Spencer Horton

(Rock Hill, S.C.) — Rock Hill’s music scene is getting back in the swing of things, post-pandemic, with events like the “Don’t Sweat It FEST,” a three-day festival that celebrates local independent music.

The Arts Council of York County hosted the annual event Sept. 15-17, for the second time since the pandemic began in 2020.

“If you can get a good night in Rock Hill, you’re going to have a blast, you’re going to have a great time,” said Ryan Lockhart, a South Carolina-based musician who performed at the festival. “There’s people doing really cool things. A lot of the bars around here, they make it a point to host local music whenever they can.”

Organizers say Rock Hill has managed to produce a surprisingly large number of musicians looking to play original music for a city its size.

“There’s a lot of bands in Rock Hill, which is really cool, especially for the size that Rock Hill is,” T.J. Bravo, an organizer of the “Don’t Sweat It FEST,” said. “There’s way too many bands here, which is a great problem to have. Not enough drummers though, we need more drummers.”

However, some artists complain there is a lack of venues looking for artists that play original music in Rock Hill.

“A lot of amazing bands have come out of Rock Hill or through Rock Hill,” Mike Gentry said. “We just don’t have many spaces for the (do it yourself) music scene to have its place.”

Gentry, who is a Rock Hill musician and the gallery manager at Arts Council of York County, was an organizer of the “Don’t Sweat It FEST.”

“If there weren’t events like ‘Don’t Sweat It,’ a lot of bands would get hurt because there’s very few places in Rock Hill for bands that play original music to play,” Chris O’Neill, a Rock Hill musician, said.

With venues like The Common Market and The Mercantile starting to host local music along with The Courtroom in the Tom S. Gettys Art Center, which has been doing it for years, the opportunities for musicians to perform are getting better.

“There’s a strong house show scene here, though there have been less of those since the pandemic,” said Gentry. “We have a growing community that’s supporting DIY music.”