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It’s SPRING! That time of year when Downtown erupts into a riot of color as trees & flowers bloom and people venture out after a long winter, eager to don their shorts & flip-flops and enjoy all that Downtown has to offer. Spring also signals the return of two of Downtown’s most beloved music events – Downtown Alive and Main Street Fridays.

Music lovers of all ages are encouraged to gather at NOMA Square (in front of The Hyatt) every Thursday at 5:30PM to experience some of the best musical talent the Southeast has to offer! The 2013 season of Downtown Alive kicks off the first official day of Spring (March 21st), with the 8 piece guitar driven southern funk rock of TJ Lazer & the New Detriots. The March lineup also features Orangeburg country crooner, Brad Jennings on the 28th. April not only spotlights some sweet bluegrass from local favorites, The Piedmont Boys, but also features a trio of acts from the Charleston area like Downtown regulars, Stereo Reform and The Tarletons, as well as a newcomer to DTA, Brave Baby. May does not disappoint with a plethora of rock, soul & Americana to choose from in the homegrown music of Mark Webb, Old You, Lyric and The Soul feathers…not to mention a kilt-flaring Scottish ceildh with The City of Greenville Pipes & Drums and the Celtic rock of Cleghorn to kick-off the Greenville Scottish Games on the 23rd! As the temps heat up, so does the music with June performances by cover band, The Sound Committee, local YouTube darlings, Outshyne, Downtown funk diva, Kelly Jo Connect and local fave, singer/songwriter Doug McCormick. Don’t let the steamy July & August weather keep you indoors…or you will miss some AMAZING music, like alternative tunes of The Wheresville Project, Charleston-based songwriter, Luke Cunningham, and Downtown music scene regular, Benton Blount in July and Midlands newcomers, The Reggie Sullivan Band, the adventure of Bushfire Stankgrass, the big ’80’s hair, flashback fun of Retro Vertigo and the incendiary guitar finesse of teen phenom, Marcus King & his band! Downtown Alive winds up with a performance by the winner of the Last Band Standing Battle of the Bands on the 29th.

If your taste in music leans more towards hot jazz and cool blues, then Main Street Fridays is the event for you! Join all the other music aficionados on Fridays at 5:30PM in NOMA Square to start your weekend in style! This year’s Friday musicfest begins with the powerhouse beach sounds of Jumpstreet on March 22nd. Also in March, enjoy the smooth sounds of Charlotte natives, 5th and York. April plays host to some familiar favorites such as True Blues and Wanda Johnson, as well as some new sounds on the Downtown music scene such as Soul Stew and Hot As A Pepper. Fridays get funky in May with a wealth of righteous local talent – Southern Crescent, Green Vegas, The Jamie Wright Experience, Wine Down and The Groove Planet with Whitney Walters. Hot temps equal hot tunes and there is plenty of both this summer with The Flashbacks, Shades of Brown, The Nightcrawlers and The Swingin’ Richards appearing in June, and The Derrick Dorsey Band, NuSound, 20 Point Turn and Cosmic getting July all hot & bothered. August starts to really rockin’ with The Robbie Ducey Band, Tobacco Road and The Rock & Roll Reunion and The Craig Sorrells Project and The Wiredogs bring on the heat to finish out the month. This much good music can’t just be contained in two seasons, so MSF continues the music experience into September with the wicked swamp rock of the Palmetto Swamp Congregation, the energetic showmanship of Encore, the scaulding hot funky rhythms of Earsight and the wild ride that is The China Bulls finishing up the MSF season with a bang!

These much loved music series’ are completely free and are enjoyed weekly by thousands of music lovers. Beer and other beverages are available for sale, but an ID bracelet as proof of age(for a cost of $1) is required to purchase alcohol. And like most city-sponsored events, families are welcome, but please leave your pets at home. For more information on these events, visit the official city page at http://www.greenvillesc.gov. See you Downtown!

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Well, March is upon us and Downtown Greenville is starting look even more GREEN than usual! For the Irish and the “wish they were Irish” this is the most wonderful time of the year! And Downtown has plenty of ways for even the youngest “wee ones” to join in on the St. Paddy’s Day fun!

Festivities for the “greenest ‘ of all holidays kick off with a St. Patrick’s Day Parade on Sunday, March 10th. Celtic revelers will don their green apparel to stroll down Main Street and celebrate all that is Irish! With an eclectic array of Irish music, step dance teams, Irish wolfhounds, setters and other Irish dog breeds, not to mention the obligatory leprechaun or two, this free event will delight one and all! The hour (or so) long parade begins at 1PM, with participants lining up on South Main Street at Wardlaw. For more information, call 288-2922.

After the parade, join the rest of Greenville’s Irish community and “Return to the Green”. For most, this free event signals the true start of the whirlwind of St. Paddy’s celebrations. Starting at 1PM, this family-friendly shindig features Irish step dancers, Irish music from the Greenville Pipes & Drum Corps among others, authentic Irish food, the ever-popular selection of domestic and Irish beer and more Irish accents (both real and faked) than you can shake a shillelagh at. This year’s shamrock soiree takes place at Fluor Field with festivities continuing until 6PM. For details, visit http://www.returntothegreensc.com.

The Children’s Museum gets into the St. Paddy’s Day spirit with some special events for all the lads & lassies. Wee ones ages 5 and under can make beautiful Mosaic Shamrocks from cut paper in TCMU’s “S is for Shamrock” art classes. The classes take place daily, at various times, from March 12 through March 16. The classes are free with museum admission and children must be accompanied by an adult. For more information, visit http://www.tcmupstate.org.

The Augusta Road Library welcomes all the little leprechauns to join them on Saturday, March 16, for “A Wee Bit of Blarney”. This St. Patrick’s Day celebration will feature Irish stories, holiday crafts and green refreshments. Reservations are strongly encouraged. Call 277-0161 for more information.

Also on March 16th, The Palmetto Children’s Charity invites you to join them at Fluor Field for the 2nd annual St. Patty’s Dash & Bash. Featuring certified 5k and 10k runs, as well as a children’s “Fun Run” and other kid-friendly activities, this family-centered event benefits local children’s charities like The Make-A-Wish Foundation, Let There Be Mom and Camp Spearhead. Although the event itself is free, there is a $25 registration fee for those wishing to participate in the 5k and 10k runs. Packet pickup is at Fluor Field from noon to 7PM on March 15 and 6:30AM to 7:30AM the day of the race, which begins at 8AM. To register and to find out more, visit http://www.stpattysdashandbash.com.

Another event seeking to make a difference is the annual St. Baldrick’s event at Larkin’s on the River. This annual event, which benefits childhood cancer research, is a much beloved St. Patrick’s Day tradition. Festivities begin at 1PM on March 17th. Whether you’re a spectator, a donor or one of those brave souls allowing their heads to be shaved in the name of charity, you cannot help but be moved and inspired by this event. For more information and to donate, visit http://www.stbaldricks.org.

So, there is no excuse not to head Downtown to shake your shamrocks a bit on St. Paddy’s Day! Just be sure to wear something green or you may get pinched! Details regarding more “adult-oriented” St. Patrick’s Day celebrations will be in next week’s blog. Until then, “May the Road rise up to meet You, & may the Wind be always at your back.” Happy St. Paddy’s Day!



If you are one of many who saw this year’s blockbuster movie, The Hunger Games, you would know that the rich traditional music of the Appalachians featured throughout the soundtrack was almost as central to the plot as the characters themselves. One song in particular, Daughter’s Lament, truly embodied the haunting depths of the main character, Katniss Everdeen. This weekend, the trio who wrote and performed that poignant melody, The Carolina Chocolate Drops, will grace the stage of The Handlebar in Downtown Greenville.

Bursting on the music scene with their Grammy-Award winning Genuine Negro Jig in 2010, the Carolina Chocolate Drops have brought back the old-style fiddle and banjo based music that has long been a part of the Piedmont region.  Striving to freshly interpret this work, not merely recreate it, this trio also strives to highlight the central role African-Americans played in shaping our nation’s popular music from its beginnings more than a century ago. After researching styles of Southern black music from the 1920s and ’30s—including string-band music, jug-band music, fife and drum, early jazz – they shape it into a melody that can best be described as a “living, breathing, ever-evolving” work of musical art.

 

Mastering an eclectic assortment of instruments, including 5-string, minstrel & plectrum banjo, quills (a small African-American panpipe), snare drum, bones and the unlikely addition of the cello and the kazoo and coming from different worlds, the group has somehow managed to draw on their differences to create a sound that melds together perfectly. North Carolina native, Rhiannon Giddens, the daughter of a classically-trained singer, was also herself a classically trained opera singer. Long fascinated by folk and bluegrass, this talented songbird taught herself how to play the fiddle before joining a Celtic band.  Upon reading about legendary fiddler, Joe Thompson, Rhiannon joined him after a performance for an impromptu jam session and her interest was sparked. Partnering with Dom Flemons, a banjo player and poet from Arizona and guitarist Hubby Jenkins from NYC, the Carolina Chocolate Drops were born.

This Friday, July 13th The Handlebar will play host to this talented trio of artists. Tickets are $16 ($2 more for those under 21) and are available at the venue for their 9PM performance. Come see why critics are raving over this iconic band and experience the sublime sounds that got them invited to Carnegie Hall to perform with the likes of Taj Mahal, Art Garfunkel and Jackson Browne…you’ll be glad you did!

For more information on “The Drops”, visit the official webpage at http://www.carolinachocolatedrops.com

For more information on this show and others at The Handlebar, visitwww.handlebar-online.com



South Carolina has long been a melting pot for a variety of nationalities. Just take a stroll down Main Street and you are as likely to hear “Hola”, Bonjour” or “Gutentag” as you are “Hey Y’all”! When the temperatures rise in the Upstate, so do the number of festivals. May is no exception, giving you the opportunity to experience the cultures of West Africa, Greece and the Highlands of Scotland…all without leaving Greenville!

If “the Beat” means drumbeats, word beats or art and dance that will make your heart beat faster, the Emry’s Foundation has got the event for you. Members and non-members alike are invited  to The Kroc Center on Thursday, May 17th to enjoy a spectacular evening of West African cultre and Elements of Rhythm, Art and Verse. This collaborative event strives to demonstrate the many ways in which the written and spoken word unite all genres of art, and features inspiring artwork by April Harrison, impressive rhymes by Unifyed Sol poet, Robert Mullins, Jr (aka Moody Black), passionate African dance by Alisa Caldwell and her Elements of Rhythm dance company and heart-thumping drumbeats provided by the Spirit Beat Drummers. Festivities, which include a buffet style dinner, begin at 7PM and participants are encouraged to dress casually so that they may take part in the fun. Tickets are $25 for students and Kroc members, $35 for non-members and Emrys members are free. For more information on this event and other programs and events sponsored by the Emrys Foundation, visit: www.emrys.org.

The Greeks have known how to throw a party for thousands of years and Greenville’s Grecian community proudly carries on that tradition with their annual Greek Festival. For four fun-filled days (May 17 – 20), Greenville becomes “Greekville” as St. George Greek Orthodox Church becomes a sea of all things Greek. Beginning on Thursday, May 17th, you will be able to satisfy your cravings for souvlaki, gyros and all kinds of yummy Greek pastries as lunch and dinner will be served at the Hellenic Center. Don’t have time to sit down to eat? They have drive-thru service at the Elford Street entrance, so you can get a taste of Greece in minutes. The “glendi” (that’s Greek for party) really starts up on Friday, with an assortment of food, traditional Greek dance and live music. All that dancing will leave you exhausted, so be sure to stop by the Kafenion (Greek Coffee Shop) to recharge your batteries with a steaming cup of Greek coffee and a wedge of delicious baklava, before strolling through the Marketplace to view an assortment of Mediterranean wares.  The festivities continue full swing through the weekend until Sunday evening. Hours are 10:30AM to 8PM (Dining only) Thursday, 10:30AM to 10PM Friday and Saturday,  and 11:30AM to 8PM Sunday. Cost of admission is only $1. For more information, visit: www.stgeorgegreenville.org/GreekFestival.

Not many people have had the chance to see a Scottish Claymore up close…with the exception of some Romans, Vikings, English and anyone else unwise enough to venture into The Highlands uninvited. Visitors to this year’s Greenville Scottish Games will not only be treated to big guys in kilts tossing telephone poles (those are called cabers, BTW) but to demonstrations in sword fighting featuring the fearsome broadsword.  On Saturday, May 26th, the campus at Furman will play host to world-class athletes in 2012 Masters World Championships. On Sunday, amateurs will take the field to flex their muscles and compete in heavy athletics. Competition begins at 8AM both days. Feeling the urge to compete yourself? Then take part in the axe-throwing competiton, which is open to everyone. Afterwards, visit the food tents to taste that Scottish delicacy, haggis (trust me, you really DON’T want to know what’s in it).

Are you more of a lover than a fighter? Take the kids to run amuck in Wee Scotland. Then venture over to the Highland Dancers stage, the British Car Show, to the vendors tents, the Border Collie herding competition or over to the Entertainment tent for some righteous Celtic rock.  If you are lucky, you’ll happen upon a lone piper, preparing for the Piping competition. Speaking of rock, the festivities start Thursday, May 24th as the Scots, in true Highland fashion, invade Downtown Alive, to rock out to the music of the Celtic band, Cleghorn and again on  Friday, May 25th, at Main Street Friday to party to the tunes of Coyote Run and Albannach. At 6PM on Friday, Downtown will be awash in plaid as kilted revelers stroll down Main Street in the Great Scot Parade. The Parade, which grows larger each year,  will feature pipe bands, Scottish military re-enactors, Highland themed floats, Scottish forest fairies and more tartans than you can shake a bagpipe at – all to get the weekend started Highland style! Saturday’s events will wind down with a rockin’ ceildh (that’s Gaelic for party) of a Celtic Jam. For an events schedule, to order tickets and for more information on the Scottish Games, visit: http://gallabrae.com.

As you see, Downtown Greenville offers many opportunities to experience a different culture…no passport required! So dance to African drumbeats, stuff yourself with baklava or release your inner Braveheart! You’ll be all the richer for the experience!



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