Hogs for the Cause began six years ago in New Orleans, and its success led founders Becker Hall and Rene Louapre to bring the festival to Charleston’s thriving culinary and music scene. Pit masters, including John Haire of Nick’s BBQ and Rodney Scott of Scott’s Bar-B-Que, will serve up $7 barbecue plates at the PorkPourri Booth, while a buffet of top-notch bands entertain all day. Proceeds will help lighten the economic load for families with children who are being treated for pediatric brain cancer. The event is currently the premier funding source for pediatric brain cancer outreach services in the United States, granting funds to over 200 families thus far. Hogsforthecause.org partners with hospitals throughout America, including MUSC Children’s Hospital.
Here are a few of the festival’s out-of-town performers who are not to be missed.
Soul Rebels Brass Band
The New Orleans octet Soul Rebels Brass Band offers a unique blend of tradition and modernity that, 23 years after their inception, the world’s finally catching up to.
“Our instrumentation is so historic and organic, it still keeps its freshness,” explains drummer Lumar LeBlanc of his traditional Big Easy brass troupe. “Our instrumentation is ancient. The only electricity is when you turn the mic on. So, I mean, when we play these modern sounds and modern funk and hip-hop beats, it’s a big, old sound.”
LeBlanc and fellow percussionist Derrick Moss started Soul Rebels as an outgrowth of their days playing with Harold Dejan’s Young Olympia Brass Band, whose history goes back to the 19th century. While LeBlanc and Moss appreciated the old sounds that Olympia embraced, the duo was interested in hip-hop music of the late ’80s. Frankly, they wanted to bust a move.
“We would sneak in one or two songs in the traditional set that were kind of modern or funk, and people liked it. And we started getting calls to do just that kind of set with funk, jazz, hip-hop, and reggae-oriented music,” he says. “We didn’t want to disrespect the Olympians, because they laid a foundation of tradition, so we realized when we play this music we’ve got to have another name.”
Used to playing funerals and parades in New Orleans, the Soul Rebels showcase its physicality and vibrancy in their stage show, and it’s powered them for two decades as they’ve slowly built their following.
Indeed it’s only been in the last three years that the band’s profile has risen dramatically. They signed with the big indie label Rounder Records, and their fortunes have since bloomed. That year, they performed their cover of the Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” on U.K. talk show Later… With Jools Holland, impressing the members of Metallica who were there with Lou Reed. Metallica not only booked them for their 2012 Orion Music Festival, but performed with the Soul Rebels at the metal giant’s anniversary show. “They were so inspiring. They are such good musicians,” says LeBlanc.
That year the Soul Rebels released their seventh album and Rounder debut, Unlock Your Mind. It features strong originals and a number of cool reinterpretations, including their crackling take on Stevie Wonder’s “Living for the City” and a funkified version of Allen Toussaint’s “Night People.”
The band’s currently in the studio recording the follow-up, which they expect out “in the near future.” In the meantime, they’re excited to be playing Hogs for the Cause, having participated in the New Orleans benefit for the organization.
“It attracts a lot of positive vibes and brings a lot of good musicians to the stage,” he says. “The music, the people, the food, the fun, the vibe — it’s a festival for the ages.” —Chris Parker
The Whiskey Shivers
If you like what you hear on Whiskey Shivers’ self-titled Sept. 23 release, you can thank the band’s fans for that — they’re the reason the group had a successful Kickstarter campaign to get the record made in the first place.
“The experience was nerve-wracking, but it was also humbling to see how many people stepped right up to help out without having any way of knowing what the finished product was going to sound like,” says vocalist Bobby Fitzgerald, who also plays the fiddle and harmonica for the band. “It was blind faith.”
But the fans didn’t simply give the guys financial support, they also acted as a form of creative inspiration for the band.
“[Their support] helped us give an honest representation of ourselves with the songwriting,” Fitzgerald says. “This is not the time to fuck around and bullshit anybody, because everybody will see through it if you do. You just have to be straight up, make it real, hope that the real product is worth the time and effort, and, of course, have a good time, too.”
And when you listen to the album, it takes mere seconds to sense that the band had a blast making this record. From the blitzkrieg bluegrass of “Free” to the dizzying rhythms of “Hot Party Dads,” there are portions of Whiskey Shivers that are excuses to dance yourself silly. Even the country-folk track “Friends” — where the band reminisces about the people they’ve shared fond moments with — is a subdued kind of fun. But “Graves” is the sort of chain-gang-style, weary soul-and-blues track that reminds us that life is made of both ups and downs. Both ends of the life spectrum — and all points in between — are represented on this record.
For the Whiskey Shivers, making this record proved to be a great way to help the band grow. In fact, it was a unifying process in the studio. Having given themselves a set deadline to release the album, the band was forced to open themselves up to ideas from all members. As a result, the record feels like the band’s most complete, well-rounded effort yet.
What makes the accomplishment all the more amazing is the fact that they didn’t have a lot of material before entering the studio. “It was kind of a scramble,” Fitzgerald laughs. “It was like, ‘All right, everybody bring in whatever scraps of song ideas you have, and we’ll see what we can do and turn this into something.’ The result was really an across-the-board representation of each of us and how involved we were.” —Brian Palmer
The Heartless Bastards
It’s been an eventful dozen years for Erika Wennerstrom and her band the Heartless Bastards. Since first assembling in 2002, they’ve released four albums, undergone several lineup changes, relocated from Cincinnati to Austin, and transitioned from a bloozy, riff-rocking power trio to an act that blends atmospheric swell and supple rawk swagger.
The aforementioned move was necessitated by the end of Wennerstrom’s romantic relationship with bassist Mike Lamping after two albums. Wennerstrom moved to Austin and recorded the 2009 breakup album, The Mountain. The bar-band bluster gave way to circumspection and more emphasis on dynamics, texture, and greater eclecticism.
After finishing the album, she assembled a new lineup featuring drummer Dave Colvin and bassist Jesse Ebaugh, who played on her very first demos in Cincinnati. Guitarist Mark Nathan, who worked on The Mountain, joined the band for the 2012 follow-up Arrow, playing much of the electric guitar as Wennerstrom played more acoustic, helping create an even more spacious, dynamic sound.
Branching out, last year Wennerstrom wrote the soundtrack for the film Winter in the Blood, based on the 1974 debut novel by Native American author James Welch. The film’s currently making the festival rounds and the soundtrack’s due for release sometime soon. It was an unusual process.
“We recorded the soundtrack before they even filmed the film,” Wennerstrom says. “So I read the book, and I just wrote songs that I felt sort of fit being inside the characters’ heads.”
She describes the experience like “shooting in the dark,” because she had no idea how directors Adam and Alex Smith might receive her work. She needn’t have worried. Her songs were literally the soundtrack for the making of the film. “They were apparently playing the songs that we had written and recorded during filming,” she says. “The music would be playing between takes.”
The Heartless Bastards are presently in the studio working on their fifth album with producer John Congleton. Though they’ve laid most of the basic tracks, Wennerstrom’s still wrestling with lyrics for several tunes. She’s hoping to finish before they play Charleston, then return to do the final mixing.
Deep into the project, Wennerstrom finds it difficult to describe the new album. “I’m not sure if I have much perspective,” she says. “I feel I have some good material, but I’m kind of in the process of figuring it all out for myself, so it’s hard to rely much on other people. Because it’s still a work in progress, it’s hard to step back and analyze.”
What she can tell us is that the show will feature a guest appearance by Massive Attack keyboardist John Baggott, a childhood friend of Ebaugh’s wife Mishka Westell.
“We’ve all gotten to know him, and it was just real nice to have him on this,” Wennerstrom says. “He’s just a brilliant keyboardist. We sent him the tracks, and he did it from his home studio in England, remotely.”
As for the album’s overall tone, Wennerstrom says, “It’s a pretty introspective album. Just a lot of looking inward.” —Chris Parker