Impressive lineup on tap for First Flush Festival
If Charlestonians are good at one thing, it's celebrating. We'll party at the drop of a hat. One of the reasons there is always something to do in the Lowcountry is because some resourceful individual has dreamed up yet another reason to raise a glass in celebration.
This Sunday, there will be more than a few glasses raised on Wadmalaw Island. The difference will be that those glasses will contain tea rather than a cocktail. The Charleston Tea Plantation once again will be throwing down with its annual First Flush Festival. According to the tea plantation's website, "The festival name, First Flush, is defined as the growth of new leaves on the tea plants in the springtime after a winter of rest."
The "first flush" of new growth is harvested to produce what avid tea drinkers deem to be the most unique, fresh and amazing cup of tea." This is the fourth year the plantation has thrown the daylong celebration. Planned events include tours of the farm and processing facilities, children's activities, a raffle and live music.
Both local and national acts have performed at the last three First Flush Festivals, thanks to the involvement of local radio station The Bridge at 105.5 FM. Attendees of previous editions of the event have had the chance to hear performances by the likes of Mike Doughty, Need to Breathe, Shawn Mullins and Jay Clifford. For the 2010 edition, the organizers have pulled out all the stops.
The Bridge music director Joel Frank and operations manager Mike Allen met with us recently to go over Sunday's lineup. Frank, who is also an on-air personality at The Bridge, was all smiles as he ran down the list of musicians playing this year's First Flush.
Frank started with the local artists that will be performing, all part of Mark Bryan's Chucktown Music Group. Bryan, best known for his work as lead guitarist for the multi-platinum selling band Hootie & the Blowfish, has been wearing a few hats as of late. In addition to releasing solo material, the musician has been teaching classes at the College of Charleston as well as working with other local bands.
In addition to Bryan performing Sunday, local acts include Amber Caparas, John Wesley Satterfield, and Mac Leaphart. All three of these local musicians have been generating buzz around the region. Another local band (at least for now) playing First Flush is Crowfield. This five-piece roots rock band is poised to be the next big thing to come out of the Lowcountry.
Led by singer Tyler Mechem and keyboardist Joe Giant, Crowfield is a powerhouse live act. After Crowfield comes Wisconsin native Corey Chisel, who along with his band, The Wandering Sons, plays his own agreeable style of Americana music.
Chisel will perform tracks from his latest CD, "Death Won't Send a Letter," as well as earlier work. Finally, headlining this year's First Flush Fest is Robert Randolph and The Family Band. Considered by many to be one of the best live acts going today, Randolph plays the pedal steel guitar as if his very life depends on it. Randolph graduated from playing in his church as a youngster to wowing artists such as Eric Clapton with his unconventional playing. Expect a blistering set from Randolph, who will release a new album next month.
According to Frank, there will be two stages, one for the Chucktown Music Group musicians and one for the three headliners, which will allow for continuous music throughout the day.
Talking about The Bridge's influence of the First Flush Festival, Frank advised that the owners of the Charleston Tea Plantation came to them for suggestions on how to put on the inaugural version of the event.
"Bill Hall contacted us to advertise for the first one," said Frank, "and we saw the opportunity to have a station show. The Charleston Tea Plantation was willing, and now people expect this event. They look forward to it. We got involved and turned it into a hootenanny," said Allen.
Frank said that the station had been trying to get Randolph to play this event for the past three years and finally succeeded this year. "Robert Randolph is not roots rock to the point where it becomes boring," said Frank. "You never walk away from a Robert Randolph show without feeling good."