By Mary Kiser
North Charleston is an acquired taste. While the community is vibrant, its seedier counterparts steal the spotlight. Strippers, drug dealers, and gang violence hog the stage long enough to distract patrons from the gems in plain sight. A recent club, the Purple Buffalo, literally rests on the outskirts of Charleston. Near the King Street Cabaret and close to Spruill Avenue, the Purple Buffalo is easy to miss. Even though it lacks a sign, flashing violet lights signal herds to the watering hole. People can drink, dance, and attend concerts. Before their performance, the Moon Moths, a homegrown movement from Columbia, S.C., gab about celestial bodies, Jurassic Park, and Paris.
When I walk inside the building, I almost ignore the bouncer, Randolph, because my stomach’s knots are so tight. His scruffy appearance softens as he flashes a smile, marks my hand with a permanent X, and pleads verbatim: please don’t drink. No worries! My eyes screen the small room until I see a stage and VIP section. Online pictures of the band’s founder, Rupert Hudson (Prince Rupert), click into frame as I take a seat on the couch next to him. His aura and look refurnishes the counterculture of the seventies, but his message is clearer than a fifties crystal chandelier.
We talk about his YouTube video Flower Moon when Keenan (Moon Child) sits next to me, and details the backstory. Hudson and him “were lost in the woods,” but through the moon’s favor, they found their way home. Like an offering to the gods, this recorded taping of Prince Rupert, complete with his cape and crown, gives thanks. He sings, “Your light, it dazzles down. Gives me reason to keep on this ground…. Through the calamities, catastrophic disasters (ah), howling hurricanes, tides coming up faster (ah), shines the moon’s light. It makes it all feel ri-i-i-i-ight (oh).” Their ode is a tribute to Nature’s grace. Hudson and Keenan draw inspiration from the universe, and their trips shuttle between the literal and metaphorical.
I interrupt the conversation to ask Hudson a pressing question: Why do you wear a flower in your hair? He glances at Keenan before their laughter overrides the chatter. The floret in Prince Rupert’s mane “represent blooming… among other things.” Keenan adds, “Everyone blooms and goes through winter cycles.” Extraterrestrial and earthly environments play a considerable role in human survival. Moon stabilizes Earth’s rotation as plants release vital gasses (oxygen, obviously). Without their presence, people wouldn’t survive. Habits like tea in the morning, conference-calls during the afternoon, and cocktails by twilight are luxuries. The Moon Moths are just a group of superhero-ecologists in disguise, and their platform stems heightened awareness.
I look at my phone, and it reads 8:45 p.m. Other bandmates such as: Maddie (SK), Gabe (King Goof), and Pedro (Fresh Heaven) flock around the table. Pedro introduces himself, and lends his insight into the message behind the Moon Moths’ song Childhood: Memories are frozen and encased like Jurassic Park’s mosquito. Pedro explains that memories can “hurt you,” but they will never fade. Hudson nods in agreement before he asserts, “People want to change their memories, but you should focus on them.” Flashbulb experiences can either limit or unleash human potential. Meditation allows men and women to concentrate on their worries through exercised control. Before Hudson’s move to South Carolina, his time in New York compounds pressure and depression. His ten-days retreat in Georgia not only renews his mind but regenerates his soul. Vipassanā is an intense practice that Gautama Buddha utilizes for ailments, and for two years now, Hudson uses this technique to cope with stressors, sadness, and yes, memories.
When Amanda (Panda) takes a seat next to Hudson, I’m transfixed. Her percussion beats and dance routines are instrumental to the Moon Moths’ success. Her presence soothes the boozy atmosphere, and I swear my being transports into the jazzy lounge of nirvana. Background noise murmurs as Amanda enlightens me. As a former college student, she travels with her friends in pursuit of gauzy “good times.” The Moon Moths are a community, but they can only cocoon her spirit for so long. Her dream takes flight away from U.S. citizens to commune among Parisians in France. Connor (Mister B) joins our conversation along with Tristan (Vanilla Thunder). Thoughts about the movie Blue Is the Warmest Color (I cried!) and treks (worldwide?) tinge the ambience. The myriad of personalities pour across my notebook as I scribble everyone’s makeup. An hour of conversation strikes the clock midnight (well, 9:40 p.m.), and I need to leave. The overwhelming amount of information pounds at my head, and my fingers itch for my own set of keys. I didn’t experience the Moon Moths’ performance, but my connection spans past the set list. Their individuality butterflies from the shy and sweet (Tristan) to the outspoken and bold (Pedro). The members plan to release a mixtape of seven songs in 2017, and scheduled gigs are just another cycled stage. Their popularity has yet to reach mainstream audiences, but after the release of a single or two, these stargazers may land on the moon.