Friday, November 10, 2017

Why High Water is the best fest since 96 Wave Fest

O' Be Joyful

Posted by Kelly Rae Smith on Fri, Nov 10, 2017 at 9:47 AM

Shovels & Rope, night two at High Water Festival 2017 - JONATHAN STOUT
  • Jonathan Stout
  • Shovels & Rope, night two at High Water Festival 2017
A couple months back, we reminisced here about the glory days of 96 Wave and 96 Wave Fests, where then and would-be indie, Americana, and rock 'n' roll gods graced our humble city with some pretty legendary moments. It's an aching memory for many as it seems that sort of magic is gone: the lineups boasting bands like Butthole Surfers, Cake, and Ben Folds Five. In 1997, David Byrne played Wave Fest, and he wasn't even a headliner. That same year, Jeff Tweedy's Wilco and Jay Ferrar's Son Volt performed on the same stage — three years following the breakup of Uncle Tupelo, Tweedy and Ferrar's former band. That was before Americana was a thing — alt-country was the term back then and that genre rose up from those guys, paving the way for Americana sweethearts to come, some of whom will appear at High Water fest come April.
Those days are gone but 2017's High Water cautioned y'all to buckle up: the next era of drool-worthy festival lineups is upon us, thanks to founders and curators Shovels & Rope. The moments there were beyond. Showgoers got to behold the untouchable Charles Bradley before the sad news of his passing in September — he hadn't played Charleston since 2012 when he and his brand of fiery, old soul tore up the Pour House. Lucius performed here for the first time ever, blowing the crowd away with their insanely on-point vocal harmonies. And lord knows the Shins were a sight for sore eyes, with their appearance being the first one in the Lowcountry since the days of the Plex, another Charleston music heyday, a decade ago.

Y'all, High Water 2017 was a pretty big deal, the biggest since 96 Wave said "So long." And that was just the beginning. 
High Water has done it again, with 2018's version bringing M. Ward to Chucktown for the first time ever. Wilco's Jeff Tweedy returns to Charleston for the fest next year, and he hasn't played here since Wilco hit the NCPAC nearly a decade ago. And phenomenal newer acts like Nicole Atkins and Weaves are damn good reasons to get excited about High Water 2018, too. Not to mention the fact that Charleston's own SUSTO also has a spot on the roster, which speaks to the amount of fans they've accumulated nationally over the past couple of years. And High Water 2018 spotlights not only women (Brandi Carlile, the Wild Reeds, Atkins) but also women of color: Weaves, Tank & the Bangas, and Valerie June.

Headliners Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit and Band of Horses are particularly special local appearances. Remember when surprise guest Jason Isbell got down on the Pour House stage a couple years back during former Charlestonian/400 Unit guitarist Sadler Vaden's bachelor party/Shrimp Records showdown? And with members Creighton Barrett and Ben Bridwell of Band of Horses being locals themselves, that performance should be a mighty one as well. Those local connections will doubtlessly result in some awfully good vibrations.

Huge thanks to Shovels & Rope for shining a light on Charleston as a music destination; for using your platform to lift up nonprofits like Charleston Waterkeeper, Water Mission, and the Green Heart Project; and for bringing the fest magic back to the Lowcountry. Here's to April 2018.

High Water Fest tickets go on sale here at 10 a.m. today (Fri. Nov. 10). Get 'em while they're hot.

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