When I try to visualize what the origin of Southern music looks like, I tend to picture a porch of some sort.
Like a bunch of guys in overalls on the steps after a long workday about a century ago, strumming dusty instruments and singing what we now know as the blues. And neighbors are gathered around, swaying in rocking chairs, clapping or nodding along.
One of my favorite things about Charleston is that you can still find porch music all over the place. It’s more likely outside a restaurant than on the front steps of a house, but the atmosphere is still the same: the community gathering around, enjoying the breeze and their neighbors’ music.
I think it’s something that anybody in the Lowcountry would enjoy, especially this time of year. Here’s where to find live, local music outside, any day of the week, for absolutely no cost.
Not so much a day of rest in the Lowcountry, Sundays for many locals mean drawn-out brunches, socializing and soaking in the weather. It also happens to be one of the best days of the week to find live music around town.
One of the longest running Sunday shows in the area is Reggae on the Rooftop featuring Mystic Vibrations, an authentic reggae band, at Coconut Joe’s Beach Grill and Bar on Front Beach at Isle of Palms.
The weekly event at 5:30 p.m. has been held for the past 13 years. While it’s a popular draw for tourists in the summer, it’s also well-attended by locals since it’s one of the few routine reggae events in the area.
Where: 1120 Ocean Blvd., Isle of Palms
More Info: 886-0046
Another rooftop series is in downtown Charleston at The Rooftop, the recently renovated bar on top of The Vendue hotel. The popular watering hole near East Bay Street just launched a new weekly program called the Sunday Scene, when the bar hosts live music and cocktail specials from 2-6 p.m. This week they’ll feature house music by DJ Memorii.
Where: 19 Vendue Range
More info: www.the vendue.com/restaurants/ the-rooftop
I’ll admit finding outdoor music can be a challenge on certain weekdays. But that’s when the Pour House comes into play. The James Island venue offers free, live music daily on its deck stage from 6-9 p.m., which is somewhat of a best-kept-secret in Charleston’s budding music scene.
The deck series has played host to Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent of Shovels & Rope, Dangermuffin, Elise Testone and many other rising artists over the years.
On Mondays, the deck stage features Rodeo Clown, a string band that plays bluegrass versions of Grateful Dead classics and Jerry Garcia tunes. Most of its key members, Rusty Cole, Bobby Hogg and Wallace Mullinax, are also in The Reckoning, which has been playing electric Dead every Wednesday on the deck for several years.
The Reckoning may be the more popular of the two, but Rodeo Clown is a low-key alternative that showcases the group’s serious string-picking talent. It’s especially a treat to see Mullinax, also the guitarist in the Dead 27s, play the dobro and sing, something he doesn’t often do with other bands on stage.
Where: 1977 Maybank Highway, Charleston
More info: www.charlestonpourhouse.com
Another talented country and bluegrass group, The Bushels, has announced a live concert series every Tuesday starting this week from 6-9 p.m. for free at Edmund’s Oast.
The four-piece band is the first recurring act to be booked for the restaurant’s recently opened outdoor event space and courtyard. Billed as The Bower, the area is covered and temperature-controlled, so that should add to its appeal when the spring breeze gives way to summer heat.
The Bushels, with members Whitt Algar, Jim Algar, Mal Jones and Guilds Hollowell, have put out two studio albums in the past five years, spawning one of their most popular country folk songs, “Everytime.”
Bottom line, fans of the Avett Brothers’ early tunes, Old Crow Medicine Show, or any other breed of rootsy bluegrass will likely enjoy what The Bushels have to offer.
Where: 1081 Morrison Drive
More Info: 727-1145 or www.edmundsoast.com
While it might seem like a trek for residents of greater Charleston, the Awendaw Green Barn Jam on Wednesdays is worth every mile through Mount Pleasant up to the Sewee Outpost on U.S. Highway 17.
In fact, its remote location is part of what defines the experience at this free showcase of local and regional acts. With a backdrop of an old barn surrounded by oak trees, the outdoor venue creates an intimate, communal atmosphere that seems to repel any modern-day distractions.
Like the Pour House’s deck stage, Awendaw Green has showcased many successful artists over the years, such as Hootie and the Blowfish’s Mark Bryan and Sadler Vaden, a Charleston-bred guitarist who now plays in Jason Isbell’s band, 400 Unit.
The series from 6-10 p.m. on April 8 features North Carolina’s Chris Emerson & Ty Bennett, Red Honey, and a number of others. Adding to the Barn Jam’s appeal, guests are welcome to bring their kids, dogs and their own beverages.
Where: 4879 U.S. Highway 17, Awendaw
More info: www.awendawgreen.com
If you can’t make it to the Awendaw Green on Wednesdays, the Rusty Rudder just south on Highway 17 is a good backup plan. The bar books many of the same bands in town for the Barn Jam showcase to perform outside on its large outdoor patio. Tonight, they’ll host Swampcandy and Kylie Odetta.
Right now, the restaurant typically books bands for the weekends, but co-owner Brian Johnston said live music will be outside daily once the weather warms up.
Where: 3563 U.S. Highway 17, Mount Pleasant
More info: mtpleasant.therustyrudder.net
Another hidden gem with a large outdoor area for live music is Chico Feo on Folly Beach, which hosts local bands Tuesday through Friday. On Thursdays, you can catch Nate Edwin, an indie singer and Folly Beach regular.
Where: 122 E. Ashley Ave., Folly Beach
More Info: www.chicofeos.com
Beer has an almost magnetic draw after a long work week. Perhaps that’s why local craft breweries are some of the liveliest places in town once the weekend revs up.
Palmetto Brewery Co., the city’s oldest craft brewery on Huger Street, hosts a weekly live concert series put on by Awendaw Green, so it’s another residual showcase from Wednesday’s event at the Sewee Outpost. Palmetto offers all of its permanent and seasonal brews in the recently built tap room, and food trucks are often parked outside.
Where: 289 Huger St.
More info: www.palmettobrewery.com
Another brewery in the neighborhood, Revelry Brewing Co., also hosts live music on Fridays and Saturdays outside the warehouse on Conroy Street. It’s a casual, dog-friendly atmosphere where guests can hang out on picnic tables and enjoy curb-side cuisine from a local food truck.
Where: 10 Conroy St.
More Info: www.revelrybrewingco.com
In the sea of boozy venues hosting live music all week, the Charleston Farmer’s Market in Marion Square provides a sober, family-friendly setting to catch some of the most talented folk, bluegrass and acoustic artists in the Lowcountry.
Local blues-folk group HoneySmoke will take the stage this week during the first event of the 2015 season.
A hub of local produce and so much more, the Saturday morning market is one of the most popular regular events in downtown Charleston, next to Second Sunday on King Street. By noon Saturdays, hundreds of people are plopped on blankets and lawn chairs in the park, eating breakfast from local food vendors and enjoying the live music.
Where: Calhoun and King streets
More info: www.charlestonfarmersmarket.com
On Saturday and Sunday afternoons from noon to 4 p.m., Republic Garden and Lounge hosts live music on its large, luxurious patio a few blocks north of Marion Square on King Street.
The restaurant and bar has one of the most active live music calendars in Charleston, with bands also playing at 7 p.m. daily on the outdoor patio.
Where: 462 King St.
More Info: www.republic reign.com/upcoming-events/
Reach Abigail Darlington at 937-5906 and follow her on Twitter @A_Big_Gail.