Matadero Grinds Up Election Night at the Royal American

Local quartet Matadero, a heavy new band on the Charleston scene fronted by singer Lindsay Holler (of Western Polaroids and Oh Ginger), made a booming sound on Tues. Nov. 6. at the Royal American on Morrison Drive. Videotaped and recorded for cable TV and online, the show was part of the ongoing Eclectic Evenings series, hosted by the Music Initiative. Local singer/songwriter Jamisun (a.k.a. Jamisun Hodge) and the drummer-less Columbia folk-rock band Stillhouse played early-evening sets.

Holler had hosted and performed the Holy City Cold Hearts Revival at the Pour House over the weekend. The local showcase, which provided a full evening and night of Americana, indie-country, gospel, and vintage pop with a special tribute to the late Gram Parsons. However, Holler and her bandmates — electric bassist George Baerreis, pianist Sam Sfirri, and drummer Ron Wiltrout — completely switched musical gears as Matadero on Election Night.

Baerreis, Sfirri, and Wiltrout are veteran Charleston musicians who often play jazz, funk, and experimental music with local colleagues. Matadero might be one of the heaviest-sounding projects in which any of them have ever participated. Baerreis’ distorted Fender Precision resembled the grinding sound of King Crimson’s John Wetton (circa 1974’s Red album) with a touch of Lou Barlow’s nasty Rickenbacker tone from his Dinosaur Jr. days. Wiltrout played a standard kit with a heavy-handed delivery. Sfirri dug his fists into a vintage Rhodes electric piano (the Seventy-Three model) with the volume cranked.

Altogether, Matadero created a dense, growling, bass-heavy rumble underneath Holler’s passionate singing. When Holler really gets into a song, she almost seems to go into a trance, eyes closed, head swaying, hanging on the the microphone stand like an emergency rope ladder. She belted out her lyrics with vigor while the band pounded through a tight, concise set of moody, dark-toned originals. The Music Initiative photographers and videographers buzzed around the small, bar-level stage throughout the show.

Look for Matadero’s new three-song EP online at They recorded it last month at Ocean Industries Studio with engineer Eric Rickert at the mixing board. The band’s next local show is at the Mill in North Charleston on Thurs. Dec. 6. Check them out.

Photos provided by Charleston photograher and musician John Birkenheuer. Visit his work at 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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