June 2019

A Stage of Their Own: Vibrant music scene of Hilton Head Island finally gets music festival all to itself

Author: Barry Kaufman

It seems like Hilton Head Island has a festival for everything under the sun. There’s WingFest, VegFest, the Wine and Food Festival, the Chili Cook-Off, the Rib Burn-Off, at least a dozen art festivals….

And each one of these festivals has one thing in common: appearances by a few of the players that comprise Hilton Head Island’s rich music scene. And make no mistake, there is a scene. Some might say otherwise, but it’s hard to argue that we’re seeing more and more of these talented musicians making the leap from side gig to calling. More than just a haven for acoustic covers of Jimmy Buffett, the island is fostering original acts who are creating a distinctive sound all their own.

And now they have a festival all their own. The Hilton Head Island Music Festival will put the music center stage June 22 and 23 at Honey Horn for the first time. Featuring a slate of local and regional acts, the festival aims to give local music fans a place to focus on the sounds of our scene.

“Instead of the entrée being a food, this time it’s music,” said local music luminary Jevon Daly. “There’s more to Hilton Head Island than cover bands. Maybe this will change a little bit of that perception. There are a few talented songwriters around here and some big personalities.”

Not that you should take that as a knock on cover bands. In fact, Daly will perform both nights of the festival—Saturday’s Original Music Showcase as Just Jevon and Sunday’s Rock, Reggae, Blues & Funk Night as part of Grateful Dead tribute band Shakey Bones. Having a foot in both worlds, the festival reflects the local music scene’s unique dichotomy. If you’re a musician around here, you almost have to balance your own material against playing covers in restaurants.

Nick Poulin knows this dual nature well. In addition to performing originals with Pretty Darn bandmate Kyle Wareham, he performs regularly at Aunt Chilada’s.

“Most of us have our own material, and it’s tough to get a real reading on what people think of it,” Poulin said. “I try to put in some originals when I pay weekly gigs. To have a day dedicated to musicians who have their own material, I think it’s a really cool thing and hopefully a sign of things to come.”

Headliner Hannah Wicklund knows a thing or two about that balance as well. Along with her band The Steppin Stones, she may be sharing the stage with the likes of Stone Temple Pilots, Bon Jovi and Peter Frampton as she gigs around the world these days, but her journey began at festivals and restaurants all over Hilton Head Island. “I’ve played my share of cover gigs on Hilton Head Island—probably around 2,000 or so,” she said. “It’s nice to come home.”

Like the other musicians who will take the stage at the Hilton Head Music Festival, Wicklund is excited not just for the chance to play, but for the possibilities the festival presents. “There aren’t many towns like this that have musicians playing at restaurants. It’s something special Hilton Head Island has. [Giving them this] larger stage, showcasing and bringing in original music, I think it’s a way for Hilton Head Island’s culture to get a little more invigorated.”

The Hilton Head Music Festival is the brainchild of Mark Weisner, famed for his Bluffton Sunset Parties and Bluffton International & Craft Beer Festival. Live music has played an integral role in the popularity of his events, so creating a new one dedicated just to the stage was a natural next step. “There’s just a little less beer and a little more music,” he said. “I think Hilton Head Island has some really great entertainers, and I thought it was time to showcase some local talent and bring in some fun regional acts.”

Hilton Head Island Music Festival hits Honey Horn for two days, with 16 performances, June 22 and 23. For tickets and more information, visit www.hhimusicfest.com.

(During the Original Music Showcase:)
● Just Jevon
● Pretty Darn
● John Brewster
● Stray Fossa
● Bobby Magyarosi
● C2 and the Brothers Reed
● Hannah Wicklund & The Steppin Stones

(During Rock, Reggae, Blues & Funk Night:

● Skinny Bike
● Vannah & The Rump Shakers
● CornBreD
● Shakey Bones
● Reggae Infinity Band
● Voodoo Visionary
● Eric Culberson Band

Sharing the Stage
More than just live music, the Hilton Head Music Festival is a full-fledged festival atmosphere, with local artists in the “Artist Village” including painters, jewelers, potters, woodworkers and more. Palmetto Ocean Conservancy will be on hand with an educational booth, part of the festival’s dedication to sustainable practices. The official T-shirts for the festival will be made of eco-friendly organic cotton, and you won’t find any straws, plastic bags or single-use plastic bottles here.And what’s a festival without food? While you rock out, you can feast on fare from vendors including Melly Mel’s, Tove’s Hispanic Cuisine, Hilton Head Brewing Company BBQ, Krazian Food Truck, Lowcountry Fire & Rice, New York City Pizza, Captain Woody’s, Grind Coffee Roasters, Kona Ice, Booze Pops and Gnam Gnam Gelato.

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