It took two evenings to get into this year's Rocktoberfest, but I caught on. The Awendaw Green-sponsored music festival emphasized its sense of community and basic fellowship over the performances and money. A critical grouch could easily grumble over the little technicalities, logistics, and peculiarities of the whole scene, but any gripes I could come up with quickly dissolved as I came to this simple realization.
The second annual Rocktoberfest kicked off on Friday afternoon, Oct. 9, in the freshly-cut fields and tall pines behind the Seewee Outpost. The new setting was a huge step up for the festival, and things were much more spread out than the previous event.
Awendaw Green exec Eddie White and his family and colleagues had obviously put a lot of effort into the set-up — from the parking area to the three stage areas. It wasn't fancy, but it was welcoming and refreshingly uncommercialized.
By daylight on day one, things looked good, from the carefully-arranged volunteer and information booths to stage production tents. Shortly after sundown, navigating from stage to stage got a little tricky, however. With few lights between stage areas, attendees had to walk slowly and carefully in almost total darkness over bumpy ground.
Small crowds gathered around the stages and vendor areas all weekend. Some attendees trying to learn the layout meandered the grounds for a while, asked around, and finally figured things out on their own.
On the northeast side of the grounds, closest to the entrance gate and the food and beverage vendors, the sizeable Bridge Barn Stage stood as the central hotspot. Stage Presence Equipment Rentals arranged a massive PA, which sounded big and clear through most of the festival. Green-and-white Awendaw Green banners decorated the backdrop, and what looked like a hand-carved, Bavarian-style "Rocktoberfest" sign hung over the stage.
Way back at the southside end of the lot, under a little white tent, The City Paper Woods Stage offered a cozier setting. The Moultrie News Porch Stage looked even more cozy and rustic. Tucked away from the main field, down a driveway along a fence, the stage was simply a back patio of an aging storage shed. With minimal stage lighting, it seemed a little rough and stark in the darkness of Friday. By day, later during the festivities, the old oak trees and small bonfires along the edges allowed for familiar Lowcountry vibes — the smoky, woodsy feel of the place resembled a private oyster roast more than an outdoor concert.
This year's roster featured many veterans of Awendaw Green's weekly Barn Jams. Last year, over 40 local and regional bands performed at Rocktoberfest. This year's list boasted over 75 acts, and a cool mix of music fans (of all ages), families, scenesters, kids, and dogs in attendance.
Local musicians comprised nearly half the audience — whether they were performing or not. It was impossible to walk from one stage to the other without bumping into one. The scene resembled the camaraderie and positivity of the Barn Jams and previous Awendaw Green concerts.
Most of the bands did really well on stage, but the memories of the random interaction and (as Eddie White puts it) connectivity from this year's Rocktoberfest will last the longest in my mind.
Hanging with the musicians, welcoming touring groups, catching up with neighbors, offering thanks and encouragement to the weary sound guys, applauding from the side stage, sipping roasty Palmetto Porter, and reconnecting with old acquaintances ... these were the best moments.