With the controversy surrounding the now-defunct Hearts & Plugs, I wasn’t sure how this year’s Summer Shindig would turn out, or be perceived, considering it was the first year that the Shindig was separated from its founding organization. The lineup included many former Hearts & Plugs bands including Grace Joyner and ET Anderson, but also present were artists that had nothing to do with Hearts & Plugs like Futurebirds, Matt Monday, Zack Mexico, and more. The lineup lacked Summer Shindig headlining staples like SUSTO and Brave Baby, but as much as they were missed, their absence served to open up the main stage for other headliners, and I don’t think anyone will deny that Futurebirds kicked some serious ass.
The venue was the same as last year: The Royal American. The difference was that this year there were two outdoor stages as opposed to just one, and the indoor stage was unused (until the downpour – but more on that later). I think it was a wise choice to keep all the music outside, because despite the brutal mid-afternoon heat, it was much less congested inside the bar and it made the drink ordering experience much less cumbersome. It also allowed you to get out of the heat and into the air conditioning without being surrounded by warm bodies and packed in like sardines. It also left the Royal American’s large patio open so concertgoers could sit in the shade and enjoy the music from a raised vantage point.
Doors opened at 4pm, and the music began around 4:30pm with a set from Young Mister. I showed up about halfway through Secret Guest’s performance of their newest song “No Buzz” in the blistering heat of summer in South Carolina. They steamed through their set with the usual gusto, bringing up various musicians, including Grace Joyner and Nick Jenkins (aka Infinitikiss) Near the end of their set, frontman Brett Nash lit a cigarette, smoked it down about a quarter and then traded it to guitarist Andre with his mouth. Andre took bit the lit end of the cigarette and began smoking it backwards. For the finale, they passed off their instruments to members of ET Anderson, who rocked out the final minutes of the performance while Secret Guest watched from the crowd. They’re always an entertaining act to see.
DUMB Doctors kept up the energetic precedent (and released a new album – stream it here) set by Secret Guest with their set that followed directly afterwards, without even a minute for Brett Nash to cool off before rushing into the next set. He simply poured a bottled water on his head and started to play the songs. Scott Dence of DUMB Doctors didn’t have much of a chance to cool down either – he dropped the bass that he played with Secret Guest and picked up the guitar to front DUMB Doctors, but that didn’t seem to phase him. He bounced around the stage for the whole performance, and even stepped into the crowd with his microphone for a bit. Brett didn’t even get a break after that – he sprinted over to the Shocktop stage just in time to pick up a guitar to play with Grace Joyner.
The man’s a hero, and Grace Joyner wasn’t even his final set of the evening. Nash also took the stage with ET Anderson (who were playing their final original lineup show) and Zack Mexico, whose set got pushed back not once, but twice throughout the day. The first being a swap with Matt Monday on the D’Als stage due to their van breaking down on their drive to Charleston. They in turn rented a Uhaul and loaded it up with all their gear and made it to The Royal American right around sunset only to be rained on while setting up for their already rescheduled 9:45pm set time. And this brings me to the subject of the oh-so-timely torrential downpour.
The rain came down hard and fast around 9:30pm, right near the end of local favorite The Artisanals set, and right before Zack Mexico was set to rock the D’als stage. The Artisanals had to stop playing and get their gear off the stage as soon as possible, and employees of The Royal American and Murias Entertainment scrambled around with tarps and ready hands to help the musicians secure their stuff before the water had a chance to ruin anything. Then came the waiting game, waiting for the rain to stop. I was positioned under the D’Als tent where Zack Mexico had been setting up, and the band got into an improvised five man drum solo, complete with chanting from bystanders. It was pretty awesome, but when the rain stopped it was already too late for them to play their already rescheduled set time.
Very Hypnotic Soul Band.
Very Hypnotic Soul Band.
I’d like to take this time to commend Charles Carmody, Murias Entertainment, The Royal American staff, and the rest of the artists for coming up with a solution to the rain problem in a timely and efficient manner. Futurebirds took their performance inside, which proved to be a challenge for them because they were an 8 man band and The Royal American has a tiny stage, but the crowd backed up just enough to allow the horn section to play in front of the stage, and they absolutley rocked the house, which was packed out tighter than I had possibly ever seen it. Futurebirds kept the party going with a soaking wet and drunken crowd that was more energetic than they’d been all day. I’m tempted to say that the rain made the experience better, because it became a sort of adventure. The free beer from Shocktop probably helped, too.
After Futurebirds finished up, Zack Mexico unexpectedly rolled up with their gear and started loading onto The Royal American stage. This was the VIP afterparty, which was originally planned to be the first event inside, but obviously the rain threw a wrench in those plans and security had to kick out everyone without a VIP wristband and then let them back in if they opted to pay the extra $10. That was a minor hiccup in the otherwise smooth-run event, because there was a good bit of confusion during the process of figuring out who should stay and who should go, but once it was all sorted out Zack Mexico took the stage and played, and then Crab Claw came on and finished out the evening, which by then had turned to early morning.
In short, this year’s Shindig proved that what started as a showcase for an up-and-coming local label has evolved into the beginnings of an exciting summer tradition that I’m confident will continue to flourish and grow for many years to come. Here’s to next year.