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Published on September 10th, 2013 | by Ballard Lesemann


Year One: Metronome Charleston Takes Baby Steps and Finds Its Stride (And There’s More to Come)

Just year ago, Metronome Charleston was an embryonic formation of a free-floating music section — a wide-eyed, open-eared webzine infant with the Lowcountry’s music community and club scene in mind. Today, precisely 12 months after assistant editor/writer/improviser (and girlfriend) Jessica Mickey and I launched the site on Sept. 10, 2012, it’s grown into a sturdy music blog with pages and pages of live show listings, features, interviews, photo galleries, and news pieces.

Metronome Charleston is still a rookie resource, but it’s rolling ahead with accelerated confidence and much appreciated support. There’s no shortage of creativity and talent in Charleston’s music scene, and we’re having a blast trying to keep up with it.

Five or six years ago, some of my colleagues at my former job at the local weekly paper would have laughed at the thought of me running a music blog. Back then, I was a dedicated print media guy who could barely stand uttering the word itself (friends made fun of my insistence to say “web log” instead). Things change. Older dogs like myself can learn new tricks.

My own experience with Charleston’s musical side began as soon as I assembled my first proper drum kit in 1982 (a red-sparkle four-piece with a trashy ride cymbal, culled from spare parts at the old Fox Music House in Northwoods Mall). I started tuning into local rock radio and peeping into the windows of music venues like the original Myskyn’s Tavern (on S. Market Street)  and the pre-Hugo Windjammer on the Isle of Palms.


When I was in eighth grade, my parents allowed me to join a college-aged garage band called the Islands (“Party Tunes: New Wave and Oldies” read the old flyers). I attended performances by local rock groups like the Killer Whales, the Jumper Cables, the Detectives, and the Hollywood Squares during my high school years. I formed my own original raggedy groups with like-minded neighborhood friends and crosstown bandmates. I recorded numerous lo-fi demo cassettes on cheap four-track machines. I became acquainted with many of the dos and don’ts of performing live and acting somewhat professionally as a drummer and bandmate.

I learned even more about playing music, working with bandmates, facing logistical challenges, and accomplishing artistic goals during my 16 years in Athens, Georgia, between 1988 and 2004. Whether it was behind a drum kit, at a college DJ desk at 90.5 FM, in the dingy rehearsal spaces, on the big stages, or in the alt-weekly Flagpole Magazine offices, I developed a deep appreciation for dedicated musicians and music fans over those years.

Writing about bands, musicians, venues, and songwriters became a full-time job for me at Flagpole Magazine in the late 1990s. That led to another full-time gig with the Charleston City Paper during the 2000s. There was never much money involved with any of this; newspaper paychecks are traditionally low for most music writers. Sometimes, the vocation can feel like a thankless task, but oftentimes, the rewarding moments are plentiful.

Offering balanced support, acknowledgement, critical reaction, and honest appraisals have been key components for me as a music journalist. Aiming for those essential goals have allowed me to develop credibility and connection over the years. I’m still working on it with musicians, bands, and the positive-minded movers and shakers of the local scene. It’s a never-ending adventure, and it’s where Metronome Charleston picked up where my Charleston City Paper experience left off.

Since launching last September, Jessica and I have been extremely fortunate to work with some talented freelance writers and photographers — genuine music fans who’ve been able to document, review, and converse with some key local and visiting acts along the way. The diligent folks who run the music clubs and concert halls around town have been extremely helpful, accommodating, and supportive, too.

California-based web developer Joshua Curry (a longtime City Paper teammate of mine in recent years) helped us get rolling last fall with valuable advice, guidance, and technical support. We compensated his effort with pizza and fancy beer.

In the first week online, we ran pieces on heavy-rockers the Supersuckers at the Pour House, local funksters SuperDeluxe at the Brick House Kitchen, rock vets Drivin’ N’ Cryin’s studio sessions at Ocean Industries, metal/grunge band Sheldon at the Tin Roof, and the Circular Church Sound Series (Awendaw Green’s collaboration with Suncoast Promotions), among other happenings. We reviewed releases by the Band of Horses, Elim Bolt, Tyler Boone, Estee Gabay, and Whiskey Diablo. We launched “The Punch List,” a semi-weekly series of Q&A’s with local players. Overall, we covered a pretty eclectic variety of genres and acts. It was a good start.

Most of our focus has been on music, but we’ve enjoyed dabbling on comedy in the local scene as well. Early on, we covered concerts and comedy events at venues like Theatre 99, the Charleston Music Hall, the North Charleston Performing Arts Center, and Jail Break at the Old City Jail. We’ve kept up with successful local talents like Dusty Slay, Evan Berke, Vince Fabra, Michael Clayton, Jason Groce, Lauren Krass, and other along the away.

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Some of my other longtime music journalism colleagues like Jared Booth, Jon Santiago, Doug Walters, Stefan Rogenmoser, and Stratton Lawrence have chipped in with clever reviews and features. Local blogger and freelance journalist Prisha Verrier (of Rock ‘n’ Roll Feedback) has contributed several colorful pieces as well. Local freelance photographers Adam Chandler, Anne Chandler (they’re unrelated, by the way), J. R. Getches, and John Birkenheuer have shared stacks of concert shots. Local musician Jason Cooper and DJ/freelance writer Kevin Young have hooked up with us as well.

Metronome Charleston will push ahead into its second year with open eyes and ears and an enhanced appreciation for the music-makers and aficionados in and around the Lowcountry.

We’ll celebrate our first year online with a six-band bash on Friday, September 20 at one of our favorite local venues for original music, the Tin Roof. The Metronome Charleston Anniversary Show will feature live music from Elim Bolt, the Boring Portals, the Unawares, the Fairy God Muthas, Jordan Igoe, Lindsay Holler, and a few special guests. The party will kick off at 6:30 p.m. with a free Rock ‘n’ Roll Team Trivia game on the Tin Roof’s deck.

Admission for the Metronome Charleston Anniversary Show will be $7 at the door. Proceeds will benefit the bands and website expenses. Visit facebook.com/MetronomeCharleston and reverbnation.com/venue/tinroofwashley for more info and updates.

Cheers and many thanks!

Top illustration by Coreena Lewis.



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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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