Makeout Reef is vital to the legacy of music in Charleston. It is vital in the strongest sense of the word. Charleston has always had a vibrant culture externally, encompassing natural and architectural beauty unlike any other American city, from the calming washout at Folly Beach to pastel peninsula neighborhoods embroidered with palmetto trees. This should breed great music that fits the environment, and it has in the past. However, the idea of a vibrant Charleston music scene has debatably been stuck in a specialized pocket ever since the rise of Hootie & The Blowfish and similar bands in the late 1980’s and 90’s. Not to say that that is a bad thing, but the popularity of that sound has kept Charleston music in a relatively static state.
This is what the bands of Makeout Reef are trying to change. They are a musical collective based out of downtown Charleston who provide a community to prospective local bands and music fans who want to hear a change in “The Charleston Sound.” That is along with hosting the most passionate house shows Charleston has ever experienced. In fact the group has revitalized what was a limping house show scene in the city. They genuinely want to see Charleston explore its full artistic potential and tap into the laid back, reverb doused sounds that the city has yet to hear but so appropriately fit the relaxed, salt water tinged atmosphere that the city emulates. Together junior Arts Management majors Michael Collier, Chance Laufman, Tyler Sim, Alex Kohel and everyone else at the Reef have made Charleston a truly exciting and welcoming place to be a music lover. They are making the city’s future brighter, more creative and a lot more reverb heavy.
Technically there are two Makeout Reefs, one conceptual and one physical. The physical Reef is a house on Percy Street that looks as if it could have been transported from Folly Beach circa 1990 and ended up in the middle of Elliotborough in downtown Charleston. The living room is decorated with miscellaneous thrift store finds and a massive shelf of records that extend from Miles Davis to Father John Misty and every sound that exists in between — along with two thick Chinese rugs hung from the walls as impromptu noise cancellation for shows.
The conceptual Makeout Reef is an idea that the house dwellers have developed over the last two years. It revolves around a collective of bands and individuals who want to make music and art that stands out amongst the majority of the music that comes out of Charleston. Collier, Laufman, Sim and Kohel are the current residents and members of Del Sur, which has become the flagship band of Makeout Reef. The idea of a musical collective came out of Collier’s initial desire to organize house shows.
“I’m from Philly and the house show scene there is so fertile and I was sad that the same thing didn’t exist as much here,” Collier said.
After their freshman year, the guys scouted out a suitable house for shows and fell in love with their current residence. Living together gave them the incentive to form multiple bands including Del Sur as well as The Camel Blues Band, Hot Showers, Tall Kitchen Bag and one of the original Reef bands, Mr. Rosewater. While all the acts have their own individual twist, MR has an overlying laid back sound based in a blend of surf rock and bedroom pop. And reverb. A lot of reverb.
The group does not, however, see Makeout Reef only as a collective for music.
“We want to provide a shelter for DIY projects and people in Charleston who want to create things that stand out,” Kohel said.
The members have also expressed interest in potentially opening up the Reef for visual artists and are always open to musicians who do not necessarily fit their usual vibe.
After the conclusion of a show at Makeout Reef, a specific sensation filters throughout the living room. Whether the closing act is one of MR’s staple bands or an out of town group passing through Charleston, there is always a moment of absolute community that takes hums over the spectators and leaves them wanting nothing more than to come back the next time they see a Reef show listed on Facebook. That same sensation goes two fold for the MR crew: it is on their faces and body language regardless of whether they are performing or not. There are always grins aimed at one another mid song or a guitar pick being jokingly tossed. But that communal presence really is at its strongest after a night at The Reef has concluded.
“That’s the most gratifying thing, looking out at the crowd post show and it just being clear that everyone had a great time, in our house no less,” Laufman said.
And the guys want to see Makeout Reef stick around even if there comes a time that they can not all be directly involved in it.
“We don’t know where we’re all going to be in three years,” Collier said. “If we all had to leave today, I would rather try to get someone we know and trust to move in here and sort of pass on the torch. This started in Charleston and we want it to be associated with Charleston.”
That is what makes Makeout Reef so special, not only as a group of talented musicians but as people who are actively trying to benefit the city and the arts community within it. The members want to create a legacy of a community bound by music that, to this point, has not had a presence in this city.