After nearly two years of successfully running house shows around the city, Pop-Up Charleston has decided to close up shop.
The organization run by three college students and two post-grads of the College of Charleston has put on countless mini-concerts for Charleston’s up-and-coming artists in packed living rooms since its inception in August 2014. They became a monthly attraction for underground music lovers and ultimately, a fixture of the local music community.
But that’s the funny thing about house shows. Once the secret’s out, the jig is up.
Katie Jones, an organizer with Pop-Up, said they’ve “absolutely” outgrown the original mission to provide an intimate setting for young listeners to enjoy live music, which is a main reason the five organizers (Jones, Peter Spearman, Matt Navey, Addi Green, and Holden Curran) want to discontinue the series. Plus, three of them (Spearman, Navey and Green) are moving away this year.
“Our name has gotten out there more and more, and as we’ve gotten bigger, more people show up, and we’ve started capping our shows, and we’ve definitely had to do more crowd control,” she said.
It’s not that the organizers of Pop-Up Charleston wanted to keep it hush-hush. They would post public Facebook invites ahead of each event, and they always made a point to spread the word to neighbors and friends.
But with more than 100 people showing up to recent Pop-Up Charleston shows, it became clear that the whole idea of the listener-friendly environment had gotten away from them.
“It definitely became harder to get people to focus on what we’re trying to do,” Jones said.
At the same time, other house shows started to take root in student-dominated areas such as Cannonborough-Elliotborough and the East Side.
“We just decided that since the house show scene is flourishing now, we just wanted to let the rest of Charleston kind of carry on the scene,” Jones said. “I think Pop-Up has been able to show people that it’s not really that difficult to put on a house show. Yes, you have to be there early to set up ... but it’s not this far-out idea to have a show in your living room.”
She clarified that a house show is much different than a house party that might have a live band or a DJ.
“Paying attention to the artists, that’s really what we want,” she said. “We really try to control noise ... we do a little bit of parenting. Whereas a house party is really like a free-for-all.”
While past shows have certainly run into problems with the city, mostly due to noise complaints, Jones said she’s confident house shows can live on without disrupting residents’ quality of life. One way is to host them in neighborhoods that don’t mind the music, she said.
“I would definitely say the neighborhood has played a huge contribution to what we’re able to do and where we’re able to play,” she said, adding that residents on the East Side are particularly receptive to the idea. “The neighbors are so friendly and accepting of what we’re doing when we explain it to them. We tell them it’s not a party and we’re just very supportive of artists.”
The series, held in various volunteers’ homes, has played host to several of Charleston’s well-known artists, such as Susto, Johnny Delaware and Steven Fiore. But it’s been an outlet for smaller touring bands as well, who might not have enough of a following in town to book a club gig.
“(Pop-Up Charleston) has been a huge help to the music scene over the past few years,” said Dan McCurry, who runs the local music label Hearts & Plugs. “They have a special ability of connecting with that younger crowd here that’s usually plain hard to connect with.”
Jones, who is a junior, said getting involved with Pop-Up has helped her hone into what she wants to do with her career.
“I have completely switched my major since being in Pop-Up. I was a biology major for the first two years, and I ditched all of that and now I’m in arts management concentrating in music,” she said. “I’m hoping to pursue music for the rest of my life. Not playing, but cultivating a scene somewhere.”
The organization will host a farewell show at Palmetto Brewery on Saturday featuring acts that have played for Pop-Up Charleston before. Jones said they decided to host the event at a real venue instead of a house to give the artists a chance to collect some ticket revenue, since house shows are typically donation-only to make them more accessible.
The event from 5-11 p.m. will include performances by singer-songwriter Corey Kilgannon of Nashville; indie band Triathalon of Savannah; pop/folk act Liza Anne of Atlanta; Charleston rock band Heyrocco; and Columbia grunge-rockers ET Anderson.
Tickets are $10 at the door, or $20 for VIP entry, which includes a T-shirt. For more information, check out the Facebook event at www.facebook.com/events/209651522725989.
Reach Abigail Darlington at 937-5906 and follow her on Twitter @A_Big_Gail.