Brett Barest on Upstate Music: The Year in Review

  • By cvbizz
  • December 31, 2019
  • 0
  • 90 Views
vilai harrington
Upstate Live Music Year in Review

As I sat down to write my last music column for the year for iOnGreenville, I began to reflect on the shows I wrote about and attended and the bands I fell in love with along the way. I also considered the question that I am often asked – “What kind of music do you listen to?” – and just how impossible that seems to be to answer. Looking back at a year’s worth of stories somehow led me to the center console of my Subaru for physical evidence of how 2019 shaped my listening habits.
Vote for Your Top Upstate Music Picks Now

Now, I know CDs are going the way of the cassette to some degree and I am finally fully on board with my Spotify account which allows my favorite local and regional bands to shuffle through the same playlists as longtime favorites like Neutral Milk Hotel, Social Distortion, or the Wu-Tang Clan. In the car, however, I am strictly a CD guy as listening to an album on the road can be as intimate an experience as curling up with a good book. Spotify listening is casual enjoyment while digesting an album is a more sacred act, in my opinion. It actually shifts the question from “what am I listening to?” to “what am I currently obsessed with?”

With that in mind, this is how writing about music in 2019 has shaped my listening habits, entirely for the better, I might add.

Brett’s Picks for 2019

The Great Dying, Bloody Noses & Roses: I am actually surprised this CD even still plays given the number of times I have listened to it through. Equal parts dark, depressing singer/songwriter and full on blow your hair back punk rock and metal, this is one of the most interesting albums I have ever listened to. Every turn through the album reveals something new and I cannot get enough of it. His show at The Radio Room last month was unforgettable and I have it on good authority that he will be back on February 28… Death Itself could not keep me from this show.

Little Stranger (x2): Charleston duo Little Stranger has become one of my favorite bands with their eclectic blend of folk, rock, and hip-hop and electrifying live performances. I tend to listen to 2017’s Techniques and 2018’s Styles and Dynamics back to back as the two EPs come together like Voltron for a full length album feel. For something that just feels completely different from anything you are currently listening to, this is the way to go.

Vilai Harrington & the Hamptones, Sandhill Shaman: I have been a big fan of Vilai the Human Being since I met him and Vilai the Musician since I heard him play, in that very order. His recent EP Sandhill Shaman turned a big corner musically and took him from being a local artist and friend that I liked to someone that I was utterly fascinated with. From the opening notes of the title track to the most haunting John Prine cover you will ever hear just five songs later, there is a lot of onion to peel away at for an EP. It is both a damn fine listen and a ton of reason to look forward to whatever is in store for Vilai next.

The National Reserve, Motel La Grange: The only album in the stack that leaves me with regrets… every time I listen to this CD I kick myself in the ass for missing their show at the Radio Room. They were phenomenal at a Horizon Records in-store performance and I am sure their full band set that evening must have been amazing. Fingers crossed that this immensely talented, Brooklyn based Rock/Blues/Americana act comes back to the Upstate sooner rather than later.

Excons (x2): The Excons’ 2019 release Sea Shanties made me revisit 2017’s New Life and now I find myself regularly toggling between both of them, considering their distinct similarities and differences simultaneously. Indie rock (and music in general) does not get much better than this and I love the fact that my father tells me every time he hears them on WNCW and reminds me that I took him to see them live at Horizon two years ago. I would never want to pick my favorite band in town but the Excons would definitely be a significant part of that conversation.

Scott Miller, Ladies Auxiliary: I love this album, Miller’s live performance was amazing, and he was one of the nicest musicians I have ever met at a show. All of that said, I start this album by listening to “Lo Siento, Spanishburg, WV” first (track eight) before reversing back to track one to listen to the album as Miller intended. It is as cleverly written and powerful social commentary as James McMurtry’s “We Don’t Make it Here Anymore” but with Miller’s very own sense of humor and I cannot get enough of it.

The Menders, Nina: The Menders will always have a special place in my heart as the first band that I ever interviewed, only to have one of the band members jump into my arms like I was a soldier returning home from war when I met them in person at their show. By “first” band, I mean “only”. That exclusive status aside, their garage folk approach to rock & roll is refreshing and innovative and I love everything they do, no matter how different their sound shifts, not just from album to album, but from track to track. I have a hunch that 2020 will bear a new album from the Gastonia based Menders and my mouth waters at the thought of what that might sound like. This might not be someone I discovered recently, but one of their albums will always have a place in my current rotation as long as I am listening to music.

These are but a few of the bands that make me love writing about music in this space. In most part, I only know them because they played a show here in Greenville and I looked them up to see what they were all about with a potential story in mind. In turn, they became the bands I listen to the most and cannot talk about enough. The Upstate music scene is a thriving one and I can only look forward to whatever 2020 has to offer. Happy New Year’s, friends!


Upstate Live Music Calendar

Comment via Facebook

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *