It’s hard to believe another year on Greenville’s music scene is in the rearview mirror, but it’s time once again to look back over 2019 and talk about the best and brightest shows, artists and places that I saw both in the Upstate and in South Carolina as a whole. Here’s a brief and by no means complete breakdown of who and what rocked my 2019.
Persons of the Year — Local
Ash Foster and Rachel Clark, The Parlor Pinks/TPP Events
In addition to being an adventurous electronic music duo that produced a great album called “Dead Channels,” Ash Foster and Rachel Clark, aka The Parlor Pinks, have worked hard over the last year to improve and expand the Upstate music scene. It’s not just the multi-band, mixed-genre concert series they’ve hosted at The Eighth State Brewing Co., it’s the many charitable causes they’ve supported with benefit shows, as well. Our scene is brighter with The Parlor Pinks in it.
Person of the Year — South Carolina
Benny Starr is a brilliant songwriter, rapper, band leader and activist who is just beginning to make his mark in Charleston and around the state at large. A compelling speaker and dynamic thinker, Starr has the mind, the personality and the talent to be a leading light in South Carolina, and I don’t just mean musically.
Best Album — Local
J.S. Terry, “And You Loom Over Me Like a Mountain”
If you still believe in the album as a work of art, J.S. Terry’s magnificent, desperately beautiful art-folk-rock album “And You Loom Over Me Like a Mountain” will bolster your faith. It is quite simply one of the most gorgeous collections of music I’ve ever heard; a set of richly arranged and passionately performed songs that you can dive into like an ocean of sound.
Best Album — South Carolina
Benny Starr, “A Water Album” (featuring the Four20s)
Hip-hop maestro Benny Starr decided to go big or go home on his second full-length LP, “A Water Album,” recording it live at the Charleston Music Hall with his band, the Four20s. A dynamic mix of atmospheric funk, ambient electronics, down-and-dirty rhythm and blues, and absolutely dazzling raps from Starr, it isn’t just a hip-hop album. It’s philosophy, poetry, soul-searching self-doubt and titanic self-confidence set to music. It’s a must-hear experience.
Best Band or Performer — Local
The Shady Recruits
Led by Marcus King Band drummer Jack Ryan, The Shady Recruits are anything but a side project, bringing together a group of Upstate music scene veterans and letting them stretch out. There’s some straight-ahead rock on their self-titled debut EP, but it’s mostly tight-but-loose, tasty jazz-funk fusion. These guys are a mix of lethal instrumental skill and devil-may-care improvisation that truly must be experienced live.
Best Band or Performer — South Carolina
Maybe it’s just me, but man, does Art Star’s complex, melodic and unrelenting noise-rock scratch an itch. I’ve listened to their debut EP “Akin To Sin” more times than I can count and it’s still unpredictably wild to me, a slow-motion multi-car crash of mangled guitars, spine-snapping tempo changes and blissfully dreamlike vocals courtesy of Mia Mendez.
Venue Of The Year
The Spinning Jenny, 107 Cannon St., Greer
The longer co-owner Sharon Murry and company keep The Spinning Jenny rolling, the more it stakes it’s claim as the Upstate’s new Handlebar. The venue’s management continues to snag bigger and bigger acts (including Asleep At The Wheel, Lee Ann Womack and Of Montreal), and the 2019 schedule included an eclectic set of events, including ballroom dancing, Golden Gloves boxing and film premieres.
Best Show — Small Venue
*repeat repeat, Radio Room, June 27, 2019
I’ve said this before, but I guess that’s fitting for a band called *repeat repeat: If you believe in the transcendent possibilities of a sweaty, loud, joyous and chaotic live rock show, you must see this band live. This wasn’t a concert; this was rock ’n’ roll as spiritual catharsis.
Best Show — Large Venue
Paul McCartney, Bon Secours Wellness Arena, May 30, 2019
Sir Paul McCartney turned 77 about two weeks after his Greenville show. Bear that in mind as I mention that Sir Paul played 38 — you read that correctly — songs at The Well, from Beatles hits to solo gems to, well, just about everything else. McCartney and his band ripped through a nearly three-hour set like teenagers, taking about 12,000 people back in time along with them. The man is pure joy personified onstage.