Ohm Radio goes live; New Music Confab lineup

Ben Fagan and the Holy City Hooligans is one of the many local acts that will perform in August at New Music Confab, a showcase of local talent and music industry pros.

On a sunny afternoon last fall, the six members of Media Reform SC sat around Faye Steuer’s kitchen table, talking about all the Federal Communications Commission hoops they’d have to jump through over the next few months.

It was one of their first meetings about Ohm Radio, a nonprofit radio station they wanted to launch primarily to air local music. There were dozens of donors to write, all sorts of paperwork.

Initially, I had to wonder, could this small group of hopefuls, who had zero radio experience, actually raise the funds and support to pull this off?

Less than a year later, they’ve proven that, yes, they absolutely could. Ohm Radio goes live at 96.3 FM at 11 a.m. Saturday.

“We started with talking around a table. And now we have raised over $30,000 and have a fully functioning radio station for the city of Charleston. It’s pretty amazing,” said Vikki Matsis, head of the nonprofit group, as she reflected on all the hard work it took to get to this point.

“It takes a village, it really does,” she said. “I’ve really been impressed with how many people have come out of the wood works to help with this project. ... I would have never been able to do it without the help of everyone.”

The first weekend of programming will be dominated by artists and stories from across the Lowcountry, starting with a full three hours of local music Saturday, something the nonprofit group has envisioned since the very beginning.

As she compiled the first playlist, Matsis said she was astounded by how much local music she didn’t even recognize.

“There are so many bands I haven’t heard of, which is great and that’s why I like to do something like this, to show people the music that’s being made here that isn’t being represented in our area,” she said.

The rest of the weekend’s programs will pretty much run the gamut, from jam bands and yoga music to jazz, reggae and soul.

To celebrate the first weekend up and running, Ohm Radio will have a launch party at the Pour House on Sunday to coincide with the venue’s farmers market, where there will be live music, info booths to learn more about the station, and arts and crafts that will help decorate the Ohm Radio studio. The festivities begin at 11 a.m. and is free to attend.

Another new idea that’s shaping up to be a pretty big deal for the Lowcountry’s music scene is the New Music Confab, a music industry showcase in Charleston that will be held for the first time from Aug. 27-29.

It’s the Holy City’s leap toward a festival like Austin, Texas’ South by Southwest, when hundreds of bands descend on the city’s bars and clubs to be noticed by the flock of talent scouts in town.

While the New Music Confab is decidedly smaller, with about 30 artists and music industry professionals participating, it’s still one of the boldest efforts in recent memory to herd industry folks to Charleston to observe the level of talent we have here.

The lineup of participants was finalized last week, boasting some pretty impressive names from across the spectrum of the music industry.

“I think what I’m the most excited about is we’ll have wide variety of music industry pros,” said Dave Stewart, the mastermind of the showcase. “Every link in the chain that a new artist needs to get to the next level will be represented at New Music Confab.”

Some we can be excited about are Dennis Blair, senior vice president of promotion at RCA Records; Rick Booth, president of Intrepid Artists; and Leslie Fram, an executive of music strategy at Country Music Television, who’s in charge of “all music integration within the CMT brand, including original programs, CMT.com and music video airplay across all screens,” according to her bio on the Confab’s website.

They’ll see acts from across the Southeast, but the music lineup is dominated by Charleston’s artists. And it’s nice to see such a variety, too, because it illustrates how diverse our music scene is.

The Confab will show off sets by local rock groups such as Atlas Road Crew, Dead 27s and The High Divers, pop-funk by Ben Fagan & the Holy City Hooligans, indie Americana by Danielle Howle and HoneySmoke, and the list goes on.

The shows, which will be held at the Music Farm and the Charleston Music Hall, are all open to the public for $12 in advance and $16 at the doors. An all-access badge is $100, and that includes all the shows and panel discussions (full disclosure: I’ll be participating in one of them about music media).

More information about the event and tickets is available at www.newmusicconfab.com.