After taking 5 years of courses in audio technology in production and running sound at many staple venues in the South, my front of house journey finally landed me in the booth at The Royal American in Charleston at the beginning of this year.
The Royal American has long been my favorite venue in town to support fellow touring musicians and grab a Narragansett on the weekends, so I naturally felt right at home alongside the swinging bar lights and wood-stained interior.
I had the honor of running sound nearly every weekend in 2022 for over 50 unique shows from rock and country to hip-hop and DJ sets.
Here are my top 10 sets that I ran sound for this year:
10. Grace Joyner Send-Off Show – July 1st
Grace Joyner filled a particular spot in the Charleston music scene – soaring vocals with lush synths over compact drum beats. Before her move to New York City, she treated The Royal American to one last performance. Each song sent the crowd into an easy trance, and the memory stays with me, even today. Joined on the bill by Wolfgang Zimmerman’s Invisible Low End Power and Pilot, this was a proper send off.
9. The Kernal – February 11th
The Kernal is a character made from Joe Garner, whose father performed in the Grand Ole Opry for thirty years before his passing. Joe found an old suit, belonging to his father, in his attic. He put on the suit and created The Kernal, a country singer and storyteller that now tours the United States.
She Returns from War opened for him, but The Kernal kept the bar open late on February 11th. His songs transitioned perfectly into the signature last-call of Ernest Tubb’s “Thanks a Lot”.
8. The Simplicity – January 15th
The Simplicity has made a name for themselves in town as a raucous group of performers led by guitar wizard, back of house professional, and songsmith John Bias himself and backed by Tommy Merritt and Drew Lewis with the occasional addition of an extra guitarist or keyboard player.
Towards the beginning of the year they were playing so many shows in town that they had a reputation of being The Royal American’s house band, and for good reasons. The band is tight, the music is energetic, and with the wild performances, The Simplicity has wrapped all of the best aspects of rock and roll into a concise 45 minute set.
On this night John Bias danced on the bar, berated the crowd, and closed out the night with a cover of “Wild Horses” by The Rolling Stones.
7. Jive Talk, Persona La Ave, and Paddy McKiernan – July 17
Jive Talk delivered one of the most explosive sets I’ve been witness to at Royal on July 17th. With support from Paddy McKiernan of Whitehall fame and Persona La Ave with a full band set, the bar was full of excited music fans.
I had never heard of Jive Talk before, but I will not soon forget them. The stage was packed to the brim with synthesizers and their frontman hopped into the crowd multiple times to dance along to the catchiest bass grooves I’ve heard in a long time.
6. Whitehall, Homemade Haircuts album release – August 21st
August 21st saw the celebration in Charleston for local sweethearts Homemade Haircuts’ album release. The album, Sun Showers, manifested a sun shower right before load-in, with a rainbow leading straight to The Royal American.
Not only were Homemade Haircuts in full form, but Whitehall gave their best local set to date before moving to New York and hitting a tour with The Goo Goo Dolls.
5. Easy Honey & 87 Nights – April 29th & 30th
Easy Honey has been hitting the road hard since their release of Peach Fuzz last year, but they always deliver a satisfying hometown show. In this case, they hit Royal 2 nights in a row for a collaboration with fellow Atlas Touring rostermates 87 Nights.
Decorations adorned the entire venue, from flowers and clouds on the ceiling to photo-op locations, a rainbow arch entryway, and a custom lit backdrop for the stage. The decorations even stayed up for months afterwards, leaving the memory of Easy Nights fresh in everyone’s mind.
4. Dear Blanca & The Sloppy Boys – May 7th
Dear Blanca and The Sloppy Boys kicked off an East Coast tour at The Royal American on May 7th. The Sloppy Boys are a Los Angeles-based band made up of mixed-drink podcasters and actors from the sketch comedy show The Birthday Boys.
They performed hilarious songs such as “Here For The Beer”, “Tom Collins”, and “Pass the Doobie” while sipping on the signature Royal American Rum Punch. Dear Blanca followed with a classic set of their best earworms and crooning vocals.
3. Little Bird – December 2nd & 3rd
Little Bird’s following in Charleston is dedicated. Every venue they play is consistently packed out with fans from all walks of life.
The band is almost a supergroup of talent, and they brought that talent all over the United States this year performing at festivals, dive bars, and legendary venues from New York to LA. At the beginning of December, Little Bird set out for a 2 night run at Royal with the goal of making it a weekend to remember.
After asking the Royal American bar staff what they could do to accomplish this, Jonesy replied with one word: Lasers. For the first time ever, the stage was lit up with a professional laser display for 2 different sets of music from a group hot off of a heavy Summer and Fall tour schedule.
2. Nordista Freeze & Okey Dokey – January 29th
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Nordista Freeze is currently the hardest working man in show business. His band has toured more than any other in their league, and many more outside of it. His performance is so bombastic and involved that any concertgoer would be blown away by its sheer energy.
On this particular night, Freeze’s band was finishing out a run with Okey Dokey, and the venue was as crowded as it gets. Freeze treated the crowd to a career-spanning set of hits and at one point stripped down to his underwear, hung from the rafters, and jumped into the crowd before running around the entire establishment and hopping back on stage to finish out a song.
1. Dan Auerbach Surprise DJ Set – August 29th
The choice to make this #1 was easy for me. Dan Auerbach, frontman for legendary rock group The Black Keys, dropped in to The Royal American for a once-in-a-lifetime DJ set spinning from his personal collection of 45s.
The show was only announced the day-of, and even I wasn’t told exactly who was performing until right before. The venue was at capacity hours before he started, at which point he warmed up the crowd with old school blues and soul deep cuts before gradually raising the tempo throughout the night. This is a performance that will go down in history.