Last Thursday night, I had the good fortune of finding myself at The Radio Room in Greenville. I say good fortune because, for a $3 cover, I saw a show featuring three great bands: Moonlight Bride; Octopus Jones; and Today the Moon, Tomorrow the Sun. You’d have a hard time finding a better lineup for a better deal anywhere, much less in Greenville.
If you decide to make a trip out to the Radio Room, located in the northern part of Greenville, don’t feel bad if you drive past the place at first. From the outside, the plain brick building doesn’t exactly scream “live music.” You won’t be completely sure you’re at the right place until you get a glimpse of the various show posters plastered inside the entrance.
Once you make it through the threshold, it feels like one of those golden-era bars where everybody knows everybody, even if they don’t. Although small venues can be a little awkward before bands take the stage, this isn’t one of them.
In the main room, friends sit around one of the tables or at the bar, faces lit with the warm glow of lamps with red light bulbs. Others play a game of 8-ball at the pool table in the corner. If all that doesn’t make you feel welcome, the revelation of $2 PBR should definitely lift your spirits.
But the reason for my visit to The Radio Room wasn’t cheap beer or billiards: it was music.
Moonlight Bride, a four-piece band from Chattanooga, started the night with a great set of rock and roll. They opened with a basic indie-rock tune, priming us for their second selection, the excellent “Love in the Dark.” For this song, singer Justin Giles put down his guitar and led the band with a weighty synth and raw, emotional vocals reminiscent of Matt Vasquez of Delta Spirit.
Giles and co. played hard and heavy, with the fatigue of a long tour informing their set with a sense of urgency. This is not to say that Moonlight Bride sounded stale or worn out. On the contrary, the emotion and intention in each note was very real. It was plain to see that they were spent, but it was an honest kind of spent.
Following Moonlight Bride with a fantastic set of their own was Octopus Jones, a Myrtle Beach band that has played its way to the upper echelon of South Carolina indie music. I’ve seen OJ in various settings, and they always leave me wanting more. Last week they did seem a little bit out of their normally high-energy element, but I’ll chalk that up to the more intimate setting of The Radio Room.
Spending a number of months touring their debut LP, “Treat Yourself,” the members of OJ have honed their on-stage sound to be spot-on every night. That was most evident in songs like “Val Kilmer” and “Johnny Carson,” two of the catchiest tracks from the album. Later on, keys player Chris Wilson tossed out a tambourine and shaker-thing to get the crowd involved, ending the set in true Octopus Jones fashion.
Today the Moon, Tomorrow the Sun were the headliners of Thursday’s show, and the dance floor was noticeably more crowded when they were ready to dig into their set. The quartet, based in Atlanta, has garnered quite a bit of regional attention recently. I first saw them in Clemson in the fall of 2009, and they’ve only gotten better since then.
I was most impressed with the swagger and attitude that Today the Moon brought to a hole-in-the-wall gig in Greenville, SC. Despite being hidden behind a thick crowd of listeners, lead singer Lauren Gibson was by no means contained. Her stage presence alone made the group’s set the most exciting of the night.
In addition to the female Gibson, drummer Jeremy Cole and guitarist Cregg Gibson put on a big show, with Cole’s theatrical style of percussion and Cregg’s pedal-heavy, atmospheric guitar work. Apparently Cole had a sore wrist that night–if so, I’d probably be a little frightened by his intensity turned up to 100%.
Unfortunately, I had to miss the end of the band’s set. Luckily, I caught the spacey melodies and intricate interplay of the song “Old Monster” before I left. Today the Moon, Tomorrow the Sun certainly took me to a place that was not quite earthly.
I’m not so sure The Radio Room isn’t alien itself, now that I think about it. Maybe that’s how I got to see three out-of-this-world bands for just three bucks.
All Photos by Andrew Harris