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August 6, 2014

WHAT’S SHAKIN’?

Don’t tell us Myrtle Beach ain’t got no heart - you just have to poke around

“I’m tired of hearing that there is no culture here – we’re tired of hearing that the music scene sucks here; that it’s nothing but Jimmy Buffett covers. We’re tired of hearing that this is the Redneck Riviera with no culture and no creativity whatsoever. It’s bullshit!” – Scott Mann

Mann, a longtime WAVE 104.1 (WYAV-FM) on-air personality is not alone. Indeed, a movement is afoot here on the Grand Strand to call attention to the fact that there is and has always been more to culture here than meets the eye – for residents as well as the massive tourist contingent that descends upon the area annually.

There is no arguing the point that the Grand Strand has long been a destination for folks who want to come down and party it up on vacation, and this fact has been cemented by such reality shows as TLC’s “Welcome to Myrtle Manor” or CMT’s “Party Down South. Dirty Myrtle has a reputation for a reason.

But there have always been pockets of culture here, too – and groups hoping to bring these factions together for the sake of a more cohesive cultural scene. Recently, residents of Myrtle Beach voted in favor of a bond referendum to possibly pave the way for a performing arts center here, due to the efforts of an outfit called the Myrtle Beach Performing Arts Center Group, formerly the Rivoli Group. And organizations such as local artist Calvin Blassingame’s Roundtable ArtGroup, for example, have long been champions for culture in Myrtle Beach.

But local hippie culture (yes, this is 2014 and not the late 1960s) is doing its part, too.

A thriving community of off-the-grid musicians, painters, craftspeople and performance artists – including flow artists [fire and hoop acts, stilt walkers] exists right here, and this community is the direct result of efforts by a tight-knit group of folks from the Deadhead and festival scene who call the Myrtle Beach area home – a family, if you will.

Weekly Surge went inside this community to see what the buzz was about – and to assess its goals of promoting culture right here in our own back yard.

A pair of upcoming weekend festivals at The Boathouse Waterway Bar & Grill suggest that there is plenty of family here.

Sunday marks the tenth installment of JerryFest, featuring Dose Hermanos, Rumpke Mountain Boys, Terrapin Flyer [including Garcia’s former MIDI guru Bob Bralove and former Grateful Dead keyboard player, Tom Constanten],The Possums and Billy Wright, who has been on every JerryFest bill since its inception. JerryFest, a popular event here for a decade and as the name suggests, is an annual homage to the late Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead – replete with national, regional and local acts and vendors – bringing the Deadhead festival scene to life at The Boathouse every August. [Garcia’s birthday was Aug. 1, 1942, and he died on Aug. 9, 1995.]

Saturday, Aug. 16, the multifaceted duo ALLAREONE [musicians/deejays/producers/engineers/event promoters], a driving force behind this movement, hosts an all-day, all-night Funk Fest – featuring FAUXSHOW, The Royal Noise, Rims & Keys and Greenhouse Lounge.

Mann, a pivotal figure in JerryFest since day one and a major proponent of live music, belongs to this family. We wanted to know why the same people coming to these events were the same folks involved in promoting a more vibrant cultural scene.

“It’s not a specific group of people. There are specific people obviously that have been a part of it for a while – but it’s more of an idea than anything else,” he says, judiciously throwing in a Grateful Dead lyric from “Shakedown Street” – “Don’t tell me this town ain’t got no heart. You just got to poke around.”

Mann contends that he knows more artists and musicians in town than the average resident, likely because he makes a point to support them. “I am telling you that there are a lot of people that want to see us do better, and we’re doing what we can on this level.”

It is no coincidence that many of the same people who will be on hand at JerryFest and Funk Fest are involved in this push for cultural awareness, because most are very creative people, according to Mann.

“Most Deadheads love music. The idea of going a week without live music is like a crackhead going a day without crack,” he says. “Live music is the reason to get up in the morning, and creative, music-loving people cross paths all of the time.”

But there is more to this group than a love for live music. He cites the upswing in the flow art community here. “This is a great thing that has been taking shape over the last few years with hoops and the fire and the LED fire substitutes.” Flow art has become a regular component at festivals and jam band-related shows here. “You’ll go there and see a band playing and you’ll see somebody live painting next to the stage. You will see somebody spinning LED colors and people selling artwork and jewelry that they have made. There is a fairly large group of people that are into this stuff, so the more diverse events that we can put out there, the better.”

For the purposes of this story, we were going to use the term “Phamily” to describe this group because of the connection to festival culture, but after a brief chat with Mann, discovered that this is no longer relevant. “We stopped spelling it that way for the most part because we realized that it really isn't any different. Family is family, blood or not.”

The ultimate goal for Mann and others is to involve the general public in all of this awesomeness – the people who do not make this a part of their lives on a regular basis. Exposure could elicit a positive response sufficient enough to motivate people to seek out more culture on the Grand Strand – perhaps checking out art galleries here, for instance, after someone sees a piece by a local artist at a festival. “It branches off into all other things,” he says. “We have everything that other cities have. We may not have it on as big a level, but the idea that we don’t have it is ridiculous.”

We wondered if his long running Sunday night jam band show, Scott Mann’s Headshop on WAVE 104.1, was instrumental in getting the word out about music and art.

“To a point,” he says. “I use the Headshop – including the latest feature, the Shakedown Report - to promote some stuff, but personally I do most of my promotion of this stuff on Facebook and by word-of-mouth. I love having the Headshop involved, but it’s much bigger than that. It’s not about the show. The show helps the scene. I put a quote on Facebook all of the time: ‘Support the scene. Watch it grow.’”

Digital jams

Christopher Garcia, aka “G,” of ALLAREONE [ www.allareonesound.com], says he expects a wide variety of music and art at the upcoming Funk Fest, resembling what he calls the transformational festival circuit he and ALLAREONE co-founder Terry Flores were inspired by. He also hopes for a gathering of like-minded people that he says can push the movement for a more solid cultural scene here.

Since ALLAREONE’s live debut in 2011, Garcia and Flores have played on bills with regional and national acts like Treehouse!, Sun-Dried Vibes, Dubtown Cosmonauts, Rims & Keys, Greenhouse Lounge, the Royal Noise and many more. Their promotion arm, ALLAREONE SOUND [AAOS] has hosted deejays and producers – and the pair has traveled extensively throughout the Carolinas and the Midwest, performing at festivals in places such as Charleston and Columbus, Ohio.

But how does the electronic aspect of ALLAREONE fit into the more organic jam band scene?

Flores points out that ALLAREONE is what he calls a hybrid act. “We work as a band with traditional instrumentation at the open mike nights and drum circles. Other times we are in a more deejay capacity, but pulling from world styles and the global beat scene culture. For our events, we approach different venues with a musical concept that compliments the venue's style and crowd.”

Garcia says the initial idea for putting together the Funk Fest came from Mike LaBombard from Philadelphia-based funk outfit The Royal Noise [ www.theroyalnoise.com]. “TRN had recently started playing with bands more within the spectrum of this movement,” says Garcia. “Also, it was an idea to have the few bands that had come this year to help build the momentum of this scene on one bill together for a super event.” Indeed all other bands on the bill have played here in connection with ALLAREONE.

Garcia adds that there would be no ALLAREONE events if it wasn’t for JerryFest. “Hopefully we can grow the family even more with different generational efforts combined. We feel like we have worked hard to navigate the balance of what JerryFest is to us – something that represents our scene, and what is commercially viable to venues.” Convincing venues to take a chance on the ALLAREONE concept - which sometimes involves the aforementioned live painting, flow art and the like – was not such an easy undertaking. “Things have been rough – navigating this town’s machine already set in place regarding art and artistic entertainment,” he says. “The systems set in place here regarding entertainment tend not to be friendly to progressive acts, genres and events.”

But ALLAREONE abides, and Garcia and Flores tell us that Funk Fest is the culmination of their work thus far to build a diverse and cultured scene here.

“The acts we have on board for this have been helping us build a progressive music market here in our home this year,” says Flores. “For the last few years our AAOS live shows have felt more like family gatherings, with our Myrtle Beach crew creating the experience of music, arts and energy that you normally find in music towns like Asheville (N.C.) and Charleston, or at festivals such as Burning Man and more. The musical and artistic diversity that we find in our travels can have a home here in Myrtle Beach. I think that with time and communal effort, we have great hopes for events like the Funk Fest to continue to grow, for people start to see the vibration that is happening and become a part of it, with venues fully behind a pure movement.”

Flores cites what he calls organic connections with the bands on the bill at Funk Fest – and it becomes clear how busy ALLAREONE has been.

“We have known and jammed with Ronnie Coco [FAUXSHOW] for two years. Also this show will be his guitarist [Zachary Bosko [Patton]’s last Myrtle Beach gig before leaving to get his jazz masters (degree) in Nashville. He is one of Myrtle Beach's premiere guitarists and it’s an honor to host his last jam at home.” Add to this mix already existing relationships with self-described “Gangsta Jazz” duo Rims & Keys, the aforementioned The Royal Noise and electronic-based trio Greenhouse Lounge, and you have the lineup for Funk Fest.

“With the way we conceptualize our events to have a flow and synergy, we are excited for the collaborations,” he says. “It has been rewarding in that the artists we bring together naturally hit it off musically, culminating in some unique improvisations and jam sessions.”

LaBombard of The Royal Noise says that the idea for Funk Fest came about after having worked with ALLAREONE on a few Grand Strand gigs.

“Funk Fest in particular came about because we wanted to put together a massive summer party,” he says. “Initially we got the date in mind but wanted to do something special to make it a huge night so we first added Rims & Keys (who we've played with a number of times and love the vibe with them) and FAUXSHOW, but still wanted to get a bigger name to pull a bit more as a headliner, which is where Greenhouse Lounge came in.”

Flores contends that the local landscape is starting to become more conducive to festival-style events here. “Hopefully it won’t be long before we see festival acts and jam bands regularly coming back to Myrtle Beach. The next generation of venue owners, concert goers and the patrons of nightlife here are seeking more substance and less gimmicks. People here are manifesting this change.”

“I think we have created a mystique where we can unveil our next project to an established platform. For some venues it’s hard to judge how it’s been received because Myrtle Beach venues are sometimes just as transient as the tourists,” he says. But as for the people, you can sense there is a vibration happening. We will continually push for every AAOS event to have high quality production, synergy with the performers and within the crowd - and forward-thinking, intelligent, diverse music.”

Beyond the music

Artist Mack Johnson has been working with ALLAREONE at various events. In collaboration with his brother, Zach Johnson, the pair produces one-of-a-kind pieces of jewelry by melting precious metals and dripping them over different surfaces. This undertaking is called Zen-Fluence. Johnson plans to set up as a vendor at Funk Fest, and is looking into vendor options for JerryFest. He has also done live painting at ALLAREONE shows and has set up Zen-rock displays as well.

“My brother and I share a love for good, respect-worthy electronic and jam-tronic [music]. I have honestly just begun my relationship with the Dead,” he says. But he says he has seen a rise in local family support at events as well as more variety in music. “I only wish we had a bigger family. ‘G’ and Terry [from ALLAREONE] have been pushing the envelope to bring new music to Myrtle and the key to making it happen is support from locals and tourists [alike]. It would be nice to see more of the money generated from tourism put back into local venues, and through that we could bring a more diverse sound to the beach – and also encourage artists like myself to come out and perform live to help sell work.”

Ann Winnard has a thriving business called Over the Moon Productions, what she calls a specialty entertainment company, with all types of circus and theatrical performances available for anything from corporate events to birthday parties. “Our most popular event is our stilt walkers,” she says. “We also have jugglers, face painters and fire artists.”

The Over the Moon crew are on-site performers for the Myrtle Beach Pelicans, and Winnard, as Annie Fire, has done her share of fire breathing – from Pelicans games to the Myrtle Beach Speedway, perhaps giving Gene Simmons a run for his money. She started fire performing when she worked a renaissance faire in Pennsylvania. “When I came back to the beach I started with shows for Bike Week and then moved on to the Speedway. I have also been lucky enough to travel with the fire.”

She is passionate about community outreach through the arts, and hopes this will be the focus of her efforts in the fall. She teaches theater classes and camps, improv workshops and has worked with the Autism Advocate Foundation. “I’m working with a group, Caleb’s Dragonfly Dreams, to help put on a renaissance faire-type festival in October for kids in state-run group homes.”

As far as the family of artists and Deadheads here in Myrtle Beach, Winnard says she fell into it. “I am an outgoing artist who was looking for people like me, and I found them through fire and music,” she says. She was invited to a “burn” in Conway – an event similar to the Burning Man principles – because of her fire spinning skills. “I met eight or ten amazing bright people who also spun fire and hoops and they blew my mind with their outward love. I started going out to music shows after that with all of this in mind and I found more. And they accepted me into their family. No questions, no judgment – just love.”

ALLAREONE’s Garcia encouraged her to go to more shows, and Winnard eventually met Mann at the Speedway. “He was announcing the show. We both knew who each other were but hadn’t really talked much. “Scott and I got closer over the winter because we did Relay for Life and I volunteered at the Marathon for Meals.”

Now she is a regular performer at such events. “I like to do a number of volunteer events a year. Knowing Scott has given me good events to support and in turn it gives us an outlet to come together and perform.”

And according to Winnard, family is all about encouraging each other. “It's all for the good of a richer community. More music helps create more arts, whether it be performances like mine or live art or an outlet for a visual artist to sell who couldn't necessarily get gallery space otherwise. We all help each other and the community will grow - and personally, I believe more music and more arts create more fun and happier people.”

The collective

Hoop artist Cuban Leigh is another family member heading to both Boathouse festivals. “I am always willing to support our musical and artistic community, especially when we have such talented people sharing their love of music and art with us,” she says.

Leigh is a hoop instructor at Teazers Pole Fitness and Dance Studio in Myrtle Beach. She is also part of a performance troupe called Hoopsong, along with Alicia Russell and Paisley Dinges. “Hoopsong originally started as a way for me to teach hoop classes, make Hula Hoops and share the joy of hooping with others. Together we perform with LED light props and fire. My partners are extremely talented in many aspects of flow art and we all share the same passion for dance.” She has performed at several events in connection with Mann as well.

“The Deadhead vibe is not necessarily tie-dye and Birkenstocks but more of an ideal,” she says - “to be who you are and have freedom of expression. To be comfortable in your clothes and in your skin. JerryFest is a great outlet for that since the Grateful Dead was the outlet for people to come together and be a part of that ideal as a whole.”

And Leigh has seen growth in cultural options here because of this collective family’s efforts.

“Through everyone's inspiration, motivation and hard work I have seen some wonderful changes,” she says. “I have seen new musicians and bands coming to the beach. I have seen artistic, cultural one-night events that allow artists to put up their art or do live painting. I have seen people who did not know about this cultural community become a wonderful part in it through their smiles and happy participation. I have met some of the most amazing people in my life because of these events and it can only get better. The most wonderful part of it all is that is for anyone and everyone around. It can only get bigger and better as time goes on. I am extremely grateful for all the great effort and determination I have seen to make dreams come true.”

Derek Powers, event organizer for a group called the Myrtle Beach Culture Collective, mounted a show at The Boathouse in 2012, pulling together all of the elements we have been talking about. “The idea was to make an eclectic event to bring together many different types of artists and performers in the hopes that they would see they are not alone in this town,” he says. “I wanted them to see that there are many others just like them that are trying to change the way people view the culture in Myrtle Beach. And it worked. Lots of people made new connections and started working on new projects.”

Powers adds that the idea for the Myrtle Beach Culture Collective was based on a pair of events in 2009 under the umbrella of yet another group called Represented Myrtle Beach, spearheaded by organizer Cory Sanders. ALLAREONE’s Garcia attests that both of these groups are still an integral part of the family. “Represented and the Myrtle Beach Culture Collective were laying the groundwork and bringing together all of these factions.”

The idea that Myrtle Beach is devoid of culture is a tired one. “I want people to think of Myrtle Beach as a vacation spot that provides more than just the beach and a place to drink. I want people to know they can come here to see good shows and good art,” says Powers.

Garcia is hopeful: “There is a new generation of artists and musicians and entertainers all around the beach that are beginning to take hold of the shift already put into place by Scott and represented by the AAOS generation.”

“Culturally our Myrtle Beach family has so much to offer with music, art, and other manifestations,” says ALLAREONE’s Flores. “Our festival group is larger every year, the Myrtle Beach crew has become quite notorious at regional festivals. The basis of these gatherings is celebrating life, arts, and music culture and to bring the experiences back home and plant the seed in the community. And as the awareness grows locally, the connection between artists and musicians and technology will become a unified notion.”

Over the Moon’s Winnard admits that the local connection has been slow going, but she is optimistic. “More music helps create more arts, whether it be performances like mine or live art or an outlet for a visual artist to sell who couldn't necessarily get gallery space otherwise. We all help each other and the community will grow.”

And Mann, never one to mince words, lays down a patriarchal admonishment: “The Funk Fest, like JERRYFEST, is free. OK? You can get off your couch. TV is on-demand now. Netflix, Hulu, on-demand cable. You don’t need to be in front of a TV when a show airs. Or when the game airs. DVR it. Get off your ass and go out and support the people who are doing the very things that you are complaining don’t exist.”

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