We are going to be taking you on a trip to the Pee Dee, more specifically Hartsville, or as branded by “executive alchemist” Dylan Sneed…”Artsville”. Dylan is very passionate about his adopted hometown. Hailing originally from Texas, Dylan took me on a tour of the town and and introduced me to some folks that makes this place so special.
I got my first taste of the area October 20, 2012 when I was invited to check out Midnight Roosterfest. Roosterfest is a yearly festival put on by the owners of the Midnight Rooster coffee shop and eatery, Jessie and Jeremy Smith. The Midnight Rooster is located on East Carolina St, the main street in Hartsville. Every year they block off a section of East Carolina, which is in front of the Rooster, set up a stage for musical acts and let the locals loose and to have a good time. I arrived as “Rejectioneers” took the stage and the whole place had a calming, welcoming vibe. I have to say, the proprietors of the Midnight Rooster know how to put on a festival. It’s a quaint couple of hundred people from old to young but what I found strange was the small amount of college kids with the proximity of Coker College, which is right around the corner…but I’ll get to that later.
Beer sales in the street, coffee served at The Midnight Rooster, food abundant, and music filling the air equals a recipe for a good time. As I said, it’s an annual festival and I plan to attend every year and hope to see you there, too. Check out The Midnight Rooster on facebook, like them and go to www.midnightrooster.com for more details.
The last act of Roosterfest was Hartsville’s own Dylan Sneed, with whom I had a chance to speak with after his set. We sat in the courtyard of The Midnight Rooster and he convinced me to come back so he could show off his hometown and give me a tour of the area and people. I agreed to come back in December, the night of the open mic night he hosted once a month at The Midnight Rooster.
On a beautiful Carolina evening in December, I traveled down to Hartsville to meet with Dylan and check out the town. I parked in front of a Thai restaurant called the Bow Thai, nice tongue and cheek name; on East Carolina and texted Dylan. He met me within two minutes of my arrival.
The first place he took me was by far the one I was most looking forward, Frets and Necks guitar repair and lutherie. Lutherie you ask? Yes, they make guitars here. Owner and guitar expert Boot Arreola really loves what he does and he’s good at his craft. Boot makes all of his guitars under the name BA Ferguson and these things are works of art. Boot invited me into his workshop and he explained that all of his guitars are made from recovered wood. He takes old pianos, antique wood or fallen trees and makes varied sort of guitars.
The day I was there he was just finishing up an electric, two single coil P-90 loaded, green guitar that was special ordered. The first fret of the guitar had a double rainbow engraved that had a special significance to the person he was making it for. Boot has been making guitars since 2008 and makes 8 to 9 a year. Any guitarist interested in a finely crafted, beautiful sounding guitar should contact Boot and check out what he has to offer. Go to http://www.FretsAndNecksSC.com and see what they’re all about or go to the shop in person at 114 West Carolina Ave in downtown Hartsville.
After we left Frets and Necks, Dylan showed off his town like he was a representative of the Chamber of Commerce. He took me to the Black Creek Arts Commission, which is an art gallery set up in the old Community Market building. Dylan has played shows there but he says it is hard to get people out which is strange since this is a “college town”. He came up with the tag line “try new things” printed some stickers and is trying to get people out of the houses or dorm rooms to check out what the town has to offer.
This brings me to Coker College. While I was there, there was little evidence that a college was only three blocks away. I asked Dylan about the college community and he said the kids don’t really venture off campus. When I talked to Jessie from the Midnight Rooster about the same thing later in the evening, she expressed the same thing. “Coker College is an island in this town,” she said. Which brings me back to the Rooster, which is a hipster, eclectic coffee shop that should be a college kids Mecca. Jessie and Dylan said they’ve made many attempts to reach out to the kids, but to no avail.
This is a personal plea to all Coker College kids. You are missing out on the college experience. Get off campus and “try new things.” Foam parties will still be there when you get back.
The next location was Center Theater, an old style theater that holds 900 people. Dylan, in conjunction with the Newberry Opera House, is trying to book some major acts for the area. Let’s wish him luck on that endeavor. Dylan also has a concert series that runs from spring into the summer called the Artsville House Concert Series that is expanding and growing more than even he expected. What started as a small concert idea has grown with every event. We’ll keep you up to date on the series as it gets going this year.
Lastly, we ended up back at the Rooster for Dylan Sneed’s open mic night. I’ve been to and played in dozens of open mic nights around the state but this is something special. Occurring on the first Monday of every month, it is a local musician favorite. The talent here is nothing less than breath taking. Seventeen acts ranging from the blues laden-story telling guitar aficionado Johnny Tanner, to 14 year old Mary Bryant just getting her musical feet wet. Eighteen year-old prodigy and friend of Dylan’s, Adam Sands, drove from North Augusta just to play here. The room was electric and there was a high level of respect for every artist both young and old.
This was my first taste of Hartsville or Artsville as Dylan likes to call it, and it is easy to see why he has given his adopted home that name. Please check the links below and follow me down to Hartsville soon!