This past weekend, the Music Farm reopened its doors on Ann Street in downtown Charleston. To celebrate the grand reopening, the venue hosted a soft opening party on Thursday, April 14th, followed by two nights of local favorite SUSTO on April 15th and 16th.
After closing its doors in March 2020 during the initial COVID shutdowns, the Music Farm of old was one place that didn’t open back up again when live music first starting coming back. Rumors had been circulating that the beloved club was done for good, and Charleston was starting to come to terms with the loss of one of its most foundational venues.
However, in late 2021 some exciting news surfaced that the Charleston Music Hall had partnered with Frank Productions and Live Nation and the owners of the building, Homegrown Hospitality Group to lease, renovate, and then manage the venue. This meant, in layman’s terms, that Charles Carmody and the Charleston Music Hall team had taken over the Music Farm and were going to give it a full facelift as well as a rebranding. Plus, they had partnered with The Royal American to run their kitchen.
The Music Farm had taken a beating after many years of hard-running, and was long overdue for a facelift. The venue, which had a brief stint in a location on East Bay Street from 1991-1992, had been operating in its Ann Street location since 1993, and hadn’t seen a renovation since 2007.
By the time it shut down in early 2020, the place had become a bit of a dump. It had a worn-out PA that sounded consistently muffled, and bathrooms that were nearly as radioactive as AC’s over on King Street. Not to mention a poorly-planned layout and a booking calendar that had become somewhat stale.
Considering the Charleston Music Hall is one of the most consistently well-run venues in town, it was obvious right from the jump that the Music Farm would be successful under their management. With this in mind, plus the little tidbits I had seen on the progress at the venue via social media, I was excited to take a step inside over the weekend and check the place out.
Inside the Newly-Renovated Music Farm
When I first walked in, Grammy-winner Charleton Singleton (of Ranky Tanky) & friends were on stage and the first thing I noticed was how crispy and wide open the system sounded. This was a vast improvement on the old sound system. In the past, no matter how much fun I had at the Music Farm, the sound always left something to be desired.
Clearly this will no longer be an issue, which is great because it takes the Music Farm up a notch, from simply a fun place to catch a show to a venue that can also be taken seriously from a music appreciation standpoint. The sound quality is one of the main strengths of the Charleston Music Hall and its nice to see that they are striving to bring that same standard to the Music Farm.
Charleton Singleton & Friends crushed it with a wide variety of inspired covers, from soul to disco and even some country, improvising their way through a set that knew no musical boundaries. With a grand total of 14 people on stage, all gelling together seamlessly, both the band and the venue were able to show off their chops. Judging by the crowd of dancing people at front and center, I’d say the Music Farm was off to a good start.
After Charleton & Friends wrapped up, the stage became more of an acoustic open mic, featuring notable names like Jay Clifford of Jump, Little Children, the SC Blue Dogs, and even Edwin McCain. However, this article is not truly about the music that night, but rather about the music that we will see at the Music Farm going forward.
The next major improvement at the Music Farm is the relocation of the sound booth. In the past, the stage was mixed from a booth located halfway between the bar and the stage, right at the edge of the floor. It was awkwardly located and took up valuable real estate in the club.
The new sound booth is located on a raised platform along the very back wall of the Music Farm, out of the way and with a good vantage point to view and hear the stage, away from all the crazies down in front. That leaves the former home of the sound booth wide open, allowing for a second tier of standing room along the rail just behind the main floor area, which also significantly opens up the flow of traffic.
Also helping with the traffic flow was the idea to reduce the capacity of the venue from 800 to 650. This will help immensely as a sold out show in the past was shoulder-to-shoulder and nearly impossible to move around, much less grab a drink or enjoy the concert. While only a reduction of 150, I think this capacity reduction along with the layout improvements will make a big difference.
Both balconies have also been remodeled, with the former VIP balcony at stage left being transformed into a second green room. The original green room has also gotten a makeover, including the installation of a locking door with a keypad for entry.
Some may be disappointed that it will now be much harder to sneak backstage (including perhaps a younger version of myself), however it is a much better system from an operational standpoint.
Finally, in addition to updates to the bathrooms and bar area, The Royal American has opened The Royal American Outpost inside the Music Farm’s kitchen. There, the popular downtown bar and music venue serves up an alternate menu to their main location, with staples like the patty melt and chili dogs making the list as well as a few Farm-exclusive items like pretzel bites.
Overall, I think the Music Farm is headed in the right direction and I look forward to adding to the pile of memories that I have already made there.
See their full calendar of upcoming shows and catch some more info about the venue at musicfarm.com.