Taylor Swift, Morgan Wallen and Ariana Grande are just a few of the many artists that have held concerts in Columbia within the past decade. Columbia provides a variety of concerts from global and local artists and gives USC students and the Columbia area the opportunity to experience live music.
Surprisingly, Columbia's small geographic nature has not prevented big stars from hosting concerts here.
The city has taken precautions when popular artists have passed through. When Beyoncé and Jay-Z came to Columbia, schools in the Richland 1 School District closed early to beat the heavy traffic expected from the concert in 2018. Even though the heavy traffic posed a problem to the city, that did not stop other superstars from touring in Columbia.
Wallen, a popular country music singer, held a concert in Columbia in February 2022, which fan Sara Zepp attended. Zepp provided insight on her experience at the concert, and what she expected to see in Columbia for the future.
Zepp, a third-year biology student, said she is not the biggest listener of country music, but that she could not pass up the opportunity to see Wallen, as she liked his latest album.
The concert was accessible to different groups of people, and the age of the concert-goers ranged from young to old, Zepp said.
Although many prominent artists come through Columbia, the city provides an array of local talent too.
It's a big deal when national acts come to Columbia, being that the city is not a popular concert destination due to its geographical position according to Cecil Decker, the Richland Library Media Arts coordinator. Decker is a USC alumnus who is a member of the local Columbia band Autocorrect.
Decker said there is “a great diversity in what you can see” for concerts. They mentioned If ART, which according to its website is an art gallery in Columbia that showcases the work of artists from SC and throughout the world. The gallery often hosts experimental concerts, which they said reinvented themselves by developing new formats to attract new people.
Though local artists like Danielle Howle and the Palmetto Concert Band have grown in acclaim in Columbia, Decker said the impact of COVID-19 has been felt here in Columbia and has affected the art scene. Decker said there has been a decrease in the number of bands playing, as well as changes in types of gigs offered to local bands. They noted that it caused a decrease in local artists that played at bars and breweries, as well as international acts that visit Columbia to perform.
Despite this, Decker is hopeful to return to how life was pre-pandemic, where there was a greater diversity of concerts and venues for artists to perform.
They believed that Columbia residents and USC students should still go to concerts.
“Live music is very different from listening to recorded music, and recorded music has become so prevalent," Decker said. "It helps you know more about your community.”
Fans of the USC's Bull Street Garage band can attest to this statement. The band recently released a live-recorded album because according to group, the atmospheric setting of a live show is something that cannot be replicated.
Zepp said she believed more artists will come to Columbia after seeing the overwhelming success of Wallen’s concert. She said people were satisfied, and there was not an empty seat in sight at the concert — something Zepp said she had never seen.
“Colonial (Life Arena) is just a good place because the college is here, so you just always are gonna have a diverse number of people,” Robinson said.
In the past, Columbia's Colonial Life Arena has been a popular concert venue for artists like Swift, James Brown and Grande and will play host to artists like Elton John, Kodak Black and Erykah Badu & Friends.
The Colonial Life Arena is Columbia's biggest venue, but the Koger Center, Township Auditorium and the Tin Roof also serve as concert destinations.
Columbia is home to a variety of music artists. Decker said that even if it is easier to pay attention to the superstars that come through, don't overlook the local artists who are here.
“You don't find them if you don't look for them,” Decker said.