I remember meeting Amy Hutto for the first time. It was five years ago. In the cozy, cluttered offices at 98X headquarters, stacks of CDs teetered on the deck and file cabinets. Shrink-wrapped promo albums from major labels sat side-by-side with Sharpie-scribbled demos from various local bands. Stickers, T-shirts, posters, press kits, and bits of rock band paraphernalia lay across her desktop. In her early 20s, she'd already been working with the rock station for a number of years. I thought to myself: This is a music fan with whom I can easily relate.
Hutto recently announced her plans to leave Charleston for new opportunities in the San Francisco area. She's not leaving without a proper goodbye, though. This weekend, she welcomes friends to Jimbo's Rock Lounge for a farewell bash.
"I am super stoked about the show," she says. "I'm excited to begin this new chapter of my life, but the hardest thing to leave behind will be the people. I've been so lucky to have surrounded myself with a circle of loyal support, dedication, and fun."
Hutto kicked off the weekly local music show "Local X" at 98X in 2005. She was already a familiar voice on the air, known for being lively, witty, and politely tough. She knew her classic rock and metal (particularly on the Aerosmith side of things). She liked the new stuff, too, appreciating the least obnoxious aspects of modern alt-rock. She could hold her own in on-air interviews and banter.
Hutto never strived to become some sort of small city mogul or scene Svengali. With her ego in check, she avoided most of the radio industry politics, band rivalries, and biz bullshit by staying focused on the music and the musicians. Her genuine love of rock 'n' roll propelled her work and success.
Local X was her baby. It started out as a straightforward one-hour program but soon expanded to a vibrant and often very funny three-hour weekly special. Hutto and her co-hosts sought a variety of local acts for the show, many of whom would not have received acknowledgement otherwise. She played their recordings (some of which were lo-fi), promoted their gigs, interviewed them on the air, and included them in compilations.
Hutto's support of the local music scene extended to the concert halls and the folks behind the scenes as well. It wasn't unusual to see her rubbing elbows with the sound guys or roadies before a show or drinking beer with musicians and fans after the set. From the old Map Room to the Music Farm to the new Jimbo's, she was very much on the scene.
In Jan. 2009, Local X came to a sudden halt. As is the case for most commercial FM stations, when execs decide to make a change, the abrupt switch feels like a shock with no warning or explanation afterward.
Hutto and her longtime co-host Toker bounced back, though, launching their own local music podcast called the Charleston Buzz. The commercial-free, uncensored rock-based program debuted in 2009 at thecharlestonbuzz.com. Even on a tiny budget and limited gear, they continued to shine the spotlight on up-and-coming bands.
Quench — one of many bands Hutto championed during her time at 98X — will reunite at Jimbo's on Fri. Sept. 24 for a set on the main stage. Led by singer Kally Knight (of Knight Booking), Quench was one of the more serious-minded and tuneful guitar-rock groups in town in the mid 2000s.
"I'm really hoping that some of the local rock stars who show up will end up doing some sort of fun little jam up on stage later in the night," Hutto says. "That's certainly not definite, but encouraged."
The gig will likely be a sort of family reunion with Hutto and her good-humored optimism at the center of it all.