Published on January 2nd, 2014 | by Ballard Lesemann


The Punch List with Busy Mandolinist Aaron Firetag

Metronome Charleston‘s weekly Punch List puts local musicians on the spot with a questionnaire that touches on music, venues, gear, records, vices, and more. This week, mandolin player and vocalist Aaron Firetag takes a turn.

1. What is your favorite local hang and why?

“This is truly a difficult question to answer. Charleston has such a warm and welcoming bar and venue scene that I could never claim only one as my favorite. The Tin Roof and Charleston Pour House are obviously great music venues that really work hard to host a mix of local and touring bands. Great bar staffs and drink and food options also add to the attraction. If I’m just looking for a delicious drink with awesome friends, I hit up Dwayne Mitchell’s new joint, Local 616. For great grub and awesome libations, I’ll hit up Mex 1 in West Ashley. Obviously, this list could go on and on, but you can generally find me at these places when I’m not gigging.”

2. You know you’ve played an excellent show when…

“It’s all over and you look at your bandmates who are looking at you and each other with about 8-to-12 seconds of speechlessness — with intermittent laughing of course. Basically, when words can’t be found to describe that awesome feeling.”

Aaron Firetag_MG_7227

Aaron Firetag (photo by Jon Santiago)

3. What was the last show you attended that really got you fired up in a good or bad way?

“I was up in Asheville, N.C., just a couple of weeks ago for Warren Haynes’ 25th Xmas Jam. It was two nights of insane musical collaboration. It’d be impossible to sum up the 19 hours of music between two nights, but let’s just say it was magical.”

4. Define your musical style in exactly 10 words.

“Rico Suave — oh wait, my musical style … ‘Quasiphonic, Skwirl-Grinding, bluegrassy, satanistic, foot-stomping, non-mandolin mandolin music.'”

5. What’s your theme song?

“Man, I suck when it comes to answering questions about myself. I’m not sure who wrote the but I heard it playing between sets at a gig. It goes, ‘I’m struttin’ myself, y’all.’ Fits me well. Ha!”

6. Gear-wise, what’s is your irreplaceable baby?

“Lately its been my Ibanez TS-808 [effects pedal]. I like adding a little texture to my tone at times, and it certainly does that for me, and then some!”

7. What’s the most overplayed album in your collection?

“I’d have to say it’s a toss up between Ænima by Tool or Pink Floyd’s Animals. Two albums I’ll toss in for a listen and still be rocking out to them weeks later.”


Firetag (far right) rocking out with Skwirl Grinda, 2013 (photo by Ballard Lesemann)

8. When was the last time you were genuinely star-struck?

“Probably not the definition of star-struck, but I caught [guitarist] Jimmy Herring reading straight out of a chart book on the stage floor for a few verses of a song — almost in a bored fashion. I just crossed my arms, put my right hand on my chin, shook my head with a grin on my face, and stared at him. I don’t know if he ‘felt’ it, but he almost immediately looked up, directly at me, in a sold out House of Blues crowd, and just started cracking up. He’d been caught! It was a striking interaction. I’ll never forget it.”

9. What’s your poison?

“Wow, this changes on a regular basis. Right now, it’s a delicious, fine, dark rum over a couple of rocks. I think the women will kill me first however.”

10. In 10 years, I will be…

“Filling out the Punch List while preparing for my 14th annual Birthday Bash! Ha! Seriously, though, I hope to be the same person I am today. Just a little older, hopefully, a little wiser, and playing a much greater mandolin collection. ‘MAS’ — ‘mandolin acquisition syndrome’ — is a real disease!”

Aaron Firetag, the man with the neat dreads and wide grin, started strumming and picking the mandolin in 2001, around the time he was transitioning from the Academic Magnet High School to the College of Charleston.

We first saw him playing an electric mando and singing harmonies in a duo called FolkGrass (with guitarist/harmonica player Bryan Watson) during a wedding reception at Alhambra Hall. Over the years, he’s collaborated with a wild assortment of local bands and songwriters, handling just about everything from traditional mountain music and folk-pop to jam-rock and full-amplified dirge-metal.

On Sat. Jan. 4, Firetag welcomes bandmates and colleagues to the Pour House stage as part of his “4th Annual Birthday Bash.” The full roster features members of Quasiphonics, Lost Highway, Cattle in the Cane, Jordan Igoe & Friends, Skwirl Grinda, and other special guests. Firetag will perform with each act. The music starts at 8 p.m. Admission is $4.

Visit and for more.


Aaron Firetag with Lost Highway during the 2013 Birthday Bash at the Pour House (photo by Ballard Lesemann)



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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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