Neilson Fest 2.0: The Final Dawning Show (Photos + Recap)

Dawning at Neilson Fest 2.0. Photo: Troy Parmeter

Last Friday, local rockers Dawning threw Neilson Fest 2.0, the second in a series of DIY festivals taking place at Neilson’s boatyard in downtown Charleston.

In theme, the stage was set up on a boat for all the bands to play from. As people poured into the lot, they were greeted with the sounds from DJ Password: Dragon and DJ Normal Girl.

Jackson Wise and Ev Tilson of Dawning kicked off the event with a post-punk cover of “Cotton Eye Joe.” Suddenly, the crowd was submerged in a sea of distortion as the duo sent sound waves down from the boat stage. From there they departed, swearing they’d be back for more at the end of the night.

The bill began with To Forget, a fast paced, high octane, local band that got the crowd revved up with screeching riffs and booming basslines.

Moshing had already begun and it was clear that this show was gonna be something special. The keg was flowing, the fire was burning, and the crowd was dancing! It didn’t take long for punks to climb up on top of ships at the back of the boatyard to watch the show.

Hanging out at Neilson Fest 2.0. Photo: Troy Parmeter

Next up was Eighth House, a grunge band from Columbia. Their sound further plunged the lot into frenzy, as they showed off their rocker spirit with rowdy anthems. Blink once and the scene of the boatyard had completely rearranged. 

Crowd shot. Photo: Salvador Martinez

Small Talk, Savannah’s dreampop band with an attitude, tore up the festival with their ethereal guitar lines and basslines that blasted into the crowd. At one point in Small Talk’s performance, their bassist Miguel Hallare leapt into the crowd and layed down some funky grooves of his own before hopping back onto stage.

Bassist Miguel Hallare of Small Talk. Photo: Salvador Martinez
Vocalist Max Aiden of Small Talk. Photo: Salvador Martinez.

Charleston band Show Me Mary made their debut at this event, displaying an otherworldly sound. Through a series of massive riffs that built up huge walls of sound, they enveloped the boatyard in a box of whirring guitars. The festival seemed to be placed under a trance. Show Me Mary broke this hypnotism with a switch up of their style, sending the boatyard into a crazed free-for-all. 

Show Me Mary rocking out. Photo: Troy Parmeter

All that was left was for Dawning to perform. The opening riff to “In Irons” rippled through the boatyard and the crowd burst into motion and as they poured out their hearts for this final show, their fans felt everything. 

Jackson Wise of Dawning singing “In Irons”. Photo: Troy Parmeter

The lull of a slowcore melody brought a stillness over the boatyard as the band broke into “Sediment” for the very last time. Repeatedly Wise asked the crowd, “Why am I so afraid? When there’s nothing to fear here.” 

Ev Tilson of Dawning drumming along to “Sediment” (Troy Parmeter)

“Kreuzberg” was a flash of punks flying left and right. With each drop of the chorus, the crowd exploded. Wise exclaimed the words we were all feeling, “I’m gonna miss him when he’s gone.” At the halfway point of the song, he let out a mighty “Hoorah!” and dove into the chorus. The crowd didn’t miss a beat as the energy skyrocketed and crowdsurfers flew overhead.

“A Whole Lifetime Of This” opened a rift in the sky as they rained down a storm of shoegaze. Neilsonfest was absolutely engulfed in a squall of sound that ripped through the crowd. As Dawning rocked out, the fans went with them. 

“We were Dawning. We were a band about being sad on a boat.” – Ev Tilson

Crowdsurfing during Dawning’s set. Photo: Troy Parmeter

Dawning concluded the festival with a challenge to make more DIY events happen in Charleston. Neilson Fest 2.0 only costed about 100 dollars to put on and it was one of the coolest events to take place in Charleston this year.

While this marks the end of the line for Dawning, it’s also the dawning of a new era for Charleston DIY. Let’s make some more shows happen in 2023. 

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