Columbia might be best known for football, Five Points and frat lots, but a lot of newcomers might not realize the city is also home to a diverse and growing music scene.
From blues and indie to chillwave and swamp punk, established and underground, new and old, Columbia boasts an impressive collection of bands. This list was created to give music-minded freshmen (and interested returning students) a taste of the musical acts you can see around town and the city’s history in the national music scene.
Acts you can see around town
Boo Hag is a striking local band with a totally novel sound. Their distorted guitar, dark aesthetic and vaguely hypnotic vocals create a haunting, unmistakably rock 'n' roll trance. The band's unique sound might best be described as Southern gothic psych-rock or, as it says on Bandcamp, “Primitive Swamp Punk.” If this piques your interest, don’t hesitate to see Boo Hag live, as the local performances never fail to deliver an exciting, atmospheric experience.
A favorite with younger audiences, Thunderbite is a Cola-based band that offers up a lo-fi, chill punk, surf rock repertoire. The songs are capable of carrying a lot, with heavier lyrics accompanied by light, summery instrumentation sprinkled with clear punk and lo-fi influences. This band is perfect for anyone looking for a fun, laid-back show or something to listen to on a late night drive.
It would be an oversimplification to call Columbia’s Barnwell an indie pop band and a grave injustice to toss them in with nu-country. The band's unique, clean sound evokes pop punk of days gone by, with strong lead vocals backed by energetic instrumentation. But it also has a dash of twang, a little local flair, that sets them apart from mere pop punk. It’s vaguely country rock with a lot of gusto; it’s indie pop with a punch. Whatever you call them, Barnwell is anything but boring.
King Vulture is a versatile, lyrically involved indie staple of the local music scene. The band's live performances are frequent and engaging with full, satisfying instrumentation. Folk influences flavor the music with a unique, inviting sound, and striking vocals draw the listener in closer, literally and emotionally.
Bands from Columbia touring nationally
Hootie and the Blowfish
If you haven’t heard of Hootie by now, you definitely will. This band, probably best known for “Let Her Cry,” one of several Hootie singles that charted nationally in the mid '90s, is a point of pride for many Carolinians. Lead singer Darius Rucker has gone on to gain acclaim as a solo country artist in his own right, but Hootie and the Blowfish continues touring as a group. The blues influences create a unique, soulful sound and, best of all, the band returns frequently to Columbia, where they got their start.
Toro y Moi
Toro y Moi is a musician, record producer and graphic designer who graduated from our very own USC in 2009. His music is hard to confine to a single genre, but he’s best known, probably, as a chillwave artist. But his sophisticated instrumentation, diverse sound and wide range of influences defy genre in many ways. Complex, somewhat hypnotic rhythms carry his songs, without compromising a relaxed, lounge kind of vibe, probably owing to his smooth, melodic vocals.