Hot Spot: Myrtle Beach
By Jordan Lawrence
Octopus Jones takes Shuffle on a tour of Myrtle Beach’s happening locales, proving it’s more than just a tourist trap
For most Shuffle readers, Myrtle Beach likely seems a mecca of the most undesirable entertainment imaginable. The area’s image is dominated by the sprawling shopping complexes of Barefoot Landing and Broadway at the Beach, which contain mega-money venues like the House of Blues and the Alabama Theater, as well as the exclusionary time capsule Legends In Concert, which plays host to celebrity fakes from Elvis to Cher. Add in the seemingly endless stretch of neon bedecked beachware shops that separate the two commercial titans, and you may feel that any homegrown Southern originality was bulldozed years ago.
But despite the smothering glut of mainstream monotony, a few sprigs of creative energy have sprung up in Myrtle Beach — particularly in the area’s growing music scene. One especially fruitful blossom is Octopus Jones, a deliriously psyched-out rock band that’s equal parts manic glam and acidic surf rock. Though the quintet is quick to point out the faults in their hometown, they’re also equally excited to rep its hot spots. Bassist Clay Carlisle was kind enough to take Shuffle on a phone-bound tour of his favorite places to play and, well, play along the Carolinas’ most popular beach.
“The scene has gotten better, like the local music scene,” Carlisle says. “It’s kind of growing. But as far as places to see live music, it’s just always been bad because no one can stay open. There’s a built-in scene for Myrtle Beach, we just need a place to do it all, harness it. We’ve seen a lot of venues come and go in our five years here.”
He says the only two consistent live music venues right now are Island Bar, which sits just south of Myrtle Beach in Surfside, and The Sound Hole. Island Bar resides in a strip mall next to a Food Lion. Carlisle says that while it’s small, it books a steady slate of local shows and draws a decent crowd that likes to get wild. “There’s not much of a stage,” he explains. “They just kind of cordon off a corner of the room. It’s definitely raw. But it’s cool. They get a local crowd. They host good local music, and they pay well. It is dirty though. It’s sweaty.”
The Sound Hole, on the other hand, resides in what looks like a large, white house in the heart of Myrtle Beach. The building has been used as a venue on-and-off for the past few years, closing and then re-opening with new names and owners. “They have a pretty cool local scene too,” Carlisle says. “I haven’t really been there too much. But as far as sound quality, I think it’s better than Island Bar.”
Of course for a music scene to grow, you need more than places to go see music. You also need a place to buy it. To that end, Carlisle suggests Kilgor Trouts Music & More, a mostly used record store that doubles as a head shop. Despite the largely second-hand selection, he says they maintain a consistent stock of local music and that the classic rock in the used bins is fine by him as well.
“The owner is really cool,” he adds. “He’s let us play in there a few times.”
To prep for such in-store gigs, Carlisle heads to Sound Systems, the only music shop in the area he finds worthwhile. He says the attentive staff and well-rounded selection of instruments, equipment and accessories make it the shop of choice.
“There’s only two others, and one of them is Andy Owings in the mall,” he advises. “It’s just real pricey and a chain-type thing. The other one just opened up, but they don’t really have a good selection. Sound Systems is the way to go.”
After all the shopping and partying, it’s time for a meal or at least a snack, and while over-priced seafood buffets may clog the city’s arteries, Carlisle suggests other sources of nourishment. He says the Indian buffet lunch special at Bangkok Palace is “pretty ballin’” and that the German restaurant Bobo’s pairs solid food with the occasional local band.
But Carlisle speaks most highly of Habibi’s Cafe & Lebanese Market. “You can get Guatemalan coffee and tons of crazy things,” he says of the market end of the establishment. “The other side is a Lebanese grill, and they have gyros and stuff. You gotta try the gyro.”
There you have it. Turns out there’s more to Myrtle Beach than surf shops and cheesy themed mini-golf. Next time you find yourself on the technicolor strip that runs along South Carolina’s premiere beach perhaps you won’t feel so grandly stranded as before.