The Brown Mountain Lightning Bugs

Kendra and Zack Harding form The Brown Mountain Lightning Bugs, a folk(ish)/Americana group hailing from Winston-Salem, NC. The band made its debut in 2015, shortly after the two tied the knot in an old chapel in the heart of the Piedmont.

Combining their unique backgrounds that range from classic rock to classical guitar, they create a blend of original music with deep roots in the past with a contemporary twist here and there.

The Bugs have played extensively throughout the Southeast, including performances on The Grey Eagle’s Patio Show Series, Ol’ Front Porch Music Festival, and at Awendaw Green. They’re currently in the studio working on their second album, due out in 2020.

Five Shows in Five Days - Part 1

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Last week, Kendra and I collectively played five gigs in five days, which is as close to doing a “tour” as either of us have ever been. We drove around 900 miles in total and played around 9 hours of live music. We packed a LOT into those five days and had an incredible time doing it. We also learned more about how to tour and how to plan future shows.

We woke up early Wednesday, May 29th to finish packing and start our trip to our first gig at Awendaw Green near Charleston, SC. We usually travel in Kendra’s car due to it getting better gas mileage. We took my SUV this time, though, because one of our upcoming gigs was going to be an electric show, and we had to haul a bunch of extra equipment. We took off down the road with the back piled full of music equipment and the front floorboard stacked with CDs.

Our first surprise came as my car began hesitating and acting weird about halfway to Charleston. It wasn’t long before the check engine light came on. We had a lot of expensive equipment in the car and it was over a hundred degrees outside the car, so Kendra and I were a little worried. Luckily, the problem didn’t cause us to break down, but it did add a little stress to the next few days of driving.

Awendaw Green ended up being a FANTASTIC experience and one of the most fun gigs we’ve ever played. The outdoor stage is nestled in a nice shady spot near the coast and the folks who work there are all excellent people and really passionate about the music that’s being played. We met several of the other musicians who were sharing the stage with us that night, including Eric Barnett (http://www.ericbarnettmusic.com/) and Kavoossi and the Typos (https://www.kavoossimusic.com/).

It was nice playing through a big professional sound system, and the crowd was great to us. One thing that became really apparent was that Charleston has a thriving music scene. Everyone seems to know each other, come to each other’s gigs, and support the scene as a whole. We can’t wait to book some more gigs in the area. What Awendaw Green has going on is really special.

Road Trippin’

Road Trippin’

Kendra and I spent the night at a friend’s house who was gracious enough to let us stay at his place while in Charleston. Note: if you’re going to be touring and trying to make money with live music, having a free spot to sleep will make all the difference about whether you’re able to even break even. By the time we’d bought some food and gas, the money we’d made was already running pretty thin.

Eric Barnett playing at Awendaw Green

Eric Barnett playing at Awendaw Green

We woke early the next morning and spent the day hopping our car from one shadow to the next in an effort to keep the instruments cool. We visited Smythe Park and the Charles Pinckney Historic Site on Daniel Island. It was nice to spend the morning walking some trails and relaxing a bit. In the early afternoon, we walked through downtown Charleston, which has always been one of my favorite downtown areas.

The folks at Awendaw Green set us up with a spontaneous pop-up gig opening for Finnegan Bell (https://www.facebook.com/FinneganBellMusic/) at Edmund’s Oast Brewing Company. We had the same sound crew from Awendaw, and those guys know what they’re doing. It was around 95 degrees in the direct sunlight as we were playing which was ROUGH, but we played well and the venue was in a neat location. Eric Barnett even came out with his wife to watch us play, which made us feel great.

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As soon as we were finished, we drove to the Elliotborough Mini Bar to play a set from 8-11. The Mini Bar is a really tiny place with a really big atmosphere. It reminded me a lot of the pubs that Kendra and I had visited when we were in Ireland a few years back. Halfway through the show, the battery compartment on my Taylor guitar broke as I was trying to replace the battery. I think the heat from earlier in the day got to it. The venue was small enough that the guitar was still perfectly audible without being plugged in.

The bartender and clientele were all really cool folks and we played a nice, intimate set that was a wildly different experience from Awendaw Green the night before. Again, it was readily apparent that Charleston is a great town for live music.

A potential set list written on the back of the job description from my community college job…

A potential set list written on the back of the job description from my community college job…

We were EXHAUSTED by the time we got back to my friend’s place and quickly fell asleep. Here’s a few things to take away from our time in Charleston:

  1. Heat is scary. Make sure you have water, shade, and a place to cool off when the day is done. Instruments have a hard time with being in sun.

  2. Having friends to stay with makes a big difference. We were able to pay for our trip with the money we made, but we’d have been in the hole if we’d payed for a place to stay.

  3. Charleston is an EXCELLENT place to play music. It was great to get to talk to everyone and make some new friends.

After leaving Charleston, our next stop was Hendersonville, NC. Check back in soon to learn about part two of our mini tour!