Charleston is the up-and-coming Austin. At least that's what I've been hearing since I became an active member of the local music scene after college in 2015. Before that, I could only get into a rare under-18 standing-room show at Music Farm or an occasional North Charleston Coliseum performance (cue my dreams coming true at a Hilary Duff concert in seventh grade).
It's true that Charleston's original music scene is growing at an exciting pace, like that of Austin, Texas, another Southern college town that has become known for great bands and live entertainment among the nightlife.
The Holy City's current artists at the forefront are following in the famous footsteps of Hootie & the Blowfish and Shovels & Rope, two artists that first put the state on the map. Now, decades later, we have a whole crew of modern nationally touring acts based right here in Charleston, like Susto, The High Divers, Stop Light Observations and Atlas Road Crew.
These are homegrown acts, but they're also acts that have toured the United States and the globe, played festivals far and wide and then returned home to still perform for the crowds that packed out 50-cap bars to see them five years ago.
It all started with local labels that had a mission to put Charleston on the map. Originally, that was Hearts & Plugs, a champion of the indie rock scene. The influence of that label is still paying off, but now genres and boundaries are being crossed like they haven't before.
Real South Records is hosting hip-hop artists, punk bands and alt-country acts alike. And local producers like Wolfgang Zimmerman of Rialto Row and Matt Zutell of Coast Records are grinding away, album by album, to create a memorable Charleston sound.
Though the Charleston venues willing to play original music are limited, bands, particularly in the indie rock and Americana genres, have found a way to climb over the small-city hurdles and make it work anyway. We're still watching them climb and cheering them on.
We even have our own music conference, following in the footsteps of Austin's SXSW. Though not on that level, the annual Charleston Music Confab is a platform for emerging artists and big names in the industry to come together for showcases and panels.
I'm happy to be a part of a blossoming scene on the verge of breaking the cusp. I'll be here to watch it.