When Josh McGee came on board as the city of Greenville’s special events coordinator four years ago, he thought he had a pretty thick skin. But as he created lineups for for the city’s various musical events like Piedmont Natural Gas Downtown Alive, Greenville Heritage Main Street Fridays, and especially the Fall for Greenville festival, McGee realized he wasn’t quite prepared for the level of feedback he got, seemingly no matter what his schedules looked like.
“Just working for the city kind of puts me out there in the first place,” McGee says. “People are going to say things about what I do because it’s easy to blame the city for things. I felt like I had a thick skin when I came into the job, but it’s gotten a little thicker over the years, especially with social media, because there’s no filter.”
That being said, the musical lineup McGee curated for this year’s Fall for Greenville food and music festival, which runs from Oct. 11-14 in downtown Greenville, is one he’s proud of, and it might just silence some of McGee’s critics.
“I’m feeling really confident about this one,” he says, and he probably should be.
In addition to a healthy selection of local musicians and bands like Mac Arnold & Plate Full O’ Blues, Angela Easterling, LOZ, Zataban, and the Greenville Jazz Collective Big Band, McGee has landed a strong set of headliners, including the hard-rocking American Aquarium; fast-rising alt-country singer Sarah Shook and her band, The Disarmers; progressive bluegrass veteran Jerry Douglas; and psychedelic garage-rockers King Tuff.
McGee has also added more regional talent to the 72-act roster, bringing in Junior Astronomers from Charlotte, The Artisanals and The High Divers from Charleston, and Asheville, N.C.’s Redleg Husky, among others.
If some of those national names sound familiar, it’s because many of those bands have come through the area within the last year, and McGee is constantly monitoring the schedules of nearby venues large and small, looking for ideas.
“If you saw the bookmarks on my computer, you’d see I have links to all the local and regional venues, from the Radio Room to The Orange Peel to the Georgia Theatre,” he says. “I keep my eye on who’s coming through, and any names I’m not familiar with, I’ll research them and see what might work and what might not work for the festival. I wish I had the time to actually visit the venues more often, but there aren’t enough hours in the day.”
Deciding which bands to put on which of the six Fall for Greenville concert stages at what times is a painstaking process for McGee, and it’s one he takes very seriously.
“I try to treat each stage on each day as its own little concert,” he says, “and I build the bill from there. It’s not just throwing bands on a stage at whatever time slot works. I really want to build up these lineups throughout the day.”
One of the interesting wrinkles that McGee has thrown into this year’s local act lineup is an emphasis on bands and musicians with new music either just out or about to come out.
“There’s so much going on in the local scene in terms of new material,” he says. “LOZ’s got a new album out, Angela Easterling is working on something new, Brother Oliver has a new single out, and it was really exciting to build up the lineup around those bands with new material. People want to know what’s new, so we have these local bands that are not only great and we want to showcase them, but they have something new coming out, and in the long run I hope it helps increase awareness of the bands and maybe people will buy that new music.”