After embarking on a Fall tour earlier this September, accompanying The Weeks, Brave Baby finally reached Charleston last Friday night. Or rather, stopped in at the Music Farm before continuing through the southeast for their own headlining dates. Before detailing that particular evening though, let’s catch up on who these familiar faces are (for those who are new to the world of Charleston indie rock).
Those of us invested in the local music scene are no strangers to the group, and likely still remember the days of Wylie (their* previous moniker with more pop than rock). There are still old interviews that linger on SceneSC and one of their singles, “Revival,” is on a Sampler from 2010. I’ve even dug up photos of mine from their performance at Fall for Greenville, back when I was still growing up in good ol’ Greer and had just discovered dSLR cameras. I had never heard of Wylie before that show, nor did I have any inkling that I would move to Charleston a few years later and follow them around as Brave Baby with a Canon still strapped around my neck. Don’t worry, it really hasn’t been that long (four years, roughly?).
Besides, it wasn’t until 2012 that Keon Masters, Wolfgang Zimmerman, Christian Chidester, Jordan Hicks and Steven Walker began writing and self-producing under their Brave Baby identity. Released on indie label Hearts & Plugs in early January 2013, Forty Bells marked their debut of dynamic melodies and triumphant riffs, and they’ve been riding on that success ever since. With just this album under their belts, it’s easy to understand that despite their history in Charleston they still seem very young. Young, and on the edge of indie stardom nonetheless. To be honest, I’m surprised they haven’t reached that already.
In the year following their debut release, the guys have made several appearances other than this throughout the city: on the Carolina Queen, the Spring Jam Music Festival, block parties, the Music Farm in May, Hearts & Plugs Summer Shindig, the list goes on. As someone whose slipped into several of these performances, take my word for it: Brave Baby fails to disappoint. Although I will admit, seeing them for the first time on a yacht as it cruised around the harbor at night is hard to beat. Despite that cherished memory, I’ve seen them tackle many challenges from technical difficulties to sets cut short due to noise violation threats. Luckily, their show at the Music Farm was essentially problem free (exception of Keon’s shuffling of guitars for the encore) and drew in a full house of new and familiar faces.
The night at the Farm stood apart primarily because they included newly released material in their set, which yes they played at Dusko’s Shindig but were dealing with some awful speaker problems at the time. Notably, they included their single “Find You Out” that is currently streaming on SceneSC’s Summer Sampler. The others I’ve yet to come across any released recordings. Oh, and as for ‘new’ things — they also had a crafty DIY banner hanging on stage. Brushing these things aside though, Brave Baby seems to have a talent at evoking nostalgia and this time, I’m not referring to the list of times I’ve seen them live but the actual content embedded in their music.
A retelling of life stories through obscure song lyrics is likely what contributes to the reminiscent nature of Forty Bells and Brave Baby’s general aesthetic. References of past and current loves, times of worry and moments of youthful bliss are disguised by landmarks, metaphors, foxes and dogs. It’s this element of theirs that will cause your ‘repeat-pressing’ shame, because if you don’t love lingering on wistful memories, you need to find your soul. Live, Brave Baby avoids any additional ‘fluff’ to their performance so there is nothing distracting you from their sound. The music can speak for itself, which should always be the case.
Essentially, you’ll fall in love with Brave Baby because it’s so effortless.
Denmark; Magic and Fire; Nothing in Return; Star; Forty Bells; Ancient; Cooper River Night; Grandad; Daisy; Find You Out; Living in a Country; Foxes and Dogs / Encore — Lakeside Trust; Last Gold Rush
An honorable mention goes out to their two opening acts, Grace Joyner and Matrimony. Joyner is also a Charleston local and just released an EP, Young Fools, earlier this year. The lead keyboardist and singer, Amber Grace, actually sang backup vocals with Wylie and performed with them at a few events. Naturally, I am also a huge fan of Mrs. Joyner’s music and actually wrote a review of her release show at the Royal American, if you’re curious to read more. Matrimony (Ashlee Hardee Brown, Jimmy Brown, Jordan Hardee, CJ Hardee), on the other hand, are a folk rock group hailing from Charlotte, N.C. Working around the lack of a drummer for the night, they still managed to present a solid show and have a slew of shows lined up around the southeast in the coming weeks.
If you’re looking to catch Brave Baby again live, they’ll be playing at Fall for Greenville this coming weekend (October 10-12th); specifically, they’ll be on the Michelin stage at 3:30 on Saturday. Don’t miss ’em.
*Their refers to Keon Masters, Wolfgang Zimmerman and Christian Chidester, who were together in Wylie. Jordan Hicks & Steven Walker joined them later during the transition to Brave Baby.