Greenville’s Music Scene Is Doing Just Fine, Thanks, Brad

I promised myself I wouldn’t respond. I lied.

This morning, I woke to this adorable little piece. If you live in Greenville or the surrounding Upstate South Carolina area here, you probably also read it, like I did, scratched your head, like I did, and said to yourself “What the fuck?!” like I did.

Should you not want sift through the entire diatribe, I’ll cut to the chase: Brad Willis really, really loves Asheville but hates driving there. The entire thing boils down to the fact that Asheville has the Orange Peel, which gets mid-level national acts, and Greenville doesn’t. Naturally, the conclusion read that Greenville is not “a community that supports music, keep driving until you see the signs for Asheville.” Yeah, real Vulcan-caliber logic there, Brad.

Had this been someone’s Facebook status, I may have given a bemused shake of my head and moved on with my morning. Sadly, this was published in Greenville Journal, a dedicated local news outlet, which is extremely disappointing seeing as the Greenville music scene has had such an amazing ally in Vincent Harris’ writing. Seriously, he does the Lord’s work. Read some of his articles.

First thing’s first. I have zero problem with Asheville. I finally got to see Nada Surf, one of my favorite bands of 20 years, for the first time  as a birthday present from Wes (Awww *heart eyes emoji*) at the Grey Eagle back in October. Before I go on, I wanted to make that clear.

What I have a problem with is the author continually using Asheville as the prime example as to why Greenville is without a “true” music community. What I have a problem with is that Willis is clearly cognitively  aware of a local music scene by casually namedropping local venues such as Gottrocks, Independent Public Ale House, and The Radio Room (I would have a heart attack if he’d even heard of Grandma’s House); and he thinks that by name-checking them he’s absolved himself from ignoring the guaranteed ire of local artists for such gross simplification.

Spoiler warning: It doesn’t.

To be completely fair, Willis’ desire isn’t an unreasonable one. He wants a venue sizable enough to house mid-level national acts. Let’s say at about 500-1,000 person capacity. Greenville used to have something comparable: the now-closed Handlebar. No argument there. That’s fine. It’d be nice.

It’d also have been nice if Willis had mentioned the fact that Shovels and Rope (his prime example) had played Smiley’s, Radio Room, and Velo Fellow in the past. No, we only get mention of “Fall For Greenville a few years back,” which seems to say to me that unless it’s a large event, the author can’t seemed to be bothered with seeing music.

Look, I’m sorry a band has to breakout and get indie darling status on NPR before you give a shit. I’m sorry that Jump, Little Children actually fucking bothered to put on a handful of shows this year and they didn’t come to Greenville, causing you to yet again “sigh aloud.” I’m sorry you have to actually put some effort into going to see live music.

Oops. Lied again. No I’m not.

You see, Brad, if you had just given an impassioned desire for a new venue, we would have no problem. Hell, I’d be joining you. But by painting Greenville as this tone deaf wasteland without citizens who wants to hear “good bands” in an effort to highlight your desire for a bigger venue, you disrespected every hardworking  local club owner, bartender and booking agent as well as the countless local and touring artists playing their hearts out on a near daily basis.

Hell, nationally touring bands like Glass Mansions, Susto, Brave Baby, Marcus King Band, and Beach Tiger are among the healthy amount of artists who make Greenville a consistent stop. On several occasions, I’ve personally seen Glass Mansions proclaim Greenville as another home for them because of their experiences touring here.

Let’s scale back, though. Not even at the nationals. Because you really need to look at the local artists we have here. Singer-songwriter troubadours like Darby Wilcox bust their asses to play everywhere they can. And frequently. Yet you want to be “sad about that fact?” Don’t say that within their earshot or they’re liable to slap you. I wouldn’t blame them either.

I’d regale you with the awesomeness of Wasted Wine and T. C. Costello, but we all know Greenville yuppies don’t like gypsy punk.

There are tons of bands I didn’t even list because we don’t have all goddamn day. When you look at your own playground, point at it, and say it doesn’t count, don’t expect the people who’ve been maintaining and playing in said playground to applaud you. Oh, sure, you may not have meant to say local acts don’t count, but by claiming that Greenville is not a “community that supports music” based on the sole fact that it does not currently have a specifically sized venue for bands of certain national renown, that is exactly what you’re doing.

So no, mentioning that clubs exist is not enough. If anything, it’s patronizing: the equivalent of ruffling their hair and calling them “cute.”

You see, Greenville is “a community that supports music.” Does it have its own problems? Of course, but we’re still part of said community. And we’re sure as shit going to defend that community when someone uploads their op-ed from the barstool of whatever new “speakeasy” opened this week disrespecting it.

My advice to you, Brad,  is instead of condescending your community, take a look around and actually see what’s there. Go to some shows. Be part of the community and work within it to help promote your goals. Otherwise, “keep driving until you see the signs for Asheville.” Maybe they’ll put up with your fairweather nonsense.

But I doubt it.


5 thoughts on “Greenville’s Music Scene Is Doing Just Fine, Thanks, Brad

  1. The top shot from “Network” caught my eye. One of my favorite movies. Probably my favorite scene of all time.

    “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore”

    Thanks for standing up for the community. What we, the musicians, really need is the support. We need people to come out and actually hear us play and buy a beer from our hosts.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Greenville has a ton of talented artists and some that have brought in some incredible grammy winning talent to play with them in town. I spent 12 years working in the Local scene through my radio work, and heard, played and supported Ton’s of great young artists. Many became successful by touring outside of the area or moved to a new location. Now I have spent close to 5 years working in radio in Asheville. Yes we have great venues and we also have a city full of different flavors of music and the people actually come out to support it, Asheville still has problems with people supporting local acts, cause they take them for granted. But that’s not as big an issue as it was in my days in Greenville since we get so many out of town visitors almost year round now. A scene is only as good as the support it gets in the community, and that’s what the Greenville scene needs and Asheville does just a little bit better, a commitment by the locals to get out and support local music!- Brian Blades


  3. Great article, gets me excited just to see someone excited about being excited about a music scene – any music scene! You think you got it tough try dry rotting in Columbia, SC!!!


  4. John Jeter’s FB reply to the original article sums all of this up very well: a community gets the music scene that it is willing to pay for. I am a veterinarian. A community gets the quality of veterinary medicine it is willing to pay for; whether that be mobile vaccine clinics, emergency medicine afcilities, or referral hospitals. A community also gets the restaurant scene and school system it is willing to pay for. It is pretty simple math.


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