Award-Winner: Revitalizing Augusta's live music scene
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on January 30, 2018. Though at that point she was a Copy Editor, Amber Perry went on to become the Opinions Editor for Pacer Times, later graduating from USC Aiken with a Bachelor’s in Communication.
Recently, Pacer Times won five awards from the South Carolina Press Association’s News Contest. This article won third place in the Arts and Entertainment category. Congratulations, Amber. We are proud to have had you on the team.
The Iron Heights all- ages music venue came to a close after its last show on Dec. 15, 2017 but the Epicenter will be taking its place, with its opening show on Feb. 2.
Muuka Vogel, owner of The Epicenter, describes the local music scene, “It’s ever evolving. It has music that’s new, original, and different. The people playing love what they do and it’s not for exposure but the problem comes from the general attitude of giving up and not seeing the point in it all. All the people down here don’t think they’re good enough.”
Vogel bought the venue after saving and receiving help from a network he has built up over the past 10 years, friends and fellow music enthusiasts, as well as from the fundraiser shows held in December after
the Iron Heights busted.
He plans on having more diverse acts, which was a fault of the venue in the past- most shows being metal-based.
“There’s not much intermingling of the tribes. The scene is scattered. People have lost themselves,” according to Vogel.
At The Epicenter, Vogel plans to bring everyone together like never before. Not only will there be more variety in the musical genre, but Vogel also plans to include comedy shows as well visual art.
“The biggest canvas of the place is the floor so I’ve been thinking about people coming in, being given a couple of square feet to paint whatever they want.”
Vogel has also scheduled a solo visual arts exhibition in mid- February through March. When talking about DIY, it’s a question of willpower. It’s how bad you want it. Vogel and friends are using what he calls “street teams”. He has no employees, only volunteers that want to see the scene thrive like he does.
Dylan Josey, lead singer for local band thismachinthrillsfascists, says, “The scene is kind of in shambles a bit now because the only places offering venue are bars, which cancels out the all- ages crowd, even some younger bands.”
He continues, “Iron Heights closed down because to the owner and the bookers, it was just wasting more money than it was making. The business already failed at Sector, and the owner decided to give it a shot.”
This all falls back to the lack of energy in DIY or Do-It-Yourself.
Vogel comments on his own musical process and DIY, “I just wonder the streets and I see something and I make it something else. I’m not going to wait around for life to hand me things. Seize the day. Xerox the word and spread it around everywhere.”
People are so caught up on quality but art is about the intention and that’s what artists in the local scene forget. And it’s easy to forget when there’s not much support.
Todd Soles, who’s active in Augusta’s music scene, says, “Iron Heights could have stayed open if there was better attendance at shows. Promoters were losing money left and right. The bad thing is is a lot of us are getting older and there is no newer blood coming in. I’m in my mid- thirties and most of my peers have moved on from when I first started attending shows.”
Vogel is taking on a new business model and will not be so focused on big bands that require down payments or contracts but underground bands in Augusta and across the country, like Tongues of Fire from Asheville, NC, playing the Epicenter’s opening show. The band plays for the sake of expression and having fun. It’s easier to pull in bands not simply wanting a big buck.
So, how to get involved? How to bring more life back to the scene? Donate to the cause. Go to shows. Admission will be more than reasonable, which is something Vogel wants to keep at a minimum. And if you have music but are afraid to put it out there, put it out there.
The scene isn’t dead. There is music being made and being heard. You just have to find it and you just have to spread the word. Post bills and talk about it with your friends. Support local music. Be on the lookout for more upcoming shows and come to the Epicenter Feb. 2!