The Berries made our first visit to the nearby hamlet of Little Mountain, SC, today for the annual Little Mountain Reunion, a community festival. It’s a pretty popular festival in these parts, but while I’ve lived here for 13 years now, I’d never been to it before, and I wasn’t precisely sure where it took place. However, Little Mountain (highest point between Greenville and the ocean!) is a small enough town that I figured I’d find it without too much trouble.
We loaded the gear into the cars at noon, and I got to the town about 40 minutes later. Sure enough, I saw cars parked along the roadside for some distance before I got to the park that hosts the events, and a police officer manned a barricade at the entrance. However, when I explained that I was playing this afternoon, he directed me to an area near the stage, and I wound up being the first Berry in place.
A bluegrass band was warming up on the stage we’d be using later. We had been told that we’d be playing from 2:30-4 this afternoon, and we all were there in plenty of time. Unfortunately, there had apparently been a communications lapse and neither the sound techs nor the bluegrassers seemed to be aware we were even on the bill until I spoke to one of the sound folks in order to make sure we were at the correct stage. I grabbed a snack from a nearby food vendor and had lunch while I listened to the other musicians.
They were quite skilled — Larry (one of our guitarists) told me that the woman fronting the group frequently opens for the Kingston Trio when they’re in the area. Still, the atmosphere was considerably more laid back than we’re used to. I asked a couple of my bandmates, “On a scale of one to Amish Country, how out of place are we here?” The other acts at the festival range from country and gospel to beach music, but our snarly little garage-punk outfit was definitely the outlier. We felt like the Sex Pistols, if they had been hired for a quinceanera. Still, we do what we do, and we resolved to earn our pay even if it scared and scarred the whole town.
Whenever we’d get to play. We had put together a 32-song, 90-minute set, because we had been hired to play 2:30 to 4. But as 2:30 came and went, the other act continued to work through their set. I think they finished around 2:45. By the time they cleared the stage, it was maybe about 3:10, and by the time we got our gear onstage and hooked up — there was a problem getting the keyboard to run into the PA, so we wound up switching to a miked amp — it may have been 3:30 or later. The upside to all this was that even though Mrs. M and the Spawn got to the feat a bit later than they had planned, they didn’t miss any of the show. Well, I don’t know if they would have seen that as an upside, but let me maintain my illusions. Also present, along with the usual friends and family, was a former student of mine who is now a colleague of Mrs. M, and the two of them chatted for much of the show. So, no real sound check. We just launched into our set, and decided we’d play until we made it through our setlist or they pulled the plug on us. What the heck — they had paid us in advance.
And that’s what we did, even though that meant that we did most of our set concurrently with a classic rock band that started at 4 on a nearby stage (and by nearby, I mean “about 50 yards away.”) I couldn’t hear them as we played, but I certainly could between numbers. Of course, we’re the Berries, and we don’t take significant breaks between songs, so there weren’t too many of those moments.
My monitor tapped out very early in the set, but I didn’t want to hold things up by asking the techs to fix it — we were already behind schedule — so in many respects, I was flying blind after about the first ten minutes. And then there was the other big factor.
As I mentioned, this is a community festival, which takes place at a park. As in outdoors. In August. In South Carolina. The stage has a roof, so we were (mostly) in the shade (although as it got later, I got some full sun from behind). But still, we were playing uptempo music, with minimal breaks between songs, for the full 90 minutes. At this very moment, it’s 88 degrees there, but it reportedly feels like 96. I assure you, it was hotter earlier, and by the time we wrapped things up with our cover of “Surfin’ Bird”, I think we were all pretty much spent. I slumped back in my chair as the girls came up and said, “We enjoyed the show, but we’re going home. It’s hot out here.” So it was, and drumming nearly non-stop for 90 minutes (even after accidentally skipping one song) did not cool me down even a little bit. But I think under the conditions, we played well, and we earned our check. So thanks to the nice folks in Little Mountain, and for the Berries, it was better late than never.
Justin (the bassist) and I had our gear offloaded back at the studio by about 6:30, and after snarfing some pizza, I’m ready for my second shower of the day. And though we’re skipping our usual Sunday night practice, we’ll be back at it on Tuesday. After all, we’re back in Simpsonville in a week. We’d love to see you there!