The SpotLight

Story G. E. Light

SpotLight_GeorgeLightOne Saturday I found myself at Central Station Grill enjoying fresh herb marinated Mahi over mushroom polenta with a roasted red pepper sauce. Godfathers of the Starkville music scene, 30 Fingers were about to bring their unique brand of easy listening, singer/songwriter, soul and classic 70s era AOR tuneage to the stage. So dubbed long ago by Dave Odom (the other one) after an early gig at Dave’s Dark Horse Tavern, the trio consists of Jim Beaty (the Rev. Baltimore) on standup and electric bass, Chris Curry (Earl VI) on congas, floor tambourine, the “love triangle” and a slew of other percussive effects, and Jeffery Rupp on lead acoustic guitar. They’ve been together in various guises since 1980 including The Dips and The BBQ Boys.

A typical 30 Fingers show has three hour-long sets, the first a mellow dinner list as the band finds its groove and audience with a focus on songs about trains and bodies of water. Rupp speaks of seeking that “organic wooden sound” in his basic strumming acoustic style, this evening on a brand new Martin OMCPA1. The second set tends to vary styles more. Tonight, for example, we got prog in the form of “In the Beginning” by ELP, pure pop from Donovan’s “Mellow Yellow” to The Bee Gee’s “To Love Somebody” to The Young Rascals “Groovin’,” to a NOLA-based singer-songwriter duo of Randy Newman’s “Louisiana 1927” and Jimmy Driftwood’s “The Battle of New Orleans.” The third set is usually a free-for-all, including the infamous stump-the-band contest.

For the ninth year in a row, DelFest came to Dave’s Dark Horse Tavern for one very special evening. This fundraiser honors the memory of Starkville native Del Rendon, who led several local bands like The Downstroke and The Puerto Rican Rum Drunks and was a fixture on the Dave’s stage that now bears his name.

Del’s family and friends created the Del Rendon Foundation, which sponsors an art scholarship in the College of Architecture, Art & Design at MSU. The endowed fund currently sits at just north of $60K. Its first recipient, A.J. Edwards, recently earned his MFA at the Glasgow School of Arts.

Featuring musical collaborators and friends of Rendon’s, this year’s show kicked off with perhaps his oldest collaborator, keyboardist Mark Goldbeck. He closed his set poignantly with the first song he ever shared with Del, “Rock and Roll,” now rewritten to honor Rendon and performed by The Gondoliers (three former Rum Drunks). Perhaps the high-point of the evening was the rousing set by Slambo, fronted by Del’s brother Andrew. A three-guitar attack, they covered the gamut from Neil Young to The Beatles to CCR.

The Columbus Arts Council’s “Coming to America”-themed Omnova Series brought us a fascinating bit of local history concerning the Mayhew Choctaw Mission. In a presentation co-sponsored by the Mississippi Humanities Council Speaker’s Bureau, Emilie White discussed this early settlement in Lowndes and Oktibbeha counties, which birthed First Presbyterian Church in Columbus, First Presbyterian in Starkville, churches at French Camp and Bethel, the Hebron School near Pheba, and the original settlers of Boardtown, which would eventually become Starkville.

In 1817, Mississippi’s Choctaw Indians supposedly asked for a mission, which was planted by the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. A group of Massachusetts-based missionaries, led by Cyrus Kingsbury, pushed on from a settlement in Chattanooga, Tenn. After an earlier location at Plymouth Bluff on the Tombigbee, they settled on a more suitable site above where the Ash comes into Tibbee Creek in northeast Oktibbeha County near the Clay and Lowndes county lines. By 1831 there were over 289 members. However, the 1830 Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek precipitated the exodus of more than 15,000 Choctaw over the next three years to Oklahoma. Nevertheless, the Mayhew Mission’s influence continued as many of the leaders of the Choctaw Nation, as well as earlier territorial governors of Oklahoma, were originally educated in Oktibbeha County.

In 1996 the late West Point-based filmmaker Ron Tibbett created the Magnolia Independent Film Festival. Seventeen years later The Mag is going strong, bringing “film and filmmakers from around the globe to the Golden Triangle area.” One of this year’s highlights included Azod Abedikichi’s stop-animation short “Baby Chicken,” featuring a woman and one … no, four … wait, six chicks. Also notable was “Memphis,” a look at the local music scene from 1978 to the present — or after Stax closed and Elvis died — and in effect a video sequel to Robert Gordon’s 1996 book, It Came from Memphis, and Rob Hill’s documentary about the Emmitt Till lynching, “MONEY 1955,” with Mike Wiley’s Guinessesque tour de force performance as all 20 characters, male and female, white and black. But the real revelation was “Landscapes of the Heart,” Rebecca Cerese’s stunning documentary about Teoc native and author Elizabeth Spencer. It made me want to rush out to buy all of her work and start reading.

Sailing out of the late-March mist, a caber (Gaelic for “tree”) somersaulted over my head and landed 10 meters away, creating a trench-like divot … must be the Golden Triangle Celts’ inaugural Central Mississippi Scottish Gathering and Highland Games. Yup, here comes a hairy-legged, skirt-wearin’ orange-bearded faux Scot shouldering the aforementioned traditional creosote telephone pole. These Games consisted of heavy events, including an open stone toss, heavy weight for distance, hammer throw, caber toss, sheaf throw and weight-over-the-bar.

But the Gathering wasn’t only about blood, sweat and thrown implements. Opening the event was a Ball and Ceilidh (kay-lee) held at Magnolia Manor, featuring the music of Laurel-based Emerald Accent. At the games site, live music emanated from the Gail Gillis Family music tent and wee bairns enjoyed storytelling by Starkville Public Library’s Christine Juruski, games and face painting in the Bill Stuart Children’s Glen. The GTC Heritage tent provided a wealth of information. I was able to locate my maternal Scottish surname, McBride, within Clan MacDonald on the isles of Jura and Islay. No wonder I enjoy the occasional finger of Laphraoig.