Chris Compton & the Ruby Brunettes, Post-Timey String Band, Dr. Roundhouse, and Pharaohs in Space play at Conundrum for Food Not Bombs - a guest blog by Jeremy Joseph


My name is Jeremy Joseph. I am the organizer of a benefit concert series that brings together local musicians to help raise funds and spread awareness about the work of non-profits and charitable organizations in our city and statewide. I believe that musicians are in a unique position to help mobilize social and political action. We bring people together, we attract media attention, we have microphones thrust in front our faces, and we connect often disparate groups of people in one place and time through our music. That is a unique power that we are privileged to hold, and I believe we can use it for good.

I began this series over four and a half years ago in Washington, DC. Since moving to Columbia in 2011 to attend grad school for philosophy at USC, I have had the pleasure of so far organizing six concerts for great local non-profits including Transitions, Sexual Trauma Services of the Midlands, and the SC Progressive Network, in addition to working with many fantastic Columbia and SC bands including Can't Kids, Co., FatRat Da Czar, The Restoration, People Person, Release the Dog, and the Mobros. I have been truly impressed with the work of these organizations and delighted with the outpouring of support from local musicians and local media in helping to support their efforts. There is truly a caring community here in Columbia!

Chris Compton and the Ruby Brunettes (photo from

Friday, January 24th, I am very pleased to bring the seventh Columbia concert in this series in support of the local chapter of Food Not Bombs,who do remarkable work to feed people who are economically disadvantaged in our city, and spread a message of peace. The concert will feature performances by four excellent local groups: Chris Compton & the Ruby Brunettes, The Post-Timey String Band, Dr. Roundhouse, and Pharaohs in Space. It is not to be missed! Your entrance fee will go directly to help feed people in need in our city.

Lastly, I want to thank Tom Law for hosting each one of these concerts at Conundrum Music Hall. I cannot speak highly enough about this venue and its staff. It is unquestionably the best music club in the city and deserves your patronage.

Now, I want to turn this blog post over to Food Not Bombs for a few words from their representatives:

Columbia Food Not Bombs has helped feed people at Finlay Park since 2002. Started by USC students, Columbia FNB has evolved to sharing food with an average of 150 people every Sunday at 1 p.m. It's called a "sharing" because everyone involved helps. Some bring food, some serve food, some set up tables, and some clean up afterward.

Columbia FNB has also served the community in a variety of ways. In 2005, members helped feed Katrina survivors temporarily housed in South Carolina. Three years ago, FNB provided meals to the Occupiers at the SC State House. Columbia FNB members also feed people at the Winter Shelter and Transitions long-term shelter, both in downtown Columbia.

Columbia FNB is a community partner with Harvest Hope and receives donations from Food Lion, Rosewood Market, City Roots, and El Burrito. Approximately 35 volunteers prepare and share food each month. Excess food is shared with Hannah House, Sister Care, and the North Main Men's and Women's Shelters. Volunteers are always welcome, as are paper products, gas cards, and monetary donations. For more info call Maris at 803-331-6383.

"Planet Hopping" at the Harbison Theatre - a review by Melissa Swick Ellington


Planet Hopping Is Out of This World


The actor questions, “Is everybody ready to go back to earth?”

“No!” declares a young boy in the audience.

He was certainly not the only one who wanted to prolong tonight’s premiere performance of Planet Hopping: An Intergalactic Puppet Musical. This luminous collaboration between the puppet artists of Belle et Bête and popular “kindie” rock band Lunch Money reveals the theatrical magic possible when innovators imagine together. The performance quality easily rivals family-oriented productions I have attended at national theatre education conferences as well as various venues in New York City. Planet Hopping is a marvel that has been created right here in Columbia, and you don’t want to miss it.

Developed as part of the Harbison Theatre @ MTC Performance Incubator, Planet Hopping shares a voyage from earth to outer space with an emphasis on the power of friendship. Kimi Maeda brings engaging charisma to the play’s puppet hero (Stella Spark, “an astrophysicist when she was just a lass”), while Lyon Hill skillfully characterizes Stella’s sidekick marionette, the lovable and quirky robotic assistant Jack. Through Stella’s Planet Hopping technology, the audience accompanies the characters on a dramatic journey through the solar system, led by the appealing tour guide Mollinda (Molly Ledford). The incorporation of fantasy with scientific facts will delight both children and their adults.


The Lunch Money band members (Ledford, J.P. Stephens, and Jay Barry) are as captivating as ever, sharing clever lyrics and rocking tunes that resonate with music lovers of all ages. One of the production’s greatest strengths is the seamless inclusion of the multi-talented band members as purposeful characters in the story. The “Amazing on the Moon” musical number melds band, projection screen, puppeteer, and marionette in a charming sequence made extra special by a puppet moonwalking…on the moon. The crowd-pleasing “Big Ball of Gas” Jupiter rap performed by P.J. the “new guy” (Stephens) with beatboxing by Jack the robot (Hill) becomes a highlight of the show.

Planet Hopping benefits from an admirable unity of production design, with creative use of lighting effects, video projections, and shadow puppetry. Want to learn about zoetropes, moveable cutouts, marionettes, transparencies, scrims, and more? Check out a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at the production here: You can also read composer/lyricist Molly Ledford’s insights into the development of the show’s music, which includes “a bubblegum pop song about orbiting” and “a rockin’ number about enjoying 1/6 of our normal gravity on the moon.”


What a gift this collaboration is to our community. My six-year-old daughter spotted a promotional poster weeks ago and has been pleading to “go see the show Planet Hopping” ever since; I am grateful for her awareness and persistence, because this production is a one-of-a-kind experience. Upon receiving a sticker badge when exiting the theatre, my kid sighed happily, “It is amazing to be an official Planet Hopper.”

You can go hop planets with Captain Stella Spark and crew on Saturday, November 16 at 2 pm at the Harbison Theatre at Midlands Technical College (803-407-5011 or


Conductors Institute of SC offers behind-the-scenes look at the art of conducting

The Conductors Institute of SC is hosting conducting training sessions, free to observe by the public, June 3-15, offering the community a rare and insightful look at the art of conducting. The sessions available to the public include string ensembles, chamber groups, and a full orchestra, from 9 AM to noon and 1:30 to 4 PM, Monday through Saturday at the Koger Center for the Arts. More than 1,000 conductors have attended the sessions since its beginnings 30 years ago. Maestro Donald Portnoy, music director of the University of South Carolina Symphony Orchestra, founded the Institute, which boasts a comprehensive workshop style structure offering students daily podium time and constructive feedback from veteran conductors. Portnoy is also the director of orchestral studies at the University, and has conducted orchestras all over the globe. These sessions are intended to provide aspiring conductors with first hand experience and feedback from professionals with experience in the commercial and academic music industries.

The sessions available to the public allow those not so musically inclined to observe the training an aspiring conductor experiences. The Institute offers a 15-day program for intermediate to advanced level of experience, as well as a 10-day program for those with less experience. Each session is designed to enhance orchestral command skills through interaction and instruction from composers and conductors from all over the world.

Conductors Institute 2011

From the outside, the sessions appear formal, yet relaxed. The orchestra eagerly sits at the edges of their seats, awaiting the flourish of the baton with equal respect to the rookie and master conductors alike. Before attending the session, I always assumed the conductors were more for show than utility; however with each arm movement and flourish, I noticed a symbiotic response from the musicians. The harmony between the conductor and the musicians is incredible to watch, and I’m sure hard to achieve. The experience gained through these sessions provides conductors not only with further practice, but connections and dialogue with maestros and composers with whom they may not have another chance to interact. Acting as a fly on the wall in these sessions is a rare and unbeatable glimpse into the music industry, not often found on a college campus. The observers were a mixed bunch of students and music enthusiasts, encouraged by this rare opportunity in Columbia.

The Southeastern Piano Festival has teamed with the Conductors Institute of SC to allow the public also to observe the Conductors Institute Apprenticeship Program, June 12-13 from 10 AM to noon and 1:30-4:30 PM. This program is a collaboration of conductors attending the festival in a rehearsal style setting, also held at the Koger Center for the Arts. The 2013 Southeastern Piano Festival is from June 9-15, and features a piano competition, concerts, and guest artists. The University of South Carolina School of Music sponsors the festival, a platform for aspiring pianists, master-teachers and world-renown musicians, held each summer.

For more information about the Conductors Institute of South Carolina, click here, or contact the Conductors Institute at 803-777-7500, or email Charlene Rackley.

~  Sarah McNab, Jasper Intern

Tish Lowe exhibition, Claire Bryant & Friends concert in Camden

Two of Jasper's favorite artists, painter Tish Lowe and cellist Claire Bryant, are featured tonight at the Fine Arts Center of Kershaw County, in downtown Camden.  Lowe, whose work was profiled in the Jasper 003 cover story, will be on hand for a reception from 5:30 to 7:00 PM to kick off her exhibition "Contemporary Classics" in the Bassett Gallery.   From press material:
Letitia "Tish" Lowe is an award-wining American artist whose work is represented in private collections in Europe, Canada and the United States.  Trained at the Angel Academy of Art in Florence, Italy, Lowe specializes in portrait, still life, and figurative oil paintings in classic realist style.
Lowe captured the Chairman's Choice Award for her still life, "The Pram," at the International 2007 ARC Salon, competing with over 1600 entries, and won Best of Show for her "Portrait of a Young Woman" in a citywide competition in Florence, Italy. She took an Award of Merit for her painting "Spanish Bowl" at the 2011 South Carolina State Fair and was recently invited to participate in an exhibition in Leipzig, Germany.

"A classic realist, I seek beauty in all things and paint to help people see and appreciate that beauty," says Tish. "The human  spirit and the natural world inspire my art. I view outward appearances as expressions of the spirit and strive in my paintings to reflect the essence of the subject that makes it unique."



The exhibition will be on display through November 30; details can be found at:

Then at 7 PM, Claire Bryant & Friends will perform with the Danish String Quartet.

In its fourth season, Claire Bryant and Friends is an exciting collaboration between communities, campuses, health care facilities, and arts organizations across the United States and some of New York City's most sought-after professional young artists.  South Carolina native and Artistic Director, Claire Bryant, and fellow alumni from The Academy—a program of Carnegie Hall, The Juilliard School, and the Weill Music Institute, offer innovative and collaborative community and campus residencies through Chamber Music with the intention of deepening societies' relationship with the arts and music education. These musicians are dedicated to the importance of community connection, through work in the public schools, retirement communities, health-care facilities, departments of disabilities, community centers and other venues that make up the core of our society.

Camden native and cellist Claire Bryant (featured in Jasper 004) is joined by violinist Owen Dalby, both from the newly minted and acclaimed NYC chamber music society, The Declassified.

Friday, October 19th at 7:00 p.m. will be the main-stage event at the Fine Arts Center of Kershaw County. Claire and her friends from NYC and Denmark will culminate the week’s residency with a full-length chamber music performance, featuring an all-romantic program from Eastern Europe with works by Ernő Dohnányi, Leoš Janáček, and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky.  Audiences will be transported by the Hungarian folk-styles of Dohnányi’s "Serenade" for string trio, experience passion and pain during Janáček’s “Kreutzer Sonata” for string quartet, and finally, will be enveloped in the Italian sights and sounds of Russian composer Tchaikovsky’s blockbuster for string sextet, "Souvenir de Florence."  Details are at:


The Columbi-Arts & Music Show launches on WUSC 90.5 FM!

Hello Jasper Fans,

I just wanted to let you know about a new weekly radio show I'm launching this fall on our town's wonderful college radio station, WUSC 90.5 FM. The show is called The Columbi-Arts & Music Show (check us out on Facebook here) and will be broadcasting on Thursdays from 2-4pm each week. Each week I plan to talk about (and play music from) upcoming music shows as well as promote upcoming art gallery happenings, film screenings, dance performances, theater productions, etc. We'll be having special guests and DJs, live (mostly acoustic) performances in the studio, and will do our best to show off all this city has to offer.

So, if you like, please tune in, contact me with any arts-related events you have coming up, and enjoy having an anything-goes college radio station that dedicates 2 hours each week to talking about what's going on in the arts community.

Tomorrow will be our first show--tune in at 2 if you can!


-K. Petersen



Garage/Rockabilly Band Capital City Playboys Are Throwing a Party This Saturday!

By: Casey White, Jasper Intern


The Capital City Playboys have been around since 2009, but its members have been playing in bands around Columbia for a number of years previously.  Marty Fort (guitar and vocals), Jay Matheson (bass and vocals), and Kevin Brewer (drums and vocals) are veterans of the Columbia music scene, and with CCP they hope not only to bring new music to the capital city, but also some of that classic rockabilly vibe . The group will be bringing their classic rock and roll party energy to the Art Bar this Saturday night, along with Buck Stanley, Dixie Dynamite, and Beach Day.

Although the band formed in Columbia, Brewer has since moved to Georgia, due to his obligations to the U.S. Army. Brewer joined in 2004, becoming an official Army musician in 2006. Although serving has forced him to relocate, he says that being an Army musician is the greatest day job he’s ever had.

“Keeping CCP going does take a lot of work and, for me, a bunch of driving,” Brewer says. Although it takes a great deal of effort, and is a 308-mile trip each way, Brewer knows that playing shows with Fort and Matheson is the thing he loves to do most.

Although he doesn’t mind driving to play shows with his band mates, Brewer says that the distance does making writing new material more difficult. The group sends ideas for songs to each other when they get them, fleshing them out when the band can get together, i.e.  when they all have the time. It is often difficult to find that time, because they all stay busy with their respective careers - Brewer in the military, Fort working for the Columbia Arts Academy, and Matheson working at the Jam Room.

Despite the distance, the Capital City Playboys plan to host a show that the people of Columbia will remember.  Brewer also sees the performance as a reunion with the friends and family he had to leave when he moved to Georgia.

“I'm really excited about the show Saturday,” said Brewer. “Not only will it be an epic line-up, but for my wife Gina and I, it will be a bit of a family reunion. Many of our closest friends will be under the same roof for the night. You can expect a stellar performance from every band.”

Buck Stanley is a band fronted by another veteran of the Columbia music scene, Stan Gardner, and features CCP bassist Jay Matheson as well.  The group plays what they describe as stripped down Americana, with pedal steel and fiddle players laying down healthy doses of twang-filled licks. Female-fronted Beach Day (hailing from Hollywood, Florida) will be performing their own compelling mixture of surf and garage rock, while Columbia’s Dixie Dynamite will be starting the night off with some old school country sounds.

The four acts make for a great bill, and promise a fabulous night of great music. Come on out to the Art Bar this Saturday, July 28th, and experience it!

Record Review: Rev. Marv Ward - I Should Know Better

While we here at Jasper have been doing (what we believe to be) a great job covering a wide variety of arts activities throughout our fair city, one thing that has been lacking has been more frequent updates on the amazing quality and variety of local music releases over the last 10 months or so we’ve been active, which is something we’d like to change, starting with a rather under-appreciated aspect of the Columbia’s music scene: the blues.

While not the most blues-associated city in the world, Columbia definitely has a few blues-related things to be proud of: Word of Mouth Production’s annual blues festival in MLK Park, weekly jam sessions at Mac on Main’s, and Clair de Lune’s Blues Moon radio show on WUSC, just to name a few. Another highlight of the scene is Rev. Marv Ward, a longtime blues guitarist and songwriter who plays continually around the city. Earlier this year he released I Should  Know Better, just his third solo album since he started out professionally as a songwriter in the 70s. Ward got his start early as a guitar player in a variety of blues and rock and roll bands, and over the years has shared stages with the likes of John Hammond, Dave Van Ronk, Big Bill Morganfield (son of the great Muddy Waters), and Aerosmith, and this collection actually includes unrecorded songs from throughout his long musical career.

Despite the star power of his past, these days Ward is more comfortable hanging with a talented group of local musicians. Recorded at the venerable Jam Room, Ward’s core backing band for the record included longtime scene members bassist Mike Mahoney and Vic Scaricamazza on the drums, along with frequent contributions from harmonica player Mike Fore, slide guitarist Rusty Davis, and mandolin from Steve Bennett. Ward also makes harmony singers Jenn McCallister and May Kirby central to the record’s sound, particularly on the girl group/beach music-heavy tune “Ridin’ on the Daydream.” Two other musical kindred spirits from the scene, Bentz Kirby (Alien Carnival) and David Hane (Devils in Disguise), trade verses on the final cut, the classic country-inspired “Tennessee Whiskey.”

The record opens with four tunes that are in the center of Ward’s wheelhouse, all of which make use of classic blues structures and the veteran guitarist’s effortless lead work. Ward’s approach has always been a laid-back mish-mash of styles, but here he seems to square in on a John Hiatt-meets-Muddy Waters vibe that fits perfectly with his more conservative blues tunes. The second half of the record, as if to apologize for the more straightforward (although uniformly strong)   opening, sees Ward stretching his legs quite a bit. The title cut takes a Buddy Holly rhythm and far more overt R&B vibe than anything that came before it, and from there Ward includes a trio of English folk and Celtic-influenced tunes (“Wallflower,” “Dance of Kindred Spirits,” and “Come Down to the River”), the California country-rock of “Virginia,” and the aforementioned “Ridin’ on the Daydream” and “Tennessee Whiskey.” Ward even throws in a twist on a classic blues conceit with his boomer-come-hither tune “Come Over,” which takes the genre’s love of ridiculous metaphors (“if you got the cheese, baby, I got the wine”) into near-Spinal Tap territory.  Even if you are tempted to laugh, though, the song is saved by a ridiculously good hard rock riff and the fact that Ward can, well, play.

In fact, throughout the record (and despite the numerous guest instrumentalists and vocalists), Ward’s consistency as a vocalist, guitar player, and songwriter never falters. His playing rarely lets you forget he is a blues player at heart, but traces of such unlikely influences as Jerry Garcia and Neil Young seem to pop up, even though he tends to more concise and structured solos than either. As a songwriter, his rather humble approach to the long legacy of the styles he works with balances originality and homage in a way that many contemporary blues musicians often find difficult.

Having said all that, the most important thing to remember about Ward’s record is that it’s been made largely a document of the songs he likes to write and perform, and for the relatively small audience of South Carolinians who either already know his music well or who tend to gravitate to more laid-back roots music styles anyway. That it is so often remarkable is almost beside the point—which really makes it all the more remarkable.

- Kyle Petersen

Contact Kyle at



It Was 15 Years Ago Today ....

It didn’t matter if you were a fan of Willie, Hootie or Neil. What really mattered was that Farm Aid was coming to Columbia, and everyone was excited.


There was no denying, It was going to be a big deal. A large part of the pop-culture universe would shift its focus to South Carolina for a day, and that day was exactly 15 years ago, Oct. 12, 1996. It was a day I’ll always remember, because I’ve never felt so many good vibes in one place, with so many famous musicians just hanging out and enjoying each others company.


Farm Aid was founded in 1985 to raise public awareness about the plight of the American family farmer. Its masterminds were Willie Nelson, Neil Young, John Mellencamp, and John Conlee, and its mission was to provide assistance to families whose livelihood depended on agriculture.


Hootie and the Blowfish were at the top of the pop charts at the time, and the Columbia-based quartet played an energetic set at the 1985 Farm Aid in Lexington, Kentucky. Afterwards, they invited Willie to bring the show to Columbia in 1996. A quick check of the calendar to see when the Gamecocks were out of town, and voila! Farm Aid was booked for Williams-Brice Stadium on Oct. 12.


It was announced to the public in July of 1996 (Willie rolled into town in his tour bus and did a press conference at the stadium), and everyone immediately wanted to know who would play … in addition to Willie, Neil, and Mellencamp of course. When the line-up was announced, anticipation swelled. Country stars abounded. Tim McGraw, Ricky Van Shelton, Hal Ketchum, Gretchen Peters, and Martina McBride were coming, just to name a few. Pop-rock stars such as Jewel and Rusted Root were scheduled. I almost blew a gasket when I saw Steve Earle, Son Volt, Robert Earl Keen, and the Texas Tornados on the bill. I can now confess, 15 years later, to doing something a tad unethical for a newspaper reporter. I finagled an artist’s laminate, hung out all day backstage, and had the time of my life. Heck, I’m a music fan and this was a chance of a lifetime. Besides, I got some great stories by posing as a country-rocker, so I don’t feel too bad about it.


Tickets were a whopping $27, and gates opened at 10 a.m. The first act was scheduled to start around 11:30, so I took a seat on a folding table near the load-in gate just to see what I could see. I knew it was going to be a good day when I looked to my left and the first person to come walking by was Steve Earle.


“Hey, Steve,” I said.


He glanced at my laminate and took a seat next to me on the table. For about 10 minutes we talked about Farm Aid and Columbia, and I confessed I was a hometown boy. He laughed and asked me about a club he’d played with the Dukes years back that was under a big water tower.


“Oh, that must have been Sylvester’s,” I said.


So it was cool when I heard Earle mention from the stage a few hours later about how he’d played Columbia before at the old club formerly on Pickens Street.


And that was pretty much how my day went. I’d spot somebody and chat with them for a while. Robert Earl Keen. Jay Farrar of Son Volt. Marshall Chapman. I actually chased a couple folks down, because I just had to say hey. Freddy Fender for one, who was wearing the largest belt buckle known to man. And David Crosby for another, a surprise visitor who came to sing with Hootie (and Neil Young, too, as it turned out).


Speaking of Neil, he provided the strangest episode of the day. As it got close to time for his set, the stagehands constructed a private tunnel from his tour bus to the stage so he wouldn’t be distracted. It was a big disappointment for me, because Neil has always been one of my biggest heroes. But he didn’t disappoint when he took the stage that night with Crazy Horse and played one of the loudest hour-long sets I’d ever heard.


As I made my way to my car around midnight (the show was supposed to end at 11 p.m.), I was exhausted but exhilarated by the phenomenal music I’d heard. In fact, I was still hearing it, because Willie and Family were onstage, playing into the night.


It was a magical (and historical) day for Columbia, and I’m still thankful that I had the opportunity to take part in it all.



American Whiskey Brother Gun Plow Revue Preview

Sometimes the best places to go see live music are the least likeliest of venues. Case in point in the crazy Southern soiree going down in Rosewood Sunday—over a half dozen acts associated with a practice space off of S. Edisto are going to be throwing down starting at 3 in the afternoon. Performances will be both inside and outside the space, with a down-home atmosphere that will see Plowboy leader Tom Hall grilling burgers, a keg of beer being tapped, and a donation jar getting passed to help raise money for the performers (suggested donation is $5).

Groups like Say Brother and the Plowboys will play rollicking acoustic music that fits right in with the lazy Sunday vibe of the day, while singer/songwriters Noah Brock and Will Pittman will also be playing in between full band sets. Whiskey Tango Revue will be delivering some of its rough-hewn outlaw country (the group has just put out their debut full-length, Seersucker Soldiers, and should have some copies for sale), while some of Jasper’s buddies in American Gun will be trying out some Afghan Whigs covers in preparation for their cover show on Oct. 15th, in addition to some of their more roots rock-oriented material.

The party will also feature one of the first live performances by the new Columbia band The Fishing Journal, fronted by ex-Death Becomes Even the Maiden drummer Chris Powell and featuring some energetic, Superchunck-inspired tunes. These are the kind of bands that everyone can love, and the loose vibes and casual atmosphere should make this humble musical bash the place to be this Sunday.

-- Kyle Petersen

Jasper Goes Punk Rock with Kid Anthem

So, if there is anything Jasper gets more disappointed about than people ragging on Columbia’s art and music scene, it’s when he himself misses something great about it. Case in point is the local punk rock band Kid Anthem’s debut EP, which was released back in October of last year. It’s possible he even heard about the band, but had a unfair knee-jerk reaction against a genre that seems fraught with easy musical crutches of speed and shouting, with an emphasis on sloppiness over tunes.

This was totally not the case with Kid Anthem. Featuring a slate of experienced scene member and a modus operandi that leans more towards anthemic than anarchic, Kid Anthem cherry picks from the best of the punk and alt. rock tradition. Jasper hears echoes of Bad Brains, Social Distortion, Bad Religion, Superchunk, and lots of other bands that we don’t know enough about to name check. Big guitars and propulsive drumming dominate these songs courtesy of Eric McCord (Pop 39)and Chris Shirah (Burns Out Bright, Ye Mighty!) respectively, but there are also some surprisingly wicked bass lines weaving in and out of these songs (played by Thank God drummer Troy Thames) too. Throw in some dedicated background vocals giving the group a touch of Phil Specter pop, and it becomes clear that this is a group taking the term “power trio” seriously.

Even after a couple of listens, Jasper was amazed at the way the group seems to even-handily divide time between big choruses and hooks with moments where the band opens up some space and plays with one  another.   Some people are always going to be a little turned off by punk rock. But if you have an open mind and want to hear a band right here in town taking the musicality of punk rock quite seriously, check out the EP here. It’s free!

-- Kyle Petersen