Something magical is blooming in Charleston. However, it won’t cause sneezing, red eyes, or annoying bouts of fatigue. Within the Holy City’s walls lies an ever-expanding roster of artists and expansive thinkers. And within that community are a series of creative outlets and venues that are flourishing because of ambitious and willful individuals. This past Saturday’s fifth installment of Jail Break (put on by Entropy Arts, a vision of Andrew Walker) was no exception. Contained within Charleston Village’s Old City Jail were artistic revelers of many ages and interests, who bustled around the grounds throughout the day and night. Artisans hauled their tents and creations and chatted with patrons who carried around craft beers and food from on site food trucks. Dancers, both company and student groups, performed wildly entertaining routines on an outside stage. Local artists such as Brave Baby, The Dubious Battles, and Steven Fiore filled the air with sweet music throughout the event. There was even some on-site hula-hooping. Once entering the actual jail itself there were rooms of painters, busily working, but stopping to offer information on their work, which hung on the walls of the drafty rooms. Other rooms hosted comedians who bared their inner most thoughts to those who gathered. Every nook and cranny was bursting with creative juices.
Steven Fiore, Charleston-bred songwriter extraordinaire, headlined the festival’s musical performances with the debut of his latest, *Youth and Magic*. Fiore spent the last three and a half years working on the project, mostly in Nashville. He tells us that when constraints didn’t allow for travel, however, that Mark Bryan (of Hootie and the Blowfish) was generous enough to share his personal recording studio. “Y & M,” as it’s dubbed on the front of the physical CD, is a ten-track romantic tell all. Mirroring the record’s romantic nature, the jail’s vibe served as an ideal locale for *Youth and Magic’s* release show. Both live and within the recordings, Fiore offers haunting vocals and lyrics that conjure nostalgic moments from greats like Jeff Buckley, Rufus Wainwright, and Jump Little Children, whom Fiore toured with previously.
I walked into the night’s performance not having heard the album prior. I developed an immediate curiosity as I witnessed Fiore and his band preparing last minute sound checks. Charlestonians gathered around the main stage while Fiore and Co. finished their necessary adjustments, and provided the audience with humble introductions. The group possessed a certain charm right away; I wouldn’t describe it as “hipster,” but definitely reminiscent of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, and their revival vibe. As for the performance itself, I enjoyed the inclusion of several musicians, all holding their own with Fiore. The instruments onstage included an organ, trumpets, horns, electric guitar, piano- you name it. Many onstage that night were involved in the makings of *Youth and Magic*. Fiore however, tells us that Ben Jacobs (organ) learned the songs only four days prior to Jail Break. Pretty impressive, and Fiore credits Jacobs as “a genius and someone I have been greatly influenced by”.
There’s no denying that Fiore possesses strokes of genius himself, both lyrically and vocally. He is a poet without trying too hard. I smirked when he launched into one of the more upbeat numbers, as I managed to catch the line, “You talk like whiskey, but you taste like wine” (Flicker and Fade). It’s those kinds of snarky, observational comparisons that people find relatable. Meanwhile, the insightful and presumably spiritual, “Glory,” sounded like the distant, less- moody cousin of Rufus Wainwright’s rendition of “Hallelujah.” Not surprisingly, Fiore has been known to blow minds at places like Charleston’s PURE Theater, while covering the Leonard Cohen original. Fiore’s showcase of *Youth and Magic* went off without a hitch.