By Dylan Leatherwood
On Saturday, October 26th, I got to check out Columbia’s own Jam Room Music Festival. This festival has been an annual occurrence in downtown Columbia for the last couple of years. It’s an all-day festival with two stages and 12 bands total. Some of the acts this year were fun and energetic, so I’m really excited to review these bands and talk about their performances
I mostly watched over by the Palmetto Brewing Co. Stage (Hampton St.) so I will be talking about the performances over there. However, I’d be doing this blog a disservice if I didn’t mention how amazing the Mustache Brothers, who played at The Whig Stage on Main St., lead singer’s mustache was. Anyway, back at the Palmetto Brewing Co. Stage, Boomtown Trio started the day on a high note. Boomtown Trio came out with some strong bluegrass and folky vibes that were only amplified by crisp violin notes and some great twangy high volume vocals. Later into the set, Boomtown Trio showed off their diversity when they started plucking their cello and using it like a bass. This allowed them to play at tempos that are unconventional for the bluegrass and folk genres. Boomtown Trio then played some unreleased material from their first full-length debut album including one track that had some pop influence vocally and another track that straight up sounding like a Legend of Zelda track and it was absolute fire. I had never heard of Boomtown Trio before this festival, but now I’m excited about their debut record.
Up next was Flower Shopping. The band said that they came up with the name Flower Shopping because they wanted their music to make you feel like you’re flower shopping. But to me, their music was way too sad and self-deprecating to make me feel like I was flower shopping. Unless flower shopping is way darker than I remember (I haven’t been in years). Flower Shopping the band gave a huge emo/indie coffee house type of vibe and even at times reminded me of Radiohead on a song like Creep. While this isn’t my personal favorite style, I was able to appreciate the high energy performance that Flower Shopping was able to give.
After Flower Shopping, Babe Club got on stage. I had listened to Babe Club before the festival and I was curious as to what they were going to play. They only had two songs officially released, so they were either going to have to play covers or unreleased material. Luckily, it was the latter; Babe Club played some of their unreleased tracks and they all sounded amazing. The tracks had an indie rock sound with a twist; the grooves through the tracks were edm inspired. Those fun, danceable grooves along with catchy hooks, the band on stage dancing and having fun, made for an amazing set from Babe Club.
The next set was a band from Pennsylvania called ARTHUR. The first thing that stood out to me about ARTHUR was the vocals. There was a certain quirkiness in the echoing vocals that made ARTHUR an enjoyable listen. I also appreciated the juxtapositions placed in ARTHUR’s music. While the band sounds super upbeat and happy, the lyrics often reflected darker themes (very reminiscent of a Dayglow). Although, some of these darker themes and lyrics did sometimes feel dramatic for the sake of being dramatic. But, as a huge bedroom pop fan, I did enjoy AUTHUR’s set.
Later in the night after the sun had set, Ex Hex, one of the headlining acts, took the stage. The best part of Ex Hex’s music, in my opinion, is the amazing electrifying guitars. Needless to say, I was super excited to see Ex Hex shred live. However, the performance got off to a rocky start. The lead singer definitely seemed a bit passive at the beginning of the set. I think this is because during soundcheck the band had lots of issues with bad microphone feedback. But after a while, the band got settled and gave a great performance with cool lighting effects and fun performances. And yes, the guitars live were everything I dreamed of and more.
Waxahatchee, the other headliner, took the stage to finish out the evening. I’ll be on honest, I was very distracted for the first part of this set. Once Waxahatchee took the stage, it started to rain and it was a cold rain. There were times where it looked like Waxahatchee didn’t know whether to feel bad for us standing in the cold rain or grateful that we still were toughing it out to watch her. In reality, she was probably feeling both. All of us that were remaining in the audience started embracing the elements and we all started dancing, not only to the music but to stay warm as well. So despite the rain, we were all having a good time and there was just something so serene about listening to Waxahatchee just strumming on an acoustic guitar with the sounds of rain in the background. Even after I ran three miles in the cold rain to get back to my car, I still felt like it was the perfect way to end a Saturday night in Columbia.
Overall, the Jam Room Music Festival was a great time. The only complaint I have is there were a lot of people smoking and the wind would blow that smoke right back to me. It felt like an episode of Mad Men at times but it was all worth it for the great music. Also, being that the festival was held right in the middle of downtown, I was able to check out the Columbia Museum of Art in between sets. There, I got to see some Van Gogh’s, which was on my bucket list, and other amazing pieces in the museum too. Speaking of Columbia, I think my favorite part of this festival is the community involvement. There were tons of local sponsors like The Whig, WXRY, freetimes, Palmetto Brewing Company, Hootie & The Blowfish Foundation, the Columbia Museum of Art, Richland County and more. It felt like a concert for Columbia by Columbia and I felt that.