Home Is Where the Song Is

By Keely Headrick & Callista Milligan

Between musicians and music junkies, Charleston is bursting at the seams with music lovers. Show posters and setlists plaster rooms, festival wristbands cover arms, and band tees can be spotted in every class. Conversations start over common music taste, but sometimes bonds run deeper.

Concerts and jamming with friends have become more than just a hobby for most people; it has become a way of life. Each paycheck is geared towards the next festival coming up, every hangout is centered around which album just came out and every shirt has the name of a favorite band. Luckily, the College of Charleston has not been immune to this community of music lovers, and many are here to share how their lives and friendships have been enriched by this culture.


Ruby Gonzales, junior, found her scene in the metal community. Initially drawn to the genre by bands like Bring Me The Horizon and Of Mice & Men, the genre is now more than just music to her – it’s friends that became family and a look that became a lifestyle

Photo by Denzel Wright

“So in metal, and punk, and what have you, the big word is acceptance. It’s any race, any sexuality, any gender orientation, any disability, whatever. I mean a lot of people have seen pictures of people at metal shows crowd surfing a person in a wheelchair. Like, that’s not easy, I’ve helped out with that. But, they should be able to experience that show just the way that anyone else can. And there’s no question about it when someone in a wheelchair asks to be lifted up.”

“The bands, they preach acceptance, they preach you should always be who you are and you shouldn’t care what other people think. And I feel like… ‘normal people’ say stuff like that, but they don’t always mean everything. And in metal, it means the dark people, it means the people who have had horrible experiences, it means the mentally ill, specifically, who don’t always just play the romanticized symptoms of mental illnesses. It’s messed up, we’re messed up, but the fact that we can find music that not only discusses it but that the people who are discussing it understand it and preach to accept it, that’s what’s really important to me.”

“When I found the community in [metal], since we all have an internal darkness… we’re not afraid to put it on the outside anymore; we’re not afraid to show it on our faces with whatever makeup; we’re not afraid to show it on our skin with whatever tattoos or piercings, or with our clothing. Because the whole thing is ‘don’t care what other people think.’ So if I want to show my darkness on the outside and not just on the inside, I’m gonna do it. And it just happens to be a whole community of people who do that.”


Eli Reece, senior, has always found a solace by listening, playing and performing. He has delved into a community created by bands like Basement,

Photo by Denzel Wright

Knocked Loose and Title Fight. Aside from his occasional band t-shirt and half sleeve of tattoos, one would not peg him as a fan of punk music.

“Learning guitar was a way to express myself in a way that made sense to me. It allowed me to take whatever emotion I was feeling and formulate it into a song, whether that emotion be anger, sadness, joy, you name it. To me, music is the purest form of human emotion.When you take that human element out of it, it just becomes noise. For playing with a band, there has to be chemistry and a similar mindset of what type of sound you are trying to achieve, and when all of those things click it is an incredible experience. You really feel like you’re a family because you have this bond that not many people can say they have been a part of.”


Not only can a genre or band have a personal impact, but it can also inspire fans to create a space for their beloved artists. Emily Austen, senior, Caroline Poe, junior, and Mackenzie Brandon, junior, are the residents of the Treehouse: a venue that has hosted bands from all over the country and various genres. It has quickly become a local house show favorite, giving friends a place to gather and musicians a space to share the music that has impacted their listeners.

Brandon: Emily Austin… is the queen of booking bands, and Carol and I were already wanting to host shows. Our first shows were heavier music genres that I don’t personally listen to much [but] Em does. But it was amazing. Once the music starts playing, the oneness that fills the room is magnetic.
Austen: My very first local show was by Pop Up Charleston! RIP. After seeing how inclusive and friendly everyone is, being involved became infectious. CYR helped a lot too, especially in my early years. Shoutout to Meredith Wohl, Donovan Taylor and Alex Peeples for manning the ship in the past couple of years. One of the best things about the local Charleston scene is that there are so many different scenes. Truthfully, I got tired of surf rock and folk after about a year, and I branched out and found the already established hardcore scene, which became my mainstay. Just as inclusive and friendly!
Poe: I first got involved in the DIY music scene two years ago after one of my friends took me to a show at the butter complex, and since then I always thought it’d be cool to one day host shows at my house! I felt so drawn in by the sense of community and like-mindedness; we can all learn something from each other creatively, and that’s super exciting.

Photo by Denzel Wright

Brandon: Our first show, one of the bands walked out because of a misunderstanding. We were all a little rattled, but it was amazing how even through this small drama, everyone was understanding and open to work through it, and the rest of the night was amazing with no troubles.

Austen: Accountability is so prevalent in the DIY scene. Whether the problem happens at the show or otherwise, people are so ready to protect and keep drama out. It really is a family.
Poe: I think that when there’s a sense of trust and safety and acceptance established at shows, people can feel that and then it’s contagious.


For Grace Henderson, junior, and Nic Fogleman, senior, music creates connections with people much deeper than just a small talk conversation. The couple has created a community of people from all over the United States through camping at festivals. As their camping group grows larger and more diverse, they acknowledge how music, concerts and festivals have created a space for them to connect with multiple different people.

Fogleman: “We meet people randomly at different events. Almost every relationship began with a simple interaction which led to exchanging numbers and meeting up again. After this, we began to visit the same events together and actively go together. Through this, we were introduced to each others friends, but almost every relationship began with making jokes with strangers or just happening to be at the same place at the same time. It is quite interesting how we could have missed each other by seconds and the interactions that have led to some of my best friends may have never occurred.”

Henderson: “I see this happen at festivals because there are multiple people there for different reasons and different artists. I remember standing in line for the bathroom at a show with a nurse, an elementary school guidance counselor and a tattoo artist all excited to see the same artist. Live music can bring all types of people together.”

Photo by Denzel Wright

Fogleman: “Some people go surfing, some people like to mountain bike, some people like to paint, we and our friends like to go to concerts. It is our ‘thing,’ it is our hobby, it is apart of our identity at this point. Interacting with other people that share this hobby reaffirms it and creates a sense of community very similar to a family. The familial aspect of it probably creates this sense of home, and as the location changes, the people do not. This kind of points to the idea that home is not a place but a feeling.

You can leave any identity you may have outside of these events and just be a person who loves music. And any genres of music. I have friends that are obsessed with EDM and while I like some forms of EDM, a wide variety of it is not for me. But just as they are obsessed with that genre of music, I am obsessed with jam bands. We share the same intense passion for music and the fact that it is different does not make a difference. The thing about festivals is everyone’s interests get fed. Rather than a singular concert we all get to experience each person’s genre together and being there with friends at their favorite band, even if I do not like them that much, creates an energy that is very powerful.”

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