“It’s about creating a sense of community,” Peter Spearman, senior at the College, thoughtfully explained, “Or really, it’s just something silly.” Earlier this year when Liza Anne, a close friend and musician from Nashville, proposed the idea of touring to Charleston, Spearman offered his house as a makeshift concert venue. He and his three roommates decided that with only six months of rent left, they would take a chance and let her perform in their backyard. Maybe it would anger their neighbors, maybe their house would get trashed or maybe no one would even show up. Yet the impromptu event proved to be surprisingly successful and the residents of 293 King St. decided the music should not stop there.
Spearman’s house affectionately came to be known as Kevsco Alley and continued to play host to a slew of musicians, from Spearman’s old R.A. to well-known locals. Located beside the restaurant, Fire, on King Street, one would push through the wrought-iron gate with Kevsco scrawled on the top to be led down a small narrow brick pathway. Progressively widening, the alley finally opens into a large paved space, nestled between brick houses and iron scaffoldings. Bands, which played for free, would set up their equipment in the open square and an audience would trickle in from the street, filling up the alley and fostering a community.
Of course, Spearman was not alone in running the house shows. His roommates Matthew Navey, Patrick Walker and Addi Greene were also original founders of the low-key concerts. Everyone participated either by creating and hanging posters or managing hospitality since they were also a ‘hotel’ for the traveling musicians, providing free drinks to the audience. Amongst the four of them, the word spread rapidly about Kevsco. Over the next six months, they welcomed musicians such as Cory Kilgannon, Family and Friends, Steven Fiore, Tiger Hudson, She Returns From War and Michael Flynn to Kevsco, the majority of whom were either locals or traveled from nearby Southeastern towns, namely Columbia or Nashville.
While Spearman was in charge of booking the artists, he soon found it was not very difficult. Instead, they had begun to reach out to him. “Apparently,” Spearman said, “all the small bands in Southeast are friends.” Undoubtedly through word of mouth, their shows grew and soon the brick-laden patio with graffiti walls was brimming with people young and old. Artists were likely eager to fuel the spark of a thriving small-scale music venue or perhaps just share their work with a diverse yet neighborly crowd. “The atmosphere at Kevsco really does feel like a closely-knit community,” Spearman emphasized. People are friendly, chatting between songs, and easy-going, never hard on the performer if they make a few mistakes here and there. It really takes the pressure off the musician, which is perfect if they do not have much live experience.
So when those six months came to an end this summer, Peter felt obliged to preserve their monthly community gatherings. Thus, with the switching of roommate Patrick Walker for Katie Jones, Pop-Up Charleston was formed. Essentially, it still consists of house shows, but the house hosting the concert will change each month. Not because they do not want the concerts at their own place anymore (known as The Pink Palace) but in an attempt to get more people involved. At least, this is their ideal plan; first, they have to scout locations. So far, they have only held shows at their new home on Hanover, the last show being Youth with Cole Collins on September 16th. Youth (a.k.a. Julian Dente), was an indie-rock darling from Nashville and was completed with local Cole Collins’ ambient rock. While the genres at Pop-Up are normally a collection of alternative or folk-indie, there is no imposed restriction on the artists’ welcomed to the house.
There has never nor will there ever be a cover fee, and the roommates provide a couple cases of beer and bottles of wine for whoever shows up. Spearman
admits that they lose a lot of money on the shows (any donations go solely to the performing artist), but he wants to provide for people and make them feel welcome. Billie Fountain, a Kevsco veteran and Clemson graduate student, told him that he was right in his methods. “If you take care of people, they’ll take care of the artists.” Essentially, through eliminating all the other expenses there is a stronger chance for people to donate or buy some merchandise. While their donation-based system has caused a few bands to decline the offer to perform, Peter is sticking to his promise. “That’s not what it’s about,” he said.
As an English and Theatre major, Spearman is obviously well invested in the arts and understands the importance of feeling involved in a production. This is what led him to evaluate other venues in Charleston and realize they do not encompass a strong sense of belonging. At least, not like these house shows. Ultimately, Spearman and his roommates are just striving to make Charleston the music community it should be; placing it on the map with Atlanta, Columbia and Nashville so that the city is no longer excluded from an artists’ tour dates. Between the youth of the College and the tourism industry, Charleston should be an obvious destination in the southeast yet the ceiling is still too low. Even local artists have a tendency to pack up and leave since the historic city does not offer them enough.
Spearman’s Pop-Up Charleston is a step in the right direction; a step towards a flourishing, communal music and art scene. If you want to stay in the know about upcoming Pop-Up Charleston shows, watch out for posters tacked around campus or send Peter a friend request on Facebook where he sends out event invitations. All of which are signed “Sad Boy” Spearman in light of his honorable nickname from his first leading role and his uncanny ability to cry at will.
This article first appeared in the October 2014 issue of The Yard.
*This article has been edited from the original by Jess Marie Spence.