Monday, May 19, 2014

Crossing the (state) line

(Fair warning. Asheville's Underhill Rose will be mentioned in this blog post).

Perhaps Kim and I should check our event calendar with a little more care in the future. We planned another three-day weekend for North Myrtle Beach with the object of getting a few personal items attended to. We seem to do this every six months or so, although we'd just done something like this back in April.

This particular weekend was randomly chosen and arrangements were made to get off from work. If we had checked the calendar, I'm sure we would have paid more attention to the words "Harley-Davidson rally" that eventually started hitting us on our heads as we made our way down the road.

Yep, it was Harley week. In truth, it was culture-clash time. Recently graduated college students were also sharing the Strand with the Harley folks, not to mention assorted Baby Boomers (me and Kim), Generation Xers and Millennials.

The place was hopping. But by Friday afternoon, we'd accomplished most of what we set out to do, so we decided to reward ourselves with a run down to Charleston — Mt. Pleasant, actually — to take in another performance of the female Americana trio Underhill Rose, who were booked to play in a neat little knothole called The Southern Bar and Grill.

This was not a planned stop in our weekend. While we knew the girls were performing there, we'd just seen them a couple of weeks ago, and we debated whether or not we really wanted to see them again so soon. Plus, it's a two-hour-plus drive to get to Charleston (110 miles from North Myrtle, according to Mr. Google), most of it on worn-out Rt. 17, which we knew would be jam-packed with bikers.

Who wants to do that to themselves?

Apparently, we do. So in a last-minute decision, we hit the road. And about a half-hour in, we began to have regrets. Traffic was horrible. There was an accident. There was construction. Several times, between Garden City and Murrells Inlet, traffic was at a standstill. To make a long story short, it took us nearly two hours to cover the 50 miles from North Myrtle to Georgetown.

Ironically enough, the trip was a breeze from Georgetown to Mt. Pleasant, with hardly a vehicle in sight. We made The Southern in fine time, exhausted and hungry.

This was an unusual evening for Underhill Rose. They were playing across the Cooper River at the Palmetto Brewing Company in Charleston, with a 6 p.m. start. They would play their gig there, pack their vehicle, head over the river and do it all again at The Southern.

The girls arrived by 8 p.m. and set up. They were performing by 9 p.m. Kim and I wondered if they would do their usual two-hour gig since they'd already played at Palmetto and it was going to be a long night for them in any case.

What did I know? Their first set included several covers of songs I'd never heard them play before. Singer/banjoist Eleanor Underhill told the 40 or so patrons that they were acknowledging their musical influences (like John Prine, Bonnie Raitt and Trio).

Then, in their second set, they did mostly their own original material which had us bobbing our heads and tapping our feet. Their harmonies were as tight as ever. When the set ended, Eleanor announced they were taking a little break.

Huh? Another break? During the pause, upright bassist Salley Williamson came over to chat. "What are you doing?" I asked. I've never seen them do three sets. Holy smokes.

"Robert Greer from Town Mountain is going to sing with us a little bit," explained Salley. Town Mountain, also from Asheville, shared the billing with Underhill Rose at the Palmetto.

Greer sang one tune with them, and the girls cleaned up with four or five more songs. They were finished a little after midnight.

I didn't keep track, but I figured Eleanor, Salley and guitarist Molly Rose Reed must have performed close to 40 tunes in this particular venue, a decent listening room which had no cover charge. Coupled with their gig at Palmetto, they were probably on a stage for nearly five hours.

Kim and I bid our farewells and hit the road. We had no traffic issues on the way back and reached North Myrtle by 2:30 a.m., wondering the whole way how the girls manage to keep producing this magic time after time. It was an awesome night.


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