WRITTEN BY Stratton Lawrence
To Charleston’s new arrivals, the names of now-shuttered music venues like Myskyns Tavern, Cumberland’s, and the Village Tavern bear no meaning. But for every local dive that’s closed shop, there’s a rejuvenated Charleston Music Hall or a completely refurbished Music Farm leading the way into the future.
The Windjammer is half a century old and going strong. The Charleston Pour House celebrated 20 years in 2022. And in March, the North Charleston Coliseum and Performing Arts Center (PAC) each turned 30. Take a look at their summer lineups (page 92), and you’ll see that our town’s anchor venues are as vibrant as ever.
They’re also joined by a pack of newcomers and revitalized upstarts like The Riviera, a 600-seat Egyptian Art Deco theater that sat mostly vacant for the past 50 years. If you think that Lower King is culturally drab, don’t tell that to George Clinton, who holds court at the corner of King and Market on June 16.
“A couple years out of the pandemic, it’s clear that the concert market is healthy,” says Rob Lamble, founder of Ear for Music. “We took the time off to refocus and shift our efforts to building more high-quality, national acts.” Lamble’s company is the exclusive booking agent and promoter at The Refinery, a new venue on the upper peninsula. He also manages show operations at The Riviera, co-promotes concerts for Firefly Distillery with Live Nation, and is the founder of the popular summer Party at the Point series at Charleston Harbor Resort, now in its 23rd season.
Along with the renovated Credit One Stadium, the redoubled venue options in town mean that an increasing number of touring bands don’t overlook the Lowcountry in their scheduling. Our venues range from tight but energetic bar stages like The Royal American to Credit One’s 12,000 seats under the stars, ie, there’s plenty of room for bands to grow their audience and move up the ranks. On June 16, My Morning Jacket (who played The Plex in North Charleston to a few hundred people in 2006) will host what’s likely to be the biggest crowd yet at Firefly—the same night Clinton’s Parliament-Funkadelic plays The Riveria. And that’s just one date among a scorching summer schedule for music fans.
“This summer is going to be very busy, with shows big and small,” says Lamble. “We’re ready, and we’re excited for it.”
An office complex may sound like an odd place to see blues legend Taj Mahal, but The Refinery never intended to be conventional. Its first floor is home to The Whale, a bar that sports one of the city’s best craft beer selections (and an impressive whale skeleton suspended from the ceiling). Just outside, an amphitheater with a covered stage easily accommodates 2,000 attendees and has a VIP rooftop deck overlooking it all. >>READ MORE
These venues stand out as rooms that have built bands and cultivated a loyal local audience for decades. Although they now compete with upstarts for bookings, the attitude among most owners and managers is that a rising tide floats all boats. “There’s more competition than ever, but there are also more bands coming to the Lowcountry,” says Alan Coker, marketing director at the North Charleston Coliseum and PAC. “We get a lot more than our fair share of concerts for a market our size.” >>READ MORE
It’s possible—and not even difficult—to experience world-class live music every night in Charleston, without ever seeing a touring national act. These are just a few of the dozens of venues keeping local musicians employed and fans grooving week after week, all year long. >>READ MORE
Photographs By Joseph Nienstedt; (Coliseum) Nathan Bell; courtesy of (3) The Refinery; (The refinery) Aleece Sophia; (Drifter Fest) Jeffrey Moore; courtesy of (3) The Refinery; courtesy of Firefly Distillery; (The Riviera-3) Reese Moore & courtesy of (2) The Riviera; courtesy of Credit One Stadium; (Music Farm & Charleston Music Hall) Joseph Nienstedt & courtesy of the venues; (Swift) Billie Young Minchew; (Prince) Devin Grant; (Springsteen) Rick Rhodes & (Buffett) Melanie Quick; (Awendaw Green band & grounds) Morgan Conklin; courtesy of Party at the Point; & courtesy of The Royal American