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The State of the Upstate Music Scene

Brett Barest

While the government shut down seems to have canceled next week’s State of the Union address (along with Nancy Pelosi’s vacation to Afghanistan) I am going to use this space to concentrate on the State of the Upstate Music Scene. Unlike the leaders of the free world, I think most of the discussion provides a lot of things to be pretty darn excited about.

Any time you bring up the topic of the local music scene, there are always a few rabble rousers that claim “we’re not Asheville,” “we need an Orange Peel,” or “bring back The Handlebar”. Most of these people are simply not paying attention to what we do have and a few of them should probably just go ahead and move to Asheville.

When I look at the state of the Upstate music scene, I generally do not have to look any further than iOnGreenville itself. As I type this I can count exactly 90 shows happening between Wednesday and Sunday evening. If you cannot select at least a handful of shows that are worth seeing out of a batch of 90 then you probably do not want to see live music in the first place. Also, according to iOnGreenville’s new Live Music Venue Map, there are 165 locations in the Upstate hosting music on a regular basis meaning a live show is never that far away.

Are any of these venues bringing in big names like the Orange Peel does or the Handlebar might have? Actually, yes, it is called The Spinning Jenny who is hosting Donna the Buffalo and two days of the Winter Skunk Music Festival in the weekends ahead. Yeah, but does anyone regularly host up-and-coming regional and national touring bands that are out grinding away on the road just waiting to be discovered by the masses? Sure, it is called The Radio Room, along with more than a few others.

In the past couple of years alone I have scratched bucket-list grade shows off my register thanks to the City of Greenville and Horizon Records (Old 97’s) and the Peace Center (Jesus “Sixto” Rodriguez). I have met and enjoyed newer acts such as Gastonia’s The Menders and Charleston’s Little Stranger at the Radio Room and one of their CDs is likely playing in my car as we speak. I have also watched local artists join forces in the form of the Local Green Family Band doing tribute shows and Build-A-Band nights at Gottrocks for a beautiful display of the Greenville’s musicians coming together to share their passion for their craft. Finally, to count the “Holy crap, who are these guys?” moments I have enjoyed at the Albino Skunk Music Festival would be nearly impossible as Glynn Zeigler is a master at finding the next big thing before any of the rest of us.

Do I miss The Handlebar? Absolutely. But I think there are some rose colored glasses out there when people remember it. Was I there for packed house nights for shows like the Grammy winning Carolina Chocolate Drops on more than a few occasions? Of course I was, but I also remember seeing the likes of Todd Snider, James McMurtry, and The Pixies’ Frank Black playing to far-from-filled rooms at that very venue. If those types of nationally touring shows were not sustainable then, why would things be any different today?

The thing we all need to realize is that even though we are not Asheville and The Handlebar is sadly not a thing anymore does not mean all is lost. Greenville’s music scene is all its own and there is much to celebrate here.

90 shows in the next five days.

165 venues regularly hosting music across the Upstate.

This is all happening across the Upstate and iOnGreenville is making it easy to find. Check out the calendar, find a venue, and I guarantee there is a music hall, club, or brewery just itching to have you grace their doorway for a night of passion because, if we are being honest, that is exactly what live music is. An artist or group, whether you have heard them on the radio or not, is on stage doing what they love in their most vulnerable moment for your entertainment alone. The Upstate is rich with it and I for one consider us all better off for it.

Shows to see…

The Dollar Signs at The Radio Room had me with their video for the song “I Hope I Don’t F’ This Up”. My Girl, My Whiskey, and Me is my favorite husband and wife duo on the planet and they will be at Craft & Barrel on Friday night. April Bennett (of April B. & the Cool) will be holding it down at RJ Rockers on Saturday and Colorado’s Space Jesus will be at The Firmament later that evening if electronic music is more your speed.
Check the Complete Concert Calendar Here

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