For a local music junkie like me, an event such as the Free Times Music Crawl is a chance to get the biggest hit of Columbia area bands I’ll score all year, all in one night. This year’s Crawl was the most geographically compact in a while, so I managed to see parts of over twenty different bands’ sets in the seven or so hours of the Crawl. What follows is a band-by-band breakdown of the experience from my point of view—I didn’t get to see everything due to some logistical choices and at least one near-miss (walking into the Flying Saucer mere minutes after Kemp Ridley stepped off stage), so my apologies to the few performers featured at the Music Crawl who are not mentioned below:
Elvis Depressedly: I was disappointed that Dixie Dynamite had to drop out at the last minute but it’s a testament to the depth of the Columbia music scene that a band such as Elvis Depressedly, featuring Matt Cothran of Coma Cinema, was an ‘alternate’ fill-in. The dozen or so spectators, most from other bands, got a treat with Cothran’s seemingly tossed-off lofi tunes.
Lunch Money: Playing for an adult audience, local kid-pop band Lunch Money didn’t change anything from their usual sets for the little ones, and the early outdoor stage crowd ate it up, doing the jumping up and down as instructed and generally enjoying themselves like a bunch of kids. Truthfully there isn’t much difference between Lunch Money’s catalog and that of the average whipsmart indie band, it’s just that their target audience is much shorter.
Chemical Peel: One of the great things about the Crawl is getting to see bands I’ve somehow missed up to that point, and this was one such act for me. Let’s just say they are appropriately named, as the two intense, noisy songs I heard could have peeled paint off a wall better than any store-bought can of acid.
Pan: The cinematic scope of this instrumental post-rock outfit seemed a bit cramped in the confines of Kelly’s Pub, though in their case anything short of the Grand Canyon probably would, too.
Tom Hall and the Plowboys: Hall was pulling double duty, having trekked up to Rock Hill for a daytime gig before returning home to play at Flying Saucer; you’d never have known it from the energy emanating off the stage.
The Unawares: With the sun down and the crowd increasing, a shot of good old-fashioned garage-y punk rock from the Unawares was the perfect thing to keep the momentum going.
Postcard Fiction: For this set, the band consisted of just singer/guitarist Jeremy Sakovitch, but with the kind of picture perfect hooks he writes, that’s all that was needed to serenade the pizza lovers upstairs at the Mellow Mushroom.
Parlour Tricks: One of the most anticipated sets of the night came from the band formerly known as Death Becomes Even the Maiden, now Parlour Tricks. Suffice it to say that if you loved the former, you’ll dig the new model even more with its leaner, meaner buzz-rock attack.
Modern Man: This Greenville band is part of the adventurous Post-Echo collective, but on this particular night the only thing echoing was the enormous amount of reverb on the singer’s microphone.
The Rival Brothers: This might have been the set I finally ‘got’ the Rival Brothers. Dave Britt on keyboards was a nice if underutilized touch, as was Phillipe Herndon balancing his guitar on top of his amp while it was emitting a feedback tone he incorporated into a song. Singer Bobby Sutton, it just occurred to me, sounds like a less hoarse Patterson Hood.
Happiness Bomb: The most wonderfully strange set of the night had to be this one, with a live puppet show accompanying the band’s music. It’s like cult noisemakers Happy Flowers collided with Sesame Street, only weirder.
Those Lavender Whales: This was the first logistical challenge of the night, as the popular indie band was shoehorned into the upstairs stage at Mellow Mushroom. After failing to get closer than the top of the stairs I got smart and hopped the staff elevator to get in behind the band and find a sliver of space. As I told head Whale Aaron Graves later, it was like they invited their 100 closest friends to a concert in their living room. Almost as fun as watching the band’s set was noticing Lunch Money’s Molly Ledford and Elvis Depressedly’s Mat Cothran sitting on the floor in front of the band with huge grins on their faces.
Black Iron Gathering: I was not only attempting to see as many bands as possible at the Crawl, I brought along my handheld video camera to capture as much of it as I could. At the Art Bar I managed to set up a chair off to one side so I could shoot over the heads of the crowd; this offered some unintentionally hilarious moments. At one point during the Black Iron Gathering’s set I looked down and the guy directly below me was posting a photo of the band to Facebook. At the moment I glanced down he changed his original caption from “Rock on” to “F**k yeah!”, which pretty much summed up the headlong, careening, near-crash of the band’s set.
Can’t Kids: There has always been something visceral about the way Can’t Kids’ Adam Cullum approaches a performance, and with Henry Thomas as his on stage foil there was no shortage of rock ‘n’ roll in their set. Bonus points awarded to Jessica Oliver for playing in the cutest dress I’ve ever seen on a drummer.
Latenights: I remember when these guys were Hello Tomorrow, and also remember that I liked them a bunch. Now they’re all grown up and can stay out later at night, it seems, but their ear for a good melodic guitar rock tune is still intact.
The Fishing Journal: I introduced myself to Chris Powell of The Fishing Journal early in the evening outside of the Art Bar and he commented that I’d said some nice things about his band in the Free Times. Here’s another where those came from—this was one of the most powerful sets of the night. So powerful, in fact, that drummer Josh Latham broke his bass drum pedal midway through the first song.
Dear Blanca: Another first-time viewing for me with this vehicle for Dylan Dickerson; they weren’t flashy in either their music or their attire, but I think the band’s dress suits were a little much for the skimpy dress code of the Flying Saucer.
Say Brother: From the looks of the crowd at the outdoor stage, this was the most hotly anticipated set of the night for many. Guitarist Tripp LaFrance stepped onto the stage, took a look around and commented into the mike, “Damn, there are a lot of you out there.” From there the band’s natural momentum took over—when they’re on there’s not a more fun band in town, as they proved on this particular evening.
Bad Books: The only act of the night I didn’t shoot video of when I saw them, mainly due to the bonecrushingly loud volume–I’m convinced if I’d tried, my camera would have melted into a puddle. Even my own earplug-aided ears could only take about half a song. One of my friends outside pegged their sound perfectly– “Oh my god, it’s Thank God, with a female singer…”.
Sunshone Still: Sandwiched in between hip-hop and soul acts, Chris Smith didn’t so much get lost in the shuffle as he stood out in the lineup; his usually understated and painstakingly studied Americana got to let off a little steam on a song or two as he exhibited a more intense, almost rocking style.
Atlas Road Crew: If all you’ve heard is the recordings you might be quick to dismiss this popular collegiate act as another in a long line of frat-rockers. That would be a mistake, as their Crawl set leaned much harder toward classic southern rock sounds, ramping up the intensity even as the late night crowd started to wane.
Sea Wolf Mutiny: The most musically ambitious band in town other than perhaps The Restoration, Sea Wolf Mutiny’s set was a cathartic experience as much for the band as it was for the audience, with singer Bobby Hatfield chomping at the bit to stand and exhort the crowd even as he was musically tethered to his electrified piano. The new material they unveiled bodes well for the band’s next recording, too.