The sun-lit snow covering Charleston in a miraculous form is really an underlying change of positive things to come. These last two years haven’t been the same for some of us but the holistic power of music has always prevailed. Despite the repugnant detour the modern media of music continues to take us down, there will always be a meld of adept artists, and their supporters, ready to break tradition or preserve it. As another year around the sun comes to end, or beginning, here’s a look back at 2017:
One thing 2018 is promising Charleston is a refreshing outlook on photogenic music journalism. Taylor Czerwinski, Cofc '16, is redefining how we discover the cracks of the low-country's music scene. January 25 was the official birthdate of 9-5 Magazine. This is the only combination of photos and harmonics that will NOT be accessible by a digital outsource. Come again? Czerwinski is investing in a “tangible, quality collector's item". This 68 page spread features exclusive content with artists, venue owners, music appreciators, etc. in conjunction with photo sessions with each. (Even sponsors get a spotlight). Not to mention, readers have access to the music that they are reading about. Say whaaat? What makes this project remarkable is the derived passion to showcase underground and groundbreaking artists right here in the low-country.
Although Loci Records was rooted in 2016, this electronic label broke boundaries in 2017. They hold an exceptional standard for producers while proudly being “the crossroads between downtempo, instrumental hip-hop and electronica". Midas King frontrunner, Doug Appling aka Emancipator, leads the label by example. His 5th LP, Baralku, may only be just above 2 months old but it has the soul of lifetimes before it. It's as if he transcends his past lives to introduce us to a different set of ears. Try naming off the refined instruments used in this piece. 2017 also gave us Frameworks' second introduction of musical seduction, Kings. This album opens an unhinged door to another country, another language, simply another view on life. This is the pattern that sets this label apart. Artist Tor continued this thread by re-releasing his '16 album Blue Book as a remixed storybook. The storyline for Loci Records is using music to mean that one's life truly matters.
As if that last statement wasn't heavy enough, we look back on the dark side of music. Among the many artistic talents that have crossed over in 2017, the unfortunate case of Chester Bennington of Linkin Park hung thick in the air. Although there seems be speculation about how and why Mr. Bennington passed, in either case it brought light into the elephant in the room that no one dare speak its name: suicide. It's not an easy word to say but one that should be able to be said if necessary. His passing, as well as Chris Cornell's own, sparked a higher suicide prevention awareness rate. Rapper Logic took the matter into a tangible access to help. His Grammy Award Nominated song '1-800-273-8255' is literally linked to the suicide prevention hotline while lyrically speaking with the listener one-to-one. This article dubs the reality of depression, the dark side of the music, and self-doubt. My goal was to bring this invisible war to light and redirect the negative comments surrounding Mr. Bennington.
Performance by Season
The myriad of artists on tour, festival lineups, and destination spots costing many of us well into the hundreds. These are moments that truly strengthen our music loyalty or can become the ultimate break-up from a lifetime of support. Regardless, attending shows give you a little bit more faith in music and the chance to hear some up-and-coming talent before they make the ultimate switch from opener to headliner.
Summer: The argument for best summer performance is arguably not up for debate. There's something for everyone when it comes the southern sun. For From The Rail blogger and myself it was a moment of “screw my bank account" as we traveled nine hours to meet the lyrical gods Incubus. From the moment we shook their hands and made eye contact, it was clear how humble and dedicated these guys were to their art, their fans, and their life. Introverts at heart and humble to the very core. Worth every cent just to have a moment of clarity. This is how music should be.
Unfortunately I could not same the same from meeting Hank Williams Jr. He hid behind his dark sunglasses and smoked a cigar while we went through the assembly line that was to be our in-and-out candid and then rushed back to our seats. Even worse, we missed almost a full performance of the second opener but Jr. does things his way or the highway (all “meet and greets" are 15 minutes prior to performance). He is noted as being a very timid man and hardly the type up for social interaction. Nevertheless, Around Charleston founder and I had enjoyed reminiscing on some old country classics (and storytelling) that her father, and my step-dad, used to play on summer nights.
Fall: I consider this season to be a turning point or second New Year, which is why it is deemed as a favorite. The humidity dies down. The locals get hitched. The Jack of Cups fall menu comes to life. National artists huddle around the bonfires and brick-oven pizza that make Awendaw Green.
I could not have come up with a better transition from summer gigs to fall performances than Judah & The Lion's “Going To Mars" tour. Former Incubus openers and Nashville natives blew me away with their “folk, rock, and hip-hop" that seeing them just once wasn't an option. Their energy was balanced by the haunting lyrics of Tyson Motsenbocker, who uses his grief to guide his musical intuition.
When it comes to lyrical intuition SondorBlue is bursting at the seams from living and loving in the low-country to turning pages in their tedious tour schedule. 2017 was certainly an explosive one for the soft spoken singers. Their second EP release, You Will Find Love On Ashley Avenue, is mold of generations before them while setting tomorrow's standards.
Music can be a powerful tool to represent togetherness, diversity, and simply life. This is also a basic definition for the holidays; spending time with those you care about and focusing less on the daily devils. Just in time for the turn of winter, the fiery fingertips of Rodrigo Y Gabriela graced the Holy City stage that is every acoustic lovers' dream: The Gaillard. These guitar virtuosos are the best guitar performers in our lifetime and are worth breaking out of your comfort zone to experience. I've said it before and I'll proudly say it again: Son el alma de México!
One of the best features of music journalism is getting to know an artist through their inner core and seeing them for the first time. Our perceptions of artists are vastly different than the ones they turn out to be. For some, it's a sour taste behind beautiful words. However for these artists it is an added bonus to their personalities.
For Charleston creative, Taylor Czerwinski, “[music] is a careful collection of perception and environment that you let in“. For her it is like a “diet", one where you can you positively create and build a better you. And she's doing just that everyday.
No one better understands “musical dieting" than global scholar, philanthropist, musician, and husband, Tommy Gielingh. Tommy and his wife graced Charleston 10 years ago and were thriving community activists. Just walk a few blocks and some soul was touched by Tommy. Through the power of music, he saw the good in absolutely everyone, no understatement. For him “[music] goes hand-in-hand with the meaning of life". Despite moving back to Europe, this couple continues their drive to fulfill humanitarian needs through the healing power of music.
When you're Charleston's Best Husband & Wife Duo, love is always in the air. It's quite fitting given that Oh Valentino uses their own inspirations to keep their love of music, and each other, sparking. “Lots of people want that and we are fortunate to have that. It's like a deep breath for us. We recharge“.
As I round out this post recharged for 2018 and artists yet to be written about, I can't help but be thankful for the chance to be able to bring even the slightest words to global eyes that music is not dead, it's very much alive and holistic.
A sincere thank you to all my supporters, collaborators, and readers.