Upstate Live Music Scene: The Silver Linings of 2020

  • By cvbizz
  • December 30, 2020
  • 0
upstate live music
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Brett Barest

Okay, so maybe 2020 is not the best year ever to do a “year in review” style piece on nearly any topic but I think we need a little positivity to wrap up the oddest of all my 43 years. Plus, I can be stubbornly optimistic after a cocktail or two and I think there is plenty to celebrate if we can look past the obstacles the year presented, not just to the local music scene, but the world at large. With that in mind, allow me to adorn my rose colored glasses and find some solace to close out the year in local music…

The Upstate Music Awards

The inaugural Upstate Music Awards had the good fortune to slide into 2020 right before everything went to hell. Unaware that the world was about to come to a grinding halt, the UMA’s celebrated the local music scene like nothing the Upstate had ever seen and the support for it was far and above even the most optimistic expectations. Local artists and fans showed up to celebrate the diversity and depth of talent the Upstate has to offer and it was inspiring to watch and be a part of it all. The even better news is that the event will return for 2021 as responsibly as the pandemic situation requires, be it a full live sequel, reduced capacity, or a virtual affair. Voting for nominees is right around the corner so stay tuned for info on that.

New Material

Just because live music could not thrive does not mean bands twiddled their thumbs through 2020. New albums, EP’s, and singles still flooded our feeds, courtesy of artists across the musical spectrum. Bands like Salti Ray, Gláss, Shiva (AKA Pauley Francisco), Vilai Harrington, Phat Lip, Nitegazer, and too many others to count all released new music in 2020. Check them all out on your preferred streaming service and buy albums or send tips as much you can manage. There is a ton of local talent and they all thrive on our support, even if we cannot show up in person.

There Were Still Some Shows

Sure, bigger events and touring acts all dried up like a prune but that does not mean live music went away altogether. Breweries stepped up in a big way and, with the benefit of outdoor stages or expansive brew house real estate, the music most definitely played on during most of the summer and fall. Albino Skunk Fest even held a “Mini Skunk”, if you will, with roughly 250 attendees instead of the traditional 2,000+, continuing the tradition of the “Greatest Show on Dirt” for yet another year. A select few seated shows even made their way to the Radio Room, with Paul Cauthen finally making an appearance after one pre-COVID postponement for the flu and a second during the shutdown. Naturally, the revised third date was the one I could not attend but I am happy to see an artist of his caliber make it to Greenville. View this week’s live music calendar.

Save Our Stages

I do not know anyone who is completely thrilled with all of the contents of the most recent federal COVID relief package but that is to be expected when both parties are agreeing to serve their most special of special interests. Still, one of the bright spots is the inclusion of $15 billion earmarked for Save Our Stages, an effort providing relief for “live venues, independent movie theaters, and cultural institutions”. These businesses need all the help they can get right now so it is a relief to see them get as much support as possible.

Artists Picking Artists

I include this one because it affected me on a personal level. iOnGreenville could have turned the focus away from local music when the shutdown happened but, instead, decided to proceed full steam ahead during the pandemic. That led to me being able to share our “Artists Picking Artists” series where local musicians told us who they were listening to during their downtime. Besides some wonderful conversations with the Upstate music community, I was introduced to a ton of new music, much of which is has become staples in my listening rotation to this day. Thank you to iOnGreenville’s Chris Bizzell for giving me the opportunity to stick with this thing and to every artist that shared their passion along the way. On that note, even though we have not run one of those in a minute, I am open to sharing more artists’ picks. Contact me at if you are a musician with a list to share and, to everyone else out there, have a safe and happy New Year’s!

Revisit the Artist Picking Artist Series

Upstate Live Music Calendar

Upstate News Headlines

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