Although the locally produced documentary Mac’n at the ‘Drome: A Concert Film Experience was designed to focus on the ailing Charleston songwriter Mac Leaphart and a benefit concert held in his honor, it offers an enlightening glimpse at the Holy City’s roots-rock scene. It also reveals the strong bonds that hold this community of players together. Watching a preview DVD copy this week, I realized that such an effort could easily have been about any of the musicians featured on the screen.
Leaphart, a scene veteran and an accomplished songwriter, underwent major brain surgery in December to remove a benign tumor. His recovery went well, but it left him sidelined for months, unable to perform. As a result, he was unable to make a living. A slew of Leaphart’s longtime bandmates, colleagues, and friends rallied behind him and signed on to perform at Mac’n at the ‘Drome, a benefit at the Hippodrome on Jan. 28. The roster featured members of Five Way Friday, Joal Rush, Mark Bryan (of Hootie and the Blowfish), Danielle Howle, members of the Blue Dogs, John Wesley Satterfield, Jamie Resch, Greg Payne (of the Piedmont Boys), Shovels and Rope, Doug Jones, and others. An overlap of musicians from Guilt Ridden Troubadour and Leaphart’s group My Ragged Company served as the house band. The place was packed, and the event raised more than $10,000 for Leaphart.
Local promotion guys Ben Bounds and Joel Frank helped organize the concert, and they teamed with videographers Brooks Quinn and David Keller to compile footage and make the film. While the show’s rapid rotation of guest singers and players resembled the all-star tag-team scenes of The Last Waltz, the candid and sometime hilariously unflattering interview clips of Leaphart’s closest friends and band buddies that hit the widescreen between sets added an amusing and touching flair. Most of those scenes are interspersed with solid live footage throughout Mac’n at the ‘Drome.
Mike Allen, the operations director at rock stations the Bridge at 105.5 FM and 98 Rock, was the concert’s emcee on stage, and he reprises the role in the documentary, serving as Mac’n at the ‘Drome’s narrator. One of the opening scenes shows Luke Cunningham, a longtime bandmate of Leaphart’s in Five Way Friday, sipping whiskey in the backyard patio at Home Team BBQ in West Ashley, recalling the first time he met Mac, noting his hospitality, his popularity at house parties, and his messy domicile. The scene cuts to footage of Cunningham under the blue-purple lights on the big stage at the concert at the Hippodrome.
Another clip features Leaphart’s older brother and former bandmate, Gibbs Leaphart, sharing embarrassing tales from childhood. Other memorable scenes include an amusing soliloquy from pedal steel player Charlie Thompson (he claims he was simply using Leaphart over the years as a way to get to his parent’s killer pimento cheese), a heartfelt testimonial from Howle, and an all-star jam at the end of the show with Leaphart himself (looking thin but fit) singing and playing guitar with two dozen cohorts on joyful renditions of the Faces’ “Ooh La La” and the Rolling Stones’ “Let it Bleed.”
In a note to the City Paper after the show, Leaphart shared this: “Eloquence often escapes me. When I found my way to the stage, my words felt lost behind the microphone. Maybe I was inhibited by nerves, emotion, and the joyful rowdiness of 20 or so people on a single stage. What I never said and wanted to express is that good friends are truly a blessing.”
A free outdoor screening of Mac’n at the ‘Drome is set for 5:30 p.m. on Sun. April 29 at Cinebarre in Mt. Pleasant. The event will kick off with performances by some of the musicians in the film, including Leaphart himself, followed by a screening on the inflatable screen. DVD copies of the film will go on sale next week.
Visit macleaphart.com for more.