Cody Dixon and Teante Simmons, Awendaw Green 

Sounding Off

click to enlarge speakerboxx_1_jwb_1.jpg

Jonathan Boncek

The sound engineers out at Awendaw Green are well-traveled. That is, within Charleston county at least. In a given week, you may find them running sound at Redux Contemporary Art Center, Kudu, Palmetto Brewery, the Barn Jam at Awendaw Green, or even a special event or two. That's a lot of miles on the company van.

Cody Dixon and Teante Simmons, two members of the dedicated Awendaw crew, don't seem to mind all the moving around — or at least they're used to it. Dixon started interning for them in high school and has now been there full-time for over five years. "Starting to do live sound and sound in general was so I could learn more stuff to put toward my craft and our craft together," Dixon says.

Dixon is referring to Speakerbox, a hip-hop duo comprised of Simmons and himself. The two perform fairly regularly around town, though sound engineering brings in the bulk of their paychecks.

Their goal is to work as full-time musicians. But until then, they'll continue to acquire knowledge of the industry and provide the Charleston community the much-needed service of quality, live sound engineering that isn't venue specific.

It's a high-demand industry. Dixon and Simmons estimate they work about 200 shows a year. No small feat in a little city like ours. "If you take away Awendaw from Charleston, I don't think the music scene would be anything like it is today," says Simmons.

Though that is debatable, what isn't is the amount of energy these guys expel for their job. And it isn't just the sheer number of gigs, it's the eclectic array of music they work with, requiring chameleon-like characteristics out of the engineers.

Some of that is thanks to Awendaw Green owner and booking agent Eddie White. "He's pretty good at switching it up," says Dixon. "He likes a mix."

And Dixon embraces that challenge. "It's good to know I can literally mix any genre of music," he says.

Even running sound for bluegrass — a genre that may seem simple to work with — has been a source of education.

A lot of bluegrass musicians prefer their acoustic instruments to be mic'd rather than plugged in, potentially creating excess noise or feedback. "That's helped me use equalizers better and know how to cut out frequencies and find stuff that you don't wanna have come through the system," says Dixon. "So I've learned a lot doing the mix of genres."

All that experience bleeds over into their passion projects. "Now we're starting to use our resources to put on our own shows," says Dixon. "To get our stuff out there but also to put on local acts and other homies who are doing it and don't have the outlet."

This was evident at their most recent performance: Haunted House of Hip Hop at Redux on Oct. 28. The show featured local songstress Diaspoura, Charlotte-based hip-hop/R&B group The Stereo Academy, and Speakerbox.

The performance marked a first for Dixon and Simmons. Though they've always incorporated live instrumentation into their shows, this was the first time they performed without any prerecorded material, instead choosing to be backed by local band Katet. "We've been trying to kind of bridge the gap in hip-hop and take it to a wider audience with a live band," says Dixon. "And we've got some more stuff in the works."

For now, Dixon and Simmons are recording new tracks from their home studio, embracing the DIY spirit, and doing everything from beat making to post-production themselves. "I prefer to keep our stuff in house and try to learn more so we don't have to depend on other people," says Simmons, even as a chunk of Charleston's music lovers depends on them and the work they do with Awendaw.

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