Eddie Hogan, longtime publisher and editor of the free monthly paper Charleston's Free Time, stands as one of the experts in the scene. He observed the shifts and trends from popular Lowcountry bands in the '80s through the Hootie phenomenon of the 1990s and the mini explosion of venues and bands of recent years. Like their front page tagline says, it's "The Lowcountry's Original Entertainment Newspaper."
Hogan published the first issue of Free Time in August 1990. He regularly cranks out collections of music stories with listings of live shows in Charleston and beyond. He features locally written editorials and columns and ads for clubs and shows. He also offers classified "musicians" advertisements on the back page free of charge.
"I hope it's had some kind of impact or at least done a little bit of help," Hogan says of the free ads. "I know what it's like to be a broke musician. These free classifieds are just a small way to provide a little help to those who need a little help."
Despite working on a shoestring budget, Hogan is determined to fill a niche and acknowledge some of the established and up-and-coming acts in town. Every month, he touches on music, arts, and special events in his own column, "From the Editor."
"It's always been there," he says of his usual spot on page two. "I've done everything from a little bit of political commentary to more social commentary. It also served as a diary during my illness where I wanted to laugh at my situation. That was the way to do it — to write funny things about what was happening to me, although it was serious."
Hogan recently traveled a frightening road of recovery after receiving a kidney transplant last May. With a weakened immune system, he battled infections through the summer and fall — often in intensive care. Thankfully, he's been pronounced healthy.
Like other music and entertainment writers working in local print media (we're writing from experience here in the City Paper music room), his desk at his Summerville office stays cluttered with teetering stacks of compact discs, promo photos, press kits, calendar notices, and books.
"I miss the old-school press kit, which included several pages of information and reviews, an 8x10 glossy, and a demo tape or CD," he says. "These days, bands mostly put everything online. And I'm not so technically inclined on the web yet."
One reader favorite is the syndicated "News of the Weird," by Chuck Shepherd. It hit the Free Time pages 15 years ago, adding comic relief between some of the more serious features. Readers also enjoyed community pieces by such contributors as Tom "Noonan" Werner, Sandy Katz, Phil Perrier, Andy "Smoky" Weiner, and others, but two recently established features — a music news and preview column called "The Beat" by Kevin Oliver and a bar-crawl diary called "Skyedives" by Skye Suarez — have done the most to keep the Free Time plugged into the local band and club scene.
"Kevin was one of the first writers for me," says Hogan. "He's based in Columbia, but he used to be here in Charleston, his hometown. He keeps in touch with what's happening. Skye's writing about her experiences, but she's also poking fun at things."
One of the meatiest features in every issue is the WEZL-sponsored "Club & Concert Calendar" — a text-heavy, four-page list of shows at small and large venues across the Carolinas and Georgia.
This fall, Hogan plans to publish one final issue of the paper (likely in December) and then launch an online-only version. "We're constructing a new, music-heavy Free Time web page," he says.
It could be the dawning of a new era for a valuable veteran. —T. Ballard Lesemann