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Monster Music and Movies, West Ashley, 2013

Darius Rucker

Credit, Remon Rijper, FlickrIs Charleston not a music town?

I was at a reception talking with a young man who had recently moved to Charleston from Nashville. We got around to the Southern music corridor. He mentioned four obvious stops Nashville, Memphis, New Orleans, Austin. I waited for him to add Charleston. He must have read my face. He said, after a pause, “Charleston is not a music town.”

I was surprised by his flat-out judgment. But he was from Nashville didn’t that give him cred? so I didn’t challenge him. But even the next day what he said nagged me.  Then, one by one, I began to hear strains of memorable musical performances, and all of them originated in one town Charleston.

It started at the Charleston Music Hall, with bluegrass vocalist Sarah Jarosz (left) singingJazz vocalist Sarah Jarosz Tom Waits’ “Come On Up to the House,” with the audience joining in for the chorus. After those six minutes, nothing more needed to be said, or sung, about the Music Hall’s standing as a venue with great programming, acoustics and performer-to-audience experiences.

The Music Farm (below) provides engaging experiences for standees as well as its 960 lucky seat holders. It showcases local talent and also features regional and national headliners. It was a stop for Yellowcard’s recent Ocean Avenue Acoustics’ part-two tour. Hyper Crush, Motion City Soundtrack and Yonder Mountain String Band are among the Ann Street club’s attractions.Music Farm, Charleston

The Windjammer on Isle of Palms has been “for decades…a destination for tourists, locals, beach bums, and young music fans,” Charleston City Paper says.

Yelp awarded at least three and a half stars to eight Charleston music venues the Pour House, the Royal American, Music Farm, Hunley’s, Tin Roof, Music Under the Oaks at the College of Charleston, the record shop Earshot in West Ashley and A.C.’s Bar & Grill. The “five best places” from local writer, editor and travel adventurer Courtney McCaffrey, on the Yahoo Contributor Network,  included O’Malley’s Bar and GrilleJohnson’s Pub & Pizzeria (recently closed) and the Village Tavern in Mount Pleasant (also recently closed) as well as the Pour House and Music Farm.

Wild Wing Cafe, in downtown Charleston, Mount Pleasant (Coleman Boulevard and  Highway 17 North) and North Charleston , is a popular music-sports-food bar. Performers have included country singer-guitarist Tyler Farr, who also writes and records.

Home Team BBQ offers live music Monday through Saturday at both its West Ashley and Sullivan’s Island locations. Styles, presented by local and touring groups, include acoustic, Americana, blues, country, folk, reggae and rock.

Southern Ground Music & Food Festival, CharlestonComing to Charleston for its fourth year in October 2014 will be Zac Brown Band’s Southern Ground Music & Food Festival (its twin is held in Nashville). Performers in 2013 included, besides the Zac Brown Band, Kenny Rogers, Willie Nelson and Family, Clare Bowen and Natalie Maines. The venue is Black Baud Stadium.

Charleston City Paper’s Music Directory is a guide to the considerable number of Charleston-related artists in popular music, but you have to do some clicking to get to performers’ coming events.

Darius Rucker, country artist, 2013Among Charleston natives who have scored big in the music world is Darius Rucker (right), until recently lead singer and rhythm guitarist of Hootie & the Blowfish. Rucker wrote 10 of the 12 songs on his strong-selling 2013 album “True Believers,”  which is the name of his 2014 tour group (with the Eli Young Band and special guest David Nail), whose 15 stops included the North Charleston Coliseum in February.

Singer-songwriter-guitarist Edwin McCain was born in Greenville, but, as he told Charleston Scene, “my musical beginnings were in Charleston” on the stages of bars and restaurants on Market Street, after a brief enrollment at College of Charleston. McCain’s career reached a special peak in 2013 when he and Grammy winner Sam Bush gave the first concert in a new series co-sponsored by CofC at the Charleston Music Hall in March 2013. McCain did a duo with Rucker of “Ain’t Far” on Patrick Davis’ “The Gamecock Album” that was released in late August 2013 (in time for the Aug. 28 at-home season opener against North Carolina). By the way, the album track “My Carolina” celebrates the “cathedral bells ringin’ down cobblestone Charleston streets.”

'Porgy and Bess,' from original Broadway production, 1934A “musical history of Charleston” plays out note by note in year-round concerts of the Sounds of Charleston from gospel to jazz to Gershwin and everything in-between. (Intriguing historical footnote: George Gershwin composed “Porgy and Bess” [image at left is from original 1935 Broadway production], his opera based on life in the black tenement of downtown Charleston’s Cabbage Row, during a summer stay at Folly Beach in 1934. The opera was adapted from Charleston native DuBose Heyward’s novel “Porgy”; Cabbage Row was fictionalized to “Catfish Row.” The upright piano that Gershwin rented to do his composing is exhibited at Charleston Museum.)

Jazz vocalist Charanee WadeCharleston’s annual Spoleto Festival USA showcases both well-known and new works of opera, classical music and jazz, and with boldface and emerging artists performing them (see adjacent column for more). New talent under the spotlight at this year’s May 23-June 8 festival include jazz singer Charenée Wade (image at right), runner-up in the 2010 Thelonious Monk International Vocal Competition, and jazz and pop singer Kat Edmonson, who was described as “equal parts Billie Holiday and Björk” in All About Jazz.

In classical music, the Charleston Symphony Orchestra has won an average of 4.5 stars in 105 fan reviews on Ticketmaster. Recent performances have received strong reviews from the Charleston Post & Courier and Charleston City Paper. Charleston Symphony OrchestraAfter being forced to cancel its 2009-2010 season because of financial shortfalls and contractual issues, the CSO, with strong community support, turned itself around and registered modest surpluses for the next three seasons. The CSO has a new executive director, Michael Smith, who plays first trumpet with the orchestra, and it has narrowed its search for a new music director down from a hundred candidates to six. Its new young patron group, Remix, aims to give the orchestra a cooler image while widening the base of concert ticket buyers.

The Holy City has strong traditions of sacred music. The Cathedral of St. John the Baptist (Catholic) offers a range of liturgical music ” from Gregorian Chant to ethnic song, and from historic and traditional literature to modern choral repertoire.” Here’s a video of the Gregorian postcommunion and dismissal (in Latin) at the conclusion of the Solemn Mass of the Assumption of Our Lady.

Micah GangwerViolinist and impresario Micah Gangwer (at right), assistant concertmaster for the Charleston Symphony Orchestra, makes weddings extra memorable with his violin solos. His wedding performances also include violin with cello, violin and keyboard and string trio and quartet.

Elsewhere on the Charleston music scene

Charleston Academy of Music offers instruction to students ages 4 and up in contemporary and classical flute, clarinet, piano and string instruments, and also gives other classes, workshops and programs.

Hungry Monk Music gives classes in a variety of instruments and is home to performing groups playing bluegrass, classical and Celtic at public and private events. George's Loan & Music Co., King Street, Charleston, 2013

George’s Loan & Music Co., a 78-year-old family-owned institution on downtown King Street (left), sells and rents instruments and accessories that include rhythm and fog machines, stage lighting and amps.The Guitar Center in North Charleston sells new and used instruments, with financing , gives a free “Recording Made Easy Class” on Saturday mornings and offers free computer demos of the latest recording software.

Music & Arts on Savannah Highway in West Ashley, on the other side of the river, rents, sells and repairs instruments, and gives music lessons.Monster Music and Movies, West Ashley, 2013

Monster Music and Movies, West Ashley, 2013Monster Music and Movies, West Ashley, 2013Monster Music and Movies, West Ashley, 2013A final note: There’s that bazaar for everything analog, Monster Music and Movies inMonster Music and Movies, West Ashley, 2013Monster Music and Movies, West Ashley, 2013 West Ashley. It’s outlasted all the Tower Records and Blockbuster stores that used to populate urban storefronts and suburban malls. Long may it thrive. Monster Music and Movies, West Ashley, 2013Is there something I didn’t hear?


My daughter Emily, a live music fan with special roots to the Zac Brown Band and local artists Edwin McCain and Darius Rucker, made key contributions about local venues and Charleston-related artists.

Shepard Fairey amid his ‘Power and Glory’

Shhepard Fairey at work on his 2nd 'Power & Glory,' on Upper King Street, May 2014Charleston native Shepard Fairey works on a mural on Upper King Street that is part of his “Power and Glory” work that will be featured, along with art by Jasper Johns, another Charlestonian, in a double exhibition at the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art” at the College of Charleston, beginning May 22. The “#2″ mural is on a wall of the High Wire Distilling Co. building at 652 King (just above Sheppard Street and Rte. 17). The Halsey exhibition — part of the institute’s 30th anniversary celebration, continues through July 12.

Photo credit: Jonathan Boncek, Charleston City Paper.