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Published on May 15th, 2013 | by Ballard Lesemann


First Flush Festival 2013: Local Musicians Talk Tunes and Tea

The Charleston Tea Plantation, All-In Entertainment, and Ear for Music are ready to present the seventh annual First Flush Festival at the Charleston Tea Plantation on Wadmalaw Island (6617 Maybank Hwy.) on Sat. May 18. Looking at the musical lineup, this might be the largest festival they’ve ever put together.


Old Crow Medicine Show (provided)

The First Flush Festival is an annual celebration of the first tea harvest of the season. Local food trucks, vendors, and plenty of free iced American Classic Tea will be on hand at the plantation between 1-6 p.m. on Saturday. Old Crow Medicine Show will headline the event. The New York-born/Nashville-based folk revivalists are on the road in support of a new studio album titled Carry Me Back (ATO) — their first release since 2008’s Tennessee Pusher. There are more than a few local cover bands who attempt renditions of the band ‘s RIAA Gold-certified song “Wagon Wheel.”

A variety of local and visiting acts fill the First Flush bill. The main stage lineup will feature the Luke Cunningham Band, the Tyler Boone Band, Stop Light Observations, Sun-Dried Vibes, Quincy Mumford, Gaslight Street, and South Street. The Second Stage’s roster includes the Executives, Ron Bonner, Annalise Morelli, Samantha Kirshtein, Nic Skey, and Southwood. That’s a lot of musical talent in a uniquely pastoral setting.

Metronome Charleston contacted a few of the local musicians on the official schedule to inquire about their plans for the show and their personal tea-sipping rituals.

• What’s the best thing about performing outdoor concerts like this, compared to the usual bar and club experience?


Luke Cunningham (provided)

Luke Cunningham: It’s always awesome playing shows like these, simply because the people in attendance genuinely want to be there and hear live music. It’s not a downtown/central concert event that’s easy to stop by or pop your head into, and the people who are there have made an effort and went out of their way to be part of it.

Stop Light Observations: We love playing in fresh air and sunshine, it’s always a welcome change from stuffy clubs.

Southwood (Mitch Wethrington and Henri Gates): The best thing about performing outdoor concerts would be the atmosphere. It’s a full day in the fresh air devoted to music. There’s a special energy throughout the audience, and that’s what sets any outdoor music festival apart from a bar or club.

Tyler Boone: The atmosphere of the audience, crew, the other bands and musicians and even ourselves is at such a great place that the whole day is just one epic event, and I love it. People are actually there to hear live music and appreciate it. Playing outdoor festivals is always one of the best experiences ever for any musician.

Zach Fowler (Sun-Dried Vibes): Typically, outdoor festivals attract the right people — ones who are there for the music and the show and the experience — whereas, at a bar gig, you have people who are there for friends, booze, atmosphere, etc.

Campbell Brown (Gaslight Street): The view will be amazing. The Tea Plantation is a very unique place. Playing on a big open stage and turning my amp up to three is always cool.

• What might be musical highlight of your set at Wadmalaw this weekend? What might be the most wobbly moment?

Luke Cunningham: Festival shows and outdoor concerts are their own kind of animals, and the set list and energy of the show needs to bring something different that people don’t see all the time when you perform at venues. We’ve rounded out a set list for the show that I’m chomping at the bit to play. Playing brand new songs is always exciting for me, and since we’re half way finished with the upcoming record, we can now pull from a whole new batch of tunes that we didn’t have a few months ago. I’m ecstatic about the fact that we’ll be unveiling at least two or three new songs that people have never heard.


Stop Light Observations (provided)

Stop Light Observations: Playing a new unreleased tune will be something to look out for during our set on Saturday, and there will be no wobbly moments … fingers crossed.

Tyler Boone: The highlight will be sharing the same stage with some of my favorite local artists and bands like Sun-Dried Vibes, South Street, Gaslight Street, and Luke Cunningham. It’s a special evening to be on the bill with Old Crow Medicine Show with other great acts from the Charleston music scene. I don’t think we’ll have any wobbly moments. I’m super excited for this event and we will definitely be prepared to rock it that night.

Zach Fowler: The best part of our set will be new tunes from our new record, especially songs featuring other First Flush artists such as Tyler Boone and South Street. The most wobbly part will be loading out after a killer set!

Campbell Brown: We’ll be playing a number of new songs that will be on the new record, and some that we haven’t done in a few years. I’m trying to remember them all.

• What song do you most want to hear Old Crow Medicine Show play on Sunday afternoon, and why?

Luke Cunningham: I’d have to say “Hesitation Blues,” yet I’m not sure if they play that one live or not. Something about it reminds me of what the Rolling Stones might have sounded like if they had a bluegrass side project.

Stop Light Observations: Hopefully we’ll get to hear them play “Cocaine Habit” or “Tell It To Me.” They are definitely some of our favorites and a staple of our acoustic jams.


Southwood’s Mitch Wetherington and Henri Gates (provided)

Southwood: We really want to hear Old Crow play “I Hear Them All” from their Big Iron World album. It’s just a great feel-good tune with awesome lyrics and fantastic harmonies.

Tyler Boone: The one song that I am pretty sure every musician is so anxiously awaiting to hear is “Wagon Wheel.” We all get that same request to hear “Wagon Wheel” at each and every gig we play, so to open up for them, to step off stage, drink a couple beers, and then yell “Play ‘Wagon Wheel!'” to the band who actually made it huge would be cool.

Zach Fowler: “Wagon Wheel.” We have a running joke that this will finally be our chance to be the ones asking to hear “Wagon Wheel.” It’s the modern-day “Freebird,” it seems. It’s hard to play a bar gig these days and not have some girl ask if we can play it.

Campbell Brown: I hear they do a version of Darius Rucker’s “Wagon Wheel” … that’s the asshole response.

• Will there be any special guests on stage with you or any unusual renditions or reworkings in the set list?

Luke Cunningham: We’ve got a few things other than the brand-new tunes that we’re excited about for Saturday. I don’t wanna spoil all of them, but in order to keep my buddy Tyler Mechem from getting too comfortable with his relaxed life sans-Crowfield, Tyler’s gonna be joining us on some pedal steel, guitar, and perhaps even singing a tune with me. Always fun when we get together. Love that guy. Also, there’s talk about the possibility of us doing [the new composition] “Songs About California” for the first time with a full band arrangement — an idea I’ve always had, yet we’ve never actually done. If we put it together, I think it could really be something unique and special both for us and fans of the song.


Tyler Boone (provided)

Stop Light Observations: We’ll have our close friend Spencer Pope playing saxophone and clarinet with us. He’s becoming less of a special guest and more of a staple the more shows we play.

Southwood: You’ll have to make it out Saturday to find out!

Tyler Boone: We are having Charlie Thompson perform and play steel pedal with us. Paul Chelmis from [Charlotte, N.C.-based band] Donnie Dies will also play keys. We are going to be a seven-piece act that night with also Dallas Corbett from Wrenwood singing back-up vocals for us as well. We were supposed to be on at 9 p.m. right before Old Crow Medicine Show, but we opted for 7:15 p.m. on the main stage instead. We’re very excited about this.

Zach Fowler: Yes, we will have Dexter Jenks of South Street and Tyler Boone performing a song off our new record. They’ll be featured on “Waiting For.” We’re always full if surprises, and we’ll be sure to include our family of musicians any chance we have.

Campbell Brown: Not sure on the guests, but the new songs will be on it. We’ve also added a wig to our bass player, Ben Kinser I think.

•  How do you normally take your tea?


Gaslight Street: Campbell Brown is top/center (photo by Stratton Lawrence)

Luke Cunningham: Cold, with sugar, a ton of ice and normally in a Bojangles paper cup that’s big enough for me to fit my head into.

Stop Light Observations: Orally.

Southwood: Ice cold with excessive amounts of sugar.

Tyler Boone: With some honey and bourbon.

Zach Fowler: We all three prefer green tea. Hot or cold, with a touch of sugar and honey.

Campbell Brown: I go up to the counter, and I just take it.

Advance tickets for the First Flush Festival are available for $25 and $50 (VIP) at ticketfly.com. Visit charlestonteaplantation.com 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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