Turn Up the Volume: 20 Local Bands to Catch in Columbia SC
Thursday, May 24, 2018 11:00 AM by Dayna Cantelmi
Cover photo courtesy of Amy Beth Franks
You’ll be hard-pressed to go anywhere in Columbia SC without stumbling upon some live music. Be it at a festival, concert venue, bar or even an open-air patio while you enjoy a meal, you’re sure to be accompanied with some easy listening. With so much talent taking the stage, it’s hard to contain it all into one post. So we didn’t. Here’s just a sampling of our local band scene to help begin your music education in the Real Southern Hot Spot.
Prettier Than Matt | Tokyo Joe | Glass Mansions | Seventy Six and Sunny | Villa*Nova | Flat Out Strangers | The Reggie Sullivan Band | Say Brother | The Root Doctors | The Restoration | Boo Hag | SYR | The Boomtown Waifs | Soda City Brass Band | The Black Iron Gathering | Dear Blanca | King Vulture | E.T. Anderson | The Mustache Brothers | Dead Swells
This charming and cheery acoustic duo is a hit statewide and beyond, with a couple of national tours under their belts. Jessica Skinner’s crystal-clear vocals are accompanied by strums from her uke and the occasional kazoo, while Jeff Pitts supplies vocals and holds it down on guitar. You can catch their mix of originals and popular covers around town at Delaney’s on June 6th, the 3rd Annual Columbia Shrimp & Grits Fest on June 9th and O’Hara’s Public House on June 16th.
For 22 years, this band has been rocking out around the Southeast and collecting accolades such as “Best Band,” “Best Male Vocalist, and “Best CD Release.” They’ve performed alongside the likes of REO Speedwagon, Better Than Ezra, Sister Hazel, Marshall Tucker and more on renowned stages at Raymond James Stadium, Carolina Coliseum and The House of Blues. Give ‘em a listen at Wild Wing Café – Harbison on June 8th.
This longtime local band has gone through numerous iterations (raise your hand if you remember Death of Paris or This Machine is Me), gaining in popularity along the way. With more than ten successful tours to date, plus appearances at festivals like SXSW and Warped Tour and a new EP release this year, they’re not slowing down any time soon. Their bubbly electro-pop/ indie rock sounds are fronted by the candy-haired vocalist, Jayna Doyle and multi-instrumentalist Blake Arambula.
Mainstays at Tin Roof and Music Farm (soon to be The Senate at Tin Roof), as well as several festivals around town, this is a band that’ll make you get up and dance. Seriously, we dare you to try not to. Get your 90’s nostalgia on as they put their own spin on hits that span the rock genre.
This funky-flavored alt-rock band touts that they turn rock ‘n’ roll upside down, pairing their rhythmic guitar, bass, drum and keyboard sounds with a DJ turntable. The group has opened for major national headliners such as Panic! At the Disco, Korn, Evanescence and P.O.D. You can find them locally at Drift Jam on June 2nd and if you like what you hear, follow them on the road as they play shows in VA, GA, TN, FL and NY on their next tour.
The Rockabilly, Gypsy Swing sounds of Flat Out Strangers will transport you back to the 20’s – 40’s. What began as an Americana duo in 1998 has since evolved into a quintet with the additions of guitar, violin and clarinet. Band members have played gigs with The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Ray Charles, Johnny Mathis, Rod Stewart, The Temptations, Dizzy Gillespie and more. Which, like their sharp vintage outfits, is not too shabby, if you ask us.
This dapper trio of gents has brought the soul to such in-town events as the South Carolina Oyster Festival, Rhythm on the River and the Rosewood Crawfish Festival since 2012. The group’s namesake and frontman has his Bachelor of Music degree in Jazz Studies from the University of South Carolina and has performed alongside top talent such as Olivia Newton-John, Chris Potter, the Jazz Crusaders and more. Geoff Shackley and Evans Mcgill round out the rest of the troupe. Now one of the most sought-after bands in the South, you can catch them every Sunday at Tin Roof for an Open Mic beginning at 3 p.m.
Taking it back to a time when blues, country and classic rock reigned supreme, Say Brother is holding on to the old school styles as contemporary music continues to change. They’ve taken their tunes everywhere from statewide spots to venues in NC, Texas, New York, Louisiana, Ohio, Tenessee and more. When taking the stage in Columbia, you’re most likely to catch them at New Brookland Tavern.
If it’s funk you want, look no further. The longest-running band on this list, The Root Doctors have been around since 1987 and show no signs of slowing. Featuring the usual suspects of vocals, guitar, bass and drums, you can also expect to hear the keyboard, sax, flute and trumpet, making it impossible to sit still while listening. Having opened for Little Richard, Ray Charles, The B-52’s, KC and The Sunshine Band, A Flock of Seagulls and Morris Day and The Time, PLUS having been covered by MTV, The Root Doctors have certainly made their mark beyond Columbia.
Since 2007, The Restoration has woven tales inspired by history through ballads and a blend of bass, piano, violin, guitar, banjo, drums and slide. In 2014, they drew immense crowds as they opened for Shovels & Rope at the South Carolina State Fair. Taking their art beyond concerts, they turned their 2012 album “Honor the Father” into a short film, that took home an award at the local Indie Grits Festival. Most recently, their album “Constance” was made into a stage musical at Trustus Theatre. Now that’s some A+ community collaboration.
The utterly unbridled experience delivered at a Boo Hag performance will get your heart pumping – whether from the frenzied pace at which the duo play or from the macabre, voodoo-inspired lyrics. Either way, you’re bound to experience a thrill the likes of which you’ve never encountered before. Prepare to be transported on June 10th as the band performs and releases four new songs at the Crawfish 7 Inch Release Party at The War Mouth.
How about we throw some Celtic Folk Rock into the mix. Why not, right? An excellent example of the diversity that is found in Columbia SC, SYR takes Celtic history, stories and myth and transforms them into songs about battle, love, loss, heritage and victory. You can even brush up on your Gaelic, as the language is laced into some of their lyrics. A hit at various Highland, Celtic, Irish and even Viking events up and down the East Coast, you can be sure they’ll make an appearance at the 2019 Tartan Day South April 5th and 6th in Columbia SC.
Formerly an all-female trio by the name The Prairie Willows who included Banjos, the Wash Board and “Stompin’ Boots” in their instrument repertoire (does it get any more Southern than that?), the newly-emerged The Boomtown Waifs are made up of two of the three original band members and are often joined by a loose circle of other, collaborative musicians. Boasting a blend of original and traditional roots-inspired folk music, we’re excited to kick up our heels to an all-new slew of songs.
Jazz fans, rejoice! Injecting a different kind of energy into the local music scene is Soda City Brass Band. Formed by Mark Rapp and Chris Church as part of the ColaJazz initiative, you can catch them performing New Orleans-style jazz every Friday night from 10 p.m. – 1 a.m. at Pearlz Upstairs in the Vista.
We never thought bluegrass, folk, punk, Celtic and country would ever come together in one act, but here you have it. Enter The Black Iron Gathering to break traditional genre molds and offer a musical experience that is uniquely their own. Though each of the band members have their own specific style they specialize in, the marriage of each sound is a special treat you never knew was missing from your life.
With several EP releases and devoted followings locally and statewide, Dear Blanca exhibits a rawness drawn from deeply personal experiences, yet doesn’t shy away from having a sense of humor, either. A delicate line to toe, but pulled off magnificently by this trio. Having recently teased on Twitter that “some real dream come true stuff is happening” for them, we’re waiting with bated breath to find out what they have up their sleeves.
Husband and wife duo Jared and Kate Pyritz sit at the heart of King Vulture, with various musician friends contributing to the songs, making this a truly collaborative project. Created from Kate’s written “song-poems” and evolving into frequent Friday night jam sessions has now become a labor of love and desire to share their music with the Columbia community.
Well-known for being a leading force of the Art Bar Agora musical showcase, as well as a prominent fixture at local events and festivals, E.T. Anderson has been a hometown favorite for several years. Though the lineup of the band has changed, the momentum is going strong. Frontman Wilson W. Wilson co-debuted a new record label, APT, demonstrating his larger-than-life dreams and ability to achieve them. And we give that a standing ovation.
Formed in 2012, this acoustic group specializes in bluegrass, classic country and rock performed on guitars, an upright bass and, interestingly enough, a mandolin. A popular choice for local festivals, we find these mellow tunes are best paired with a sunny day and an ice-cold pint in hand. Kick back at Foxfield Bar and Grille on June 2nd to see them live.
This five-piece pop-rock band has been around for a couple years now and take an interesting approach where the guitar and drums are at the forefront and are merely supported by the vocals and bass. Intrigued? So are we. Surf, grunge and even funk all make appearances in their tracks, proving these musicians are capable of just about anything.
Check out our website for more info on the music scene in #RealColumbiaSC.