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Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012

From the editor’s desk for Nov. 15, 2012

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SXSE pointing in a new direction?

I began the Aug. 6, 2009 From the Editor’s Desk column with this question: “OK, a show of hands out there: How many of you have ever attended a South by Southeast Music Feast concert at the Myrtle Beach Train Depot?”

It’s almost 3-and-a-half-years later and I’m asking again.

And there was this follow-up: “How many of you know what I’m talking about?”

Oddly enough, that same week in early August, 2009, singer-songwriter-guitarist Verlon Thompson was the headlining artist at the SXSE Music Feast – and he’s back again Saturday at the historic depot.

This is pertinent and we’re coming full circle because SXSE, a local non-profit that supports local music education in addition to hosting semi-monthly mostly-Americana concerts, came close to folding recently.

Once a paying SXSE member, I too have been slacking in attending the Saturday night concerts so I’m admittedly part of the problem. I almost always let our readers know about the shows via our Hot Tickets and On the Fly columns. But I can’t remember the last Music Feast I attended. It may have been Mike Farris’s gig in December, 2010, but I can’t remember clearly. Yikes!

Whereas I haven’t supported the Music Feast concerts by being there in person – it’s called a feast because your ticket also entitles you to pot luck supper and all the locally-brewed New South beer you can handle – through the years, Surge has done a few SXSE-related cover stories. These include the alluded to Aug. 6, 2009 article when the organization was at a crossroads and beat the bushes for its first-ever membership drive, when the group’s co-founder Jeff Roberts died in January 2010, and when we profiled former Screamin’ Cheetah Wheelies front man Farris on Dec. 2, 2010.

If I haven’t been going to the shows - and I know how awesome they can be - then I know a whole helluva lot of you out there in Surgeland haven’t either.

A few weeks ago, I got a phone call from a SXSE board member who told me about an internal shake-up and how the group had almost disbanded and dissolved – and I was asked if I wanted to be a new board member. My initial thought was that I couldn’t do this as it would be a conflict of interest because the group and its concerts are something we cover regularly. That then gave way to excitement as I decided I wanted to do it – and I had wild visions of booking Steve Earle, Lucinda Williams, Neko Case and Southern Culture on the Skids at the depot – or other local venues. Or an outdoor SXSE festival, by God!

But before accepting, I told my boss about the offer and it was quickly nixed.

I was initially angry, but I accepted – and agreed with the decision, and reluctantly declined the invitation.

But I kept my ear to the ground when it concerned SXSE and heard from a few other sources that the Music Feast experience was indeed struggling and in need of a shakeup – with several citing poor attendance at the October Music Feast featuring young, dynamic act Davin McCoy and The Coming Attractions.

So I did the next best thing – I dispatched correspondent Paul Grimshaw, who knows a thing or two about music and the music biz and fickle Myrtle Beach crowds, to find out what direction the compass is now pointing for South By Southeast and you can read the fruits of his labor by turning to this week’s cover story.

And if this piques your interest – I urge you to attend Saturday’s Music Feast featuring Thompson, who is mostly noted as Texas country/folk artist Guy Clark’s sideman, but is a formidable talent and songwriter in his own right. I went to Thompson’s last Music Feast show – and it was a blast, as he told stories while strumming his guitar and walking through the audience at the ambiance-infused, acoustically-enhanced depot, in effect coming off as a modern day, folksy, salt-of-the-earth minstrel.

And I leave you with this snippet from that Aug. 6, 2009 editorial previously mentioned: “Now’s your chance to step up and ensure the future of a true Myrtle Beach treasure.”

Kent Kimes, Editor

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