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When the dogwoods and azaleas bloom on North Main and the temps start to rise, so do the number of really cool festivals Downtown! This weekend, two wonderful festivals, for some equally wonderful causes, will be taking place on and near Main Street. So, if you adore a little wine and jazz or if the smell of bar-be-que makes your heart beat a little faster, head Downtown to pay homage to three of this Southern Girl’s favorite things!

Fine Wine and Smooth Jazz go together like…well …wine and jazz! If you are a lover of both, then join your fellow wine & jazz connessieurs on Friday, April 26, for the Reedy River Jazz & Wine Festival. Starting at 6PM (until 10PM) some of the best regional jazz musicians will be taking the TD Stage at The Peace Center Amphitheatre. The line-up of talent includes locals such as the Anderson University Jazz Ensemble and the Keith Davis Trio, as well as the marvelous jazz vocals of Carol Ingbretsen and the Afro-Cuban jazz fusion of Con Clave. Add to that some delectable food from Larkin’s on the River, amazing wines and the gorgeous views of the Reedy River, all to benefit our local Ronald McDonald House, and you have a mighty fine festival indeed! Tickets are $60 in advance, $65 at the gate (half price for students & military (with ID) and those over 65) and are available online at http://www.reedyriverjazzandwinefestival.org.

Few things get my heart & taste buds jumping like a big ‘ol plate of South Carolina BBQ! And for the meat lovers of our city, no one-day BBQ Cook-off will do! For two days, April 26 & 27th, the succulent aromas of freshly made pulled pork, ribs and chicken wings will invade Downtown Greenville – particularly, the corner of South Main & Broad Streets, as the Project Host BBQ Cook-Off & Festival returns. Benefitting this wonderful local charity, this annual event, now in its fourth year, will feature some of the best local and regional chefs around! Friday will feature a “People’s Choice Chicken Wing Competition” where chefs will test their culinary skills with this favorite snack. Saturday’s competition will feature pulled pork butts and ribs. The event runs from 6PM -10PM on Friday and 11AM – 10PM on Saturday (Saturday tasting is from 11AM – 2:30PM). Those wishing to participate in the judging can purchase tickets to taste for $1 or for $10, you can purchase a big plate of BBQ! For more information, visit http://www.projecthost.org/bbq.

So, there you have it Downtownies! You can sit back, listen to some great jazz while sipping wine by the Reedy River. Or you can stuff your face with pulled pork, chicken wings and ribs! Or do both! And it all goes to some great causes! What could be better! See you there!

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Anyone who knows me knows of the deep, profound love I have for the music genre known as “The Blues”. Some of my earliest (& fondest) memories include sitting with my dad, listening to old, scratchy LP’s of Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, B.B. King…and of course, the great Robert Johnson. But one of my favorite bluesmen was an obscure musician from right here in the Upstate – Pink Anderson. Like many bluesmen, Pink was born in the rural South (Laurens, SC). Often thought of as the “Father of the Piedmont Blues”, he spent most of his career performing with a traveling medicine show and only made a few recordings before being “re-discovered” by young blues enthusiasts in the 1960’s. The art-rock band Pink Floyd was named in his honor (and NC bluesman, Floyd Council).

Downtown Greenville continues to honor its blues heritage with many venues featuring the music genre and many young (and not-so-young) musicians following in Pink’s musical footsteps. One of my favorite events at which to immerse myself in Downtown’s current blues scene is Smiley’s Blues Night at Smiley’s Acoustic Café. Presented by Palmetto Drum Co, this rockin’ bluesfest features some of the best musicians and songwriters our region has to offer. Join other blues fans every Wednesday evening to get schooled in the blues at this free jam session. For more information, visit http://www.smileysacousticcafe.com.

New on the blues scene, but already becoming a Downtown music landmark is Blues Boulevard Jazz. Located in RiverPlace (next to Riverworks Art Gallery), this cozy, intimate club offers some of the best local, regional and national talent anywhere. With live music every Tuesday – Saturday, it’s easy to catch your favorite performing blues and jazz standards, as well as original material, many of whom were regular performers at the now-closed Brown Street Club. For more information and a calendar of events, visit http://bluesboulevardjazzgreenville.com.

If you prefer your blues with a heavy dash of jazz, then High Cotton is the place to be! This “high-steppin’” eatery also features live jazz and blues every weekend, including a Jazz Brunch every Sunday. Featuring smaller trios of musicians, this club will make you feel as though you’ve stepped back into the 1920’s. For more information, visit http://www.mavericksouthernkitchens.com/highcotton/greenville.

Of course, another great way to catch the very best in Greenville’s blues scene is Main Street Fridays. Spotlighting the kings (and queens) of the blues jazz, with a little funk and soul thrown in for good measure, this free, outdoor concert series is one of Downtown’s most beloved spring/summer events. Join other music lovers every Friday (5:30PM) at NOMA Square to enjoy some wicked blues, swingin’ jazz, cool funk and sultry soul that’ll have you dancing in the streets in no time! For more information (and a band schedule) visit http://www.facebook.com/mainstreetfridays.

So there you have it blues lovers…Downtown Greenville’s certainly got the blues…and how! So, if you’re in the mood for something more than just the regular musical menu of hard rock, pop covers and dance tunes, give the blues a go! You’ll be glad you did!

A Little Something Extra: If you happen to notice any these bands performing at your favorite venue, be sure to catch their performance to really get a taste of the blues:

Mac Arnold & Plate Full O’ Blues: This local musician is the epitome of the “blues legend”. Former bassist with The Muddy Waters Band, Mac has shared the stage with such blues icons as Howlin’ Wolf, Elmore James and Jimmy Reed. His new band, Plate Full O’ Blues, infuses new blood into his music, while still retaining its original flavor.

J. Michael King & The Catfish Po’Boys: Regulars at Smiley’s Acoustic Café, these guys truly embrace the Piedmont Blues in a way that is joyful and…well…HAPPY (I know, “happy blues” is definitely an oxymoron). Long time fans of the Greenville music scene may recognize Michael & Joe from their former band, Jellyroll Antennae.

Marcus King (The Marcus King Band): This teen phenom’s guitar licks will blow your socks off! It should come as no surprise that he is the son of another local blues guitar icon, Marvin King. Be sure to catch this guy perform before he becomes a huge star!

Palmetto Swamp Congregation: With a frontman named Wolfman, you just know this band can play the blues. Mixed with a serious dash of Tabasco hot “swamp blues” this band’s music will have you “hootin’ & hollerin’” all night!

Craig Sorrell’s Project: Featuring some seriously funky, New Orleans style jazz, soul & blues, this band has one of the biggest (and most loyal) followings around! Inviting a host of local blues & jazz musicians to sit in, you never know who might be playing at one of their performances.

True Blues: A longtime Greenville favorite, this band offers blues/rock that harkens back to the 1960’s. Referred to a “Greenville’s House Band”, the guys can be regularly seen performing at such local venues and events as The Handlebar and Main Street Friday.

This list is just a taste…there are many more amazingly talented blues and jazz musicians to be found in this area!



It’s SPRING! That time of year when Downtown erupts into a riot of color as trees & flowers bloom and people venture out after a long winter, eager to don their shorts & flip-flops and enjoy all that Downtown has to offer. Spring also signals the return of two of Downtown’s most beloved music events – Downtown Alive and Main Street Fridays.

Music lovers of all ages are encouraged to gather at NOMA Square (in front of The Hyatt) every Thursday at 5:30PM to experience some of the best musical talent the Southeast has to offer! The 2013 season of Downtown Alive kicks off the first official day of Spring (March 21st), with the 8 piece guitar driven southern funk rock of TJ Lazer & the New Detriots. The March lineup also features Orangeburg country crooner, Brad Jennings on the 28th. April not only spotlights some sweet bluegrass from local favorites, The Piedmont Boys, but also features a trio of acts from the Charleston area like Downtown regulars, Stereo Reform and The Tarletons, as well as a newcomer to DTA, Brave Baby. May does not disappoint with a plethora of rock, soul & Americana to choose from in the homegrown music of Mark Webb, Old You, Lyric and The Soul feathers…not to mention a kilt-flaring Scottish ceildh with The City of Greenville Pipes & Drums and the Celtic rock of Cleghorn to kick-off the Greenville Scottish Games on the 23rd! As the temps heat up, so does the music with June performances by cover band, The Sound Committee, local YouTube darlings, Outshyne, Downtown funk diva, Kelly Jo Connect and local fave, singer/songwriter Doug McCormick. Don’t let the steamy July & August weather keep you indoors…or you will miss some AMAZING music, like alternative tunes of The Wheresville Project, Charleston-based songwriter, Luke Cunningham, and Downtown music scene regular, Benton Blount in July and Midlands newcomers, The Reggie Sullivan Band, the adventure of Bushfire Stankgrass, the big ’80’s hair, flashback fun of Retro Vertigo and the incendiary guitar finesse of teen phenom, Marcus King & his band! Downtown Alive winds up with a performance by the winner of the Last Band Standing Battle of the Bands on the 29th.

If your taste in music leans more towards hot jazz and cool blues, then Main Street Fridays is the event for you! Join all the other music aficionados on Fridays at 5:30PM in NOMA Square to start your weekend in style! This year’s Friday musicfest begins with the powerhouse beach sounds of Jumpstreet on March 22nd. Also in March, enjoy the smooth sounds of Charlotte natives, 5th and York. April plays host to some familiar favorites such as True Blues and Wanda Johnson, as well as some new sounds on the Downtown music scene such as Soul Stew and Hot As A Pepper. Fridays get funky in May with a wealth of righteous local talent – Southern Crescent, Green Vegas, The Jamie Wright Experience, Wine Down and The Groove Planet with Whitney Walters. Hot temps equal hot tunes and there is plenty of both this summer with The Flashbacks, Shades of Brown, The Nightcrawlers and The Swingin’ Richards appearing in June, and The Derrick Dorsey Band, NuSound, 20 Point Turn and Cosmic getting July all hot & bothered. August starts to really rockin’ with The Robbie Ducey Band, Tobacco Road and The Rock & Roll Reunion and The Craig Sorrells Project and The Wiredogs bring on the heat to finish out the month. This much good music can’t just be contained in two seasons, so MSF continues the music experience into September with the wicked swamp rock of the Palmetto Swamp Congregation, the energetic showmanship of Encore, the scaulding hot funky rhythms of Earsight and the wild ride that is The China Bulls finishing up the MSF season with a bang!

These much loved music series’ are completely free and are enjoyed weekly by thousands of music lovers. Beer and other beverages are available for sale, but an ID bracelet as proof of age(for a cost of $1) is required to purchase alcohol. And like most city-sponsored events, families are welcome, but please leave your pets at home. For more information on these events, visit the official city page at http://www.greenvillesc.gov. See you Downtown!



Growing up in Georgia, my best friend and I would anxiously count down the days leading up to the 4th of July. Then, when the big day was less than 24 hours away, my older brother would load us up in his tiny MG (it’s a good thing we were also tiny) and cross the Savannah River over into South Carolina to purchase fireworks. It was against the law to actually sell fireworks in Georgia, but for some reason, it was okay to purchase the mini-explosives elsewhere and bring them into the state. Then, as darkness fell over our suburban cul-de-sac, my brother and father would shoot off bottle rockets, firecrackers and Roman candles, much to the delight of the neighborhood kids, who gathered to watch at a safe distance. As a child, I didn’t think the 4th of July could get any better…but, boy, was I wrong!

One would think that Greenville, with a history rich in Revolutionary War stories, would have a blast of a 4th, and our Red, White & Blue Festival strives to do just that!  Showcasing one of the state’s largest fireworks displays, which, I hate to admit, is so much better than the one my family produced, this free event is a favorite with young and not-so-young alike. From 5PM until 10:30PM, Downtown Greenville will be a celebration of our freedoms with live entertainment, great food and children’s events, encompassing Main Street from Court to Camperdown. Kicking off the live music will be Nashville recording artists Outshyne at 5:30PM, followed at 7:30PM by The Army Ground Forces Band’s Jazz Guardians.  And what would the 4th be without fireworks?  To really pay tribute to the birth of our nation, Downtown’s fireworks display will be synchronized to patriotic music, starting at 9:45PM. For more information about the festivities, visit http://www.greenvillesc.gov.

Now for many people, the 4th is not the 4th without some baseball, a picnic and a parade. If you want to save the Red, White & Blue festival for later (or just want to swing by long enough to catch the fireworks), start your Independence Day with the Freedom Celebration and Picnic at the Vietnam Memorial at Cleveland Park. From 11AM until 3PM, join your fellow Greenvillians to celebrate our freedoms and to thank those who kept them for us. For details on this event, call 242-4110. After your picnic, and perhaps a stroll Downtown, join the residents of the North Main area for their annual Earle Street 4th of July Parade. Starting at 7PM from Earle Street to Main, this small neighborhood parade celebrates our independence in an event so All-American, it almost looks like a Norman Rockwell painting. For more information, call 232-5332. Or, if you want to celebrate America by catching a bit of America’s Game, head to Fluor Field at 7PM to cheer on the Greenville Drive (plus, it’s a primo location to catch the Downtown Fireworks display). For ticket information, visit http://www.milb.com.

The fun doesn’t stop there! Get the kids excited about our Independence Day celebrations by stopping at The Children’s Museum first for a little Red, White & Blue Art (at 1PM).  Looking for something to entertain the grown-ups after the fireworks? Then treat yourself to some Red, White & Blues at Smiley’s Acoustic Café with Freddie Wooten & Friends or Smoke on the Water with Jellyroll Antenna. With all these ways to celebrate our independence, I think even George Washington would be impressed! Happy 4th of July!

For a list of these and more 4th of July Events in and around Downtown Greenville, check out http://www.facebook.com/DowntownGreenvilleSC/notes#!/notes/downtown-greenville-sc/fourth-of-july-celebrations-in-downtown-greenville-beyond/380510058670266



You usually wouldn’t think of cool jazz, hot food and a rare cancer in the same thought, but you will after attending Brown Street Alive! On Saturday, June 23rd, historic Brown Street will become one big jazzy, jammin’ block party with food, fun and more as traffic is blocked off and music lovers are encouraged to dance in the streets. Sponsored by the Sarcoma Warriors of the Upstate, this family-friendly event is guaranteed to raise funds, awareness, as well as spirits, to fight this debilitating disease.

Not many people have heard of this rare, aggressive form of cancer that attacks the muscle, fat, cartilage, arteries and nerves – all the things that “hold” our bodies together. Because it is so incredibly rare (only .01% of the population will ever be diagnosed with it), there are few support systems for patients and their families and very little research done on its cause. Because it is so rare, most cases are diagnosed in later stages, making treatment difficult and very costly. Because this cancer is so rare, there are no pink ribbons (and a huge cause marketing campaign), there’s no race for its cure and yogurt companies do not make donations based on the number of lids sent in by customers. There are only these fearless Sarcoma Warriors, at “the ready” to do all they can to help those dealing with this dreadful disease.  Thinking of themselves as “Hired Henchmen”, this amazing organization works tirelessly to support patients and their families in fighting the “good fight” – by offering not only financial assistance, but emotional support, medical information and a voice in issues that affect those stricken.

Fast forward to this weekend and Brown Street Alive.  Featuring food, drink, games, prizes, silent auction and a vintage car and motorcycle show, this event is a crowd pleaser for all ages. But it’s the caliber of music that will make you glad you ventured off Main Street to follow the sweet sounds of jazz. Most of the bands taking part in this special event are familiar to regulars to the Brown Street Club. From some grumpy old jazz men to a teen-aged phenom whose guitar licks are incendiary – you will hear jazz that ranges from old school to rockin’ blues. Beginning at 4PM, three bands, Grumpy Old Jazz Men, The Marcus King Band (with Brendan Williamson) and Java, will be performing outdoors in a concert that is very family-friendly. Later on, starting at 6:30, The Adam Knight Trio and Shane Pruitt will be performing inside the more adult-oriented Brown Street Club.

So be sure to mark your calendars for Saturday, June 23rd and make your way to Brown Street for some cool tunes and hot times. The music is free, the food and games are very affordable and the cause is priceless. Fighting cancer never sounded so good!

More Info on the Bands Performing at Brown Street Alive…

Grumpy Old Jazz Men: Seen regularly tearing up the stage with their old school style, this group of jazz masters will make you feel anything but grumpy. They will be performing on the outdoor stage from 4PM to 6PM

The Marcus King Band (with Brendan Williamson): A favorite at several Downtown venues, including The Handlebar, Smiley’s Acoustic Cafe and Chicora Alley, this rockin’ blues band, fronted by teen guitar prodigy, Marcus King, is a must-see (they will also be performing at Main Street Friday on August 24th). Performing with guest musician (and another familiar face on the Downtown music scene), Brendan Williamson, this band will be taking the stage (outdoors) at 6PM, and burning it up until 8PM. For more info on this amazing band, visit http://www.reverbnation.com/marcuskingband

Java: Another regular of the Brown Street Club, this entertaining band is as heart-thumping as the caffeinated beverage from which they grabbed their name.  Be sure to check out their next Brown Street performance on July 21st. Going onstage at 8PM the guys will be closing out the event with their crowd pleasing, eclectic playlist until 10PM.

Adam Knight Trio: Often seen at High Cotton as well as the Brown Street Club, this talented trio will soothe your soul with their signature cool contemporary jazz. Kicking things off inside the Brown Street Club at 6:30PM, this threesome will provide delectable dinner music until 9:30PM. If you get the chance, try to catch them at their next Brown Street Club gig on July 24th. For more info regarding this band and their music, visit www.adamknightmusic.com

Shane Pruitt Band: Another group you’ve seen around Downtown at places like The Handlebar and Smiley’s Acoustic Cafe is the Shane Pruitt Band. With rockin’ tunes that will set your booty to shakin’, the guys will be closing things out in the Brown Street Club starting at 9:30PM. Catch them now, because they won’t be back at Brown Street until September 8th. For more info on this bodacious band of fellows, visit http://shanepruittband.com

To learn more about this event, Sarcoma Warriors or the Brown Street Club, visit http://sarcomawarriors.org or http://brownstreetclub.com

 



“Music legend” is a label that sometimes gets handed out too often. But in the case of Upstate native, Mac Arnold, the title is certainly more than well deserved. From his early days of playing a homemade guitar to his work with his current band, Plate Full O’ Blues, Mac has been a virtual shaman in this most southern of music genre. Fans and followers will have the chance this weekend to pay homage and see him in action at The Handlebar.

Those who knew Mac as a youngster must have had some inkling that this man’s music resume would read like a “Who’s Who” of blues, rock and R&B legends. Learning to play guitar on an instrument his brother made from a gas can, Mac went on in high school to form his own band, which included none other than the Godfather of Soul himself, James Brown. After a stint with The Charles Miller Band, Mac left the southland in 1965 forChicagoto work with celebrated sax man, A.C. Reed. A year later, at the age of 24, Mac was playing bass for the legendary Muddy Waters and sharing the stage with the likes of Howlin’ Wolf, Junior Wells, Elmore James and Jimmy Reed. Backstage, Mac was often found jamming with the rock stars of the day – including Eric Clapton, Paul Butterfield and Elvin Bishop (It was rumored that guitar god, Jimi Hendrix was inspired by Muddy’s band).

After more than a year with Muddy, Mac ventured out on his own to form The Soul Invaders, playing back-up for such acts as The Temptations and B.B. King. Following a trip to South California (and falling in love with the mild weather), Mac moved to L.A. where he worked with TV innovators such as Don Cornelius of “Soul Train” and comedian Redd Foxx (that familiar bass line on the “Sanford & Son” theme was performed by Mac), as well as R&B artists such as Bill Withers.  But the call of his home town was too strong and Mac returned toSouth Carolinato retire on his farm in the 1980’s.

It was a chance encounter with a singing mechanic that brought Mac back to the blues. Max Hightower has had a longtime love for anything relating to the blues. After wearing out a second hand copy of “Muddy’s Mississippi Live”, he decided to pursue a career in music. Following a few years of bouncing from band to band and stage to stage, Max was working at a trucking company when in walked one of his blues heroes. After many a deep conversations with the fellow musician, Mac decided it was time he came out of retirement. With the addition of Austin Brashier on guitar, Dan Keylon on bass, Mike Whitt on drums and, of course, Max on keyboard and harmonica, Plate Full O’ Blues was born.

Mac came back to blues like a man starving for a good meal. With several albums and music DVD’s to date, tours that have spanned the USand Europeand praise from music critics from all walks, Mac and Plate Full O’ Blues have certainly proven that they’re here to stay! This Saturday, the 28th they’re back at one of their favorite venues, The Handlebar, for their 6th Annual Cornbread and Collard Greens Festival. The band takes the stage starting at 8PM until Mac decides it’s time for y’all to head on home! Tickets are on sale now at The Handlebar for $14 ($2 extra for those under 21). If you buy a $20 ticket, you get some down-homeCarolina cookin’ to enjoy before the show! So, head on out to The Handlebar this weekend for some smokin’ hot blues from a man who will certainly be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame one day! See you there!



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