But sometimes you have to get out of town for a really good show. I
recently bought a new car, and last week I took it on a road trip with
a friend for a killer rock show.
We went all the way to The Radio Room just past Cherrydale, four miles
from Downtown. That’s all it took.
It started when Downtown Alive was canceled for rain. I almost never
miss Downtown Alive. It’s literally across the street from where I
work, and it’s hard to beat spilling a little beer in the middle of
Main Street with live music. I was excited to see a rock band I heard
was playing that night, especially since the last week had been the
loudest country act I have ever heard (sorry, I don’t love country).
We had remarkable weather all day, that is, until a half hour before
the show when it rained hard enough to end a three-year drought.
Bummer. I had a spectacularly bad day at work, and some good live
rock music with a cold IPA was just what I needed to chase the blues
away. Christmas was canceled.
But by the time I got home I already had a message that the band,
Death of Paris, was booked to open a set at The Radio Room after
Downtown Alive was canceled. I’d never been to The Radio Room, but I
was already thinking about going there to meet up with Wes Gilliam, a
local writer and fellow music addict who had recently given me some
I thought it was really cool of them to book the band after the
rain-out. So off we went, four whole miles, and an hour before
showtime just because I couldn’t wait to get out.
As soon as we walked in the door I knew we were in for a trip. The
dim lights, the bar nearly touching the front door, the half-mannequin
hanging near the stage, the tattoos, I was excited before I even
signed the guest book. This wasn’t Downtown. It reminded me more of
venues I’ve seen in cities like Atlanta or Detroit for bands like Thee
Oh Sees or Southern Culture On The Skids than anything in Greenville.
Next thing I know, there’s a band turning on their gear. They’re half
on the stage, half on the floor, the singer practically pushed off by
the drummer’s double-length bass drum. It’s Death Of Paris.
It was early, there were barely thirty people there, but they played
like there were thirty thousand. Heavy beats, a curly-haired siren
for a singer, catchy melodies with too much dissonance and complexity
to be called pop, a lanky lead guitarist who played like he was born
two decades after he should have been, and the sound was massive.
It seemed like they had just started when the second band, a
Greenville band named “Joie,” replaced them. Three women, three
keyboards and a single drum all fit on the stage. And instead of the
beat-driven songs from Death of Paris, they sounded more like a good
dream, wavy and melodic.
They were followed by The Sour Notes, a psychedelic, sometimes
furious, sometimes somber group from Austin, TX. Their “merch-girl”
walked around the front of the stage, taking pictures and moving
lights while the band played. Then they called her up to play the two
standing drums on stage for the next four songs.
The final band, Today the Moon Tomorrow the Sun from Atlanta, had
been there the whole night, talking in the crowd and with the other
bands. When they got on stage, I thought they were going to sound
like sugary California-pop from their look. What can I say? It’s
human nature to judge a little.
I couldn’t have been much more wrong, honestly. What looked like the
biggest drum kit of the night turned out to be figuratively even
bigger with banks of electric drum pads on the edges of two drum
heads, marking the power and tempo of the band; fast and rhythmic and
ruthlessly fun. Their ferocity carried through the small crowd, which
had plenty of room to spread out, but it seemed like nobody wanted to
be any less close to the stage. We all jumped and cheered and pounded
our arms in the air on invisible drums before screaming for another.
I held an empty beer can for the most of the last half because I
didn’t want to walk thirty feet to get another one.
When it was over I looked at my watch. We had been there nearly six
hours, and it still felt like it was early. I left with four albums,
a demo CD, three stickers, about a dozen new friends, and a happy
heart that had completely forgotten about the bad weather. The only
thing wrong was I kept wondering how a place like The Radio Room had
been there so long and I had no clue? According a friend I talked to
there (who I hadn’t seen in more than two years), those sort of gigs
happen there almost regularly. I kinda felt guilty, honestly.
Maybe I’ve been living Downtown too long? Don’t get me wrong, the
problem isn’t Downtown; I love Downtown, that’s why I live here. But
I also love Greenville, and Greenville isn’t just Downtown. Maybe I
don’t leave Downtown enough to know about something I would have loved
so much for so long. Four miles isn’t much to ask, is it?
Hell no, it’s not. I’ve traveled to Atlanta, California, even as far
as London for raw, intimate rock shows that were just as exciting.
Having a new car has changed a lot for me, but if I had known, I would
have walked to The Radio Room.
I still would. And if I have to, I will. I fell in love with that
place. Thanks again, WPBR.