When the clock struck midnight on Dec. 31, 2020, there was no doubt that some lovers of live local music, myself included, hoped that things would be closer to normal. But the fact is that we’re still in a confusing place as far as live music in the Upstate is concerned. Yes, there are vaccines coming, but in the meantime the daily COVID-19 diagnosis numbers are simply horrific.
So what is in store in 2021 for live, local music? The truth is that I really don’t know, so I asked some folks who might. I spoke with people from four different Upstate venues, The Spinning Jenny, Radio Room, Smiley’s Acoustic Café and the Peace Center, and got their thoughts on where we are now, and where we’re headed.
Sharon Murry, co-owner and booker, The Spinning Jenny, Greer.
“We’re hoping with the vaccine that we’ll be able to get back to closer to what we had before by midsummer to fall time. Even if we’re able to go back to decent-sized shows inside our space, we plan to utilize our outside patio and parking lot a lot more as soon as the weather warms up. Right now, we’re focusing on plans to be able to adapt to whatever happens over this next year. Who knows if another virus might come along in the future, and having backup plans for those scenarios has become more and more vital to staying in business.”
Wes Gilliam, co-owner and booker, Radio Room, Greenville.
“So I’m handling things pretty good, honestly, since I’m an optimist by nature. I mean, this is far from ideal, but we’re frugal and none of us live a lavish life, so I’m just keeping my eye on the prize, so to speak. As far as where I see this heading as it progresses — man, I have no idea at this point. I keep on telling myself that when touring does return, it’s going to be bonkers (in a good way), but every time I set my sights on the horizon for a tentative return, it gets pushed back further. So currently I’m just trying to be a good steward of the here and the now.
Megan Riegel, president & CEO, the Peace Center, Greenville.
“The Peace Center is ready to welcome audiences back to the Peace Concert Hall in 2021. Look for single-night show announcements in the first quarter of the new year, and for touring Broadway to return in September. We are so grateful to those who continue to patronize performances in Genevieve’s, for the patience of all our patrons, and the support of the generous donors who have sustained the Peace Center through this very long intermission!”
Mike Frazier, Smiley’s Acoustic Café, Greenville.
“As the months of diminished sales and continued restrictions ensue, staying positive is really my only option. The idea of closing shop and giving up on our passions is something no business owner wants to think about. The impact of such a collapse would be culturally catastrophic. Unlike restaurants and retail stores, a small music venue is more than just a business serving its patrons; it’s a living, breathing miniature institution in its own right. Each venue with its own unique capacity to nurture local artists and bands and connect them to communities of music lovers. With a vaccine now in production, I am hopeful that we’ll be back to enjoying live shows in earnest soon. At Smiley’s, we’ve continued to book shows for next year with an optimistic expectation that we’ll be able to host them.”