Interviews cordandpedalholidayball(lead)

Published on December 13th, 2013 | by Ballard Lesemann


Cord and Pedal Presents a Slew of Festival Acts at the Music Hall

The long-running Charleston music collective Cord and Pedal will guide its (nearly) annual Holiday Extravaganza to the big stage of the Charleston Music Hall on Dec. 17.

Designed as a holiday-themed local music showcase and fundraiser, the concert series started in 2002 when local musician and artist Kevin Hanley and a group of close friends and musical colleagues booked a big night at the old Cumberland’s spot (on Cumberland Street). Things went well, and Hanley worked to make it an annual tradition, booking shows each December at various hotspots, like the late-era Cumberland’s (on King Street), the old Map Room in West Ashley, the Music Farm, the Pour House, and the Tin Roof.


This year, he’s enlisted local stand-up comedians Jeremy McLellan and Tim Hoeckel and improviser Camille Lowman to host the Cord and Pedal Holiday show. The impressive roster of musical acts includes the Shrimp Family Band, the Hearts and Plugs Band, Dumb Doctors, Mangerbaby, the Tin Roof Tops, Magic Camp, Silver Bells, and the V-Tones.

Hanley took a few moments to check in with Metronome Charleston this week.

Metronome Charleston: When did you decide to organize this year’s Cord and Pedal holiday show, and how did it land at the Charleston Music Hall?

Kevin Hanley: At some point, while on the road with Shovels & Rope, I started talking to Cary Ann Hearst about it. It just came up, I think. I was thinking out loud about the “one last heist” aspect of doing another show. There’s a lot of time to talk about anything and everything while driving around. I was back and forth on the idea of bringing it back until the possibility of doing it in the Charleston Music Hall became a possibility.

Once [venue director] Charles Carmody green lit it for the Hall, I started to become very excited about it. What made the event fun for me years ago was that it was always on the move and always changing. It seemed to work wherever we held it. That has more to do with the spirit of the event itself than it does with anything we’ve ever specifically done. This year will be vastly different from all the others.

Metronome Charleston: Who were some of the stand-out acts at the earliest Cord and Pedal holiday shows — back in the old Cumberland’s days when it was called “Chord and Pedal?” And who are some of the bands you played with on stage?

Kevin Hanley: Philip Estes [of Genrevolta] was always the standout. He blew everyone away the first year in full character as “Jack Skellington” singing “What’s This?” and just working the entire room with a remote mic. He even went in the women’s bathroom at some point during the song, and we could all hear him over the PA system, “What’s this? What’s this?” From that point forward it was always “What is Estes going to do this year?”

The Specs always went above and beyond. Cary Ann was there the first year doing the Pogues with Bill Carson. That was quite a moment. She’s always brought it big and got behind the scenes more and more each year — that’s why I handed the event over to her back in 2010, and she did an amazing job. I forget which year Nicholas Doyle and the Silverbells got on board, but it seemed an obvious pairing, them being Charleston’s premiere Christmas band. They only play once a year, and it’s been at either Cord and Pedal or our sister event, Jinglebang [scheduled for Sat. Dec. 21 at the Tin Roof].


Cord and Pedal’s Kevin Hanley (photo by Ballard Lesemann)

Metronome Charleston: As a local showcase, how did those early Cord and Pedal events reflect the original/indie band scene in Charleston in the mid 2000s?

Kevin Hanley: I always and still do try to discourage the idea of them as showcases. I realize others see things how they want to, and the biggest challenge has always been not leaving others out, but I have always seen these events as a strength in numbers, collective hurrah kind of a thing.

I think the events reflected the scrappiness of the scene, and not to get all hippie, but they did put a lot of people on the same stage, often at the same time, who really didn’t play together any other time throughout the year. And always for a greater good. This year, the event is a food drive for the Lowcountry Food Bank. Attendees can bring non-perishable food items to the show. Clean out your cupboards!

Metronome Charleston: Which local bands officially released recordings with the Cord and Pedal label imprint through the years?

Kevin Hanley: Cord and Pedal’s first release was a local compilation CD that had about 20 acts on it. The idea was the same as most Cord and Pedal shows — “Here’s what’s up, kinda?” The Aamerican Tenants, the Moths, the Green and Bold, and Mount Saint Stereo were some of the actual tangible releases, but Cord and Pedal was most effective as a pre-Myspace internet spot. We tried to put up as much local and sometimes international (there was a band from Iceland on the roster at one point) mp3s as our server would allow.

Cord and Pedal also designed simple pages and live calendars for many of the bands, as opposed to making CDs with them. I think the writing was on the wall, even back then, that the traditional label format was doomed and the intertube was where it was all headed.

Metronome Charleston: These holiday shows have always seemed orderly and well organized in the clubs and on the stages, but conceptually, they were loose enough to allow bands to experiment with the holiday tunes and their own material. Was this always the case? Does it still feel the same this year?

Kevin Hanley: The idea has always been to cover the spectrum, and typically it just naturally occurs that way. There’s been wildly experimental and bizarre takes on songs, totally original compositions, and very straight-up, warm traditional takes. The only thing I’ve ever done is tell people to do whatever they want. I intervene only if I discover there’s some repeats in the mix. The element of surprise is the best part of the show.

Metronome Charleston: How many times have you played Santa? And who might playing Santa this year?

Kevin Hanley: I’ve never actually played Santa. Santa has it easy. He or she just chills for photo ops, usually. This year, we’re bringing in a ringer. He actually is the City of Charleston’s Santa, so that’s pretty legit.

Metronome Charleston: The Cord and Pedal holiday shows often seem like wild costume parties. Will that be the case at the Music Hall next week?

Kevin Hanley: I sure hope so. In years past, I’ve pushed themes like office garb, ugly Christmas sweaters, and tropical Christmas, but if there’s a theme this year, it’s that we’ve grown up a little, and it’s in a proper hall so maybe dress up a little? Oh, and it’s a telethon or “cheer-a-thon,” so whatever one wears to a cheer-a-thon is good, too.


The Cord and Pedal Collective at the Charleston Christmas Parade, Dec. 2013 (provided)

Metronome Charleston: What was it like to float down King Street with others in the Cord and Pedal collective during the Charleston Christmas parade earlier this month?

Kevin Hanley: The parade was fantastic! I got to witness it from inside the cab of the truck, so it was just a blur of smiling faces and people dancing and looking behind me to see the absolute craziness going on in the bed of the truck. [Awendaw Green’s] Eddie White is definitely the Captain of Christmas Cheer, and more than a few folks told us we really made a difference. I can’t wait for next years and I hope all these new creative outfits in town follow suit. That parade has potential.

Metronome Charleston: I used to think good beer was a good cure for “slothyness,” but maybe I was wrong. Your poster says this party’s “Joy-a-lot™” can cure may ailments. In general can “Joy-a-lot™” help with a case of the holiday drabs?

Kevin Hanley: I’ve been informed that there are growing reports of problems and horrible side-effects with Joy-a-lot™. I’ve also been advised by my attorneys not to discuss the matter until a full investigation occurs. It’s possible that we are all going to have to raise holiday cheer the old fashioned way at the show and without any pharmaceuticals.

This year’s Cord and Pedal Holiday Show roster:

The Shrimp Family Band (featuring Cary Ann Hearst, Michael Trent, Andy Dixon, Jack Burg, and Joel Hamilton)

The Hearts and Plugs Band (featuring Nick Jenkins, Dan McCurry, Johnnie Matthews, Jessica Oliver, Amber Joyner, Wolfgang Zimmerman, Jordan Hicks, and Christian Chidester)

Dumb Doctors (featuring Scott Dence, Mackie Boles, Antoine Dukes, Jordan Igoe, and Jim Faust)

Mangerbaby (featuring Rachel Kate Gillon, Daniel Infinger, Matthew Alexander, Brett Nash, and Dexter Haigler)

The Tin Roof Tops (featuring Clint Fore, Lesley Carroll, Nick Della Penna, Kevin Hackler, Shawn Krauss, Brett Nash, and Lindsay Holler)

Magic Camp (featuring Chaz Straney, Andrei Mikhailovich, Nick Jay, and Josh Jay)

Silver Bells (featuring Nicholas Doyle, Ron Wiltrout, Johnny Gray, and Douglas Thompson)

The V-Tones (featuring Noodle McDoodle, Eden Fonvielle, Jeff Arnold, Jeff Narkiewicz, Roger Bellow)

Hosted by Tim Hoeckel, Jeremy McLellen, and Camille Lowman.

Cord and Pedal presents the annual Holiday Show (the “Ball in the Hall”) at the Charleston Music Hall on Tues. Dec. 17 at 7 p.m. Admission is $10. Canned food donations for the Lowcountry Food Bank are requested. Visit and for more.




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About the Author

Ballard Lesemann

is a musician and writer. Born and raised in Charleston, S.C., he spent years playing in bands and working for Flagpole Magazine in the bustling music town of Athens, Ga. He returned to his hometown and served more than seven years as the Charleston City Paper's music editor. He's better at drumming than he is at playing guitar.

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