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Brett Barest on the Greenville Music Scene: Vacation Perspective

I spent this past weekend in Houston, Texas celebrating my in-laws’ 50th wedding anniversary and my mother-in-law’s birthday, even though neither of those things actually happen until July. That is what happens when you and your wife are farmer’s market people and Saturdays between May and October are no longer available for such travels. So, first and foremost, thanks to my wife’s family and friends for joining us for such an early celebration and, secondly, thank God I don’t live in Texas.

Don’t get me wrong – I love visiting our friends and family but there are things about Texas I just cannot handle full time. For one thing, I am not accustomed to getting sunburned in mid-April but apparently they have a different sun than we have in South Carolina. Also, everything is a minimum of 45 minutes away and even a lunch trip to “somewhere I can get a burger and a beer” requires GPS for the people that actually live there. Nobody seems to question that every 45 minute drive is preceded by a 30 minute conversation about the best possible route, depending on traffic, time of day, or any number of other big city factors.

“What the hell does any of this have to do with music?” you might be asking right about now.

Simply this: As I sat down to write this piece upon returning home, I was thinking about how unmotivated I would be to go out if every decent show was 45 minutes away in any direction. Then, as I looked at this week’s music calendar, I realized just how much live music we have in just a 15-20 minute, totally Uber-affordable radius.  I am not talking about local bands either but some serious regional and nationally touring talent of every genre you can imagine. Need Proof: Check out out Upstate Live Music Venue Map to Find Shows Near You

Tonight is for reggae with Ashville’s Chalwa appearing at Quest Brewing and Treehouse and El Dub burning up the Gottrocks stage. Back at Quest Friday night, Paleface takes the stage which, for my tastes, is going to be the best show of the weekend. Paleface got his start in music under the tutelage of the great (albeit insane) Daniel Johnston, had some guy named Beck as a roommate in the early 1990’s, and his sound is as unique and erratic as both of those artists. Every time I have seen him I wonder why he is not a household name and I expect to do the same again tomorrow.

For those looking for some good old fashioned 1980’s nostalgia, LA Guns will be at the Firmament Friday night. You might recall that LA Guns once joined forces with a band called Hollywood Rose to form the original lineup of Guns N Roses. Naturally, Axl Rose alienated everyone involved and the founding members of LA Guns have been doing their own thing ever since.

Saturday, The Spinning Jenny welcomes jazz guitar virtuoso Charlie Hunter as he tours with the immensely talented Lucy Woodward. If synth-pop is more your speed, The Radio Room will feature Eleventy Seven, Glass Mansions, and the Parlor Pinks for a great night of music. Over at The Firmament, Atlanta’s Interstellar Echos will bring “the Southeast’s premier Pink Floyd tribute band” to the Upstate.

Finally, no matter how you feel about heavy metal, you seriously need to consider Okilly Dokilly at The Radio Room Sunday evening. It is not metal – it’s Nedal – as this is the world’s only Ned Flanders inspired rock band. Each of the band’s members rocks the trademark mustache and green sweater and most of the songs are actual Ned Flanders quotes. Totally supportive of the band, The Simpsons actually featured them during the closing credits of a recent episode.

These are big city artists in a city where everything we want to do feels like a stone’s throw away. That, combined with a wealth of local talent, means that the iOnGreenville calendar has over 120 bands playing shows between tonight and Sunday alone. That is a pretty healthy music scene if you ask me.

On The Mountain

All of that local goodness aside, I would be remiss to not mention that the Merck Mountain Spring Jam is going down in Central this weekend. Few people are as invested in the Upstate music scene as Sheila Merck and this annual festival is held to raise money for Helping Hands of Clemson. Camp out and enjoy 13 bands over two days for a unique spring fest that goes to benefit a great local charity.

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