St. Pat’s in Five Points Hits 2014 with an Exciting and Unorthodox Lineup

New Year, (Slightly) New St. Pat’s
By Free Times
Wednesday, March 12, 2014

By Staying True to Itself, Minus the Bear is Just the Indie Rock Band to Elevate St. Pat’s

Heart-On-Sleeve Alt-Rock Act Manchester Orchestra Rides Into Columbia More Aggressive Than Ever

Fat Rat da Czar and Ben G Break Through as the First Homegrown Hip-Hop Acts to Play St. Pat’s

St. Pat’s Takes a Risk With Daytime EDM

It hardly seems possible given Columbia’s recent and unusual brushes with the slushy and slick winter weather, but the St. Pat’s in Five Points festival is once again upon us. Starting in the early morning and stretching into the early evening, this enormous annual hullabaloo — now in its 32nd year — routinely tempts more than 40,000 people to the college-adjacent intersection, offering opportunities to run (Get to the Green 10K, 5K, and Family Fun 1-Miler foot races), gawk (the St. Pat’s Parade down Devine Street), and listen (five official music stages and a plethora of unofficial events).

What: St. Pat’s in Five Points
When: March 15, 9 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Where: Five Points
Price: $15 ($12 in advance)
More info:

More than the weather, the sonic selections make it hard to believe that this is the same St. Pat’s. Typically dominated by modern country and radio-baiting alternative rock, this year’s offerings are considerably more diverse. With entertainment extended an extra hour to 7 p.m., there’s a full stage of EDM, a first for the fest. There are also two locally grown hip-hop selections in Fat Rat da Czar and Ben G, another St. Pat’s first and a welcome olive branch to a community too often ignored at such large-scale events.

On top of these admirable strides, the headliners offer challenges without pushing the festival’s reliable crowd too far from their comfort zones: Manchester Orchestra’s aggressively catchy indie rock comes heaped with hooks; Minus the Bear’s genre-splitting eccentricities are built on a bedrock of bar rock essentials; and Ben Bridwell is leader of Charleston’s cozily huge country-rock outfit Band of Horses, which splits the difference between reverb-obsessed indie-pop and a reliable low-country twang.

7:30 a.m. – Get to the Green: 10K, 5K, and Family Fun 1-Miler
10 a.m. – Annual St. Pat’s Parade
10 a.m. – 3 p.m. – Shaggin’ on Santee
Noon – 7 p.m. – Live Music
4 – 7 p.m. – Dub DJs on Santee

And even when this lineup does tilt toward FM country, it’s with acts like Parmalee and Cole Swindell, surprisingly tasteful tunesmiths in a realm not known for subtlety. Indeed, from top to bottom, this is the most progressive lineup St. Pat’s has booked in quite some time.

Not every change at this year’s festival will be celebrated. For the first time, re-entry will not be allowed, so once you enter the ticketed area, you best stay put. But you can’t criticize St. Pat’s for resting on its laurels, and with this kind of hulking holiday event, that’s likely as good as it’s going to get.  — Jordan Lawrence

Miller Lite/WCOS Stage

Bless Yer Heart
1 p.m.

I’ll be honest — I’m pretty bummed that a band that blends the Confederate Flag into its logos won this year’s Battle for St. Pat’s. The headliners — Minus the Bear, Manchester Orchestra, Ben Bridwell — are some of the most forward-thinking selections this event has seen in quite some time, and several of the battle’s other local contestants — sweeping and cathartic piano-rock outfit The Sea Wolf Mutiny, hypnotic-by-way-of-narcotics emcee Karmessiah — are equally adventurous, and in the later case, push the buttons of bigots rather than hand them a free pass. It might be different if Bless Yer Heart was making a strong point with that controversial banner, or if its music was at least confrontational in some way that made the symbol meaningful. But this group’s bleary-eyed mix of country-rock moping and synth-pop excess is blander than milquetoast, an unfortunately backwards addition to an otherwise ambitious lineup. — Jordan Lawrence

Bryson Jennings
2:10 p.m.

Orangeburg native Bryson Jennings has graduated from the local bar circuit in his home state to recording his next project in Nashville, where his rough-hewn country baritone ought to fit right in. He’s gaining recognition as a songwriter, too, snagging a spot at May’s Key West Songwriter’s Festival in Florida. — Kevin Oliver

Cole Swindell
3:40 p.m.

Like mentor Luke Bryan, Nashville’s Cole Swindell peddles frat-country anthems and stories of small-town romance. He brings nothing new to the genre, but innovation doesn’t seem to be his goal. Swindell has also written songs for American Idol winner Scotty McCreery. — Michael Spawn

Parmalee | courtesy photo

5:30 p.m.

There are long, rocky roads to stardom, and then there’s Parmalee’s. Formed in 2001 by brothers Scott and Matt Thomas after playing as teenagers in their father’s band, they paid their dues for a decade on the road before getting a chance to showcase for a label. Just before that opportunity, in 2010, Scott was injured in a shooting during an attempted burglary of the group’s RV and nearly died, spending 10 days in a coma and 45 days in the hospital recovering from three gunshot wounds.

That experience undoubtedly made the band’s eventual success all the more sweet, especially since the song that has made their career, “Carolina,” is a version of a tune they first released on their own back in 2008, and it took a record 38 weeks to reach the top 10 of Billboard’s Country Airplay chart. Musically, Parmalee fits in nicely with the pop-leaning country of Florida Georgia Line, Luke Bryan and Blake Shelton. The group incorporates enough cocky rock elements to satisfy the macho dudes in the audience, but its latest single, “Close Your Eyes,” is aimed more at their girlfriends. — Kevin Oliver

Bud Light/Rock 93.5 Stage

Cover of Afternoon
12:30 p.m.

The evocative yet powerful music of this local band owes a heavy debt to the Foo Fighters’ school of rock — hooks galore with melodic vocals and great choruses. The range of styles and dynamics on the group’s 2013 debut, Among The Tides, sets them apart from a glut of similarly minded modern rock. — Kevin Oliver

Black Iron Gathering
1:30 p.m.

Columbia’s Black Iron Gathering combines traditional Celtic instrumentation with an aggressively modern spirit, resulting in a sort of folk-punk tornado spewing debris composed of gang vocals, angelic harmonies, and relics from America’s musical past. In its brasher moods, the band recalls Dropkick Murphys, but its strongest during finger-picked, lovelorn ballads that evoke a sense of romantic chivalry all but forgotten in its machismo-happy realm. — Michael Spawn

Morning Parade | courtesy photo

Morning Parade
2:40 p.m.

Listening to Morning Parade, it’s impossible to miss the English quintet’s sky-high ambition. Its emotive, wall-of-sound alt-rock is aimed plainly at the Madison Square Gardens and Wembley Stadiums of the world, and its talent is such that these goals don’t seem the least bit outlandish. — Michael Spawn

Weaving the Fate | courtesy photo

Weaving the Fate
4:10 p.m.

One of Columbia’s most popular bands, previous sets at St. Pat’s by Brian Conner and his alt-rock cohorts have been festival highlights. This year they come armed with “Kickstarter,” a new tune just released online — and no, it doesn’t appear to have anything to do with crowdfunding. — Kevin Oliver

Manchester Orchestra
5:40 p.m.

After months of writing and recording, Manchester Orchestra emerges with Cope, the loudest and most aggressive rock album the band has yet recorded. — Kyle Petersen

Free Times/92.1 The Palm Stage

Fat Rat da Czar

Local hip-hop scene leader Fat Rat da Czar has frequently bemoaned Columbia’s lack of interest when it comes to homegrown hip-hop. With his laid-back swagger headed to a St. Pat’s stage, it seems that his hard work has turned the tide, however slightly. — Jordan Lawrence

Ben G | photo by Sean Rayford

Ben G
12:45 p.m.

After a few highly successful outings on non-official stages, Ben G makes the leap to St. Pat’s proper, following a role model in Fat Rat and promising an uplifting assault of buoyant bass knocks and kinetic verses. Prepare to party.  — Jordan Lawrence

Stop Light Observations
1:45 p.m.

Charleston’s Stop Light Observations play slithering, quivering rock built upon serpentine mid-tempo grooves. Will Blackburn’s voice is raspy, soulful, and pretty much boils over with natural exuberance and synthetic reverb. If its live show is anywhere as satisfying as its Radiation LP, this group is not to be missed. — Michael Spawn

Ben Bridwell (of Band of Horses) | photo by Sean Rayford

Ben Bridwell (of Band of Horses)
3:30 p.m.

It’s somewhat surprising that Band of Horses frontman Ben Bridwell would choose this as the moment to ramp up his solo activity. He has been the group’s sole constant member since its inception and has never shied from letting its sound range from cathartic, reverb-laden indie rock to breezy country-rock. Plus, the band just released Live at the Ryman, an album which proved how good those songs can sound in an acoustic setting.

But you could also say that Bridwell’s solo turn has been a long time coming. Even as the band’s lineup has solidified and seen other members contribute to songwriting, the course of the group’s four albums there has seen a distinct shift towards more relaxed and ambling songs — despite hallmarks like “The Funeral” and “No One’s Gonna Love You” depending on stadium-sized ambition. And Bridwell knows intuitively that, regardless of whatever sonic background he has, his signature selling point has always been his unabashedly romantic vocals, which often seem like some unholy synthesis of Wayne Coyne, Jim James and Neil Young. 

Fortunately for St. Pat’s attendees, the few songs that Bridwell has released as Birdsmell don’t stray too far from 2012’s Mirage Rock, opting for that album’s Eagles-indebted classic rock sheen. The results hew to a more humble alt-country sound that sleepwalks through throw-away lines and plenty of acoustic and steel guitars. Given the relative lack of output from that project though, expect the hits delivered with Live at the Ryman’s professionalism along with some choice Gram Parsons and Townes Van Zandt covers. — Kyle Petersen

Minus the Bear | photo by Sean Rayford

Minus the Bear
5 p.m.

Over the course of its 13 years, Minus the Bear has evolved from a pointillist math-rock act into a surprisingly versatile and nuanced ensemble that spins jazz, funk and soul into its eminently catchy art-rock. — Patrick Wall

WXRY Stage

Tyler Boone
1 p.m.

Tyler Boone bills himself as a singer-songwriter, but he’s no lone-wolf troubadour. His music relies heavily on a backing band, turning what might otherwise be dour, meditative laments into full-tilt blues runs. At times, his mellow singing voice is ill-suited for the heartier numbers, but it works nicely with the band’s more subdued moments.  — Michael Spawn

Brave Baby | photo by Sean Rayford

Brave Baby
2:10 p.m.

Charleston-based Brave Baby prefers clean, anguine guitar lines over distorted power chords, explorative tom runs and paradiddles over booming backbeats, and the gradual burn to the fireworks show. Its songs bob lightly atop an ocean of reverb and aren’t in any big hurry to get where they’re going; instead, the band carefully fleshes grand, expansive choruses after comparatively humble verses and instrumental breaks, all guided by voices that crack, strain, and howl with total sincerity. There’s a sadness in the singing, but a hopefulness, too, and they meet in Brave Baby’s best moments. — Michael Spawn

Ben G
3:30 p.m.

After a few highly successful outings on non-official stages, Ben G makes the leap to St. Pat’s proper, following a role model in Fat Rat and promising an uplifting assault of buoyant bass knocks and kinetic verses. Prepare to party.  — Jordan Lawrence

Atlas Road Crew
4:45 p.m.

It’s no wonder that this act, now based in Charleston, has in a few short years become one of the biggest bands in Columbia, as its sound brims classic rock and soul delivered in a thoroughly modern way. Mark Bryan of Hootie & the Blowfish certainly agrees; he produced the group’s 2012 debut. — Kevin Oliver

Santee Stage

Shag DJs
noon-3 p.m.

Not into EDM? Shag away during the early day. — Jordan Lawrence

3:30 p.m.

By 4 p.m., after five hours of access to beer trucks and Car Bombs, the crowd might be too tipsy to do anything more than giggle at Frank-N-Wang’s name (hur hur hur). That’s a shame: Justin Frank and Jackson Wang can get a party started, as their frequent sets at Social attest. Whether ignored or taken in, it at least beats shag music. — Patrick Wall

Bois Obscur
4 p.m.

When Columbia got f#!king weird, Bois Obscur was there. The live set posted to his Soundcloud page displays promise and shows the DJ has a good command of flow and dynamic and the zeitgeist of popular rap music, but his twerky thump-hop might be a little too spartan to fully grab the attention of a sloshed crowd. But for the careful listener, Obscur offers some pretty great rewards. — Patrick Wall

4:45 p.m.

Local tag team LUCiD — Traktion (nee Josh Woodall) and DJ Pipes (Nick Lovas) — is one of the leading lights of the local EDM scene, its Adderall-affected mixes pairing trunk-rattling trap music thud with build-and-release dubstep ballasts. Probably has the best chance of translating its set to daytime audiences. — Patrick Wall

DJ Candela
5:30 p.m.

Candela’s quietly one of the better DJs on Columbia’s EDM scene; he’s something of the house opening act at Social, plying his lurching, woozy brostep (think: Avicii, Skrillex) in support of Bassjackers, Starkillers and other EDM notables. — Patrick Wall

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