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Piccolo Spoleto: Each year the Marching Abominable band wanders the streets of Charleston delighting the city free of charge.







Monday May 23rd,  2011
by Scott Wink of Charlestonfoodbloggers.com

Charleston, SC – For the past 21 years Atlanta’s Seed and Feed Marching Abominable has been appearing in Charleston during Spoleto. They are a community band with outrageous costumes and lots of energy.  They appear typically 3 times during Spoleto.  For 2011 they are scheduled to appear at noon on May 28th in Marion Square as part of the free children’s festival. Then later that night they perform their pajama march from 11PM-midnight at the US Customs House.  Their 3rd and final show in Charleston this year will be on Sunday May 29th from noon-1PM on the steps of the US Customs building (200 East Bay Street in downtown Charleston).  More details of their Piccolo Spoleto performances can be found here: http://www.piccolospoleto.com/?cat=114


I know I personally wandered across their performance for the first time in the Market during the pajama march many years ago.  I had no idea what was happening and I loved it. I have made a point to see at least one performance by them every Spoleto.  L enjoy them because It is easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of life and seeing this show just puts a smile on my face and reminds me to live life one day at a time and enjoy it!!  You can follow them on Facebook  https://www.facebook.com/seedandfeed  or Twitter @seedandfeed .   Make sure you read the 10 questions below that we asked a few of the band members. We discuss logistics, preparation for the show, their favorite places to eat, some memorable experiences and what brings them back year after year. 


Q#1 Charleston Food Bloggers ( CFB ) :  It seems like the band has so many members you guys wouldn’t be able to all eat at the same place….”Table for 40 please!”.  After so many years of coming to Charleston you must have a pretty good system for handling that. Can you briefly talk about coordinating meals?


Band:


Katharine Chestnut aka Drumbabe (Bookie and cymbals)- For the most part, we are all on our own when it comes to meals. Some of us have favorite restaurants and will book reservations well in advance. I, for one, made reservations for 6 at SNOB just a couple weeks ago for Saturday night. That is the night we do our PJ march. 

When word gets out about a good place, you will find Abominables popping in at different times. When the Bookstore Café was on King  (now Charleston’s Cafe in Mount Pleasant) , you would frequently find us overrunning the place in the mornings.

There is really only one exception to this on Friday night. Most of us arrive on Friday sometime and we do coordinate a get-together where the bulk of our members are staying. We’ll purchase loads of pizzas and everyone is invited to bring a dessert. We do the usual things there like socializing, enjoy each other’s company and, of course, play music. Although in this case, it is usually a guitar or two with group singing.


Charles (former band manager and trombone) – An attempt many years ago to go out for a group dinner (completely unplanned — just started with a few people gathering in the hotel parking lot and things started snowballing — became legendary (not in a good way) and known as the “Dinner from Hell”. Hasn’t been tried since — for good reason.

Q#2 CFB:  What are some of your most memorable or favorite restaurants/meals in Charleston?


Band:


Katharine Chestnut aka Drumbabe (Bookie and cymbals)– One year, I was seated with 4-5 others at the chef table at SNOB and we got to watch the kitchen as we ate. Another time, we were having breakfast at the Bookstore Café (formerly on King but now Charleston’s Cafe in Mount Pleasant) with about 15 members in the restaurant. One member ordered the Oyster Omelet. When it arrived, she was so in love with the taste, she started moaning and carrying on. Think of the scene from ‘When Harry Met Sally’ with Meg Ryan. Another patron (not an Abominable) said she wanted whatever LouiZe was having. We, of course, thought it was hilarious and still talk about it years later.


Alan Taylor (current band manager and trombone)  – Several years ago my favorite restaurant , ‘Slightly North of Broad ‘ received a bad review in one of the local papers. I already had reservations and I remarked to my co-diners that this was either going to be a big disappointment or an outstanding experience. Well it was the latter and the service and the food was perfect. No restaurant anywhere has topped this dining experience.


Julie Sammons –  Bowen’s Island – before the new building – with rain beating on the roof.  She-crab soup all over town, but especially at Magnolia’s or Blossom.  Coast Bar and Grill – love that they use sustainable seafood, it’s delicious, and it’s walkable from our accommodations.  Caviar and Bananas forms the base for many happy meals on the go.

Charles (former band manager and trombone)
 – The group I usually hang out with is not the most imaginative about trying new things. We tend to have our “traditional” activities — Friday nights are usually at Tommy Condon’s.  Our Sunday beach experience in the last few years has started with lunch at Poe’s Tavern.  We must make a stop at Hyman’s for lunch as we are leaving town.


Dave (bass drum)  – We had a great meal at the Boat House one year when we had kind of an extended family reunion.  We found a good little French place near McAllister Dorm on King St. call La Fourchette



Q#3 CFB:    If people come across one of your events on the street they may be caught a little off guard.  What are some of the most memorable responses you have seen people have to a performance?

Band:


Katharine Chestnut aka Drumbabe (Bookie and cymbals) – Most people at Spoleto are in a good mood and on vacation. They are ready for a good time, even if it is a little offbeat. We have a lot of fans that have come to expect us at Spoleto so most of our members wear SFMA t-shirts as we walk about the city. We have folks regularly ask us when we will be performing and have even had ‘fan clubs’ show up at performances with signs welcoming us (i.e. We heart Seed & Feed).

As for performance reactions, it varies. At the children’s festival on Saturday, we have those that come to expect us and show their delight by clapping and dancing at our appearance. For the newbies, they are taken aback at first but quickly get into the spirit of joy that we bring with us everywhere. Our appearance (costumes) are a giveaway that something wonderful is happening. Our Despicables (i.e. The dancers that help us find our way through the crowds) do a great job of engaging with the audience and encouraging them to dance.

This is our 21st year coming to perform at Spoleto. The first couple years, we were not really invited (ok, to be truthful, they had no idea we were coming) but after a few years, visitors to Spoleto were asking the organizers about our schedule. We have been a part of the Piccolo schedule for many years now. There was period of time that Piccolo would pay us an honorarium but, honorarium or no, we are there every year. We foot the bill ourselves. Our band looks forward to this event all year long. These are our final performances before taking a break for the summer, a reward for our members for a season well done.

Alan Taylor (current band manager and trombone) – We get varied responses. Some like to pretend that we are not there an others follow us to see where we are going. I like to catch the reaction of our Spoleto Virgins (first timers in the band) when we do our Pajama March and turn the corner and up the steps to a huge audience waiting at the Customs House.


Charles (former band manager and trombone)  – This was not MY experience, but several band members loved it when Mikhail Baryshnikov took THEIR picture when he spotted the overly costumed group walking down the street. Our fantasy is that he has them on his refrigerator at home.


The most unique crowd reaction that I did experience was also an event that surprised most band members. Two of our members got married during one of our Sunday patriotic concerts — but no one except them, their families, and the conductor knew anything about it. We were surprised suddenly, in the middle of the show, to be witnesses to a wedding, and the audience loved it too.






Q#4 CFB:  We really love the costumes and characters.  Is everyone responsible for coming up with their own costumes or is there a wardrobe/prop closet they can pull from if needed? 


Band:


Katharine Chestnut aka Drumbabe (Bookie and cymbals)- LOL! There is NO closet that we all pull from. The Bookie will call a basic theme of costume for each performance. Saturday children’s festival = Tacky Tourist (a long time theme we have use for years that includes bright, happy colors). Saturday night PJ march = well, you guessed it, PJs. Of course, we all each have a different idea of what that means. Sunday patriotic performance = Red, White and Blue. Most of us costume in varying degrees and we find treasures in all types of locations: thrift stores, yard sales, and, in years past, we used to all descend upon the vintage clothing store, Grannies Goodies (on King).


Dave (bass drum)  – Most of the longer term members just bring down plastic tubs full of stuff so we could each outfit 2 or 3 more, but you know, you can never have enough and the sparklier the better.


Q#5 CFB:  Do band members get to try out different roles or mainly stick to one specialty. For instance does a trumpet player ever ask to be a dancer/cheerleader for a performance?


Band:


Katharine Chestnut aka Drumbabe (Bookie and cymbals)- Members typically have a single instrument or role that they play. However, we have plenty of members that are bi, or tri-sectional. One example: one trombone player acts as a field marshal regularly but can also fill in as a snare drummer when needed. It is very fluid.


Dave (bass drum) – The Abominables can be whatever they want to be at any given gig. Most of the Dancers (Despicables) usually don’t play instruments, but some instrument players will come as Despicables if they don’t want to play or can’t play for some reason.


 
Q#6 CFB:  What songs or musicians are you really into right now?


Band:


Katharine Chestnut aka Drumbabe (Bookie and cymbals)– The band plays a variety of music but the main genres are: traditional Sousa marches, pop, Latin, Swing. Lately, we have been adding new tunes that I would categorize as funk, Latin and even some original songs / arrangements written by some of our members. We have a Music Selection Committee that is constantly looking for new tunes that we think that our audiences would like as well as if we would like to play. Of course, we have some standards that will never go away (i.e. Sing, Sing, Sing, King Cotton, etc.).


Dave (bass drum)  – Some of the (band’s) best (songs) have been arranged by our own members for special occasions such as Creep Show for Halloween.


Julie Sammons –  We have fans in and many of us are fans of other street bands around the world. We are all different but love taking music to the streets. Those include Pink Puffers (Italy), Fanfare Le SNOB (France), Hungry March (NY), Extra Action (SF). Also love Amanda Palmer, Adele, and I can’t wait to see what Jack White does next.

Charles (former band manager and trombone)  – Sometimes a song we think we hate magically becomes one of our favorites once we realize it’s working for our band.

Q#7 CFB:  Are there any cool guest/honorary band members you have ever invited or performed with?


Band:


Katharine Chestnut aka Drumbabe (Bookie and cymbals)- Spoleto seems to be place that I see that occur most. We have a guest bass fiddle from the Charleston area that has been playing with us for more than 10 years. We also have a guest twirler that comes out each year. I’m not sure were he lives but he almost always shows up on Sunday and put on a great show on the Custom House steps. Additionally, since Spoleto is a big deal for us, we will get some Abominable alumni too.


Alan Taylor (current band manager and trombone) – Once we had your director of the Charleston Symphony try to direct us. I don’t think he knew how to handle us.


Julie Sammons –  Many local Atlanta musicians have joined us or invited us to play with them – most notable is probably playing with the Indigo Girls in the 90’s in Atlanta, at SXSW in Austin, and on the pier in Seattle. Willard Scott conducted us during the Atlanta Olympics.

Charles (former band manager and trombone)  – Francine Reed and the Indigo Girls are among the more famous performers who have had positive experiences with us. At least WE thought they were positive!


Q#8 CFB:  What are some of your favorite restaurants outside of Charleston?

Band:


Katharine Chestnut aka Drumbabe (Bookie and cymbals) –  The Kitchen and Lucille’s in Boulder, CO and The Flying Biscuit & Babette’s Café in Atlanta. The band hangout each week after rehearsal and very often after a performance is Manuel’s Tavern in Atlanta.


Dave (bass drum)  – We usually eat at Shem Creek on the way back (home). 

Julie Sammons –  In Atlanta: Sotto Sotto, Sushi Avenue, Brick Store Pub, Crawfish Shack. Shout out to band “homes” Manuel’s Tavern and Euclid Ave Yacht Club. Elsewhere: Sportsmans Lodge, Apalachicola (think Bowen’s); Terminal Brewhouse, Chattanooga; Pepolino, NY; 6th Street Food Trucks, Austin.


Q#9 CFB:  What is it about this group that has helped keep you involved for so many years now?

Band:


Katharine Chestnut aka Drumbabe (Bookie and cymbals) – I like to say that this is my big, dysfunctional, band family. Even with a group as diverse as this, we have a very strong sense of community within our ranks. Even if members move away, the bonds of the band keep you connected.


Charles (former band manager and trombone)  – The ability to have an outlet for playing and performing but with the ability to show up when it best suits your own lifestyle and other obligations is the best thing about the band. I try to be there most of the time, but I know I won’t be chastised if I’m not.

Julie Sammons –  We get a lot of joy from surprising people, the band’s essence is about bringing fun to the community. On a deeper level, the band is a musical version of Dr. King’s Beloved Community. No matter where you are from or how well you can play, you are welcome to contribute to and share in the happiness we try to foster around us.

Q# 10 CFB:
What are a few things you would l like to tell Charleston about the band?


Band:


Katharine Chestnut aka Drumbabe (Bookie and cymbals)- We bring joy through our music. Having a creative outlet creates a larger sense of well-being. Being a part of that creativity, even as an audience member, our music and antics will fill your uplift your heart. Embrace the zaniness and jump for joy with us!


Alan Taylor (current band manager and trombone)  – We hope that the audience is enjoying the performance as much as we enjoy bringing it to them. It’s just for the pure fun of it. 


Dave (bass drum) – We work all year at our day jobs and play most weekends from Labor Day to Memorial Day (Spoleto).  We love the crowds and there are probably 5 or 6 gigs a year that everyone loves to do with Spoleto and the trip to Charleston being the highlight.  You can’t believe the excitement when we march down Market Street at midnight and round the corner to the Customs House and find a throng (500-1000) people who have just come out to see us perform the Midnight Pajama March.  We get the same feeling on Sunday Morning when we repeat the same march in Red, White and Blue and do our Patriotic Concert.


Charles (former band manager and trombone)  – How much we love their enthusiastic support over the years. We always feel like stars when we come to town.


Special Thanks to Katharine Chestnut (pictured below) aka Drumbabe