I was surprised at how hard it was to find live music in South Carolina. For a state with such a rich musical tradition, there weren't a ton of live music venues outside of the big cities, and even many of those only had shows closer to the weekends. I had so much success finding great live music in North Carolina (read about it HERE) and even in West Virginia (and HERE) that I was a little surprised at how difficult it seemed to find a good show. From the state that brought us the likes of Dizzy Gillespie, James Brown, Darius Rucker, Edwin McCain, The Marshall Tucker Band and so many others, I had hoped it would be easier. Maybe I was just spoiled by the wonderful resource that is blueridgemusicnc.com that I didn't dig deep enough. Either way, I did see some great music in the state, shows were just a little fewer and further between than I would have thought.
By far the best event I found in the state happened early in my visit. The wonderful, weekly, outdoor Awendaw Green Barn Jam is one of the coolest events and also one of the coolest music venues I've found in my travels. Awendaw Green is just a half-hour or so north along the coast from Charleston, and it is well worth the effort to get to. Every Wednesday night, year-round, the show kicks off around 6pm. There is plenty of free parking and you can bring your own food and drink into the jam (including alcohol). There are some wonderful food vendors there as well, and there's a well stocked market next door if you forget your drinks. Entrance into the event is just $5 and with that you get to see a few different bands, who generally come on for just one set each. All of the bands I saw when I was there were excellent, and I featured one of them, Saluda Shoals, on my first South Carolina podcast, which you can listen to HERE. If you live in the area, or just happen to be visiting on a Wednesday night, you should definitely go check out the Barn Jam at Awendaw Green. You'll find yourself leaning back in a beach chair, sitting around a bonfire, listening to great local music, and you can truly relax and recharge for the last two days of the work week. I wish there were more places like this in the state and in the world.
The next time I got to see a great show was at Tin Roof in Columbia, where I saw the nineties cover band Seventy Six and Sunny. If you've been reading this blog, you know I like to keep it local and I'm not a huge supporter of chain anything, but Tin Roof is a chain I can get behind. They currently have 14 locations stretching from Orlando up to Indianapolis (with one strange outlier in San Diego), and I've been to five of them. They bring in some really good bands and they have a pretty cool atmosphere. In a time when live music venues seem to be at an all-time low, it's refreshing to find people willing to take a chance like this. Depending on the location, they may have live music seven nights a week. I think the one in Columbia has shows 5 nights a week. The band was a lot of fun - they did a lot of covers from when I was in high school and college which I guess are nearing the "oldies" bin. It was a fun night at Tin Roof.
Greenville had a few great venues that I went to in the time that I was there. I started out at Radio Room, a dive bar with a big stage and a pretty full music calendar. When I was there, there were three band on, all of which were playing some solid hard rock. It's been a while since I was in a real rock club like that, and I really enjoyed it. The bands were decent, the drinks were cheap and the kitchen was open late. I would definitely go back to Radio Room when I'm back in Greenville.
Smiley's Acoustic Cafe downtown also seemed to have a pretty full calendar. They have an open mic night and karaoke as well as regular music performances. They never charge a cover, and it was a really neat little venue with a good sound and reasonably priced drinks.
13 Stripes Brewery in Taylor hosted an amazing benefit for the NEXT Charter School in Greenville when I was in town, featuring legendary Piedmont Blues artist Mac Arnold and his band Plate Full o' Blues. Those of you who have followed me through my American Photo Blog days know that I am a big Delta Blues fan. I also really like the Piedmont Blues though, although it seems to be really hard to find any Piedmont Bluesman still out doing shows these days. Most people know nothing about the Piedmont Blues, except maybe by association through the name of the band Pink Floyd which combined the names of two great Piedmont Blues artists: South Carolinian Pink Anderson and North Carolinian Floyd Council. To see Mac bring the Piedmont Blues alive was really special, and he even played a few songs on his old trademark gas can guitar. I met Mac before the show and also hung out with him and his band for a bit afterwards, and he is a great guy with a lot of spirit, as well as being a phenomenal musician. This was a great show and the music from that night is featured in my second South Carolina podcast which you can listen to HERE.
I also enjoyed some good live music at The Mill in North Charleston, Beer 30 in Surfside Beach, Blues Boulevard in Greenville and FR8 Yard in Spartanburg. I would have liked to have been in Spartanburg later in the week because they have a lot of outdoor music downtown, but my timing was off. I also would have liked to get out to Bill's Music Store and Pickin' Parlor in Columbia, but by the time I remembered it, it was the wrong time of week again. If you've been or get the chance, I'd love to know what you think.
I definitely saw some great music while I was in South Carolina, and feel fortunate to have found two great acts to feature on my podcast. I was a little surprised that it was harder to find a good venue than it was in North Carolina, but like I said I never would have found most of those without a great resource. Maybe someone needs to step up and fill that void. I am definitely looking forward to seeing what I can find in Tennessee. If you know anywhere great to see a show in Tennessee, please don't hesitate to comment. Get out and see some live music this weekend wherever you live, you'll be glad you did!