As a busy East Cooper dentist and family man, Awendaw Green's Eddie White makes for an unlikely music scene bigwig. As a genuine music fan and supporter of Charleston's band scene, creating a musical and cultural crossroads at a unique venue has been his main goal over the last three years. Motivated more by a sense of fellowship than anything commercial, he's successfully put Awendaw Green on the music scene map.
This weekend, he and a crew of local volunteers present the Awendaw Green Music Festival in the fields behind the Sewee Outpost. More than 60 bands and songwriters will perform on four stages over the course of two days. Proceeds benefit the Wando High School Band Program, American Red Cross, Toys for Tots, and other local charities.
"This thing is one of those labor-of-love, low-budget events," says White. "We're not a nonprofit, but it is pretty much a no-profit moment. Our whole goal is to support the original music scene."
At the festival, two main stages will rotate between artists handling 45-minute sets. Taking turns on adjacent stages allow for minimal breaks and continuous music from midday to 10 p.m. The festival's Dance Stage will feature an assortment of rookie bands. In the space normally used for the weekly Barn Jams, the Singer/Songwriter Stage will have hourly "in-the-round" collaborations between two or three solo performers, duos, or trios throughout the afternoons and evenings.
It's a Charleston-based lineup. Veteran Awendaw Green performers such as Danielle Howle, Mark Bryan, Lindsay Holler, and Doug Jones will return this weekend. Several established local acts, like Graham Whorley and the Shrimp Records Family Band, will be making their debut. Columbia-based acts John Wesley Satterfield and the Casual Kings will be on hand as well.
"We've been able to embrace the entire music scene in Charleston — and not just the top 12 bands that you hear about all the time," White says. "Musicians consistently tell me they've met other artists and formed relationships with other musicians through Awendaw Green."
In 2007, White opened some of his property in the south Awendaw area as a venue. In 2008, he and a few music-fan buddies booked a series of backyard jam sessions and gigs. Things gradually accelerated into a fully-realized series of shows. The first major music festival took shape in 2008 as Rocktoberfest. More than 40 bands performed to raise money for the Wando High School band program.
Awendaw Green and the Sewee Outpost are actually situated in Charleston County (not within the town limits of Awendaw), but the town has recognized the value of the activities there.
"Even though we're not in the town, we've been able to factor in to their long-term planning," White says. "Thanks to Brooks Geer at the Sewee Outpost, we've been able to sustain this thing. We're thinking about going back to where we started."
As the town expands and enhances its commercial district, the activity at Awendaw Green might become even more significant.
"We've gone from 20 people around a campfire to 400 people groovin' at the Barn Jams on Wednesdays," says White. "It is an incredible scene. It's evolved into something far greater than we ever expected."
White actually wasn't planning to host another Rocktoberfest this fall. The Barn Jam series was running smoothly, and the occasional benefit shows and special events kept him and his crew of volunteers busy. But Awendaw Green supporters and attendees started pestering him about it. Their enthusiasm sparked the idea of throwing this weekend's events together.
"The Barn Jams are running so damn well and they have such great momentum," White says. "They showcase what we're all about — embracing all the different genres, generations, and flavors of musicians. We had some pretty big events scheduled for October and November already, so we decided to go for the first week of December with this festival."
The diversity of acts who perform at the Wednesday evening Barn Jams has strengthened Awendaw Green's reputation as a musical hotspot and community hub.
"It's great to get new bands on a festival stage," says White. "I'm really most proud of our ability to get everyone together in one place."Click here for a full lineup and schedule of artists at the Awendaw Music Festival.