The Charleston music scene has seen a promising evolution in the last decade, and the city's hard-working musicians have gained respect and attention from local fans of every genre — from the indie-rock crowd to the hardcore crew. But we've found a few super fans who stand out as particularly staunch supporters of the scene. They're folks who are out every week — sometimes several times a week — supporting bands and venues and championing the music they love.
We spoke to a few of these super fans to really see what their personal experiences have been like. While we did hear some epic show stories, we also listened to some real concerns facing local fans, like noise ordinances at house shows and the need for more small downtown venues to host new local bands. But most of all, these guys revealed what they love about the Holy City sound and why it's worth celebrating every chance they get.
So without further adieu, meet Charleston's super fans.
House Show Scene
Occupation: Senior Arts & Entertainment Management major at College of Charleston
Moved to Charleston: 2013
Entered the Music Scene: 2013
Best Places to Catch a House Show: Pink Palace, Sully Sullivan's Studio, Amherst House
Favorite Local Artists: Hermit's Victory and Dempsey
Shows a Week: 2-4
"I got my first iPod in third grade, and seventh and eighth grade is when I started making it a hobby of going to see music and just being obsessed with it. Then, I picked up guitar my senior year in high school, and it got even worse. Then, definitely when I came here, is when I started being an active music listener.
I started going to Pop-Up Charleston shows and got involved with them back when they were still doing pop-ups in Kevsco Alley. And then I met the Hadleys, formerly Volcanoes in the Kitchen, and I just started following them around and going wherever they played. I started seeing some people from Pop-Up more and more and joined up with them, and I'm now going to shows every weekend.
House shows are all mostly 21 and under, I feel like. Then, once you turn 21, you sort of switch. Once you've gone to one house show, you realize it's loud, it's hot, it's gross. You have to know that it's going to be like that and prepare yourself. But the music is what will keeps people coming back, and these bands from all over South Carolina are playing in houses in Charleston.
We have seen fans go from house shows to moving on to Royal American and paying for tickets. We've seen the growth and like the idea of teaching people how to support their music scene.
I don't know if I can say this, since I've only been here three years, but I think the last five years in Charleston have been big for the music scene. I think SUSTO is about to be big, and we as a city need that to happen. They're constantly traveling, and I think they'll probably eventually move away. But if they get picked up by somebody, Charleston will be under a heavier spotlight. I think we need a little more attention nationally to become more renowned."
Occupation: Sales associate at APB Store, Musician under iLLADELL
Born and raised in Charleston
Entered the Music Scene: 2010
Best Places to Catch a Hip-Hop Show: Compass (Joe Pasta upstairs), Music Farm, APB Store, Palmetto Brewing
Favorite Local Artists: Matt Monday, Contour, Benjamin Starr, warholtheghost, OXYxMORON, Southern Currency, Harleyboys, LORDFUBU
Shows a Week: 1-2
"I've been into music all my life pretty much, fresh out the womb probably. My mom and dad played music all the time around the house, like blues, jazz, hip-hop, R&B, and soul — MF Doom, Earth, Wind & Fire, [John] Coltrane, Miles Davis — the basics. I've been going to concerts since I was, like, seven. Most of the hip-hop shows around here, I go to.
You have all the legends who painted a picture for Charleston rappers as a whole, like Pachino Dino, Marley Mar, and Junior G. They still play if certain DJs will play. If I had enough money, I would start a venue or rent out one of these places to do shows at. Not a lot of people are booking hip-hop, but everything will have its turn in due time. I'm actually about to release a mixtape with Contour [Khari Lucas] called Verses next month.
Hip-hop gets a bad name a lot of the time, but that's not even the case. I mean, everybody expresses themselves through music. When you're feeling sad, there's a song for that. Happy? There's a song for that. You want to fight somebody? There's a song for that. Somebody broke up with you? There's a song for that. But I guess a lot of people aren't into it, or if they are, they only know the hits. They don't know the songs that made the artists who they are. Even now, in clubs, if you hear a popular hip-hop song, it has an EDM version of it that they play. They don't play the actual song. You get the Skrillex remix with Justin Bieber.
There are a lot of folk singers in Charleston, and a lot of people in the hip-hop scene feel like they can't go to them because they can't relate. But folk is very relatable. If you combined genres, that show would be so packed. Let's make it happen."
P.J. Taylor Jr.
Occupation: Bartender at AC's Bar & Grill
Moved to Charleston: 1999
Entered the Music Scene: 2003, Hardcore Scene: 2006
Best Places to Catch A Hardcore/Metal Show: Compass (Joe Pasta upstairs), Boone's, The Hive, Rec Room, Music Farm
Favorite Local Artists: Backwards Youth and Circle Back
Shows a Week: 2-4
"I can literally trace back everything good that's happened to me in Charleston in the past 10 years to no more than two or three degrees of separation from something that was directly in the hardcore scene.
All of my friends, I met at shows or through someone at shows. It must've been '06 when I met a guy named Nick Cafer. He used to book shows in Charleston at the Music Farm. He handed me a flier for a show with My Bitter End at [now defunct James Island bar/venue] Oasis, and I think that was my first DIY show that I went to, and then I was hooked. It immediately felt like you belonged. With the hardcore scene, if you're there and you're not a dick, everyone welcomes you, and it's always been like that.
Since I first started booking shows in '09, it goes up and down. I've probably done on average four or five shows a month, so 75 to 100 a year for over seven years now. That's right around 1,000 shows. I started at Oasis, and my first show was Veil of Maya. There were 90 kids just beating the shit out of each other, so I wasn't allowed to book there for a while. I went up to this venue in Goose Creek called Weekend's Pub, and that was a godsend. It was this warehouse on Red Bank, this old grocery store with a bar in the front and this huge room in the back, like 1,000 cap, and we had great shows there. There are a lot of people today that stuck around because of that venue.
Something I love about Charleston that a lot of people who are involved in booking and putting together the venues don't really see is that a lot of the same people that go to see SUSTO are the same ones that are going to go see A Day to Remember. I love going to see SUSTO, and all those Hearts & Plugs bands are great. But I'm also the same guy that will go jump off something at a Madball show.
Charleston's like a big Venn diagram, and people don't realize that overlap. That overlap, that's where the people need to focus."
Occupation: Freelance Audio Engineer
Born and raised in Summerville
Entered the Music Scene: 2013
Best Places to Catch a Punk Show: House shows, Compass, Rec Room, The Sparrow, Tin Roof
Favorite Local Artists: First World Problem, Drunk Couples, Haunters, The Defilers, and "that Misfits cover band"
Shows a Week: 1-2
"I'm still trying to make my place in the Charleston music scene. I've recorded some local musicians, I record music myself, I do a podcast that's all-new music, I run sound for shows, and I've booked some house shows and shows at [now closed, King] Dusko. If I hear of anyone who wants to play music, I'm going to do what I can to make sure they play and that they get paid.
A lot of the punk bands around here, they pop up and then they go away. It's more like everyone in the punk scene is poor and drunk, so staying organized for long enough to stay a band just doesn't happen. The college punk scene is more the Dead Milkmen style, and it's more of the attitude than what people think of as 'punk.' I mean, punk's message is 'the system is fucked,' so you should just do whatever you want.
The Charleston music scene is pretty small in general, so when you break it down into genres, it's just sort of, well, here's what we have. And the thing is, punk music exists as an opposition to something, so if you have no music scene, you can't really have a punk scene. If you want punk to get bigger, which I obviously do, then you have to have a bigger music scene in general. You have to put your resources into the big pot, and your genre of music will get a little cut of that eventually. But you can't just say, 'I'm only going to support punk bands,' because then, there won't be any punk bands. You have to support music as a whole.
We have a lack of venues and a lack of connectivity amongst our music scene. If we had more venues that had consistently good shows, people would accidentally be exposed to a lot more stuff. But right now, you have to actively expose yourself to different things, and people just aren't doing that. People won't even pay $5 for a house show. We were paying $5 for a house show in the fucking '70s. You should be paying $10 or $15! A band has to really want Charleston to make it work here. We have to change that if we want good music to not only come but stay. Charleston has to really want bands."
Occupation: Barista at Starbucks, server at Five Loaves, sales associate at Urban Outfitters
Moved to Charleston: 2011
Entered the Music Scene: 2011
Best Places to Catch an Indie Rock Show: Royal American, Rec Room, Big Gun, House Shows
Favorite Local Artists: Secret Guest, DUMB Doctors, The High Divers, Brave Baby, Dear Blanca, Del Sur, and ET Anderson
Shows a Week: 1-4
"Me and my friend Jeff would go play checkers and smoke a ton of cigarettes in the backyard at King Dusko, and so I started hanging out there all the time. I started working there, and the first Charleston musician I loved and really started getting into was Johnny Delaware. One day, he tossed me one of his CDs over the bar, and I listened to it all the way through when I got home. I loved it. Then, we started hanging out, and I met a lot more musicians through him and then also just being at Dusko.
I remember attending a show at Royal American, and Octopus Jones was playing and I was totally blown away by [their 2014 release] Phantasmagoria. I met Tyler Morris at that show actually, and I used to listen to demos with him of ET [Anderson] stuff before ET was a thing. It's just kind of crazy how everything wild-fired off the people I already knew.
That's why places like Royal [American] are so great. You're not even trying to network or meet people, but it just happens. You meet people who are a lot like you and just hang out. That's how I met the High Divers too. Music is powerful. I think that's why my friendships with musicians are some of the most deep, because they go beyond the emotional levels of my normal friendships.
And you have to keep up those friendships by going to shows. Every day that I go to send my work availability to Five Loaves, I literally will get online and look at Facebook events, and I handwrite all the dates of upcoming shows on my schedule and compare them all to my work schedule. Then, I'll plan my schedule around them. I also have way too many local band tees, but I love them, especially the super weird ones.
As far as the local music scene, if we all stayed here, we could have a renaissance and make Charleston a mecca. But, it seems like every time there's a music venue that's really great or the support system for music is doing really good, something happens to shut it down, particularly with the house show scene here.
Occupation: Musician under She Returns From War
Born and raised in Charleston
Entered the Music Scene: 2008
Best Places to Catch a Local Show: Tin Roof, Royal American, Charleston Music Hall, The Sparrow, The Commodore
Favorite Local Artists: Grace Joyner, The Royal Tinfoil, SUSTO, Jordan Igoe, Brave Baby,;and FALINE
Shows a Week: 4-5
"When I moved back down here from New York, my friend Rachel Kate was touring and I said, 'I need a way to get my foot in the door and start playing more shows,' so I started touring with her and acting as her support system. Then Jordan Igoe started putting my name in the pot. And going to things like the [Hearts & Plugs Summer] Shindig or other people's shows really helped me be somebody that other people would consider playing with.
Through the process of showing up at shows and meeting people and making personal connections, I was able to start asking other people to show up to my shows. The biggest thing that I've learned is that you have to put in your time. You have to do things and show up and be a part of a community before you can do something on your own and say 'Look, I have credibility' or put together a show and ask people to pay money to go see you.
There are a lot of people in Charleston who aren't even musicians who put in their time, support the scene, and make it what they want it to be, which is successful. I've heard a lot of people call Charleston the next Little Austin. It's been great seeing all of these musicians on the road, and showing people it's a great place for creative minds. I'd love to see more Charleston bands stacking bills at larger festivals. I would love to see all of us continue working together so tightly. Please, more collaborations!
Also, I have to say to people who are not coming to shows: stop being a little pussy bitch, and come out to shows! Go to see a band that you haven't heard, and make a point to listen to them and what they have to say, because that's the only way you're going to discover music you like."
Occupation: Junior Studio Art major at College of Charleston
Moved to Charleston: 2014
Entered the Music Scene: 2014
Best Places to Catch a Folk Show: Redux, Kudu, Royal American, Tin Roof, Charleston Music Hall
Favorite Local Artists: Avi Jacob, She Returns from War, Steady Hand String Band, SUSTO, and Johnny Delaware
Shows a Week: 1-2 ("But in a dream world, I would go to 5!")
"I had listened to some Charleston bands before I came down here, like I listened to a lot of Brave Baby, but it wasn't until I was actually living here that I found a lot more bands. I definitely got more into folk music in my senior year of high school when I was listening to a lot of Avett Brothers and Gregory Alan Isakov. But once I moved to Charleston, I started getting more into the Charleston scene as a whole. Then, I started coming to Kudu last year every Thursday when they had Steady Hand String Band.
That was when I really started getting into the more folk and bluegrass type stuff. A lot of traditional folk music has cool narratives, so I like the stories that are told, but also, I play guitar a little bit, so I'm more strings-oriented naturally. I like to listen to lyrics, and folk music really connects and evokes totally different emotions than your upbeat punk music.
My favorite folk artist actually lives in Asheville: May Erwin. I was at a house show there — my roommate, his older sister is friends with Angel Olsen — and we went to a backyard show where she was playing. There was this guy singing in the crowd, and the next day, he was busking on the street. And he was so good. People you would never expect who don't even try to put themselves out there can sometimes end up being the most incredible.
One real problem with Charleston is that we don't have that many venues, which is why house shows are such a big thing. The city spent so much money on the Gaillard, but no one from Charleston is going to play there. The city's not necessarily building things for the community — it's more for tourism."