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Brett Barest on Upstate Music: Little Stranger Returns to the Radio Room

Little Stranger

There are a handful of bands that I am going to write about every single time they perform in Greenville and Charleston’s Little Stranger is somewhere near the top of that list. If you are familiar with them, you already know they are awesome and are already planning on catching their show Saturday night at The Radio Room. For the rest of you, please hold while I climb atop my soapbox…

Little Stranger is the duo of John and Kevin Shields who share a last name only by coincidence. John sings, plays guitar, and adds effects while Kevin shreds the microphone like no other MC I have ever witnessed. Combined, you get a folkie indie rock hip-hop fusion that makes for one of the most interesting sounds I have come across since I started writing about music.

Duos often fall into a pattern of sound as their strengths complement each other in a way that a formula develops, sometimes making all of their music sound vaguely similar. Little Stranger defies that by Kevin and John being so stylistically different yet perfectly complementary in such a way that you never know what direction a track is going to take. John can be winding down a catchy, harmonious road before Kevin appears and drops a verse that bowls you over like a MAC truck. The ebb and flow between the two means that every track comes off as fresh no matter how many times you listen to it and their shows keep you on the edge of your proverbial seat just to see what happens next.

My first exposure to Little Stranger was when I ran across the video for “Sing it High” and had one of those “Well, I know who I’m writing about this week without listening to another song” kind of moments. I did listen to more of their music however and not one single moment of any of it has disappointed me. From their debut album Buddha the Beast to their follow up EPs Techniques and Styles & Dynamics which are best enjoyed back to back as if they were one complete album, Little Stranger has never ceased to amaze me every step of the way. Live, the band is even better as the energy they bring to the stage is so much more than can ever be captured in a recording studio, and I say that as a listener who absolutely loves each of these albums.

Little Stranger also holds the distinction of being the only artist in my center console that my 14 year old actually likes, which is a huge testimonial as my son hates 100% of anything else I listen to. I am not sure if that speaks more to the band, my listening tastes, or my son’s but I digress…

Little Stranger will be joined at the Radio Room Saturday night with Athens’ electronic, flute, pop phenomenon Pip the Pansy. Typically when I think of the flute I am thinking about American Pie or Jethro Tull but Pip the Pansy changes that in a beautifully satisfying way. She is as different from Little Stranger as “brothers” Shield are from each other, which should make for a magical pairing of artists and wonderful evening of music.


While I have no doubt what show I want to enjoy Saturday evening, Friday does provide some challenging decisions. The Excons are at Birds Fly South Friday evening while John the Revelator is at Eight State Brewing Company at the same time… whichever brand of rock you prefer, at least you know there will be some good beer waiting for you when you get there. The Wobblers and West End String Band will also be at Gottrocks that same evening just to further complicate things.

Whatever you choose to do the rest of the week, the iOnGreenville music calendar is here to help. Just don’t miss Little Stranger Saturday night and remember to thank me later.

Upstate Live Music Calendar

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