Jasper Goes to Hopscotch, 2015 Edition

Photo by Thomas Hammond Photography, all rights reserved. In some ways, returning to Raleigh for Hopscotch 2015 felt like catching up with an old friend. This was the festival’s sixth year, and Jasper’s fourth year attending, so much of what the astoundingly dynamic and eclectic festival offered felt comforting, familiar. The convergence of noise artists and rappers, EDM ravers and folkies, metalheads and indie rock tastemakers is what makes this festival tick, with the diversity of its booking and venues locations (ranging from the seedy dive of Slim’s to the posh intimacy of Fletcher Opera House to the, well, festival-esque City Plaza) giving it the kind of distinct character and vibe such undertakings count on.

Photo by Thomas Hammond Photography, all rights reserved.

While talking about the event from year to year is always going to center on a few things focused primarily on the music itself. How did the headliners fare? Godspeed You! Black Emperor delivered a predictably swollen, cinematic head trip of a set that was a welcome counterpart to the opening night’s rain; TV on the Radio proved to be a phenomenal live band adept at bringing art rock to the masses; and Dwight Yoakam was a straight shooter who lets his songs bring the heat.

Thomas didn't like Mr. Yoakam's photography policy. Photo by Thomas Hammond Photography, all rights reserved.

Who blew the roofs off? Phil Cook & Friends at Fletcher felt like a celebration of everything that makes Hopscotch great as they played his new solo LP Southland Mission from start to finish (check out the amazing video our photographer Thomas Hammond shot below); Working with a dramatically different sets of tools, Lincoln Theater headliners Battles and Pusha T closed out Friday and Saturday nights respectively by putting on workshops on how to own the stage when compared to just about anybody; and Waxahatchee’s  last minute solo set proved just how entrancing some simple, heartbreaking songs and a voice can be.




What new discoveries had us buzzing? The haunting collection of traditional folk tunes by Jake Xerxes Fussell’s debut on Paradise of Bachelors is destined to end up on my year-end favorites list, and I’ll eat my shoe if Raleigh’s electro-R&B act Boulevards and/or upcoming rapper Ace Henderson aren’t making waves nationally by the end of 2016.

Mac McCaughan w/ The Flesh Wounds (moonlighting as the Non-Believers), another highlight from this year's festival. Photo by Thomas Hammond Photography, all rights reserved.

But part of what makes Hopscotch great is also what stays mostly the same—the day party traditions that range from the Trekky Records-centered lineups on Saturdays at Pour House to the noisy, avante-garde acts that fill Friday afternoon at King’s, the sprawling outdoor markets and official Hopscotch block parties, and the wonderful vendors and venues in Raleigh that team up to make the festival great from year to year.

Say Brother performing at the outdoor stage at Legends. Photo by Thomas Hammond Photography, all rights reserved.

What made this year especially memorable for South Carolina attendees, and what will hopefully be added to the list of traditions, is the collaboration between Stereofly, SceneSC, and Free Times that led to two day parties on Thursday and Friday that brought the first significant South Carolina presence to the festival since its inception.

While there have been some token inclusions from the Palmetto State in recent years—acts like Shovels & Rope, Say Brother, and Brian Robert’s Company have all been played official sets in the past, and Keath Mead got an early slot at Tir Na Nog this year—the bounty of North Carolina acts and the dearth of folks from our own music community has always given us pause, particularly when those NC acts benefit from national coverage of Hopscotch. This year was a welcome change.

JKutchma. Photo by Thomas Hammond Photography, all rights reserved.

Settling into the cool, dimly lit confines of Deep South on Thursday for an imitate, story-laden set from JKutchma followed by the haunting songs of She Returns from War and the electrifying country-rock of Say Brother at their sloshy best, even with their mid-afternoon start, was a great start to the festival; even better was the sprawling eclecticism of Friday’s day party at Legends Nightclub. Packed to the gills with mostly-SC acts, highlights included a grand opening from Charleston’s The High Divers, a classic rock-minded indie rock act with impeccable harmonies and a debut LP out 10/9, a fiery, mathy set from recent Post-Echo signees Art Contest, who recently moved from Columbia to Athens, GA, and a seasoned performance the Justin Osborne-led alt-country act Susto, which has been touring hard in recent months, including some opening slots for Band of Horses, Iron & Wine, and Moon Taxi. Recent Jasper centerfold Danny Joe Machado’s performance was another standout, provided a fascinating window into how an unfamiliar audience dealt with the acerbic persona The Restoration has created as a solo act.

The High Divers. Photo by Thomas Hammond Photography, all rights reserved.

More than any one performer, though, what struck me the most about these day parties was a sense of pride in South Carolina, as well as a rare sense of home community in a Hopscotch world where Jasper has always felt like an outsider before. Whereas in prior years “hopping” from set to set would be the norm for day parties as much as it is for the evening sets, we were happy to camp out at Legends all day on Friday, content to revel in our hometown riches before taking in the official schedule.

We can’t praise the folks and bands who put this on enough. It can be hard to see or sense forward movement for a scene, but those few hours on Thursday and Friday felt like something.

Photo by Thomas Hammond Photography, all rights reserved.


Below are some selected photos from the festival by Thomas Hammond:


Song for Jeffrey By Alex Smith, Sports Editor, Jasper Magazine

A few miles down the road from the fortified compound that houses Jasper Magazine, something is cooking at The Free Times in the Rant And Rave section, and when something starts to cook on that burner, the responses can go on longer than some of the threads on Chris Bickel's Facebook posts, only it's not inter web realtime, so that means weeks. I wanted to throw my pat of butter onto this particular griddle in a somewhat public forum before everybody forgets how the whole fucking thing started (I'm just as guilty as the next: we have given ourselves the attention span of gnats with this internet thing-I hear heckles that 'this internet thing' is what is allowing me to have my say about something while it's still remotely topical…just remember, if you're close enough to hear you're close enough to chew the face off of…).

  Ed [Madden, Poetry Editor] and I were in the bullpen out at the compound at Muddy Ford about a week ago, grinding the pigment out of wildflowers to use for the various colored ink for the upcoming issue (you don't just write when you're on staff at Jasper). As the man said so long ago, "we spoke of movies and verse, and the way an actress held her purse, and the way life and times could get worse…" Then we spoke of Jeffrey. Ed mentioned somebody bitching about our mutual friend Jeffrey Day and one of his less than enthusiastic notices concerning some or other arts related event here in town. We agreed not only that bitching about a review was unwarranted and whiny, but that (you can quote me on this) Jeffrey Day is the best all-around arts critic writing in Columbia. Imagine my surprise when, perusing the new issue of the Free-Times the next day [June 26-July 2], I got to the very last words that weren't ad copy, and they read, "I found a little Jeffrey Day dribble in my Free Times this morning (Arts, June 20). Apparently, the guy is like treatment-resistant gonorrhea; you may think he’s gone, but he ain’t."


I love the Free Times. I have had a man-crush on its editor since I saw his band open for The Violent Femmes when I was 15 years old. When it comes to full coverage journalism in Columbia, The Free Times has no competition, and their work is consistently terrific. And, like most people, I love the Rant And Rave section. So, let me make it completely clear that in no way am I trying to defame The Free Times when I say, in regard to the quote above: Fuck. That. Shit.

Here are a few more choice words in regard to that quote. I've known Jeffrey for going on 25 years, and I consider him a friend, but my anger about those words being said about a friend is beside the point, and what's more, personal, and I'd like to keep this out of that realm. I will, therefore, dispense with attempting to address the anonymous coward who spilled that bile onto the back page of an otherwise decent news rag, and try to look at the bigger picture.


The above quote is indicative of a problem some of the people involved in Columbia's arts community have that can end up being fucking deadly: everybody wants press, but none of them are willing to take criticism from anybody who knows what they're saying. First, let me say that, if you're an artist and you can't take the ugly words the same way that you take the kind words that people say about your art, if you can't be humble in the face of adulation and venom, throw that towel in. Now. You're a kiddie swimming in the big person pool. Get out until you've grown up a little. Beyond that, if our arts scene (which, listen, don't get me wrong, seems to be flourishing and cohering so successfully at this point that it's making me nervous) is nothing but a bunch of people smiling and waxing each others' cars, the whole thing will either burn bright very briefly and then die (again) because, take my word, that kind of enthusiasm can not be maintained without serious drugs; or those grinning waxers will turn around after telling you they love your work and tell somebody else how shitty they really think it is, this behavior will proliferate, and the whole thing will fizz out like a soggy sparkler and die (again).


Be honest about what you think and feel when you experience a work of art, and be willing and able to back it up, especially if your thoughts and feelings are negative. This will create dialogue, which will create working and personal relationships, which will create community. That's one thing.

The other is, for FUCK'S sake, we artists should get down on our knees and praise Allah for allowing us to have an art critic like Jeffrey in this town. Jeffrey is knowledgeable about enough aspects of both visual and performing arts that he can write incisive criticism about what he sees, whether it's a review of a musical at Town Theatre, a symphony performance at the Koger Center, or the latest show at the Columbia Museum of Art. He does so without any bells and whistles, without flexing his intellect publicly, and in such a way that a person reading his reviews does not have to be an aficionado to understand what he has written. He has been a paid writer for virtually every print outlet that covers the arts in Columbia, and when times got tough, he continued to do it for free online. Somehow, Jeffrey sees it all, and he reports on it honestly and thoroughly. People have faulted him for being too harsh a critic as long as I've known him, and, again, let me say it: Fuck. That. Shit.


Jeffrey has seen what the arts community in this city is capable of, and the reason we should be grateful for him is that he holds us to that high standard, and if we weren't around to know about the standard he's holding us to, he'll be glad to tell us about it. He is a good man. He may be a grumbling, naysaying curmudgeon sometimes, but if he knows you, he'll laugh at himself with you about it, especially if you're like me, and he knows that you'll only put up with his grumbling for so long before you pull out your tickle-bat and whack him with it (I'll tell you more about the tickle-bat some other time).


Jeffrey wrote a review of a play I directed in 2005 that has been the kindest thing written about any single artistic endeavor I've been involved with. It ended with the phrase, "…one of the ten best plays to be performed in Columbia in the last ten years." No shit. It was such a good review that I started telling people I'd paid him to write it, or that myself and the cast had gotten him loaded, like Joe Cotten in Citizen Kane, and finished the review for him after he passed out. He also wrote a very poor review of a show I directed in 2000 that I thought was perfect. Ultimately, I believe it was that poor review that made Jeffrey my friend. He would come sit and talk with me and whoever I was with (or vice-versa) when we'd see each other out at the bars or around town. I noticed that, for a long time after that poor review, he didn't seem to come and sit and talk when I saw him, and at first it puzzled me, but then, I realized that he probably thought I was pissed at him about the review (reading that Free Times quote and thinking about how much of that bullshit he's probably had to endure over his career makes me feel naive for ever wondering why he would have thought he should approach an artist with kid gloves). I saw him out one night. I was a little in my cups, so I told him that he needn't ever worry about me being an asshole to him if he wrote a bad review of one of my shows because, ultimately, good or bad, I wasn't doing it for him. I think most people would have been more than a little off-put by some drunk jerk coming up and telling them that they didn't care what they thought, but after that, Jeffrey seemed so much more relaxed and willing to talk when we would see each other.


The part I'm not sure about is whether I told him about the quote. After his bad review came out, I happened to read an interview from the 60's with Miles Davis. To bolster the esteem of the cast of the play Jeffrey had panned, I printed this quote out and hung it backstage:


"I get sick of how a lot of them write whole columns and pages of big words and still ain't saying nothing. If you have spent your life getting to know your business and the other cats in it, and what they are doing, then you know if a critic knows what he's talking about. Most of the time they don't. I don't pay no attention to what critics say about me, the good or the bad. The toughest critic I got, and the only one I worry about, is myself. My music has got to get past me and I'm too vain to play anything I think is bad."


What came after this, which I left out for my cast, but include here, is this:


"No, I ain't going to name critics I don't like. But I will tell you some that I respect what they write -- Nat Hentoff, Ralph Gleason and Leonard Feather. And some others, I can't right off think of their names. But it ain't a long list."


The list might not be long, but this vain, self-critical artist is glad to say that Jeffrey Day is on it.

-- Alex Smith, staff writer, Jasper Magazine


(Alex Smith has written about The Next Door Drummers and artist Cedric Umoja for Jasper Magazine. In the upcoming issue, releasing on July 12th, he writes about music director Tom Beard, Lighting designer Aaron Pelzek, and experimental musician C. Neil Scott. Alex Smith is NOT the Sports Editor for Jasper Magazine.)

A message from Cindi about Kendal Turner, Pink Power, Virginia Scotchie & Gallery V, Al Black, USC Dance & Stacey Calvert, Corey Hutchins,Wade Sellers, Passing Strange & it's Art

Dear Friends, A few things are coming up this week that might fall under your radar but you probably don't want to miss. Let's take a look.

On Tuesday night at the Art Bar, spoken word poet Kendal Turner -- yes, the same amazing lady who put together the All Woman Entourage for the release of Jasper #4 the Pink Power Issue last week -- will be presenting Poetic Awakenings. Here's what Ms. Turner posts about the event on Facebook:

"This is a place for everyone. To share, to listen, to write their next big masterpiece. This is where to go when you're not sure where to turn. A peaceful refuge in the back room of a bar that's been the safe haven for many weary wanderers. Join me for VerseWorks at the Art Bar for an open mic like no other. I invite you to share what's in your heart and open to the highest form of grace. Art is the backbone of the universe and we, we are the architects." -- K. Turner

To RSVP for this event and for more information click the magic button. And to read more of Ms. Turner's impetus for creating this event, look for a blog post in the next day or so.


On Thursday night, a new gallery space is opening in 5 Points and, as you know, Jasper is all about finding more and more walls for all the art being generated in our town. This is Virginia Scotchie's gallery and she's calling it Gallery V - Contemporary Art and Fine Craft. Her first show is called "10 Women in Clay" and it features work by Isabelle Caskey, Heyley Douglas, Laura VanCamp, Virginia Scotchie, Allison Brown, Frieda Dean, Katherine Radomsky, Emily Russell, Brittany Jeffcoat, and Kristina Stafford.

Gallery V (as in 5) is located just above Good for the Sole shoes at 631-D Harden Street in Columbia. Opening reception hours are from 5 until 8. For more info or to RSVP, your magic button is here.

We'd also like to plug the newest issue of the magazine, Jasper #4, in which Ms. Scotchie wrote the guest editorial. Turn to the back of the mag and give it a read, please.


Two fine arts events will be happening at the same time on Friday night -- a problem Columbia rarely used to have, but which we seem to be plagued with now. I complain about this a lot myself, but it's a purely selfish complaint. If we lived in NYC or Seattle or Boston, we would  have long ago become accustomed to making choices of what arts events to attend on any given evening. This is something artists and arts lovers have to get used to if we're going to live in an arts hub like Columbia, SC. (For more on this, please refer to the recent Facebook exchange between myself and local poet Al Black that I have posted below.)*

At 7 pm on Friday, the USC Dance Company once again presents the Stars of the New York City Ballet at the Koger Center for the Arts.  I've written a piece on this for the Free Times, so I'll leave you to read that on Wednesday. (And, by the by, big props to Free Times for taking home a boatload of awards from the SC Press Association -- the SCPA paid for a portion of my undergrad tuition so I am still a fan -- and especially to Corey Hutchins of the Free Times for being named SC Journalist of the Year.)

But in the meantime, please know that to say that Stacey Calvert, former soloist with the NYC Ballet, has changed the face of ballet in Columbia, SC is no exaggeration whatsoever. I am overwhelmed by the misinformation being tossed around out there concerning who knows what about ballet in this city. If anyone really wanted to know what the bottom line on professional ballet is, rather than asking those who try to preserve their ephemeral positions of authority simply by clinging to the long gone skirt-tails of long dead people, they would ask Stacey Calvert. Read about her on page 42 of Jasper #4 and be aware that if we don't keep this woman in Columbia by giving her a position of real authority in which she can use her talent and her connections to put Columbia on the map for professional ballet, then this will be a shameful and disastrous loss -- as well as a likely remnant of the internecine conflicts mentioned in * below.


Also on Friday night, The rock musical Passing Strange opens at Trustus Theatre. I hope you've been reading and hearing about this performance and the collaboration between Jasper and Trustus as we brought 10 local artists together to create the set of the musical. We previewed the art last Friday and were treated to another magnificent example of what happens when artists from different disciplines come together to cooperate and inspire one another. (See photo below.) Now you have the opportunity to see the art on the stage. The show opens on Friday night and runs through April 14th. For ticket info punch here.


On Saturday, March 24th, local filmmaker Wade Sellers will be premiering his new film Lola's Prayer at the Expecting Goodness Short Film Festival in Spartanburg, SC. Mr. Sellers shared a guest blog with us previously. It's not that far to Spartanburg -- and if you're brave you can go early and eat at the Beacon. The festival starts at 7 and is only $5 -- but is expected to sell out, as well it should. I hope you'll join me in representing Columbia and supporting Mr. Sellers and his fine cast of Columbians who are in this film.


*Finally, here's a cut and pasted copy of the exchange between Mr. Black and myself from Facebook -- we'd love to know what you think, Columbia.

The first lines are from Al Black --

My thoughts on the 'Poetry Community' & the 'Arts Community' in general:We should stop looking at the 'Columbia Arts Community' as a pie and that the more artists and arts events the smaller our piece of pie.The 'Columbia Arts Community' is a fabulous psychedelic mushroom and when people bite off a piece spores are released into the atmosphere and mushrooms start popping up in more locations and more minds are fed.

The more we share the faster our crop grows & spreads - the potential is endless not finite.

With Warm Regards,

Albee In Wonderland

.....as Jefferson Starship once sang, "Feed your head!"

· · Thursday at 4:00pm

  • You and 3 others like this.
    • Jasper Magazine - The Word on Columbia Arts At Jasper, we couldn't agree more. And not to get all socio-political on a perfectly pleasant Sunday afternoon, but there is something to be said for the theory that internecine competition once held our fine burg back -- too much energy spent hating and not enough invested in supporting our sisters and brothers in the arts. As we grow in numbers, we grow in strength and power and visibility. We can become an arts destination by growing our arts community exponentially and via multi-disciplinary patronage.


Thanks for reading this far. Have a great week in the arts, my friends.





                         ~~ Cindi

Brooklyn Mack -- Dancing Saturday Night at Lifechance

I'm sure my kids hate it when I reference their younger days in blog posts and lectures and the like, and every time I do, I'm aware that they may be uncomfortable. But then I remember how much we spoiled them when they were small and I decide, screw it, they can take one for the team. This is one of those times.

When Annie and Bonnie were little girls and they temporarily left Columbia City Ballet's junior company to dance for and learn from Radenko Pavlovich's Columbia Classical Ballet, (I say temporarily because Bonnie is back at City now and Annie stopped dancing in high school), there was this amazingly sweet boy who had also just come to dance there who we all immediately fell in love with.

His name was Brooklyn Mack.

Brooklyn was tall and shy and, to be honest, less than graceful, and his feet seemed to get in the way of his dancing. He had a smile that was almost too big for his face and he sometimes seemed to try to hide it when he was tickled by something someone said or did.

All the kids there were young and raw,  and despite their parents opinions -- mine included -- there didn't appear to be any world-class dancers chasing one another around the studios at Pavlovich's, or popping down the walkway to buy and share cheesy bread from Little Caesar's Pizza.

But there was Brooklyn. At 12, not yet well-trained or even very talented, but with a degree of determination that made all the other kids pale. Over and over he would endure Pavlovich's not-always-gentle corrections. "Point your bah-nah-nahs! Point your bah-nah-nahs!" Pavlovich would scream at the boy in his Serbian accent to point his quite large toes and feet.

Brooklyn would internalize his corrections without letting them beat him down. Like most ballet instructors who frequently question the self-worth of the individuals in their tutelage, Pavlovich showed no mercy to Brooklyn -- which was fine, because Brooklyn didn't want it. Though sensitive and kind, he was tough. And even as a boy, he demonstrated the kind of integrity that made me feel that it was an honor to call him a friend of our family.

Brooklyn didn't stay long at Pavlovich's. Radenko has a reputation for wisely sending his talented students on to study elsewhere and he did so with Brooklyn, as well. After just a few years he felt Brooklyn was ready to move on so he made arrangements for the still young boy to move to Washington, DC and attend the Kirov Ballet Academy. On full scholarship. When Brooklyn graduated from the Kirov, he got a choice position dancing with the American Ballet Theatre's second company. And he traveled. He traveled literally all over the world dancing in Asia and Europe and South America, and competing in competitions where he rarely left without a medal around his neck. (He made the cover of Dance Europe in 2009 and was just named by Dance Magazine as one of 25 young dancers to watch in 2012.) He finally landed at Washington Ballet three years ago where he dances in a troupe of extraordinarily gifted dancers.

And this weekend, Brooklyn is traveling back to Columbia where he will dance once again for his mentor and with the company that gave him his start. I cannot recommend enough that you go see the Lifechance Ballet Gala this Saturday night at the Koger Center. I wrote a little ditty on it for Free Times here, where you'll find most of the info you need to know to go.

What you'll see will be an exciting night of some of the best, most athletic, most inspiring ballet you will have seen in quite some time, both from Brooklyn and his colleagues. But look closely when the young man finishes his dances -- he doesn't try to hide his smile as much any more -- and I think he learned a long time ago that his integrity shines through no matter what.

Thanks to Dan Cook & the Free Times for giving One Book, One Columbia a nice welcome for 2012

With much appreciation to Free Times editor, Dan Cook, Jasper is re-posting his Arts Beat blog from Friday November 11th, which is an excellent example of how to whip up enthusiasm about something of which Columbians have a right to be proud -- reading and the second year of our One Book, One Columbia program.  Read below for more info via Dan.
by Dan Cook, November 11th 02:57pm

Spearheaded by City Councilwoman Belinda Gergel, the One Book One Columbia program was launched in April with the goal of promoting not only literacy, but also community dialogue. The idea was simple: Get as many people in the city as possible to read the same book at the same time, and then get them talking about it.

The book that launched the program, Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters' First 100 Years, served as a starting point for conversations about history, family, race, religion, education and much more. (See the Free Times story "Can a Book Get Columbians Talking?" for more background on the program.)

Now it's time for the launch of the 2012 One Book program. On Dec. 13 at 5 p.m., the Richland County Public Library will host an orientation for reading advocates; advocates are volunteers who agree to read the book and promote the program within their own ciricles of friends, acquaintances and co-workers.

Interested in being a reading advocate for the One Book program? Contact Gergel at bfgergel@columbiasc.net by Dec. 5.

As for what book has been chosen for the 2012 One Book program, you'll just have to wait ... the title will be announced at the Dec. 13 event.