After only three years of living in Greenville, SC, I've learned a thing or two about where to go for live music and good food. As a touring musician in the band Stereo Reform, I've played many cities and visited many main streets across America, but never have I found one quite as welcoming and beautiful as Greenville. Welcome and congratulations to you for finding this fresh and vibrant city...now let's talk about what to do and where to go!
If it's Thursday night and you're ready to go out on the town a little earlier than usual, then be sure to visit the weekly concert series, Piedmont Natural Gas Downtown Alive. Shows last from 5:30 - 8:30 p.m. and are held weekly, March through August. The series features a variety of talented rock, blues, and funk bands. North Main Street shuts down so you can eat, drink, dance, and check out the scene on foot. It's a wonderful way to experience great music and soak in the friendly and festive atmosphere of downtown Greenville.
Where to go for dinner? Just down the street at RiverPlace (a walkable area along the Reedy River), you'll find Blues Boulevard Jazz. Here you can hear some of the finest local and touring jazz and blues musicians around! The menu is reasonably priced and showcases excellent and "artfully created" tapas and entrees. Insider's Tip: If the weather permits, be sure to sit on the patio. With the music just behind you and the river and night air in front, it can make for a fun-and even romantic-dining experience.
There are several exciting options all along Main Street for dining and listening to live music, with Smoke on the Water (at the corner of Augusta and Main Streets) as a perfect example. Here you will find a full menu loaded with Southern staples and regional favorites, all for reasonable prices. Smoke on the Water often provides acoustic or low-key live music to help add to your intimate dining experience.
After dinner, take a walk north on Main Street. From 5:30 - 9:30 p.m., there is another free concert series...that's right, more free music to enjoy! Located at NOMA Square (short for NOrth MAin), you will find Greenville Heritage Main Street Fridays. These outdoor shows feature a variety of music, including oldies, jazz, and blues.
Ready for more? Time to hop in the car, head over to Poinsett Highway, and check out Independent Public Alehouse, otherwise known as IPA. IPA is quickly becoming one of Greenville's premier live music venues. Local and national acts take the stage every night of the week but Saturday. The stage is located in the room just behind the bar. This division of rooms almost creates two different worlds and greatly adds to the unique atmosphere for which IPA is fast becoming known. IPA's spacious bar and dining area make for a fun place to grab some drinks and enjoy the music from a distance. Insider's Tip: IPA often stays open until 3:00 a.m. or later and it isn't unusual for the bands to play past 2:00 a.m. So if you want to mingle late or continue to be entertained by live music, IPA should definitely be at the top of your list. Oh, and did I mention they have amazing BBQ?
One of the best all-around live music venues in Greenville is Smiley's Acoustic Cafe. Smiley's is located in the West End on Augusta Street, within walking distance from Fluor Field at the West End. The venue may appear quaint and laid-back, but don't let that or the name fool you-Smiley's books bands and solo artists from all over the country that bring with them many styles and personalities. The small, cozy listening room is perfect for gaining an up-close seat to performances, as well as providing a perfect situation for meeting the artists. Smiley's always has an early show from 6:30 - 9:00 p.m. and a late show from 10:00 p.m. - 1:30 a.m., with the first typically being an acoustic act.
Smiley's isn't just known for excellent music...they also have an enticing menu! Each week, the chef designs a new dish to keep things unpredictable; almost any type of dish you are craving can be found or made at Smiley's. The owner and sound engineer really care about creating an ideal dining and music listening environment. You won't find distracting monitors or televisions, but you will find hard-working staff, delicious food, and top quality music.
Now it's time to relax and unwind after a few very fun nights, so let's talk brunch! The Bohemian Cafe, located where Stone Avenue and Main Street intersect, offers exceptional food, rare character, and a charm that stems from embracing the people of Greenville and its art community. Insider's Tip: Be sure to go next door and pay a visit to Horizon Records. Horizon is one of the oldest independent record stores in the Southeast. If you can't find what you're looking for in the store, they will be more than happy to order an item for you.
THAT Something Extra:
Make Your Own Music
If you're a guitar lover, make sure to stop by Wood & Wire Guitar Shop (just less than half a mile from Horizon Records). Walking in and smelling the wood and polish and seeing the works in progress, as well as the items for sale, is enough to make any musician drool.
Don't forget drums! It's worth the time to visit the Upstate's wholly unique and ultra-impressive percussive electronics manufacturer, Pintech. Pintech is just off of Poinsett Highway, approximately one mile north of IPA. Pintech makes triggers, pads, modules and other devices that can convert your acoustic drum kit into a full electronic monster. Everything ordered is made in-house and is comprised mostly of materials from the Upstate area. Pintech also makes cymbals, sells guitar pickups, and much more. With a client list that includes drummers from No Doubt, Lady Gaga, ZZ Top, Linkin Park, Elton John, Nelly Furtado, AFI, Kid Rock and others, it is safe to say this local company is doing something right!