Ten Years of The Radio Room: Wes Gilliam Looks Back

  • By cvbizz
  • March 19, 2021
  • 0
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10 years. It’s been officially 10 years of Radio Room. That sentence is probably one of the strangest ones I’ve ever said aloud. So, with that being said, I can’t think of a better time to take a trip down memory lane and to reminisce about our humble beginnings. Started at the bottom and now we’re…less at the bottom?

While there are a lot of people familiar with the original Radio Room, I did want to take this time to stroll down memory lane and shed some light on where we started for anyone who may not have known us then.

So, I’m going to speak from my perspective, b/c it’s just such an unusual story, that if I were to start bringing others in, it could go for 5,000 words or more EASILY.

For any of those unfamiliar, Radio Room was originally Typsy Gypsy, which was an off-shoot of Gypsy G’s or “The Original Gypsy” as well as Karma,Medusa’s and all different places that changed names/locations in a relatively brief period of time from probably 2007- 2011. I honestly don’t remember which location came first, or who was what, as I was living in LA during this time period and before that Myrtle Beach etc. I actually moved to Greenville in 2010, after I relocated back to the East Coast after the Writer’s Strike in 2008. To say it’s a bit blurry is true: but also very apropos.

To make a long story short, David and Geoff bought Tipsy Gypsy from the original owner around Oct or Nov of 2010, and it was officially renamed “Radio Room” in March of 2011. I was brought on as talent buyer in mid-late April of that same year, and stayed with the company for about four and a half years, before coming back on board as an owner in June of 2017 when we were transitioning to Poinsett Hwy.

Many of you know the original Radio Room, and remember the small windowless building that obscured the graveyard behind it. Many, many people didn’t believe there was even one back there until after the old one burned down (the exact same day my daughter was born, how crazy is that?). I remember Colin from Baby Baby actively campaigning to name it “The Plywood Palace” b/c of all the unpainted plywood along the entrance. The original building was around 2200 sq ft. and had 8 ft ceilings that you would normally find in a house or apartment, not a venue. Coupled with the “gently-used” carpet and the smell of cigarette smoke, either you got us, or you didn’t. Old Radio Room definitely wasn’t for everyone, which is why I kinda laugh every time we get a negative review about our new location.

My introduction to the Radio Room was that I had actually met David and Geoff before all of this, due to being a patron of the Tipsy Gypsy and previous incarnations prior to that (If you look far enough back in my photos you can prob find a picture of me and Geoff doing a very drunken karaoke song or two). David was actually a bartender for the original owners before they bought it, and Geoff was a regular patron. I was the guy who had just started booking bands, b/c I was always the guy that people would call when they were looking for somewhere to play, or had a band drop off and needed a replacement.

For a brief stint, a local downtown bar called “Meatheads” (previously known as “Baitshack”) had finally closed and bands were looking for a new place to have shows. During this time period, it felt like every 6 months or so the local hotspot would close and bands were having to always look for a new place to play. I noticed that some shows were starting to pop up at a place called “Fatso’s” (formerly a lesbian bar known as “The Sugar Shack”).

I noticed that there wasn’t much organization in people going there, and I thought “Why not me?”. At the time I was living in SC with an Avid film certification, which meant I was waiting tables and having to teach myself film production just so I’d have some work (my certification is in post-production/editing). So I ended up booking shows at Fatso’s for maybe 3-4 months before David scooped me up. He knew he didn’t really know anything about booking bands, and I had faked that I knew what I was doing well enough for him to take a leap haha.

Humble beginnings is def a cliche, but I don’t feel it’s mis-used when used here, as when we first started off, all shows were free and I had a budget of $1,000 to book bands for the month (Whereas now I have shows where I hand a headliner a check for more than I make in a month). Coupled with the fact that we were in a building with no windows, and our mixer was in the closet besides the stage for YEARS, we were nothing if not scrappy underdogs. However, I will say that (obviously) it’s not the stage, or sound system that makes a place, it’s the people that run it. Just the fact that we actually gave a shit about the bands playing went a long ways (that and we used to give bands free PBR and well liquor for a few years).

I have many, many blurry memories of partying with bands until 3am or later (we used to be open until 4am or 5am sometimes) and then going to work hungover as all get out (and usually after All Get Out) the next morning, as for years I was still waiting tables or working places like PSAV in the Hyatt and having to be in early the next morning.

Probably the most memorable story of mine is one I don’t really remember all too well. If you’ve known me for a while, you probably already know this one: (and this is the one my old roommate Myles was chomping at the bit to tell but I beat him to it).I think it was my 30th birthday where I passed out in the bathroom with the door locked and they had to take it off of the hinges to get me out. I have no idea how or why that happened (besides alcohol and more alcohol), but it’s something I’ll never live down I’m sure. One minute I’m singing Misfits with The Winter Sounds, next it’s the next day and I’m more hungover than I’ve ever been. I may or may not have had my leg in a pool of toilet water when they found me. Luckily there was a sizable crack under the door where someone could see me passed out. As a testament to true friendship, the next time I returned there was a chalk outline of my body drawn in the linoleum of the bathroom floor.

I’ve definitely had some life-long friendships come out of that place, and always have a special place in my heart for bands that have stuck with us since then. Looking back we’ve had Shovels & Rope play there twice as well as Rainbow Kitten Surprise, as well as people like Sam Dew (Cloudeater) who went on to write for Rihanna and Wale etc. and too many that have gone on to create great art for me to even try to list, but those are the first ones to come to mind.

I eventually left in Fall of 2015, to come on board IPA as an owner/talent buyer, b/c I wanted the next step and wanted a slightly bigger, nicer place to do shows. For those that don’t know, Radio Room is in the old IPA building, funny how things like that come full circle. We ended up getting the gang back together and opened Radio Room 2.0 in July of 2017.

While I do miss some of the late nights at the old place, David and I are pushing 40 and Geoff is a few years older than us, so it’s probably for the best that we can’t be open that late anymore! However, I do think those early days shaped us in ways that even we don’t know. There’s definitely a special comradery from all of us basically learning as we went along. I remember getting my first contract/email from an official agency and other highlights which may seem unspectacular to others, but they were key turning points for me and for the formation of Radio Room as we know it today (Probably my favorite term of endearment about the old Radio Room was from Christina of Hudson K. who called it “a Rock’n’Roll bombshelter”).

So while we’ve been at our Poinsett Hwy location for about 4 years now, it’s still kind of astounding that we’ve been doing this for 10 years! I am never one to get cocky about anything, but I do think along the way we’ve become less of a thorn in the side of Greenville and hopefully more of a piece of the puzzle. To finish off this thing, I thought I would include some stories about Radio Room that people sent us. While I know many weren’t sent b/c of incriminating details, the ones that did make their way to me definitely warmed my heart.

Thanks for reading everyone!

Noah Taylor – “This ain’t much of a story, but getting to play the old Radio Room with both my bands when I was sixteen were some of my best memories. It was one of the only non-house show venues in the upstate where we could completely be ourselves while getting to fully expose ourselves to the public, especially as kids. We played this one halloween show as The Postmodern Penguins, all of us were like 16-17, I wore a bedsheet with a hole in it and minnie mouse ears while someone projected the original Hunchback of Notre Dame onto us while we played, and I haven’t felt that powerful or hopeful since then. Satan in Bondage and Coffin Torture were promoting that show I think. That whole Rubrics circa 2012 scene made me the man I am today. Those experiences taught me that you can create anything you want to if you do it yourself.”

Charlotte Jensen – “In a nutshell, that place absolutely changed my life. Just being able to go out on any Friday or Saturday night to see three random bands for $5 opened up a whole world of experiences to me. And then there was the first time I ever saw WAFT, which completely blew my mind, considering that I had never enjoyed metal before that moment. Because of that I started going to Metal Mondays and made a whole ton of friends who helped guide me in the genre.”

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