If there has been a better day of music in the Capitol City before yesterday, I’d be hard pressed to name it. With the Columbia Blues Festival, the Congaree Bluegrass Festival, the Chili Cook-Off, and the Italian Festival all featuring live music during the day, it’s hard to believe that the Free Times Music Crawl that evening seemed to have an even bigger crowd than usual.
As a contributor to the music coverage of the Columbia Free Times, Music Crawl night for me is kind of like Christmas for local music, in my eyes…35 bands, six stages of music, all that’s missing is a baby in a manger or a fat guy in a red suit. My goal as always is to see as many of the acts as possible in the time allowed (seven hours between 7 pm and 2 am), and this year I was able to get to at least a couple songs from 23 of the Crawl participants. My random thoughts about each are below, including video of a bunch of them (mostly of the earlier bands as the battery on the camera died around eleven.), in roughly chronological order:
Sweet Vans: Chosen to kick off this year’s Crawl as the lone 7 pm act, this joke-rap duo added some live band effects to the mix along with a whole bunch of expletives…not exactly a family-friendly start to the outside stage but Will and Bakari were clever enough to open with a bit that referenced Free Times:
Kemp Ridley: I’ll go ahead and label this band “most improved” in town over the past year, they’re light years ahead of the early sets I witnessed last winter. the can’t-take-your-eyes-off-her Cayla Fralick is still the visual centerpiece but musically they have grown from being “Cayla’s backing band” to a fully integrated unit that’s cranking out some fine ensemble playing.
The Mercy Shot: Thomas Crouch has found a new vehicle for the sputtering punk mayhem he used to foment back in F-13 days with this garage-rock gorilla of a trio. Loudest set of the night, I think (though I missed Tunguska, so maybe not.)
CherryCase: Billed as the band but actually just singer and songwriter Jake Etheridge playing solo acoustic, it was a little hard to let the warm fuzzy feelings of his songs envelop you with the football game noise bleeding through from the next room, but Etheridge did have a small cadre of devoted listeners.
Death Of Paris: Blake and Jayna from This Machine Is Me returned to the Art Bar outside stage with their new band, which sounded a lot like the old band only with a few more synth textures and more of a focus on the dance side of their dance-rock equation.
Pinna: The extended grooves of a Pinna song are the kind of things a listener can get caught up in easily, and guitarist George Fetner puts his classical training to good use without going all prog-rock on us, either.
Kingslyn: No matter what Erich Skelton does band-wise, it always comes out sounding like him, so the fact that this was his latest ‘band’ wasn’t as important as the fact that they were playing new Skelton songs from the band’s recent debut.
Coma Cinema: My first scheduling casualty of the night, I only caught about two minutes of these bedroom rockers’ last song, but it was a glorious 120 seconds that made me want to hear more, soon.
Haley Dreis: She has a new accompanist on acoustic guitar and backing vocals since I last saw her play, but that doesn’t change the delicately strong tunes. The two I heard, Dreis played violin on, including one which she said was the first time she would be singing while playing it.
Whiskey Tango Revue: The most ‘country’ sounding band on the bill, featuring steel guitar and a twang-laden girl singer.
Today the Moon, Tomorrow The Sun: As close to an accidental sighting as I got this year, I went to the Art Bar out of order for another band and this Atlanta group was rocking out so hard I stuck around for a song…watch the video, the girl playing keyboards looks like she’s having sex right there on stage.
The Unawares: Basic garage rock doesn’t get much more fun in this town than the blink-and-you-miss-them punk anthems of The Unawares. Managed to get two songs of theirs on video only because they’re both less than two minutes long.
Shallow Palace: Finally, a band that didn’t have to worry about extraneous noises disrupting their set at the Sly Fox…
Kenley Young & the Open Fires: Best thing about this set was probably the number of fellow musicians from other bands in attendance, Young is a popular guy among them with good reason–his songs.
Mac Leaphart & His Ragged Company: if the Stones reference in his band’s name didn’t give it away, be warned that this Charlestonian’s full band lineup is a little different than the acoustic singer-songwriter sound he’s sometimes heard playing at local rounds. Stomping like Waylon Jennings and cranking out some serious country-rock boogie, Leaphart’s set is where the Tin Roof crowd started waking up and having a party.
DayClean: One of the highlights of the evening had to be the mellow melodies of this duo of rapper-guitarist and singer-cellist. You’ve heard jazz-rap, hick-hop, and other less appetizing misuses of hip-hop’s forms, but classical-rap? It works even though it shouldn’t, really.
Daylight Hours: Every time I see David Adedokun I kick myself for not doing so on a more regular basis…one of Columbia’s finest songwriters, and he attracts a pretty decent band with members of Madison Fair, Magnetic Flowers, and Baumer put to excellent use.
The Restoration: The high point of the Music Crawl had to be the set from these Lexington historical fiction afficionados, whose literate, Falulknerian turn-of-the-century string band tunes seem unlikely crowd favorites. Maybe it was the odd configuration of the Tin Roof’s room but the crowd was packed in down front for the Restoration’s set and even the pretty girls standing up in the booth were singing along happily to such sunny lyrics as “I’m really gonna die.” A friend remarked that it seemed like one of those crazy Jump, Little Children shows from back in their more acoustic but no less popular days.
Dylan Sneed: To put a sensitive singer-songwriter type like Sneed near midnight in a venue where half the crowd seemed more into the football than the Crawl could have been a disaster, but the Texas transplant (currently living in Hartsville) soldiered through it admirably, playing several of his more upbeat tunes but not leaving out the quieter numbers that are his forte.
Magnetic Flowers: There’s nothing quiet about a Magnetic Flowers set, and they were in fine form throughout their time on stage at the Flying Saucer, complete with a crowd that became almost a part of the performance as they sang along to every song.
John Wesley Satterfield and his Damn Fine Band: It’s not bragging if you can do it, and Satterfield’s band for this set included not only regular guitar foil Herbie Jeffcoat but temporary bassist Les Hall, who’s much more than a bass player. If you can get Villanova drummer Jeremy Roberson to come on stage during your set just to sing backing vocals on a song or two, you have a truly damn fine band on your hands.
Papa String Band: My ten minute per band template for most of the evening meant that I only got to hear one tune from this local jam band, in this case a textbook rendition of “I Know You Rider.”
Josh Roberts & the Hinges: It has become a Music Crawl tradition (at least for me) to close out the night with Roberts, and on this particular Crawl it seemed like many of the other bands had the same idea, as the crowd was heavily weighted with musicians who had been on stage themselves at some point in the evening. Roberts didn’t disappoint, catching fire on several extended instrumental guitar solo interludes and playing to the crowd with a set-closing stomp through an early favorite, “Nautilus.”
The Misses: the worst thing about a night like Music Crawl is that you miss almost as much as you see, and though I had plans to see more, the schedule just wouldn’t allow it. I was there on time for Say Brother but they took too long soundchecking for me to hang around for the actual set; I missed most of the Wet Willie’s bands due to falling a bit behind–to catch up I had to cut The Dirty White, Postcard Fiction, David Reed, and Fat Rat da Czar out of my list…next year, guys. Ditto to American Gun, Venice Is Sinking, Calculator, and Preach. I missed at least one due to mis-reading my own notes and going to the wrong place at the wrong time, sorry to Death Becomes Even The Maiden for that.
Overall, I’d put this year’s Music Crawl at or near the top of the list of ‘best’ ones; can’t wait until next year…