While still in high school in North Myrtle Beach in the early 1990s, Rob Gainer’s future already seemed clear. Like many teens, he loved music, but he especially loved the technical side of music and audio engineering. He aligned himself with a few high school pals that would go on to enjoy a brief moment in the spotlight with their Brit-pop-influenced rock band known as The Drag. While Gainer and his band pals all enjoyed a few heady moments with an Island Records major label release, ultimately the band dissolved and everyone involved was forced to rethink their futures. Gainer, a self-taught audio whiz, hadn’t found college to suit his needs and left Coastal Carolina University after a two-year stint in the mid-90s.
But CCU was not the last college campus he’d find himself roaming.
Two decades later Gainer is rediscovering academia, though this time around he’s far from the Grand Strand and not attending as a student. In April he and his wife Kitty Gainer, and their eight-year-old son Kieran Gainer, packed their bags and moved to Blacksburg, Va. the home of Virginia Polytechnic Institute, better known as Virginia Tech.
The road that led Gainer to the beautiful mountain town began in earnest in the aftermath of The Drag’s demise. “I worked for The Palace Theatre for awhile,” said Gainer, “then Legends in Concert and finally The Alabama Theatre.” During his 10 years as front of house engineer (2003 – 2013) at the popular North Myrtle Beach venue, Gainer was able to co-found Sea Note Recording with fellow audio tech-head Seth Funderburk. He also developed an audio installation business, which resulted in a resume that impressed the right people at Va. Tech. He was hired earlier in the year to fill a highly sought-after position as Audio Supervisor for the Center for the Arts, a brand new state-of-the-art facility housing two separate theater venues and two art galleries at Va. Tech.
“We’re not the biggest venue on campus,” said Gainer, “but we’re the most technically outfitted.” Gainer and family had been vacationing in the region off and on for years and thought it might make a nice place to live. “I had been casually keeping an eye open for tech jobs, which are pretty uncommon,” he said, “and found this online. After a couple of trips up to meet with [the center’s administrators] they offered me the job, I accepted, and now we’re here. It’s beautiful and we’ll miss the beach, but love it here, too.”
NAB Has it Covered
Murrells Inlet’s Nick Andolora began as a part-time singing bartender between shifts at the Dead Dog Saloon in 2006, where he played his first solo gigs as a guitarist/vocalist. In the last few weeks Andolora has partnered with Joshua Gregory (percussion) and Charles Freeman (bass) of Ten Toes Up to form the Nick Andolora Band. NAB performs covers and originals culled from one of the most diverse set lists in the area – Coolio to George Michael, Radiohead to Michael Jackson, Citizen Cope to Johnny Cash. The band has an on-and-off schedule at the Dead Dog Saloon including 7 p.m. Tuesday and again on May 28.
Andolora credits the Dead Dog Saloon for helping launch this phase of his musical career. It was at the Murrells Inlet eatery/music venue that he first ventured into public as a guitarist. “I’d always been only a singer in all the bands I’d ever been in,” said Andolora, who is originally from western New York. “I badgered [the Dead Dog owners] to let me play a few songs before whatever band might be scheduled. My metal band, Unit 17, played there a few times, but it was the solo stuff that got me started down this road.”
As his set list and confidence grew so did the gigs, and so did his band. Andolora has teamed up with nearly every South-end player looking to jam or looking for a vocalist. Most recently Gregory and Andolora performed as Nick and the Animal, and still books duo gigs as Gregory’s schedule will allow. Andolora is performing as a fulltime musician for the first time in his life, and says the musical growth from the interaction with Gregory and Freeman is not only invaluable, but enjoyable. “It’s just so much fun for me,” he said. “We hope to add another guitar or keyboards but who knows? I can tell in my solo gigs that my guitar playing is much better – those guys have made me a better player.”
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