In recent years, the long hot days of summer have meant only one thing: how to cram as many musical acts into one corporate-sponsored day as possible.
We’ve got our own version of Bona-Chella-Palooza this Saturday, and it’s called the 8th Annual First Flush Festival, hosted by the Charleston Tea Plantation. It was originally a celebration of something to do with making tea. I’m actually not clear on what that is, but it’s a good enough reason to host a bunch of bands, serve up beer, and sell crafty stuff from temporary shelters. Kids will have things to do and lots of space to run around.
Each year the festival has grown in some way. The acts keep getting better. More tents arrive to sell you stuff. And the selection of food trucks and food tents keeps expanding. You can easily spend all day there, and a lot of people will. Since it is located on Wadmalaw Island, it can be a bit of a trek for many people, but well worth the trip.
There is a good deal of variety and excitement about this year’s acts. Let’s give you a brief rundown of each.
On the Main Stage, in reverse time order.
9pm The Avett Brothers. Your Grammy-nominated, Americana Award winning headliners are the grandfathers of the Mumford bands. Blending banjos with distortion pedals, and writing catchy pop songs may not have endeared them to the hardcore bluegrass crowd, but they put on a great show that should be a perfect cap to the day. And I’ll take these guys over any Mumford band any day.
7pm Stop Light Observations. Barely a month goes by without someone telling me how huge this young local band is going to be. Singer Will Blackburn’s soulful and rhythmic voice gives the band a strong identity in the modern rock crowd. The music might be compared to last year’s flavor-of-the-moment-band, Imagine Dragons, but keyboardist John-Keith Culbreth composes every note of the band’s synth and guitar mix in a way that blends a slight amount of southern flavors into an otherwise metropolitan sound. Catch their act and see if you are witnessing the next big thing out of Charleston.
6pm Luke Cunningham Band. Luke is a heck of a song craftsman with a smooth voice. His songs are easy, relaxed, and full of subtle nuances throughout the stories he sings. It’s the perfect music to slip something a little harder into the tea and relax for a spell.
5pm The Tyler Boone Band. If I could give an award for the Most Shameless Self Promoting Musician in Charleston, it would go to Tyler Boone. Hijacking the First Flush Festival as his personal CD release party, recent CofC graduate Tyler has a solid band helping him bring his blues-tinged songs to life.
4pm Atlas Road Crew. This five piece guitar rock band is a relative newcomer to Charleston. Their music is steeped in the lessons of the 70’s era ‘Stones and Allmans. If you have listened to recent Black Keys songs and found them stiff or overproduced, you’ll take great comfort in the ARC’s freewheeling rock and roll.
3pm Uncle Mingo. I claim ignorance. While I’m told this was one of the most popular acts in the area years ago, I’ve not seen them or listened to their releases. However, looking at a few YouTube recordings of their stuff, I would have to agree with this description from AllMusic Guide, “a funk-punk quintet that melds the party-hearty attitude of the Red Hot Chili Peppers with a stronger funk basis and an inclination toward long jams that lean towards prog-rock.”
2pm Mike Pinto. Promoted as “Storyteller Mike Pinto,” expect a lot of reggae, ska, and surf music from this Philly-born and San Diego-based international artist.
1pm Ben Fagan And The Holy City Hooligans. The first act of First Flush is a Charleston staple, putting the “Island” in Wadmalaw Island. Their funk, reggae, rap mix is akin to Sublime and should be a call for everyone to relax on Saturday.
Acoustic Stage, in proper time order, for no apparent reason.
Between sets on the Main Stage, stroll over to hear some artists that are more than just filler.
The day starts with three 17 year old ladies taking the stage one after another. With the success of women in Nashville lately, you’re going to see a lot more girls with guitars.
3:45 McKenna Andrews channels Miranda Lambert, expect to hear a cover of “Me and Bobby McGee” during McKenna’s set.
4:45 Academic Magnet student Haley Mae Campbell brings her heartfelt coffehouse songs to the mid afternoon stage.
5:45 Matt MacKelcan gets to follow up these talented young women with songs from his upcoming third CD, along with radio friendly songs from his previous releases.
6:45 Things are going to get louder as the baby-faced trio Stepping Stones takes the stage. Their influences are clearly classic rock, yet it is possible their parents weren’t even born when classic rock was in its heyday. Lead singer/guitarist Hannah Wicklund (yes another female singer on this stage, a theme here?) and her band will release a new CD next week.
7:45 The Executives take the stage to play their groove based pop rock and then close out this stage while the sun sets.
First Flush festival has a great mix of music, food, and vendors. There is enough for the whole family. Buy your tickets early here: $37.50 or $45 on the day of the show.
Images via blogs.tennessean, follybeachfix, lukecunninghammusic, independentmusicawards, atlasroadcrew, talentspotlightmagazine)