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Published on October 23rd, 2013 | by Ballard Lesemann


Was Southern Ground Worth the Price? Devin Grant Breaks it Down

The cheapest price for a one-day pass to this year’s Southern Ground Music & Food Festival on Daniel Island — hosted by songwriter Zac Brown and his Georgia-based group the Zac Brown Band — was $79 plus fees … plus parking fees and money for food, beer, and souvenirs. The one-day VIP tickets, which featured access to stage-front seating, backstage lounges and catered food, went for $149. One wonders of the Southern Ground experience was really worth the expense.

According to our friend Devin Grant, a veteran freelance writer who’s covered music for various Charleston papers and magazines for years, the experience at Blackbaud Stadium last weekend was well worth the trouble and price tag.

In his review this week at local blog CharlestonGrit.com, Grant referred to Southern Ground as a “world-class music festival we can call our own” — a genuine Charleston music event with its own Lowcountry personality that draws fans from out of town.

“I thought this year’s lineup was a bit stronger than last year’s, but for a fest that is skewed toward country and pop music listeners, there were some interesting surprises,” Grant told Metronome Charleston this week. “The Head and the Heart and Band of Horses did a good job representing indie rock.”

Not every local music fan has $79 to spend on basic admission to an outdoor show, though, especially one where every beverage and snack costs typical festival prices. Grant believes it’s a fair exchange, though.


The main stage, early in the afternoon on Day One (provided)

“The $79 ticket gets you 10 bands, which works out to less than eight bucks a band,” he says. “When you consider that tickets for some headliners can cost 50 or 60 bucks alone, and that you still pay for parking, food, and drink then, I’d say $79 is a decent price for a day’s worth of music. When you break down the cost, most festivals are a good value. Bonnaroo tickets are over $300, but for that you get a parking space, a campsite, and access to all the music you can take in for four days. You do have to drive to Tennessee for that, though.”

Grant spent all day and night at the festival on Saturday, Oct. 19. The bill included veteran Texas singer/songwriter Natalie Maines (Dixie Chicks) and her band, pop-rock act Fitz and the Tantrums, funk ensemble Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, indie rock quartet Dawes, and string trio the Wood Brothers. Folk duo Dugas, N.C. bluegrass group Balsam Range, Americana band Coy Bowles and the Fellowship, songwriter Holly Williams, the funky A.J. Ghent Band performed early sets in the afternoon. The Zac Brown Band headlined with help from guest vocalists Claire Bowen (from the TV show Nashville) and John “JB” Bell, the frontman of Georgia band Widespread Panic.

Saturday’s musical lineup was sturdy and varied, but a large part of the overall appeal for Grant and other fest-goers was the fancy cuisine and beverage portion of Southern Ground. It doesn’t come cheap, though.

“There were a lot of choices, and while the prices were high in some cases, that’s pretty commonplace at festivals, Grant says. “The fact that Southern Ground is focused on food and music is part of what sets it apart. The food is really good, especially the grub whipped up by executive chef Rusty Hamlin, Zac Brown’s personal chef. He oversees the food for the stage tables, but there’s also a food booth where anyone can purchase samples of his fare. The peanut butter and chocolate banana pudding was amazing.”

At previous Southern Ground events on Daniel Island, a disparity between the VIP experience and the general admission experience was noticeable — especially when it came to access to the main stage and the fancy fare. Grant has experienced the concerts from both points of view.

“The first year, I was fortunate enough to be given a seat at one of the stage tables,” he says. “It was an amazing culinary experience. The food was great, and seeing the show from the stage was very cool. The next year, I did the basic general admission experience. There was still good food for sale everywhere, and even though I was further back in the crowd, I could still enjoy the sights and sounds thanks to the huge video screens and great sound system.

“This year, I was generously given a VIP bracelet. I’m not going to lie; the extra access to the VIP area, which had free food and drinks later in the evening, was nice. I’m pretty easy to please though. I can be very happy in a general admission situation, but if I had the funds for a VIP ticket I’d probably spring for it. The extras are worth it.”

See charleston.southerngroundfestival.com for more.

Check out more of Grant’s concert reviews and photos at geekmusique.blogspot.com.


Zac Brown Band at Southern Ground’s main stage (Southern Reel)



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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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