Many of us wish that we could have another life, be someone or something else, or occupy some other identity. A human life only affords us so much time to do this. The structures and institutions that we create often offer more opportunities for reinvention than we do ourselves. So it is with the Bakery. In a world of disposable buildings occupied for a decade or two before being bulldozed, the Bakery is an entity from another age. Having served for years as the industrial home of Purity Bread, the building sat neglected for years. While stories like this often end with the wrecking ball, the Bakery managed to rise from the ashes, finding its new identity as the home of CMAC, or the Charleston Music and Arts Collective.
Institutions are born to serve needs. In its previous life, the Bakery made bread to fill store shelves because people wanted their bellies filled. In its new incarnation, the Bakery is also serving a need. The city of Charleston has, for many years, lacked a general-purpose performance space. While Charleston had a number of great bars, a civic center, an auditorium, and the Clay Center, nowhere could crowds spanning a dozen to a few hundred see a show. There was no place a young person could go to see a real band perform or play a debut show with his or her own band. Charleston needed an all-ages space with plenty of room. The problem remained that no one makes a fortune from a project like this; people who operate such places do it because it’s fun, valuable, and needed. A nonprofit venue, the Bakery meets that demand.
What are all-ages shows at a nonprofit like? Bars are fine places to see live music, but they ultimately exist to make a profit. To do that, bars must sell you drinks. Kids cannot drink, which means bars don’t care about them. All of that is fine for what it is. However, a nonprofit like the Bakery doesn’t need to sell you drinks in order to stay in business. As a result, shows can start relatively early, before people start drinking heavily. All of this said, you can still buy a beer at most larger Bakery shows.
All-ages means that kids are welcome to come, even to shows that don’t target their demographic. Obviously, not all events will draw a younger crowd. Chairs are set out in front of the Bakery’s stage for some shows, and simple concessions are sold.
Most importantly to me, all-ages crowds, regardless of their demographic make-up, mostly comprise people who are there specifically to see a band. These crowds tend to be enthusiastic, well-mannered, and attentive. In essence, if you love music and want to see a band perform, the Bakery is the place to do it. The focus of the Bakery is the show, not the booze.
The Jeffrey Thomasson Group
A lot of people hate jazz. It’s easy to see why when pop music programs people’s brains to expect a certain structure of music. Jazz sometimes explodes that. Fundamentally improvisational songs may bend and change shape from show to show or even during a performance. Many modern listeners are required to expand their minds to be able to properly listen to jazz, and not everyone wants to put forth that effort.
The now hoary beast known as jazz fusion began in the late ‘60s around some of the middle work of jazz legend Miles Davis. Fusion never really fulfilled its initial promise of a new beginning jazz that combined the muscularity of rock music with the intricate rhythmic sensibility of jazz. It did, however, inspire a great deal of well-loved music.
The Jeffrey Thomasson Group is reminiscent of the best of the jazz fusion lot. Despite opening its set by declaring that its members don’t play many shows, the band proved tight and well-synced. The Jeffrey Thomasson Group manages to stay on the good side of the line partitioning the sad and bloated corpse of cool jazz from the world of decent music. The little touches of prog in the sound are enough leaven to turn the whole loaf into something with a little grit. The band would appeal to fans of the jammy sensibilities of a group like moe., but also to admirers of the sheening and complex music of Steely Dan. The Jeffrey Thomasson Group keeps the energy high and the smiles beaming. Its members’ magnetic verve and enthusiasm leave no doubt that they are having a great time playing music.
Astro Chimp is a great band to pair with the Jeffrey Thomasson Group. Both offer the same formula: guitar, bass, and drums performed with substantial improvisational flair. However, the ways the pieces are combined are very different. While the Jeffrey Thomasson Group pivots and moves around the lead guitar, Astro Chimp is a three-headed beast. Two members of the latter tend to handle the rhythm, while the third indulges in gleeful melodic tangents. In contrast to the Jeffrey Thomasson Group’s jazz, Astro Chimp’s sound has a solid foundation in blues-infused rock, giving the group a broad pallet of music and influences from which to draw.
Astro Chimp immediately makes one think of three-pieces such as the Police, Primus, and Cream. Unlike those acts, however, Astro Chimp is mostly instrumental. The band performed only two songs that featured vocals during its set, one a cover of Hendrix’s “Little Wing,” with Kerry Hughes on vocals, and another with the bassist singing.
Astro Chimp’s set covered a fair bit of ground, from highs to lows. Well-paced and satisfying, they left the crowd shouting for more.
There are noticeable bits of Billy Bragg and Wreckless Eric in the solo acoustic folk of Kerry Hughes, while his phrasing and vocal delivery strongly evoke a Billie Joe Armstrong-Julian Casablancas hybrid.
Hughes’ songs are mostly about his life and experiences, offering a few covers that fit comfortably alongside those selections. His rendition of Albert Hammond Jr.’s “In Transit” was especially memorable. Hughes’s ‘90s punk sensibility fit nicely with the stripped-down solo acoustic accompaniment, his vocals shifting between earnest and ironically flat.
As a solo acoustic performer, Hughes was quite a departure from the heavy band dynamics found in the evening’s other two acts. While some venues might not offer a bill that diverse, it’s no shock at the Bakery. Each performance left the audience enthusiastic and satisfied. Additionally, everything wrapped up by 9:30, allowing those with early bedtimes to go home content and those who wanted to stay out to reach other shows just starting.
The Bakery is located on Bigley Avenue close to downtown and the interstate, making the early evening schedule ideal for anyone attending.