By Barry Kaufman
Online Article Here
Most people wouldn’t associate the Lowcountry of Hilton Head Island and Bluffton with a killer live music scene. And that’s understandable – just across the river, Savannah stands tall on its reputation forged by great names like Johnny Mercer and sustained by the world-famous Savannah Music Festival. And just a few hours north, Charleston has been carrying a musical tradition since its namesake dance blew up in the 1920s. Today, it’s ground zero for a thriving indie scene.
But in between those two musical meccas, Hilton Head Island and Bluffton are emerging as musical powerhouses with a healthy local scene and venues welcoming artists from all over the world.
The Jazz Corner
The elder statesman of island music has to be The Jazz Corner, founded in 1999 and rightfully named one of the top “100 Great Jazz Rooms” in the world by DOWNBEAT Magazine. A rotating lineup of local regulars complements an outstanding array of touring groups and Grammy-winning jazz acts at a place where the atmosphere is timelessly hip and the cuisine is just as pulse-pounding as the music.
The Tiki Hut
The Tiki Hut is one of those venues that doesn’t need to hang its reputation on its musical acts, but does anyway. Not that you need any more of a reason to hang out by the shore watching coeds play beach volleyball and sipping on some outstanding frozen drinks, but the rotation of musical acts here is superb. The brisk tourist season on-island attracts some top-shelf talent, and this is where they go to play in the sun.
Those talented musicians, drawn here by steady work during the tourist season, have coalesced into a tight-knit family, and few venues have championed them as well as The Boardroom. During the summer or year-round you’ll find some of the best local acts playing out front of the ultra-hip lounge tucked away just around the back of the infamous Bar-muda Triangle (note: You may hear the young whippersnappers refer to this area as “Tribar.” The name goes back to when there were only three bars there. If you really wanted to get into semantics it should be a quadrabar).
The Rooftop Bar at Poseidon
The newest venue staking its claim in the lively Hilton Head Island music scene is the Rooftop Bar at Poseidon. Part of the complete reinvention of Shelter Cove Towne Center, this venue offers amazing views across Broad Creek and a stellar lineup of local and touring musicians.
The Roasting Room
That’s not to say Hilton Head is the only place helping build a thriving music scene. Off-island, The Roasting Room (so called because it sits above a coffee shop) is amassing a huge reputation for its live acts. Custom-built with floating floors and walls and insulation to be damn near acoustically perfect, The Roasting Room is proving popular with a slew of regional acts, bringing some huge names in music to this sleepy little river town.
Have you been to Hilton Head Island or Bluffton to check out a show? Share your story in the comments below.