REVIEW: Jason Isbell @ The Township Auditorium


By: Kyle Petersen

When Jason Isbell took the stage at the Township Auditorium this past Sunday, I wanted to tell you that it felt a little weird, mixed with a little sense of triumph. As if this was the apotheosis of the hard-touring rock ‘n’ roll musician done good, a story that countless musicians toiling in tour vans day in and day out could look up to and aspire to. I wish I could say that.

But the reality is, over the last few years Isbell seems to have matured seamlessly from seedy 300-person rock clubs to stately 3,000 seater auditoriums, and it felt surprisingly inevitable. Four years into sobriety and three years removed from the breakthrough success of 2013’s Southeastern, Isbell looked trim and dapper on stage, carrying himself with the air of a consummate, perhaps even slightly bored, professional. That’s not to say that the performance wasn’t amazing—after all, he is undisputedly one of the preeminent songwriters of his generation, with the kind of hotshot guitar skills and booming, soulful voice that would allow him to get away with songs as tenth as good. As he generally does these days, Isbell opened with a salvo of electric rock songs (including the old Drive-by Trucker Southern rock staple “Decoration Day” and the 2016 Americana Music Awards “Song of the Year” winner “24 Frames”) before switching to acoustic guitar and diving deep into his last two more songwriting-oriented efforts. The fact that the set is loaded with stunners (“Speed Trap Town,” “Cover Me Up,” “Alabama Pines”) helps, along with the fact that Isbell is at this point adept at balancing the more somber acoustic tunes with more sprightly ones like “Codeine” or “If It Takes a Lifetime.”


Still, there were relatively few moments or features that genuinely stuck out thanks to the unerring professional consistency. One notable element for sure, though, was the elegant, top-notch staging and lighting, a new feature for longtime Isbell fans. Backed by pseudo-stained glass windows and often bathed in multiple spotlights when he stepped out to take a solo, there was an element of grandeur to the proceedings which felt wholly new. Another great moment was the knowing inclusion of “Palmetto Rose,” a welcome nod to the audience with its South Carolina subject matter. And, ever so slightly, the genuine joy the bandleader seemed to take in the ostentatious stage interplay he had briefly with keyboard/accordionist Derry DeBorja on “Codeine” and then, later, with guitarist (and SC native) Sadler Vaden during a staged-but-electrifying guitar duel. That latter moment, which took place during an extended take on the gnarly and riveting “Never Gonna Change,” felt like the most significant addition to the band’s live show and allowed them to end the regular set with a bang.

Perhaps the most telling moment, though, was when Isbell brought opener (and contemporary) Josh Ritter out during the encore to cover John Prine’s “Storm Windows.” Isbell briefly mentioned that he used to pay to go to Ritter’s show rather than bringing him on tour, an oblique reference to his newfound stature, but really it was the cover choice itself, along with the “Prine/Isbell” campaign ticket shirts at the merch table, that suggested the songwriter’s intended route in the coming decades. Having arrived at the upper echelon of the music world on his own terms and on the strength of his artistry, Isbell clearly intends to stay on that level with the consistency and persistence of his 70-year-old forbear.

And, judging by Sunday night’s show, that shouldn’t be a problem.

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Tamara Finkbeiner Takes 2nd Act Win for 2nd Year as SC Indie Film Community Grows

Painting by Cedric Umoja from which the 2016 2nd Act Film Festival poster was created
Painting by Cedric Umoja from which the 2016 2nd Act Film Festival poster was created

Last night, the Jasper Project wrapped our third 2nd Act Film Festival, under the direction of Wade Sellers, to a sold-out crowd at the always hospitable arts refuge, Tapp’s Arts Center. (It was an added bonus that the Tapp’s walls were hung with art from another Jasper Project endeavor, Marked by the Water, commemorating the first anniversary of the 1000 year flood.)

This morning, we’re seeing a Facebook full of  photos of filmmakers, most of whom didn’t know each other before the project started. Some were first-timers and some were alums, appearing in groups of 2 and 3 and more, laughing with each other, mugging for the camera, embracing, being new friends and colleagues.

Being a community.

2nd Act Film Fest Audience Award Winner Tamara Finkbeiner with friend, colleague & fellow 2nd Act 2016 Filmmaker Tyler Matthews
2nd Act Film Fest Audience Award Winner Tamara Finkbeiner with friend, colleague & fellow 2nd Act 2016 Filmmaker Tyler Matthews
2nd Act Film FEst 2016 Filmmakers Cory John, Tamara Finkbeiner, and Ebony Wilson mugging for the camera after the fest
2nd Act Film Fest 2016 Filmmakers Cory John, Tamara Finkbeiner, and Ebony Wilson (also an alum) mugging for the camera after the fest

The Jasper Project has a number of missions, but underlying everything is the fostering of an interdependent community of multidisciplinary artists and arts lovers who recognize and honor the implications of community — simply said, it means having each others’ backs.

The 2nd Act Film Festival exemplifies this goal. Filmmakers loan equipment, technicians, and advice. They encourage each other. They root for each other. This year, one filmmaker even sent a pizza to another filmmaker who was struggling with the kinds of obstacles only other filmmakers can understand.

The 2nd Act Film Festival Audience Award for 2016 went to Tamara Finkbeiner for her film, Bait. For the third year, Columbia-based sculptor Matthew Kramer created a one of a kind trophée de l’art, pictured below.

2016 2nd Act Film Festival Audience Award by Matthew Kramer
2016 2nd Act Film Festival Audience Award by Matthew Kramer

Congratulations to Tamara Finkbeiner and all the selected 2016 2nd Act Film Festival Filmmakers.

Finkbeiner with 2nd Act Film Festival director Wade Sellers
Finkbeiner with 2nd Act Film Festival director Wade Sellers
2nd Act Film Festival Audience Award Winner Tamara Finkbeiner
2nd Act Film Festival Audience Award Winner Tamara Finkbeiner
Wade Sellers interviews 2nd Act Film Fest Filmmakers 2016 during tallying of Audience Award ballots.
Wade Sellers interviews 2nd Act Film Fest Filmmakers 2016 during tallying of Audience Award ballots.


The 2nd Act Film Festival 2016 was sponsored in part by a grant from the South Carolina Arts Commission.

The 2nd Act Film Festival 2016 is an endeavor of the Jasper Project.  


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An Interview with J. Henry Fair about his exhibit at the Columbia Museum of Art

By Mary Catherine Ballou

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Photographing coastlines from airplane windows, photographer J. Henry Fair aims to broaden people’s awareness of both the allure of our coastal areas and the environmental degradation that has occurred, and continues to occur, to our beaches, marshes, wetlands, and waterways. His latest exhibition, entitled Eyes on the Edge, currently on display at the Columbia Museum of Art through October 23rd, accomplishes just this, captivating viewers with artistry and technical expertise, while at the same time inspiring awareness of the fragile environmental conditions.

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Photo: Coastal Wetlands Meet the Ocean, 2 July, 2015, J. Henry Fair, Winyah Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, SC, 2016, Color photograph.

Composed of large-scale photographs of the South Carolina coast, all of which display rich colors and detailed clarity, Fair’s aerial shots reveal the beauty of the natural landscape. At the same time, his photos document the detrimental and intrusive effects of human-made developments, seen, for example, in the form of high-rise condos jutting out into the ocean past the edge of the dunes and tide-lines, with golf courses buttressed against it; cookie-cutter subdivisions squeezed tightly together; and geometrically-dizzying views of rows upon rows of automobiles, RV campers, and beach umbrellas galore. Complex coastal topographies, composed of various inlet formations, resemble root and vein-like structures expanding into tree-type shapes and alien landscapes. Ultimately, they serve as foils to the human-made constructions, intermingling in both apparent and dangerous ways.

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Photo: Ocean Undermines Beachfront Condominiums, 16 April, 2016, J. Henry Fair, Isle of Palms, SC, 2016, Color photograph

Eyes on the Edge reveals to viewers in South Carolina what Fair eventually aims to document along the entire coastline of the United States – the precarious and vulnerable interspersion of the oftentimes destructive encroachment of human development on the naturally-formed landscapes and waterways of our country, and how, unfortunately, that balancing act is well on its way to tipping the scales much too far toward the side of irreversible damage to the splendor and geography of Mother Nature.

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Photo: Morning Beachgoers, 2 July, 2015, J. Henry Fair, Myrtle Beach, SC, 2016, Color photograph.

A visit to this photographic exhibit offers eye-opening views and rarely seen perspectives of familiar coastal locations and landscapes. Perhaps more importantly, it reinforces and reminds viewers that we must strive to protect and conserve what remains of the natural world before it is too late, and that while development may be beneficial at times, it is imperative to remain cognizant and respectful of the need for a harmonious relationship between nature and humankind.

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Photo: St. Helena Sound Wetlands, 13 October, 2015, J. Henry Fair, Beaufort, SC, 2016, Color photograph.

In the following interview, J. Henry Fair offers insight into his artistic and environmental work.

How did your interest in photography begin? Did you always aspire to be a professional photographer?

I stole my father’s old Kodak Retina as soon as I could figure out how to use it, and started photographing the same things I’m doing now: people, machines, icons. I like to tell myself that I have figured a few more things out since then.

Please explain your photographic process behind the creation of the exhibit Eyes on the Edge.

I start with an idea of what images I want to make, then I go look for them, which involves hiring a plane and pilot, and plotting the ideal time for the light and the tide for this project. The pictures were made with a medium format camera for maximum detail on the prints, which are photographic “c” prints, done by a lab in Frankfurt.

What initiated your passion for environmentalism?

I have always had a deep concern for the environment and our heedless abuse of these systems that provide us with free air and water. That and my fascination with the beauty of machines (as a pinnacle of human achievement) led me to try to create images that would provoke thought about the impacts of our consumer society.

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Photo: New Cars Queued for Loading onto Transport Ship, 16 April, 2016, J. Henry Fair, Charleston, SC, 2016, Color photograph.

Does your concern for environmental issues always go hand-in-hand with your photography? Would you describe yourself as an environmental photographer?

My pictures are always about subjects that concern people, whether that be environment, racism, gun control.

Is photography your primary artistic medium?

I do some film as well as photography, and the presentation of image and science is starting to become for me its own artistic medium.

What do you expect or hope viewers to take away from this exhibit?

I hope my pictures will help people realize the power they have as consumers. Everything that we purchase has a hidden cost to our planetary life support systems that is usually not included in the purchase price. Our situation is dire, but we can all affect it by changing our buying habits, which will force the producers to change their methods, and by demanding that our governments enact regulations to protect our children.

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Photo: Yellow Haze Over City of Charleston with Industry in Foreground, 9 October, 2015, J. Henry Fair, Charleston, SC, 2016, Color photograph.

Is there a certain piece in Eyes on the Edge that you find particularly compelling in terms of artistry and/or environmental issues?

Each of the pieces in the show tells an important story about an aspect of the Carolina coast. My favorites are the inlet on Edisto Island and the three rivers entering St Helena Sound.

Where else can people view your work?

The next show in the USA is a group show about climate change at the University of Denver in the spring. But my website is

Do you have any future projects in-store that you would like to tell Jasper readers about? Will your emphasis remain primarily on photographing coastal areas only?

I will continue to photograph the coasts of the USA, and actually just did Maine. Another project on my mind is slavery and racism.

What advice would you give to aspiring photographers and environmental activists?

My advice for aspiring photographers would be to get a real job. It’s too hard to be an artist. If one must do it, one should enroll in a good art school. Environmentalists I would suggest to think small and local and focus on something for which one has a passion.

Did any unusual or interesting experiences occur during your aerial photography sessions?

The process begins with a lot of research: the nature of the industry, environmental impact of their practices, different operators and locations. Then it’s a matter of logistics. Once, with a pilot from Alabama, on a trip to explore the lower Mississippi River, we had landed at a small airfield to warm up, hit the head, and begin. After takeoff, I asked if it was safe to open the window, and proceeded, only to have it come free in my hands. As this was a push/pull plane, there was a prop behind us, and the aileron. Had I released the window (in the 100 mph airstream) the results might have been problematic.

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Photo: Wetlands in Long Brow Plantation, 14 October, 2015, J. Henry Fair, Green Pond, SC, 2016, Color photograph.

For exhibit info, please visit:

For more information about Fair’s work, please visit:

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