Free Times-Behind The Scenes

In the newest issue of the Free Times, Pat Wall highlights some of the people in the SC music scene that make it all happen.  I was lucky enough to be one of them.  Read my interview here and pick up a copy of the Free Times to read the rest of them.  Or visit their website and check them out.

The Blogger
David Stringer,

Clad in a loose-fitting long-sleeved shirt and a ragged Detroit Tigers baseball cap, David Stringer looks like your average USC student. But unlike the average Gamecock undergrad, Stringer’s got his finger on the pulse of the Columbia music scene; in addition to slinging the guitar, Stringer curates, a blog dedicated to music made and played in South Carolina, particularly in the Capital City. Stringer says he started the site in July because he felt that, well, someone should do it.

“I’m trying to do my part in the music scene,” Stringer says. “There weren’t any other web sites out there … for bands to get in front of a lot of people.”

Since launching the site, Stringer’s become a fast favorite in the local music scene, and offers what Stringer calls a “one-stop shop for local music lovers.

“They can read about shows, they can watch videos,” Stringer says. “If they’re out of town, they can catch up on what they missed.”

The reaction from bands, Stringer says, has been “awesome.”

“They love it,” Stringer says. “I started out taking pictures; I wasn’t even going to do videos. But no one was doing video of local shows. And now anyone can come and find videos of local bands.”

As for the future of the site, Stringer’s goals are modest: He’d like to continue to add more video to the site; he’d like for the site to become more interactive; and, ultimately, he’d like for the site to be self-sustaining. But Stringer also knows that for as much of a labor of love his web site is, he doesn’t want to be running it forever.

“I want to pass it on,” Stringer says. “I never want it to become stale. Maybe there’ll be a 19-year-old kid who really loves it as much as I do. And if they come along, they can have it. Just so it stays alive and kicking.”

  • Michael Crawford

    Great review. SceneSC is really that great. Although as far as being interactive, I totally agree. I think a message board could be really great.

  • Bentz Kirby

    Congrats on the well deserved shout out Cuz!



  • I just read the article in Free Times and am checking out this site for the first time. I also have a music blog and am in Columbia. Here’s the link:

    It’s nice to praise the “scene” and everything, but at least someone other than me must notice the absolutely horrible job that whoever is booking shows in every venue in the city is doing. The local venues don’t seem to have any clue about what is going on in music these days, and articles like the one in the Free Times celebrate this cluelessness rather than fix it. Perhaps my gripe is primarily with the booking agent that is featured in the article: the guy wearing the Blues Traveler shirt. Is the job that he’s doing really worth praising? They have Sister Hazel scheduled to perform at Headliners: a band that wasn’t taken seriously then, let alone now. I’ve written letters to some of the venues asking if they need help with talking to bands and finding relevant bands who are touring, but have received no responses.

    As someone who knows the way things work in Columbia better than I do (I just moved here from New England a few months ago), I’m wondering what your view is on the booking situation/problem.

    Thanks. I’ll check out your blog regularly.

  • Colin

    i think there should be a section for n00dz. just of moose. maybe Bakari. all photographed by Sarah.

  • thefiretonight


    Just out of curiosity, who do you think the venues should book? Sister Hazel has a huge following in the southeast and will pack out Headliners. It’s the largest venue in Columbia but only holds 800 (not 100 percent sure about that), so bands like Sister Hazel, 7Mary3, etc. etc. are perfect for that size.

    Just interested in getting some clarification, the scene in Columbia is determined by what is popular here. Also keep in mind that when you reference to someone featured in an article you are talking about someone that many of us bands are friends with. From a local band perspective, they are doing a bang up job.

    The Fire Tonight

  • thanks for commenting. i don’t see how anyone could defend booking sister hazel. saying that this is what people in the area want to hear isn’t really enough justification for me. pandering to the many does not fit into my conception of what music is or can be. even if such a band had to be booked every once in a while, so the venue could make some money, there should at least be several interesting bands scheduled to play the same venue. as a musician myself, i would never play a show at a venue that booked bands like sister hazel, and i know several other local musicians who feel the same way and don’t think a “bang up job” hath been done.

    i would recommend booking all of the acts that come through athens, atlanta, asheville, and so on. just a few pages after the free times article you reference, there is a listing of such shows including: of montreal, the rosebuds, frightened rabbit, annuals, dr dog, atlas sound, delta spirit, trail of dead, band of horses, black lips. if you look at the tour dates for almost any band, you’ll notice that they skip right over south carolina as a whole. not even bands that might be relevant to those who listen to southern sounding music are being booked: good examples would be ryan adams and blitzen trapper, both just announced tours, both are skipping sc. at an absolute minimum, venues should be trying to book bands that pitchfork writes about and reviews; if an audience needs to be pandered to, it should at least be the mainstream-indie audience.

    i was actually expecting you to say “yeah, there is a problem with the way booking is handled in columbia,” so i’m shocked to see that you are a fan of the way things are. i can understand why free times would do so: because they need to promote the area’s music scene even if the music scene isn’t really worth promoting. now, i’m not necessarily saying that the local scene isn’t worth promoting. i’m just saying that, columbia is not a place where interesting touring bands tend to play, and this is largely the fault of those who are booking shows.

  • David Stringer

    To say there isn’t a market for Sister Hazel in Columbia, SC the home of Hootie and The Blowfish isn’t true. Of course there is a market for them here. They are a southern pop rock band. Columbia’s indie rock music scene isn’t all that big and promoters know that or all of those shows would come here. Promoters and booking agents do know that Crossfade sells out Headliners so they book Trapt and other bands that are big on 93.5. Columbia and the surrounding areas love their redneck rock. That is just the reality.

    Athens has it’s history, Atlanta has a ton of people, Asheville has it’s culture and Columbia has it’s conservatism.

    Columbia SC loves country music, Rap, Redneck Rock, Pop, and a couple of other genres before you get to the indie community.

    We do have a great alternative music community here, it just isn’t as big as it needs to be yet.

  • thefiretonight

    I think David touches on what you really have a problem with – the music scene in Columbia in general. Columbia is all about Rock 93.5 type bands and southern rock. While I, as a musician in a band that is trying to do something different, may not like it I have to respect that the venues need to pay their bills.

    If you refuse to play a venue that would book Sister Hazel then you will never play a gig in Columbia. That’s just a fact. Even NBT books many southern-acoustic acts (Angie Aparo, for one) that share similarities with Sister Hazel. It works here.

    This is not to say that I would love to see the culture change, rather, I don’t think the culture will change at the top. There is too much risk in paying the money to bring in “different” bands, so whenever real money is paid for a show at Headliners it is going to be a band that will work in this area.

    My band has played Columbia 10 times in the past year and has built a pretty decent audience, but we are not pop, not country, not 93.5 rock, and we have struggled. I think Columbia has a ton of talent, but not nearly enough of that talent is trying to do something different. Until local music fans start to fully embrace the non-mainstream bands there isn’t going to be a market for bands like Of Montreal. Columbia needs a truly unique band to come out of it and have a lot of success to change that culture. I thought Baumer had a shot but alas it wasn’t meant to be.

    Lastly, I find it amusing that you dislike Sister Hazel so much. I love prog, artsy, indie, hard rock, jazz, etc. etc. but Sister Hazel is always a good time and they are nice guys. As a musician I’d love to still be playing at that level in 15 years. I don’t think the proper reaction is to peg a band like that as irrelevant, but rather to recognize that they are exactly what is relevant in Columbia.

    Venues won’t book “interesting shows” until fans show that’s what they want. I think that starts with the local musicians.

    The Fire Tonight

  • I think the best bet would be if the university allowed students to book bands to play on campus. In the area where I used to live, the five colleges there regularly had bands play on campus when they were passing through. I’ve spoken with people on campus, though, and it seems like USC makes it pretty difficult to have on-campus shows. I’ve talked to a few nationally touring musicians that I know and they were all interested in stopping in to do an on-air performance at WUSC. Alas, I didn’t have time this semester to begin doing my own show.

    It also seems like smaller venues, like Art Bar and Hunter Gatherer, could have better, more specialized bands play. On their upcoming tour, MV & EE are playing at a pool hall in Richmond, Va. I mention that because most bands are not beyond playing small, even untraditional venues. (They are also playing at Village Tavern in Mt Pleasant!) Also, in the past year I’ve seen Nat Baldwin, Witch (J Mascis’ new band), Thurston Moore, and Pocahaunted play house shows. There are always possibilities. Unfortunately, I don’t have the power or influence to do this sort of thing in Columbia. So all I can really do is gripe.

    I don’t know if I could ever be convinced of Sister Hazel’s greatness or longevity. I think I’d rather model myself after a Sonic Youth or Dinosaur Jr, both still destroy all they touch 20 years later. Or maybe Nick Cave, but definitely not Sister Hazel.

  • thefiretonight

    Haha, I never said Sister Hazel was “great,” although I am sure there are some who have been touched by their music who would disagree. I was just pointing out that just because it doesn’t appeal to you doesn’t make them “taken seriously.” Just taken seriously in a different circle, AKA places like Columbia, SC. Personally, I don’t like the majority of their music but that’s not really what is important.

    To be perfectly honest, I haven’t heard of many of the artists that you reference in your post. I could also spend some time naming a number of artists that you may not be aware of as well. It’s all about recognition. I imagine that if any of those acts were to contact the Art Bar or New Brookland they could be booked there. But would anyone go? Would the venue make enough money to operate?

    Columbia is nursing a growing local scene, and definitely agree on USC getting more involved. They used to have a number of touring bands play USC, but really the kind of bands that Headliners books now.

    I disagree that you don’t have the power and influence, any of us do. Hell I don’t even live in Columbia right now but I do everything I can to be a part of what is happening. Anything is better than just griping. Find a local band to help out, get to know the staff at a venue, etc. etc. There’s tons to do. This site is a testament to that.

    The Fire Tonight