Music in the streets of Spartanburg

Friday, May 09, 2014

Music in the streets of Spartanburg

Posted on Friday, May 09, 2014

By Susan A. Sistare
Produced in cooperation with the HubCity Writers Project.

When I was a kid, downtown Spartanburg looked very different. I don’t recall much about it, except that the Montgomery building (the tallest one then) seemed like a skyscraper and Grandma’s Kitchen had the most delicious, greasy hamburgers this side of the Beacon.

Things have changed quite a bit downtown. Instead of reminiscing about how things used to be, I now bump into people I grew up with and say, “Wow! Isn’t this great? I wish we had [insert cool activity] when we were kids!”

Jazz on the Square is a solid example of this kind of forward movement. Each Friday afternoon in April, May, August, and September from 5:30 to 8 p.m., locals and non-locals alike can gather in Morgan Square on the grassy patch of sun and shade near the Clock Tower and groove their hearts out. Even if you aren’t a jazz fan, no one can deny that it’s the perfect kick-off to the weekend to sit around in lawn chairs or the cool grass and let your mind de-stress to the sounds of trombones, guitars, or keyboards. While Southerners are known to say, “If you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes,” we also know that more often than not, a Friday afternoon’s weather will be kind to us in the spring and fall.

Mother and daughter Angie Shuman and Virginia Posey agreed. “I love it when the weather’s so beautiful like this,” Virginia said.

“We wish we could come every Friday,” her mother Angie added, as young children threw a small football back and forth just a few yards away and Buff Dillard cranked out his special brand of Bone-Jazz. “We love seeing friends, listening to the music, and being outside.”

Jazz on the Square is one of those rare events that kids and adults can both enjoy without annoying the other. Children can play games, sit by the fountain, and be as silly as they want to be, while adults can easily have a grown-up conversation and watch them from the beverage table. As long as you show an I.D., the beer and wine will be a-flowin’. (They have some quality beers, too, if I may add.)

Jazz guests coming this spring include Marcus Anderson, The Swing Shift Combo, Whitney Walters and the Groove Planet, Carolina Breeze, and Okra. Of course, these are not the only outdoor events with live music that Spartanburg has to offer. There is also Music on Main, which is on Thursdays, April through July from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. (also on Main Street near the Clock Tower), and Jam in the Park, which happens on occasional Sunday afternoons in warm months in historic Duncan Park. The annual Spring Fling, the first weekend of May, fills downtown with multiple music stages.

But at Jazz on the Square, the music and weather aren’t the only attraction.

John Hughes, a regular attendee, said it best when he said, “Right after the band packs up, I’m going across the street for some garlic wings!” I look up, and the balcony at Wild Wings restaurant, which overlooks the square, is filled up with customers, enjoying the music below.

Lisa Shea is also a fan of the many restaurants within walking distance. “I love Jazz on the Square, not just because it’s a great way to relax, but it gets me out of cooking dinner!”

One can skip right across the street to Monsoon Noodle House, Delaney’s Irish Pub, Wild Wings, Groucho’s for a healthy sandwich, or Lime Leaf for some truly scrumptious Thai food. A little further down on Main Street, one will find Cribb’s Kitchen and Main Street Pub.

If you’re looking to cruise around Spartanburg without so much walking, the Square is also home to one of the city’s B-Cycle stations, where a bike for an afternoon can be rented for just a few dollars.

“This is just such a perfect way to end the week,” Jessalyn Wynn Story said. “How can you beat this?”

I couldn’t agree more. Spartanburg may not be the most booming metropolis I’ve ever visited, but when you can get a reasonably-priced beer, hear great live music and dig your toes in the cool grass, for free, well, that just makes a lovely afternoon.

And garlic wings afterward!

Wow. I wish we had this when I was a kid.

Susan A. Sistare, Produced in cooperation with the HubCity Writers Project.

Susan A. Sistare is a local author, skydiver, and teacher. She lives in Spartanburg with four cats and too many roommates.

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