There’s something inherently pro-forma about these “taking stock of the year” cultural exercises. We make lists, look at the numbers, and squint back at what happened hundreds of days ago. Does it have a larger meaning, these twelve calendar months? Does it all fit together? How will we remember it?
Columbia wasn’t immune to the larger narratives that hit the national music scene in 2022. We saw big concerts and festivals return, but also a host of COVID 19-related cancellations, ballooning ticket costs thanks to inflation and the rise of dynamic pricing (thanks, Ticketmaster), and the lingering impacts the pandemic had on the mental health of everybody (particularly artists).
Enough negativity, though. The end of the year offers a chance to reflect on the bright spots in our music scene. The Senate, Township and Colonial Life Arena all seemed to return to something like normal. New Brookland Tavern continued its inspiring post-pandemic tear of impressive bookings. New venues like UU Coffeehouse-inspired The Living Room and the recording-focused At The Addition brought different and exciting performance spaces to the fold, while bookings at bars like Transmission Arcade and Uncle Fester’s filled the gaps with choice nights of dynamic bills.In the classical world, the SC Philharmonic continues to expand its offering and reimagine the spaces and modes of presentation for its fabulous and generous collection of players. The Southern Exposure New Music Series and USC Philharmonic reliably served their role as community pillars for cutting-edge contemporary composition and large, sweeping classical performances, respectively.
The year saw no end of touring heavyweights and local legends lighting up live music venues, but it was the records released in 2022 that really shined. Both the quality and quantity of what independent musicians release in a given calendar year never ceases to amaze me.
The Free Times annual “Best Music of SC” list [Editor’s note: coming in January!] is always a veritable collection of riches.. I was lit up in the beginning of the year by Calebjustcaleb’s off-hand drop of “Corrupted Harddrive 2,” a collection of pummeling and panache-driven rap tunes from a rapper who had ostensibly been devoting most of his time over the past few years to his pop-punk band Aim High, and the pace rarely slowed throughout the year.
I was as comforted by the acts who just continued to churn out their signature greatness like singer-rapper Been Milah, indie rocker Tyler Gordon’s Hillmouse and experimental nerd-rap outfit Autocorrect as I was by those artists who surprised me.
The latter category includes Boo Hag frontman Saul Seibert, who slowly teased out his instrumental stoner/psych concept album “Zion” over the course of the year. Retro folkie Lang Owen collaborated with singer/songwriter and producer Todd Mathis to deliver a warm, rich sophomore LP. Multi-instrumentalist and frequent sideman Moses Andrews III sort of falls in this category too, delivering an EP that showcases his first-rate songwriting chops alongside his omnivorous stylistic range.
We also got long-awaited records from the likes of R&B powerhouse Katera and the shimmering indie pop band Rex Darling that more than delivered on their promise. Both long-cemented acts in the scene were given fresh lives and renewed energy thanks to their recording projects, so much that they now seem like the bright young hopes once again.
Speaking of “the scene,” my favorite local scene moment of 2022 was the return of the Jam Room Music Festival, one of our city’s best yearly musical offerings that had been paused by the pandemic. As tightly connected to the Main Street watering hole The Whig as the titular recording studio, there was something rejuvenating and bittersweet about this year’s festival. The Whig – a tiny room that punched above its weight with shows by acts like Shovels & Rope, Richard Buckner and American Aquarium – closed its doors for good in November to make way for yet another new downtown hotel.
When taking in the stirring, transfixing performance of the Sun Ra Arkestra at the fest next to Boyd Plaza, one couldn’t help but feel the same thing felt every year at this time: the music, like the calendar, can’t help but go on.