No one masters southern hospitality like Garden & Gun Magazine. After all, the publication is devoted to all of the region’s most iconic institutions and traditions–and that includes fabulous food, specialty cocktails, great gear crafted by local makers and, of course, fantastic music. The Made in the South Weekend encapsulated all of those values in three impeccably chic and southern days. Here are some of the coolest things we saw there.
Shires was the headlining act for the first night of Made in the South (after a quick stop at the Garden & Gun offices for an intimate acoustic Back Porch session in their to-die-for digs). The petite vocalist/violinist was the perfect choice for the event as she personifies to many of the characteristics the south is known for–grit and grace among them. The scrappy Shires danced and played her way across the stage of the Charleston Music Hall in red boots, hot pants and a black denim jacket with her name embroidered on the front–a style rocked by her entire band. Straight off a week of sold-out shows with her husband Jason Isbell’s 400 Unit band at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Shires proved herself to be just as much a force in a smaller, more intimate theater thanks to her signature vocals and exquisite violin skills–mixed with a little bit of sardonic wit and wisdom between songs. “Times are dark but the music’s fun. I’m Amanda Shires and everything is gonna be OK,” she offered at one point in the set. And upon announcing that her keyboard player was making the move from New York to Nashville that week, she turned her gaze to him and smiled, “Welcome to the South. You’re going to love it here.”
Aaron Lee Tasjan
While many of the Friday night music fans turned out to see Amanda Shires, they were in for a sweet surprise when opening act Aaron Lee Tasjan took the stage, his lanky frame cutting a dramatic silhouette in a mustard yellow suit and black bowler hat. A Nashville favorite with a growing cult following beyond Music City, the singer/songwriter is known for his quirky style, thought-provoking lyrics and killer guitar-playing skills, Tasjan blew the roof off the hall with his final song–a scorching rendition of his 2016 track “Ready to Die.” The emotional performance had even Tasjan newbies pump their fists and on their feet. Just before launching into the gut-wrenching vocals and monster guitar solos he took a tender moment to quote Fred Rogers. “There’s two things in the world that you can’t hear enough and that’s ‘I love you’ and ‘you’re a good person,'” he said, crediting the beloved children’s television host. “So I love you and thank you for being you. Stay beautiful South Carolina.”
Meet The Makers Market
Made in the South’s most notable purpose is to salute local makers and give them a chance to showcase their wares on a national scale. Those setting up shop in the sprawling Garden & Gun offices were chosen as finalists in the Made in the South Awards and featured in the magazine’s December issue. From axes to bourbon to pickled peppers, the market offered up a menagerie of items made in the south. Chris Richardson of Richardson Axeworks came from Birmingham to show off his beautifully crafted antique ax head restorations. Katherine Couron’s Boyd’s of Texas Eau de Parfums were–dare we say it–a scentsational entry, with earthy, musky fragrances straight out of their namesake state. And Ann Williams brought her Nashville-based Yearly Co. jewelry to Charleston. Inspired by a family tradition, her handcrafted bangles mark milestone occasions, including anniversaries, just as her grandfather did more than six decades ago when he gifted Ann’s grandmother a bracelet to commemorate their own wedding anniversary. Throughout the day, the Made in the South judges–each nationally-renowned regional experts in their own fields–hosted panels to educate attendees on their crafts and their judging techniques.
The weekend’s tantamount event is the Made in the South Awards, during which winners are announced in categories including Drink, Outdoors, Crafts, Style, Home and Food. But this isn’t some snoozefest award show. Hosted at the historic (and rarely available for events) Aiken-Rhett House, the evening was a feast for the senses. Despite the nip in the air, the outdoor event felt warm and inviting, thanks to a courtyard filled with impeccable decor and magical touches. From the plus seating areas that dotted the walled courtyard to the endlessly long farm-style tables covered in marigold table cloths and incredible fall-inspired centerpieces. The autumn night was lit with lamps that lined the tables, each covered in a different, eclectic swatch of fabric and giving off a warm glow. The table settings were both picnic chic, with black and white checked napkins, wooden handled silverware and robin’s egg blue plates atop feather-covered chargers. Guests enjoyed a five-course, globally-inspired meal by famed chef Asha Gomez, including Shrimp Veracruz Tacos, Chicken Khoo Soi and Beef Daube Provencal Stew. Though there was only one winner in each category, everyone in attendance walked away feeling like a V.I.P.
The city of Charleston itself played perfect host to the weekend. With many attendees staying at the uber-cool Dewberry Hotel in the city’s Historic District, the chic retreat became a hot spot (in no small part to its killer bar and Garden & Gun’s in-house retail experience Fieldshop). Shopping on King Street was a welcome retail respite, especially for those who didn’t expect the southern city’s November evenings to drop into the 40s and were in need of last-minute jackets. And then there was the food. From traditional fresh seafood to a growing chef-driven concept scene, Charleston has something to offer every taste. Just a few doors down from the magazine’s home base, Rappahannock Oyster Bar offers up platters of oysters, shrimp and clams on ice served up alongside some southern favorites. And in the heart of downtown Charleston, Tradd’s, a modern bistro, caters to foodies looking for a to-doe-for culinary experience. From its caviar menu to lobster gnocchi, each dish is more delicious and more decadent than the next. For a real treat, take a seat at the champagne bar in the back of the restaurant and marvel at the magnums of bubbly while you tuck into your Seared Scallops or Poulet Rouge.