What started out as a less-than-inspiring lineup for this year’s St. Patrick’s Day Festival here in Columbia, SC ended up being a day punctuated by some impressive sets from many local acts, prompting one festival-goer I rode the shuttle bus with back to my car to comment “How about those local bands today, kicking the national acts’ behinds?” Gotta say I agree with her, the local artists playing this year seemed to all be at their very best.
I started my day with the rocking country sounds of Whiskey Tango Revue, who won the play-in game (the Battle for St. Pat’s competition, actually) a couple weeks ago to earn their fifteen minutes or so on stage–they made the most of it, however, filling up a really big stage.
Obraskai was equally impressive playing one of the big stages in an early slot, sounding better than most of what followed and proving that they have what it takes to play with the big boys someday. They sounded good enough that I overstayed my 1-2 song rule for the day, something I ended up repeating several times as the sets demanded it.
Moving Mercury showed some range, playing a slower tune in-between their usual Latin-tinged rock, while All Get Out just plain rocked in their nonstop set. I heard Sent By Ravens more than saw them, staying on the fringe of the growing crowd at the Harden and Greene intersection, but what I heard sounded solid.
I was looking forward to hearing young Camden band The Mobros after interviewing them for the festival coverage in Free Times, but their set was marred by them having to play a set at the fountain stage which overlapped with the last ten minutes or so of Sent By Ravens just across the intersection. If you weren’t within about fifteen yards of the stage you probably couldn’t hear the Mobros–I moved up almost to the front of the stage to hear and see better.
I was hoping the Dirty Guv’nahs would prove to be a sleeper act that blew me away, and while their set was competent they were more derivative than explosive.
John Wesley Satterfield, on the other hand, was on fire with his band, which featured new lead guitarist Jesse Isley. Watching jazz-trained upright bassist Reggie Sullivan jumping around the stage like he was in a swingin’ rockabilly band was worth the time spent at Satterfield’s set, for sure, and the number of old Woodwork Roadshow tunes on the setlist was a bonus.
Villanova was such a sardine-can experience crowd-wise it’s hard to say whether their set was good or not, but they certainly had the crowd out in full force, the largest of the day other than Corey Smith.
What would a St. Patrick’s Day fest be without a little Celtic rock, right? My own quotient this year was fulfilled by Bare Knuckle Champions, who played a Pogues tune and my favorite Waterboys song in addition to several of their own. Probably stayed the longest in any one spot at their set, with the possible exception of Josh Roberts‘.
Speaking of Roberts, his band benefited from the inclusion of local keyboardist Brian Sansbury for their set, adding another dimension and texture to some very familiar songs. Roberts himself was in top form both vocally and on guitar, where he wrenches out some jagged tones that sound like nobody else.
What about highlights from the major acts like Corey Smith, Rehab, Dirty Heads, or JJ Grey and Mofro, you say? They all seemed to draw good crowds late into the afternoon, but none of them had the same kind of self-sustained fervor that Roberts, Satterfield, and others from our own local level delivered.
Overall, a much calmer and less hurried day for me, at least, with several extended stops for locals who were delivering excellent music in the face of the usual indifferent drunken crowds. (Video coming soon from some of them…)