North Myrtle Beach’s Pirate’s Cove offering a bounty of live rock ‘n’ roll

For Weekly SurgeFebruary 5, 2014 

Cranford Hollow. Courtesy photo.

John Powell, owner of Pirate’s Cove Lounge/Bar & Grill in North Myrtle Beach, is waging a not-so-quiet rock ‘n’ roll revolution, bucking a trend that’s seen fewer and fewer club-sized original live music venues and shows in the past decades. Powell, a once hopeful musician in his own right, is a native of Grand Strand and came of age in the 1990s golden era of local rock ‘n’ roll when teens and 20-somethings flocked to bars to see live bands. No one is quite sure why that trend seems to be reversing itself, but Powell, undaunted, continues to book talented local original acts, along with regional and touring national acts in hopes to reinvigorate the scene and to fulfill his personal rock ‘n’ roll mandate.

His father, Milford Powell first opened Pirate’s Cove in September1995, and John Powell has worked in the family business since he was 20, bar-backing, bartending, cleaning restrooms, and his favorite duty, booking bands. After a stint in the military, and after other post-military pursuits, the junior Powell came home to roost at his favorite North Myrtle Beach Main Street haunt after his dad semi-retired.

“I came back from Charleston around three-and-a-half years ago,” said Powell. “I decided to make this my career, instead of just dabbling in the business and traveling back and forth.”

“Original live music has always been near and dear to my heart,” he continued. “I’m proud to propagate and push [original music] in my home town. It’s my favorite part of the job.”

The venue is behind a long list of notable artists and regular annual shows for which those on the North end of the Strand, at least, seem to turn out. drivin’ ‘n’ cryin’ (which also just appeared at Bourbon Street Bar & Grill), American Aquarium, Sqwearl, The Drag, Passafire, Sunny Ledfurd, Daniel Howle, Devon Allman, and countless others have taken the stage over the past nearly two decades. Local act Bullfrog is a regular at Pirate’s Cove and mixes a blend of modern rock covers with creative originals. Local modern country act Austin Mowery, brings popular country covers and originals to the venue, but local reggae-rock act Treehouse! may hold the record as the most-booked Pirate’s Cove band, playing there steadily since 2007.

The Pirate’s Cove music schedule is online at and includes Cranford Hollow at 9 p.m. Friday (free admission), American Aquarium with One Bad Apple at 9 p.m. Saturday ($10 at the door), The Unlikely Candidates and the Vegabonds with Venters on Feb 13, and Hip Slack on Feb. 22. Highlights of a very busy March schedule include: March 1, The Deluge; March 5, Local Original Showcase featuring Bullfrog, The Revealed and Incredibly Tall People; and March 7, Below the Bassline. Check the venue’s Web site for updates.

Regarding his personal mission to keep the scene alive, at least in his neck of the woods, Powell sees successes and failures as a part of the never-ending learning curve.

“It’s not as easy as was in the ‘90s when we first opened,” said Powell. “The challenge is getting through the tough ones,” he continued. “You have to try a lot harder. It’s not as easy to get people excited about live music. There were once a lot more rock ‘n’ roll venues, a lot more bands, and just a very different vibe. Other than the House of Blues, we’re about the only venue north of Bourbon Street (Bar & Grill) that regularly hosts live, original shows.”

Undaunted, Powell soldiers on, balancing the optimism of a hopeful dreamer against the pragmatism of a businessman. “Times have changed, but who knows, maybe we’re right around the corner from the next great rock ‘n’ roll revolution.”

Myrtle Beach Country Music Kickoff

The Oceanfront Merchant’s Association (OMA) has announced the kickoff to the 2014 season of entertainment, which includes plenty of busy weekends; even before the hordes of summer tourists arrive.

The Home Grown Seaside Country Music Festival will feature three local and regional country acts in a free, outdoor event, 2 pm. – 8 p.m. Feb 15 at the Plyler Park stage, oceanfront in Myrtle Beach. The scheduled acts: Eastbound, The Tyler Hammond Band, and the Josh Brannon Band. The Blue Moon Beer Garden will be set up in the park for those 21 and older.

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