High Water Festival at Riverfront Park

Shovels & Rope's inaugural High Water Festival was held April 22-23 at Riverfront Park in North Charleston. Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats played Saturday on the main stage. Taylor Hickman/Provided

Last weekend's High Water Festival in North Charleston looked, felt and sounded like it could become South Carolina's next big music event, on par with Atlanta's Shaky Knees festival or even Tennessee's Bonnaroo. 

The lineup of the two-day festival boasted top-flight talent curated by Charleston's beloved folk-rock duo Shovels & Rope. It included national acts such as The Shins, The Avett Brothers, Dawes and Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats.

The city's 15-acre Riverfront Park along the Cooper River offered a breezy scenic landscape large enough to accommodate two stages, a concession area featuring mostly local vendors, as well as water stations and bars to serve the slightly sunburned crowds.

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Shovels & Rope

Shovels & Rope, the Charleston-based folk duo featuring Michael Trent (left) and Cary Ann Hearst, helped create the inaugural High Water Festival at Riverfront Park in North Charleston. They played the second-to-last set Sunday night before The Avett Brothers. Abigail Darlington/Staff

"Everything was thought out. It just looked good," North Charleston spokesman Ryan Johnson said. "All the concessions were sleek and well-run. The communal areas where folks were hanging out were really cool and decorated well. I didn’t hear too many complaints, if any."

Even better, Johnson said he wasn't aware of any major traffic jams, noise complaints, arrests or medical emergencies related to the festival, which drew about 10,000 attendees each day.

Jeff Cuellar of Strategic Partnerships with AC Entertainment said on Tuesday that organizers have every intention of returning next year.

"Every first-year event has challenges," he said. "There are always aspects we want to tweak and make better, but for our first festival we couldn't be more ecstatic."

Johnson said he thinks a lot of people visited Charleston specifically for the festival, which meant a bigger economic boost for the region as many likely stayed in area hotels and spent money at local gas stations, restaurants and shops.

Katie Elzer-Peters and her husband, Joe Peters, drove down from Wilmington, N.C., for the event. They stayed in downtown Charleston, ate dinner at 82 Queen and went shopping on King Street. 

"We're some of those people helping the Charleston economy," she said while lounging on a bench near the river on Sunday afternoon. "We're happy to have made the trip down for this. I don't think you could have gotten a better lineup for an inaugural festival."

Her husband said they'd like to be able to make it an annual trip if North Charleston continues hosting the festival.

Johnson said the city hopes to do just that.

"The High Water Festival is exactly the kind of festival we want to attract," he said. "We see it as a quality of life event ... a festival like this you would typically see in a bigger market, but we were able to have it here, and I think it was very successful." 

High Water was the largest two-day music festival Riverfront Park has hosted since the city of North Charleston started using it as a music venue about two years ago. After the loss of First Flush Festival on Wadmalaw last year and the unclear future of the Southern Ground Music & Food Festival on Daniel Island, High Water could become the Lowcountry's signature music event if it returns in 2018. 

Reach Abigail Darlington at 843-937-5906 and follow her on Twitter @A_Big_Gail.

Abigail Darlington is a local government reporter focusing primarily on the City of Charleston. She previously covered local arts & entertainment, technology, innovation, tourism and retail for the Post and Courier.