Every March, the Five Points area of Columbia, South Carolina fills with green-clad revelers and a couple dozen bands, intent on partying to honor Saint Patrick of Ireland….oh, who are we kidding, they’re just there to get drunk and hear some music. This year was nearly a washout due to threatening weather but it held off just enough to make it a great day for good music. What follows is a batch of random observations on the artists I saw, plus a few pictures.
Dave Britt: Walking in to the festival to the solid tunesmanship of longtime Columbia musician Dave Britt was a precursor to a good day; his current band lineup featuring Jay Crosby on drums and James Beresford on bass guitar is as strong a one as he’s ever had.
Tweito: First surprise of the day for me; having heard this band on record but not in person. Bandleader Justin Tweito writes the kind of larger-than-life anthems that used to be prevalent in the 80s/90s rock scene, and he has a band that can pull it off with a really big sound that was perfect for a big festival stage.
Volcanoes in the Kitchen: This Charleston outfit bookended by a pair of ladies as attractive as they were tuneful was an early favorite; their rootsy pop sound meshes well with the current trend toward more acoustic jangle.
Jessica Hernandez and the Deltas: Odds-on best set from an out-of-town unknown, Detroit’s Hernandez almost startled the crowd assembled early on with a souped-up garage rock sound focused on her considerable stage presence. Bonus points for the “disco fever” T-shirt.
Brigades: Well-established punk/hardcore band plays well-established punk/hardcore riffs. Good, but not great.
Palmetto Blue: The lone bluegrass offering of the day was this fine local group, who represented their genre well with a classic, traditional bluegrass sound.
Weaving the Fate: Surprise, surprise–not on the official schedule but a last minute addition due to another group’s cancellation, local heroes Weaving the Fate are nothing if not dependable, bringing the funky noise to the unsuspecting masses.
Tim Barry: Punk legend playing caustic acoustic folk that works because he’s also a great songwriter; best moment of the day came when Barry invited a very young fan on stage who then proceeded to sing along to an entire song while dancing, to the delight of Barry and the crowd.
Stoplight Observations: One of those bands ‘on the way up’, they played like it; SLO’s set was harder and more intense than I expected, and one of the best of the day.
Moon Taxi: With a weather-dampened attendance, it wasn’t until this popular jam-rock band’s set that a really big crowd showed up at any of the main stages; they made it worth stopping for several songs.
Ben G & Friends: The other big crowd gathered for hometown boy Ben G, back from Atlanta with an array of ‘Friends’ to help out including Prettier Than Matt’s Jessica Skinner on the anthem “Southern Girls.”
Langhorne Slim: Sans band, alt-country troubadour Langhorne Slim nonetheless put on a charming set of slightly twangy tunes, including some new material slated for the next full band album coming this year.
Bouncing Souls: Classic punk/hardcore band plays classic punk/hardcore to medium-sized crowd with less of an impassioned response than one might expect. Good, but somewhat out of place today.
She Returns From War: Weather delays shunted this Charleston singer-songwriter’s set back a couple hours from the posted time at this unofficial stage; it was worth the effort to find Hunter Park and ‘he’s everywhere’ drummer Steve Sancho offering up pared-down gothic Americana vibes. Bonus points for Park covering a song from her friend Rachael Kate.
Holly Williams: Every bit the rebel her father Hank Williams, Jr. and grandfather Hank Sr. were, this generation of the Williams clan chose to cloak her country/Americana in some nicely gritty blues riffs courtesy her husband and lead guitarist. Williams managed to slip in some of her more introspective fare between the rockers and a cover of Rhianna’s “Umbrella”.
Atlas Road Crew: Bringing a lot more noise than their current, crisply produced new album might suggest, Columbia-born and now Charleston-based ARC drew the biggest crowd of anybody outside of Ben G on the smaller stages.
SUSTO: The loping alt-country vibes of this Charleston group were perfect for that late afternoon second wind, uplifting melodies and some nice vocal harmonies included.
Chris Robinson Brotherhood: Only real disappointment of the day for me, Robinson’s current band has none of the swagger but all of the bloozy, boozy excess of the Black Crowes, and their set was lethargic at best.
J Roddy Walston & the Business: The polar opposite of Robinson’s laid-back grooviness, Walston and company rocked like it was 1972 and they were playing the darkest, dankest rock ‘n’ roll bar you’ve ever thrown up in.
Overall, it was a solid, enjoyable, and consistently entertaining day on the various stages, which meant not as much time wasted finding something to look at in the crowd. Sometimes, however, the crowd finds you: