You know by now how much SP appreciates a good party, and last night’s affair was a damn good party. All the foodies are trickling into town for the big Charleston Food & Wine Festival, so leave it to Billy Reid to kick it all off with a bang, a big Southern hoe down of a bang. Let’s get right to the good stuff, the meat and potatoes, if you will.
It first must be noted that Billy Reid rides an aesthetic river that features a very strong current. It flows from him undiluted and exerts itself even when the man himself is not around. His disciples are so steeped in his culture they represent him very well. This probably has a lot to do with his annual Shindig party in Florence where employees soak up the Billy and then take it back to the stores. Or perhaps it flows the other way. Like minds are attracted to each other and tend to form tribes. This is the Billy Reid tribe. There is a quiet gentleness about the men. There is usually some presence of well-groomed facial hair, moustaches or beards. They wear his clothes with ease. The men are not fashion twigs, but real men with real bodies. They carry themselves with dignity and don’t get too rowdy. Bow ties are present, as is bourbon, much, much bourbon. They are polite and welcoming and seem to have happy eyes, a little like young Santa Clauses who like to eat, drink and be merry.
So many stars came together to make this a stellar evening, it is tough to begin so I’ll just make a list.
First, the space. The Billy Tribe decided to take this event out of the store and into architect Neil Stevenson’s loft on Wentworth and King Streets in downtown Charleston. The loft is a crazy mix of rustic & southern urban. You take an elevator to the third floor and walk into a cavernous great room of brick and rough hewn wood the color of honey. There are huge windows and a modern kitchen. Bedrooms are on the second level and there is a balcony from the master overlooking the great room below. Then there is the roof. I have never seen Charleston from that perspective and pointed to a building that looked like a factory and asked “What is that?” The reply, “That’s the Mills House Hotel.” It was slightly shocking to be so disoriented but marvelous to have a new take on the old town. Perhaps this is Billy’s gift to North and South alike: a different perspective on the South’s history and culture. His clothes, as well as his aesthetic represent what is best about the South displacing some of the overplayed stereotypes coming from the outside and bolstering some of the dampened pride on the inside.
Because no BR event is replete without the good eats, the incomparable Jimmy Hagood of Food for the Southern Soul was tapped to roast the pig and fresh fried pork rinds with pimento cheese layered on top. I attend many a pig roast here in the LowCountry but this one put many of the rest to shame. Perfectly roasted and stylishly presented. So what, you may ask, do you pair with a tasty bite of pork? Callie’s Biscuits, of course. Oh, I could go on and on about these delicious dough boys, but I will just say one word. Bacon. Little bits of crispy bacon baked into the biscuits make you want to, well, slap your mama. But wait, don’t get full yet because the new star on the Charleston restaurant block Butcher & Bee brought the deviled eggs rounded out the table. If this sounds like too much, you would be right. Southern sin at its most decadent. But wait! How are we going to wash all this down? With old-fashioneds, of course. The Gin Joint handled the bar duties and served up a couple of specialty drinks that have made recalling and writing this piece a little difficult this morning after.
And music! How could I forget about the music? Billy is well-known for his love of the folk and he has, in my opinion, played a big part in bringing these uniquely southern sounds to the rest of the country. This night belonged to the South Carolina Broadcasters who succeeded in bringing the joyful noise. Finally, I want to say something about PR/Event companies. Vail Duggan and her girls at the Loulu Agency are pros. Not only gorgeous & stylish but professional. This goes a long way in my book because like I always say, good parties do not just happen. It takes a lot of hard work. In this case, it all came together in a Southern accented bravura performance.
Now I have to shake off this Old-fashioned hangover because the weekend arrives and there is much to see and do here in the Holy City now that festival season is in full swing. One must persevere because life is short but the days are long.
Photos from top to bottom:
Shelby Hightower, Ayoka Lucas, Jackie Tyler Thomson
Jourdan, Robbie, Victoria & the Pig
Food for the Southern Soul
South Carolina Broadcasters
Robert Fitzgerald & Victoria
SP & Ted Lee
Matthew McLaughlin & friend
The Gin Joint
Brent & friend
Anne McGowan, Squire Fox & Matt Lee.
and register to win a bow tie.
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