections.)

Either way, the moves weren’t a resounding success. Both stages were running behind all night, as was the City Plaza stage. Young Thug, too, went on more than an hour late. Delays are inevitable, situations like Badu’s certainly can’t be blamed on Hopscotch. (And laying the blame squarely on the festival seems reductive.) But the lack of any communication and seemingly any contingency plan was certainly frustrating. At Hopscotch, time is money, and spending hours of your night waiting for sets to start can be an extravagant waste when so many other things are happening. Pervasive delays sour the implicit relationship between festival and fan, and the timing tangles left many festivalgoers stripped of agency. If the entire point of a festival like Hopscotch is to control your own destiny — and I argue it is — then it’s reasonable to be exasperated when waiting to see one act prevents you from seeing several.

More than simple inconveniences, the timing tangles also highlighted Hopscotch’s issues with its black audience. As Indy Week’s indispensable Eric Tullis wrote in his night three recap, Hopscotch has never seemed able to draw as many African-Americans as it did for Badu’s set. Not for Public Enemy in 2010, nor The Roots in 2012, nor De La Soul in 2014. And as Gary Suarez wrote in Indy Week, Hopscotch still proves somewhat vexing to the hip-hop fans — of any color — it seeks to draw. Scheduling matters, and nothing makes that concern clearer than when rap shows are competing with one another on one day and woefully scarce the next. Hip-hop was confined to Deep South CAM Raleigh on Friday night; if you wanted to see Kelela and Well$ and, say, Tom Carter and Converge, well, they were on opposite ends of the festival at the same time. Young Thug, if he’d made the stage on time, had a prime time slot at Memorial Auditorium, but that meant missing some or all of Hellfyre Club alumnus Milo at Kings, or Ratking's Wiki, or Raleigh crew Kooley High, or the stacked bill at Lincoln Theatre that featured Queens rapper Dai Burger, footwork don DJ Spinn and Big Freedia. Waiting around for Young Thug meant sacrificing those opportunities entirely. Saturday didn’t feature much rap at all. Such scheduling is advantageous for the casual hip-hop fan, but a drag for die-hards who wanted to spend time in more than one place.

And programming artists with broader mainstream appeal and wide reach, like Badu and Staples and Paak, invites more and more casual fans, who don’t care too much about running around and seeing bands in clubs. The outdoor stages (and some of the bigger indoor ones, like Memorial) were flush with folks who would not be interspersed among the festival’s club crowds afterwards, and the strange and at times overwhelming racial disparity of that crowd was at times unavoidable. Young Thug’s crowd was mostly white, and many of them were rapping the N-word. (To which: Y’ALL.). Paak, for his part, observed that he “didn’t expect to see so many white people” at his City Plaza performance, and Vince Staples — who performed his tales of gangbanging and living in a world in which he questions the motives of people who don’t look like him to those exact people in City Plaza, who were mouthing every word his songs — left the City Plaza stage without so much as acknowledging the predominantly white crowd once. Only Erykah Badu’s crowd seemed, at the very least, evenly mixed along racial lines.

Perhaps Staples makes the most salient point in his own music: “All these white folks chanting when I ask em, ‘Where my niggas at?’” he raps on “Lift Me Up” “Got me goin’ crazy, I can’t get with that.”

He performed the song at Hopscotch. Hearing the crowd rap that line with him was an interesting example of white privilege — as much as the cotillions and debutante balls at the Marriott and Sheraton hotels that Hopscotch seems to bust up every year.


Friday happened to be Wooden Wand leader James Jackson Toth’s birthday. So he and exemplary solo guitarist Daniel Bachman, with whom he was performing a set at the always impressive Three Lobed Recordings and WXDU-FM day party at Kings Barcade, were probably in a celebratory mood. On a lark, they threw together a combination of players that had never played together before — Bachman, Toth, Forrest Marquisee on guitar, and Ian McColm on drums — and didn’t bother to rehearse or soundcheck. For the first few minutes, McColm and Bachman pumped harmonizing drones on odd squeezebox-type instruments, while Marquisee and Toth tentatively picked fragile arpeggios on their guitars. Three minutes later, and Toth croaked the first lines to Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs.” The crowd, which packed Kings from stage to soundboard and beyond to the back windows, roared.

After a brief break, Three Lobed Recordings’ big experimental shindig — a veritable Hopscotch tradition (indeed, some folks trek hundreds of miles just to see Cory Rayborn’s exciting day party, and don’t even attend the festival) — returned to Kings. Though it was only gone for a year, Hopscotch felt different without it.

Day parties are an integral part of the Hopscotch experience. Since its debut, Hopscotch has — both officially and unofficially — included a host of free daytime shows sponsored by local and national benefactors to fill up the space between the festival's evening sessions. These opportunities make Hopscotch's annual takeover incredibly inclusive. And, to local and regional bands — especially those from South Carolina, in recent years — day parties offer a chance to get in on the action.

At three jam-packed nights, Hopscotch would be a big to-do by itself. But the action during the days turns the long weekend into a real party, and local organizers have built out events, like the Three Lobed day party or the annual pizza party hosted by the local Potluck Foundation record label, into traditions as nearly as strong as Hopscotch. As the festival has grown, so, too, have the diurnal events gotten bigger and better in their scope. Where day parties were once easy ways to solve nighttime scheduling conflicts, day parties now make for many more tough decisions. Since these day parties have never required actual festival passes, it's largely one of those good problems to have.

Indeed, having the Three Lobed party back on the slate is a welcome course correction, and it allowed, potentially, for the clearing of some logjams. (For instance, in catching the wily ür-rock band 75 Dollar Bill at Kings on Friday afternoon, I was able to simplify my Thursday hopping.) But its inclusion puts into contrast that the tide of Hopscotch’s avant-garde leaning is changing — and possibly waning.

Hopscotch built its reputation in part on being wonderfully weird. 2012, the festival’s third year, was a banner year for the weird: Chris Corsano was the improviser-in-residence; minimalist icon Arnold Dreyblatt sat in on a performance with boundary-pushing psych-folk band Megafaun; legendary free-ranging underground rock act Oneida held a long and limber jam session in the middle of downtown Raleigh. Drones abounded, from Oren Ambarchi's glistening tones to Sunn's overwhelming roars. Even among excellent rock and pop acts, those artists pushing the outer edges of sound shone.

The avant-garde has certainly still been represented — Thurston Moore, Tony Conrad, Hawkwind, Tim Hecker, Ian William Craig, Zeena Parkins, Zs, Matmos, Charlemagne Palestine — since, but the density and focus hasn't been the same. Instead, these outer-limits bookings are just one modest part among many, rather than being a defining feature of the festival. The difficult music seems less difficult.

This year’s lineup stacks acts who plumb the deepest depths of their genres (see: Erykah Badu, Vince Staples, Yob), but the true experimental performers seemed to slot perhaps too easily into necessary signifiers. John Colpitts, aka Kid Millions, was the festival’s de facto resident improviser, collaborating with harpist Mary Lattimore and psych-rock band Birds of Avalon and Borbetomagus saxophoner Jim Sauter, and performing with his own minimalist percussion crew, Man Forever. Battle Trance was the token "jazz” group (even though the quartet fits the label oh so loosely); William Basinski, the composer.

It’s hard not to wonder if this imbalance is sign that Hopscotch is losing ground to Knoxville’s Big Ears as the vanguard festival of the accessible avant-garde, or even MoogFest, which now operates in Durham after migrating to the Triangle from Asheville. Part of what has made Hopscotch special — and exciting— has been the way it has treated the avant-garde with the same esteem as it did the most accessible of its pop acts, pushing the fringe to the forefront in ways that other festivals dared not attempt. With festivals like Big Ears and Moogfest infringing on that territory, Hopscotch, it could be argued, is that much less special, and perhaps worse for the offering. Variety and name recognition are good problems to have, but at what expense the festival’s soul?

The counterargument, of course, is that you never know who will attend because of one or two big acts — say, Erykah Badu, or Young Thug — and may just have their mind blown unexpectedly by an outsider act or others in a similar creative vein. But my anecdotal evidence — read: the two hipster white girls who giggled at every flatulent bleat or any other extramusical noise produced by Battle Trance that sounded remotely like a bodily function, and the sparse crowds for William Basinski, Tom Carter and Leila Abdul-Rauf versus packed rooms for outwardly appealing acts like Boulevards and Big Freedia — suggests otherwise.

Which is what made Bachman, Toth and crew’s version of “War Pigs” so noteworthy. Like the dehydratingly choogling version of the Velvet Underground’s “Oh, Sweet Nothing” by Desert Heat — a guitar supergroup featuring Steve Gunn and Cian Nugent — at a Three Lobed party a few years back, it was one of those off-the-cuff, daring improvisational moments that have come to define the Three Lobed day parties — and, in some ways, the festival itself.


To be continued…

Patrick Wall is music editor emeritus of Free Times. He now lives in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where sometimes people pay him to write things. He is carbon-based.

Ony's Bands - Autocorrect & the Jasper Release Concert Thursday Night at Art Bar

  Autocorrect describes themselves as a “post-human experimental rap choir,” blending performance art, hip hop, and internet content. From their name alone, one gets the impression that they are calling attention to the ways in which technology affects how we communicate. Their songs address this issue in varying ways. The group consists of Cecil Decker (rapping, drums, sampling, programming), Chris Johnson (vocals, synths, guitars), and Moses Andrews III (bass, vocals, synths).


Decker explains that their main goal is to “explore the way modern communication and technology fractures identity.” He says, “There’s an interesting duality with social media, where it can unite and divide people.” Autocorrect explores this divide and how it affects the individual. They’ll be performing at Jasper’s Fall 2016 release on September 29 at Art Bar, with other performances by The Moon Moths, King Vulture, and a DJ set by Tyler Digital.



Can you tell me a little bit about your band and how/when you formed?

Autocorrect, neé Salvo, spawned in 2014 from colliding noise/rap/ambient projects between Cecil, Chris, and Sean. They trapped Cecil’s then-roommate Moses—the funkiest person alive—in a dank meme ritual. Initially a recording project, Cecil’s propensity for performance art combined with the rest of the group’s classical music training turned the one-off idea into an exhilarating live band.

Can you describe what your music is like? 

We are a post-human experimental rap choir. Student loans, minimum wage, tweetbots, and crippling depression. There has never been a better time.


What are some of your previous releases? Are they available online?

Our newest album, as it is, will make you cry into your drink while you bust a move on the dance floor. All of our records/EPs/etc are available at


What is your songwriting process like?

We assemble in the smallest room possible, gathering our chaos magick underneath an extensive and relentless pile of electronics. We stare at each other in silence until someone has an idea. Then, we spend the next 6 hours making a song.


Who/what are some of your musical influences?

El-P, John Cage, Pino Palladino, Koji Kondo.


What are your goals for the band/its future?

Our imperative is to always make art that challenges us and the audience. Right now, we want to start absorbing every other kind of music into our collective body. So we’ve scheduled sessions with local superstars, like the Post-Timey String Band, in order to suck the music juice out of their brains.


Hop Along, Or One Man's Stray Thoughts and Observations About Hopscotch (Part I)

hopscotch-music-festival-raleigh-city-plaza Jasper asked Free Times music editor emeritus, Those Lavender Whales guitarist, and Hopscotch veteran Patrick Wall to go the festival and gives us his thoughts. This, in three parts, is what he wrote.

I was in the middle of City Plaza when it hit me.

I’d honestly been sort of dreading going to Hopscotch this year. Each year, for the past six years, I’ve trekked up to Raleigh for the three-day, indoor-outdoor music festival. And though each year has been ultimately rewarding or affirming — and sometimes both — each year the slog’s gotten longer, tougher, more exhausting.

I still remember my first Hopscotch. In part, anyway: It was 2010; I was in my mid-twenties, going to shows seemingly every night of the week, and running a music desk at an alt-weekly newspaper but more or less drinking professionally. My first few Hopscotches went the same way: Get to Raleigh, start drinking, see as many bands as possible, don’t stop doing either until the wee hours of Sunday morning. It was a herculean effort, one fueled by surges of adrenaline as much as it is by boatloads of caffeine. Rest and food were scarce; calories were consumed in quick chugs and at late-night diners. Success was only achievable through assembling a crew to spur you into hopping to another venue, pick you up when you fell, hand you another five-hour energy drink when you tired.

Things changed in the intervening six years. Hopscotch got bigger, more popular and more populist — and more overrun, it seems, by sponsorship representatives handing out Kind bars and herbal energy drinks. As for me, I quit the alt-weekly desk, freelanced for a few years, then burned out and got a real job. I’ve moved twice. I’ve gotten married. I gained 25 pounds, then lost 40. I’ve quit writing professionally almost entirely. I’ve forgone, even, going to a lot of shows, part and parcel because a lot of what comes through where I live now doesn’t fully grab my interest, but mostly in favor of gathering moss. Instead of slumming in dive bars and seeing yet another in a line of bands who wouldn’t make the minutest impression on me, I dove into other interests: playing hockey and trying to get under a 10-minute mile and going fun and interesting places with my wife and doing any number of things I'm interested in doing that don’t involve popping in earplugs and popping open a PBR. I chalked it up as a consequence of getting older, crankier, less indefatigable.

My friends who’d formed my Hopscotch crew, too, were passing on attending en masse, having chosen on hiking excursions or having moved to bigger cities or having settled into married life or having simply grown weary of the rigors of the Hopscotch wringer. I’d even considered not going to Hopscotch at all. After all, I was in my mid-thirties, and years removed from the ride-or-die rock ‘n’ roll lifer I always thought I’d always be. Was this shit even for me anymore?

I confessed to a friend of mine over a drink at a Raleigh bar some two months before Hopscotch that I was considering not going. She laughed, rolled her eyes, stirred her drink and said, “Of course you’re fucking going.”

She was right, and there I was, the intoxicating pull of Hopscotch — not to mention the opportunity to see some longtime favorites for free — having proved once again to great to pass up. (I suppose I remembered my Nietzsche: Without music, life would be a mistake.) I’d gotten to City Plaza late after sitting in rush hour traffic outside of Raleigh — not too late, thankfully, to not see Wye Oak reaffirm themselves as an incredible live act — and was starving. Six years ago, I’d have thrown caution to the wind, sniffed out the free booze and played catch-up with the cadre of Hopscotch partiers who’d been drinking all day.

Instead, I slid into the small health-food joint at the top end of City Plaza, ordered something called the Protein Bowl, halved the order of chicken — because, you know, cholesterol — and hoofed it back outside, where I started shoveling it into my mouth in hefty forkfuls. Standing in line for the photo pit, I looked up from my meal and laughed. I, who somehow survived a diet of cheeseburgers and whiskey and innumerable shows in my twenties, was eating a salad standing up. At Hopscotch.

And that’s when it hit me. I wondered aloud — Which has changed more: Hopscotch, or me?



Around midnight on Thursday, I sank into a plush padded chair at the comfy Fletcher Opera House just as Kurt Wagner’s long-running, essential and forever exquisite indie rock band Lambchop was easing into an imaginative trio rendition of “The Hustle,” the first single from its upcoming album.

“Do the hustle,” Wagner intoned, mantra-like, in his AutoTuned baritone near the end of the song’s extended runtime. ”Do the hustle.”

Stylistic pinball has always been the prevailing spirit of Hopscotch. The festival’s breadth has always been remarkable: Its first year featured headlining sets from Public Enemy and Panda Bear and its downticket club lineups featured everything from the rawest garage rock to the raunchiest rap to the most refined experimental music, and it’s followed that model since. Hopscotch works on the pub crawl model: See a bit here, a bit there, a bit somewhere else. But such an approach requires hustle; to see a dozen bands and at least half as many genres in a single night requires hurried rambles around downtown Raleigh at maximum efficiency. (The smartest thing I’ve ever done: brought my bike to Hopscotch. One of the dumbest: neglecting to bring a spare tire, or at least a patch kit.) Hopscotch doesn’t require you to pachinko your way through the night, but the way its schedule is staggered encourages quick and unlikely moves.

I spent my first few Hopscotches accumulating sets like baseball cards, ticking off boxes and circling names on pocket-sized schedules. The intent was willful, deliberate sensory overload — to see as many bands in three days as possible. Those first few years, I averaged more than 50 over the course of three days; at my most active, I saw 61. (And, because I’m an insane person, documented each sighting on Twitter and Instagram.) I wondered, after that exhausting year, if seeing 100 bands was possible, even plausible. I drew charts and started mapping efficient routes. Such an idea is utterly fucking ludicrous to me now.

The flaw in my methodology was my limited random access memory. I wrote, for the now-defunct Shuffle magazine in 2011, when — subsisting solely on adrenaline and consuming nothing but coffee and alcohol — I saw 61 bands, that I’d remember not certain sets but certain moments. But the truth is I don’t really remember either, at least not without considerable prompting. Last year, by comparison, I hit 52 bands without breaking a sweat. This year, I saw even fewer 49. (And I only tweeted 14 times.)

All this is to say I didn’t so much follow Wagner’s advice this year. I saw the fewest number of bands at the Hopscotch since the first one. I hustled less, stayed put longer — even caught entire sets from non-City Plaza headliners. (It’s easy to catch a full set from a City Plaza act, as they’re typically slotted in the dead time between the end of the day parties and beginning of the club shows.) I decided to stick around longer for things I was enjoying. I worried less about festival FOMO. (I will now set myself on fire for using FOMO.)

But if Hopscotch is a lot more sane, is it by turns a lot less fun?

There was still plenty of pivoting to be done. In Nash Hall, I surrendered to the exquisite and emotionally provocative avant-garde saxophone quartet Battle Trance, which sounded at times like a blistering death metal band through hyperprecise scalar runs and moments later whistling — literally — in harmony. During their 45-minute set, they employed probably every extended saxophone technique invented, moves that were at once whimsical and magnetic. Nash Hall, a low-ceilinged, intimate space in a downtown church, was a new and much welcomed Hopscotch venue this year, giving the festival a place where reverence is assumed and attention is high; I’d return near the end of my night for Tom Carter’s glacial guitar drones.

Down on Fayetteville Street, Memorial Auditorium returned to use after a two-year absence due to venue remodeling and festival reformatting — it served as a venue for what could be thought of as overarching club headliners. If its first night back was a test run, it stumbled: Sneakers, a small but quietly influential ’70s North Carolina power-pop band whose ranks included Mitch Easter and Chris Stamey, sounded stiff in the outsized auditorium; vaunted indie-rock forefathers Television deployed their trademark guitar heroics, but never caught fire.

But when a set is disappointing at Hopscotch, chances are very good there’s one right next door that’s hitting on all cylinders. Lambchop smoldered perfectly at Fletcher Opera House. Kitty corner at Lincoln Theatre, Mutoid Man and Converge perfectly mixed power and majesty.

The first night of Hopscotch, then, was a classic example of the festival’s longtime format — a big opening show outdoors followed by a mad, prolonged dash between ten clubs of various sizes for several hours — and why that formula remains potent. No other festival promises attendees so many permutations to choose from. But with such diversity comes the paralyzing problem of choice. Moreover, this very approach, which has made Hopscotch so appealing over the years, now threatens to bring it more in line with generalist festivals across the country.


To be continued...

Patrick Wall is music editor emeritus of Free Times. He now lives in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where sometimes people pay him to write things. He is carbon-based.

Concert to Celebrate Jasper Magazine Release at Art Bar

JasperProjectLogo Thursday night is concert night at the Art Bar as we celebrate the release of the 31st issue of Jasper Magazine. In the next few days we'll be profiling the bands that will be celebrating with us via our regular series by Ony Ratsimbaharison, Ony's Bands, starting with Moon Moths.


The Jasper release party will also give us a time to recognize some important people in the arts community who are getting stuff done these days - our JAY finalists and our 2016 2nd Act film Festival filmmakers.

2nd act 2016

We're also pretty excited about the stories in this issue including a cover story on Nicole Kallenberg Heere  whose work we love for both its exquisite technique and its irreverent subject matter. (Wait til you see the cover of the mag!)

Mommy's Favorite Hobby by Nicole Kallenberg Heere

Our centerfold is pretty impressive, too, as we profile one of America's top artist, Joe Byrne, who lives right here in Columbia, SC.

Summer House, Block Island by Joe Byrne

And in our new expanded format of 96 pages we are able to bring you more music reviews, book reviews, and stories about local artists (did you know that Keith Mearns, who is the horticulturist at Historic Columbia used to be a professional ballet dancer?)

We've even got short fiction as Michael Spawn shares his short story, "Stoned Puppies Forever."

Michael Spawn - Jasper Music Editor

We'll be offering you more teasers over the next few days as Ony profiles our guest bands and we get you ready for another fun night at Art Bar - Columbia's longtime home for the wondering artist.


Now, the Moon Moths, by Ony.

Self-proclaimed as “psychedelic orchestral hip-hop,” The Moon Moths is a new-ish band that is heavily involved in Columbia’s newly revitalized scene of young artists. You can find them and their friends playing unconventional shows set up by the Scenario Collective, a local artist collective that aims to enrich our arts and music scene. Overall, they wish to spread a message of love, peace, and self-fulfillment, according to Rupert Hudson, the band’s vocalist.

The Moon Moths features a rotating cast of members but was started by Hudson, AKA Prince Rupert, after he got asked to play at a Battle of the Bands but had no band to play his music with. After missing this opportunity to play, Hudson got together with some other members of Scenario, which he is involved with, and started playing. Hudson lists over ten active members of the band in the following interview, but each performance’s lineup is dependent on who’s available to play.

You can catch their extensive lineup at Jasper’s Fall 2016 release party on September 29, with other performances by Autocorrect, King Vulture, and Tyler Digital (playing a DJ set). Who are all the members of the band?

Prince Rupert - Vocalist

Sixx - Vocalist

Moon Child - Guitar/Vocals

Love Potion #9 - Violin

Poof The Blue Bat - Tap Dancing/Vocals

Fresh Heaven - Guitar/Vocals

King Goof - Bass

The Seduction - Keys

Mister B - Drums

The Visible Choir Boy - Trumpet

Daddy Ice – Ukelele

So is there a set group of people in the band or does it vary sometimes? The band varies sometimes depending on our shows, as since we have so many members it's difficult to have everyone at each show! But we try to have all the members each time.

What is your songwriting process like? Originally, I would write the entire song on the piano and the band would flesh it out, but recently we have been getting together and writing songs as a full band, which creates a more rewarding environment for the whole band.

Who/what are some of your musical influences? All of us have differing tastes that align in certain places but my own influences are specifically Chance The Rapper, Arcade Fire, and Kanye West.

Do you have any other shows or releases coming up? We do! We are playing Scenario's Embryoasis show on October 1st at Tapps and the Subversive Art Festival (SAFE) at Tapps on October 8th. We will be releasing music late this year or early next year.

What are some of your previous releases? Are they available online? We have just released on track, Meep Meep, on our soundcloud.

What are your goals for the band/its future? We are going to be recording this year and I would love to get that out so that we can book a tour. Playing SXSW next year would be brilliant and a definite goal.  --OR

All-Arts Trivia-Yeah w/Guest Quizmasters this Sunday Night at The Whig

trivia How much fun was Trivi-Yeah at the Whig, back when Eric Bargeron would slam us up against the wall with what was probably the most clever (and often) most difficult questions in town? Winning was usually out of the question (thanks Les Frogs!), but placing was a thrill! Hell, just winning the best team name was a hoot, even though it was usually because someone who will remain nameless screeched like a banshee.

Well, Trivi-Yeah is back for one night only courtesy of the good folks at the Whig and it benefits the Jasper Project -- and this time Quizmaster Bargeron has created an all-arts slate of questions to spin our brains out of control. And to make it even more interesting, we've asked some guest quizmasters to come in and ask a few questions about local arts and award all kinds of fun prizes in between the standard Bargeron rounds.


Eric Bargeron, Quizmaster


Guest Quizmasters:

JAY Julia Elliott

Julia/Liz Elliott - Author of The Wilds and The New Improved Romie Futch


Larry Hembree, formerly of the Nick, Trustus, SCAC, and current president of the Board of Directors for the Jasper Project


Kari Lebby, musician, podcaster, pop maven, pretty boy


William Starrett, artistic and executive director of Columbia City Ballet


Wade Sellers, Emmy-nominated filmmaker, Columbia mover & shaker, and film editor for Jasper Magazine


Prizes include swag from lots of your favorite arts organizations, books, t-shirts, mugs, pens, stickers, buttons, etc., plus the regular Whig treats and goodies.

6 - 8 pm, Sunday September 25th

$5 suggested tax-deductible donation to the Jasper Project, who brings you Jasper Magazine, 2nd Act Film Festival, Fall Lines - a literary convergence, Marked by the Water, Wet Ink Spoken Word Poetry, and more

For more info -- click here!