Local Seen: Music Hall Man
Charles Carmody brings new energy to an underused downtown venue
Anybody who has attended a performance at the Charleston Music Hall has likely wondered why the venue isn’t used more often. So did 23-year-old Charles Carmody, who turned that question into a career path after a conversation with the building’s owner about its potential. Since taking the helm at the Music Hall last July, Carmody has transformed the oft-dormant venue into an open-door space that welcomes local bands, charitable events, and national touring acts, often over the course of a single weekend.
CM: Has music always been a passion?
CC: Definitely. I grew up leading the contemporary worship songs at St. Andrew’s Church [in Mount Pleasant], so that’s where I learned to play guitar. In high school, I had a band called “Circadia” that put out an album. We probably sold 1,000 CDs.
CM: Do you still perform today?
CC: I have a comedy duo called “Introducing Fish Taco” that does parody and improv songs. We have a new song about how scorpions keep attacking this guy and he doesn’t understand why. Also, I’ve just started a band called “Bear Meat.”
CM: Explain the jump from graduating college in 2011 to running a theater by mid-2012.
CC: After college, I drove across the country to Vancouver. Canada denied me entry because they thought I was trying to move in to work illegally. I moved to Seattle but couldn’t find a job. The moment of defeat came when my mom flew out, and we drove back to Charleston together. I worked at Mellow Mushroom before meeting with Mike Bennett of Bennett Hospitality about working in the hotel industry. He owns the Music Hall—I’d seen Patty Griffin and Ryan Adams there and always wondered why there wasn’t more programming, so I went home and typed up a job proposal. Two weeks later, I had the keys.
CM: How do you choose the bands that play at the Music Hall?
CC: I want bands and performances that are going to engage the audience and go beyond simply “jamming” out. Keb Mo, Jeff Mangum of Neutral Milk Hotel, and Shovels & Rope are three examples of sold-out shows that felt amazing in the room. I also want to create multicultural events. I helped create an Argentinian tango show and a Turkish dance show, and we have Irish-American band SOLAS on May 10.
CM: Did you have any experience that prepared you for this job?
CC: I’ve been doing this thing called “Bean Night” for a few years. It’s an open communal arts event that we now do at Kudu Coffee every other Tuesday, with an open mic for two hours and then a featured artist. It started in my backyard and grew to 125 people in four months.
CM: What do you hope to accomplish in this position?
CC: The Music Hall needs to be a living, breathing entity in Charleston. I want the community to help decide who we book. When we get people behind it, that’s when it’ll take off.
Hometown: Mount Pleasant
Occupation: Administrator of the Charleston Music Hall
Education: 12 years at Porter-Gaud; bachelor’s degree in English and minor in arts history from College of Charleston, 2011
Favorite local bands of the moment: Johnny Delaware, Rachel Kate Gillon, and The Royal Tinfoil. “We have a huge local scene right now, and I just hope they don’t leave. Charleston is set up to become this great little hub. That’s my bigger vision.”