Edwin McCain the Palmetto State standout as bands descend on Ladson for 57th Coastal Carolina Fair

By T. Ballard Lesemann  Special to The Post and Courier   – Wednesday, October 30, 2013

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South Carolina native Edwin McCain filled in as a last-minute performer at last year’s Coastal Carolina Fair, but will be returning this year under his own steam.

Exchange Park

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If you go

What: Coastal Carolina Fair

When: Thursday-Nov. 10; gate hours are 3-9 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 3-11 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m.-11 p.m. Saturday, noon-9 p.m. Sunday

Where: Exchange Park, 9850 U.S. Highway 78, Ladson

Price: Gate tickets are $8 for adults, $5 for ages 6-12 at the gate; kids 5 and under get in free. All entertainment is free with tickets. Ride coupon books or Sunday-Thursday hand stamp tickets are $20, Friday and Saturday hand stamp tickets are $25.

For more info: coastalcarolinafair.org

Greenville-based songwriter and bandleader Edwin McCain is no stranger to the Coastal Carolina Fair.

During last year’s festivities in Ladson, fair organizers begged him to race into town from his digs in the Upstate to fill in for the Village People, which he gladly did.

This year, McCain and his quintet will return to the fair’s Lakefront Stage under their own steam.

“I remember we just bolted down there to Ladson,” McCain says, speaking with Charleston Scene last week. “I skidded in there in a rental car with about 15 minutes to spare. We just went on stage and did our thing. It worked out really well, and the fair organizers seemed very happy, which led to us developing a relationship coming back this year.

“We have P.A. and lights on hand whenever we need it, so we can mobilize in a moment’s notice,” he adds. “We do get a lot of rescue gigs these days. I think the word had gotten out. Last year when the Village People couldn’t make the show, it was just one of those bizarre things.”

Fortunately for McCain, even most Village People fans are familiar with his catchy ’90s-era hits “I’ll Be” (from the 1997 album “Misguided Roses”) and “I Could Not Ask for More” (from 1999’s “Messenger”), both of which cast him into the soul side of Americana-pop alongside Carolina brethren Hootie & the Blowfish.

“I assume that at least 80 percent of the people in the crowd knows ‘I’ll Be’ or maybe ‘I Could Not Ask for More,’ and that’s pretty much all they know,” McCain says. “I do get a lot of mileage on the talking head stuff on VH1 and other cable networks (where he regularly makes appearances as a guest commentator). At most of the places I play, I have about 70 minutes to convince them that it’s good and fun. It’s always a fun challenge.”

His current repertoire features a broad mix of classic soul, funky rock ’n’ roll, country and folk-pop.

“These days, I just go out on stage cold, without the benefit of a string of hits and a lot of notoriety,” McCain says. “People are sometimes like, ‘Who’s this guy again?’ So I have to go out, connect with them and get them on my side by the time I play the songs they know. The Coastal Carolina Fair is the quintessential version of that kind of gig.”

A full line-up

Over the next two weeks, the Coastal Carolina Fair celebrates its 57th anniversary at the Exchange Park in Ladson. In addition to the rides, games, exhibits and tasty fare, live music has played a major role in the family-friendly fair fun over the years.

This year’s concert schedule at the spacious Lakefront Stage amphitheater, a 5,000-seat venue nestled in the middle of the fairgrounds, will feature a mix of contemporary country, pop-rock and oldies bands.

The Lakefront Stage concert series will kick off at 7:30 p.m. Thursday with a performance by pop-country singer Jana Kramer, who’s touring behind a melodic new single titled “Why Ya Wanna.”

McCain will be spending Halloween night at home with his family in Greenville, but he and his bandmates will travel at a more leisurely pace this year toward Ladson for their concert at 8 p.m. Friday.

“It’s the fair … what’s better than the fair?” McCain says. “It might seem like an uncommon setting for a band like us, but you’ve got to remember that we often play concerts at festivals, amphitheaters and outdoor settings.”

North Carolina-based country-rock band Parmalee will share the stage with songwriter Rachel Farley at 8 p.m. Saturday. Parmalee’s recent single “Carolina” is topping the country radio charts this season.

Nashville-based bluegrass/gospel ensemble Dailey & Vincent, led by singer/guitarist Jamie Dailey and string player Darrin Vincent, hit the stage at 5 p.m. Sunday. Their new album “Brothers of the Highway” leans heavily into traditional mountain music territory.

On Monday, the series continues with a performance by country/folk duo Lorrie Morgan & Pam Tillis at 7:30 p.m. The Nashville-based pair have been touring and recording under the moniker Grits & Glamour this year.

Legendary disco/pop vocal band the Village People will make up for last year’s last-minute cancellation with a show at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday performing their outlandish hits “Macho Man,” “Go West,” “In the Navy,” “Can’t Stop the Music” and “YMCA.”

Classic rock fans will be pleased to catch a glimpse of Flint, Mich.-based guitar-rock combo Grand Funk Railroad, featuring original members Mel Schacher on bass and Don Brewer on drums and vocals. Listen for such hits as “I’m Your Captain (Closer to Home),” “We’re an American Band” and “Shinin’ On” at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday.

The Coastal Carolina Fair’s concerts continue next week with performances by country singer/songwriter Jerrod Niemann on Nov. 7, modern-pop singer Britt Nicole on Nov. 8, and country up-and-comer Brett Eldredge on Nov. 9. Southern-rock/country man Colt Ford will raise a ruckus during an early-evening concert during the final day Nov. 10.

All concerts are free and open to the public after gate admission.

State standout

McCain says he’s excited to stroll the fairground and people-watch early in the day before he sets up for his show.

“I absolutely have to walk all around the fair to see who’s there, hanging out,” he says. “It’s fun, man, just checking out the crowds, the rides, the fried food and the scene. I always feel like I’m back in seventh grade, so it really suits me.”

But McCain and his bandmates will mostly focus their attention to their duties as the only home-state act on the fair’s musical roster. McCain was even a Charleston resident for a stint in the late ’90s and early 2000s, so this show is almost an official homecoming event.

McCain’s current backing group features longtime lead guitarist Larry Chaney, guitarist/singer Pete “Liverpool” Riley, sax player and keyboardist Craig Shields, drummer Markeya “Tez” Sherard and newly enlisted bassist Jason Pomar.

“It’s a great band,” McCain says. “Craig Shields has been playing with me for 23 years, and Larry’s been with me for 17 years. Tez is practically a new guy at nearly six years. Our bassist Scott Bannevich was hired to play with Lynyrd Skynyrd, so he went to the big leagues with our blessings. I’ve been a fan of Jason Pomar’s Atlanta-based band Sun Domingo, so it was great to snag him.”

McCain and his crew recently released a digital 11-song concert album titled “Live Versions.” The collection features old and new material self-recorded on their own mixing console.

“We recorded several shows, mixed them, mastered them, and made them available,” McCain says. “There are mistakes in there. I make mistakes all the time, but some of my favorite live and studio records have good mistakes. We’ve been playing live for so long, it was just a fun and easy thing to do.”

The digital live album follows McCain’s 10th full-length effort, 2011’s melodic and emotive “Mercy Bound.” That collection came from a fruitful collaboration with singer/songwriter Maia Sharp, a well-regarded musician known for her song work with such country and pop acts as Cher, Trisha Yearwood, Art Garfunkel and Bonnie Raitt.

Sharp and McCain first worked together in 2004 on their duet “Say Anything.”

“Writing and recording with Maia Sharp is transcendent, and I love her,” McCain says. “She’s the deep end of the pool, musically and emotionally. We did that album because we loved working together and we liked the collection of songs we put together. I didn’t care about expectations of sales or anything. Those days have been gone for a long time, which is a relief.”

Compared to his commercially successful albums on the Atlantic label in the late 1990s, “Mercy Bound” sounds more organic and raw. It’s a heartfelt, honest, expressive effort on McCain’s part, and it demonstrates a strong sense of artistic maturity.

“I really don’t spend a lot of time in self-contemplation, musically,” McCain adds. “I try not to contemplate my existence musically at all. There was a time in my 20s when every single was spent furiously pouring over airplay charts and Nielsen SoundScan lists, strategically planning the next phone call to the next program director, and doing everything I could possibly do to further the idea of myself. I abandoned all of that when I left Atlantic Records and became an indie artist.”

McCain is in better control over his songwriting, arranging, recording and touring these days more than ever before, happily working without the distractions of major label marketing and high-dollar wheeling and dealing.

“I like that being independent isn’t easy,” he says. “It’s a challenge to make payroll and keep things running, but I like turning wrenches and changing the oil in the tour bus and all of it. If I didn’t love it, this whole thing would have been over years ago. It became more about being what I hoped to be rather than just selling something.”

Coastal Carolina Fair schedule of events

Daily ongoing events

Flower Show: “The Art Of Flowers”

Petting Zoo, near Kiddieland

Carl Brunson’s “One Man Band,” Cox Pavilion

CFRBA Rabbit Show and live animals, Animal Barn

Exhibits: Senior & Junior Art, Photography, Crafts, Lawn & Garden.

Demonstrations: Lowcountry Woodcarvers, Ceramics, Needlework, Crafts,

Quilting & Decorative Painting, Creative Arts Building

Local talent, Parkway Stage

Oct. 31


Gate Hours: 3-9 p.m.

7:30 p.m. Jana Kramer, Lakefront Stage

5 and 7 p.m. Mark Yuzuik, Hypnotist Show, Gazebo Stage

4, 6 and 8 p.m. Elephant Show, Gazebo Lawn

4:35, 6:35 and 8:35 p.m. African Acrobats, Gazebo Stage

7-10 p.m. Champion Horse Show, Horse Arena

6- 7:45 p.m. 4H Pizza Pizzazz Contest (seniors only), Creative Arts Building

8:45 p.m. Fireworks

Nov. 1

Gate Hours: 3-9 p.m.

8 p.m. Edwin McCain, Lakefront Stage

5, 7 and 8:30 p.m. Mark Yuzuik, Hypnotist Show, Gazebo Stage

4, 6 and 8 p.m. Elephant Show, Gazebo Lawn

4:35, 6:35 and 8:35 p.m. African Acrobats, Gazebo Stage

7-10 p.m. West Performance Horses, Horse Arena

6- 7:45 p.m. 4H Ways with Eggs, (junior, senior), Creative Arts Building

8:45 p.m. Fireworks

Nov. 2

Gate Hours: 10 a.m.-11 p.m.

8 p.m. Parmalee and Rachel Farley, Lakefront Stage

1, 4, and 8 p.m. Mark Yuzuik, Hypnotist Show, Gazebo Stage

2, 5, and 7 p.m. Elephant Show, Gazebo Lawn

Noon, 3 and 6 p.m. African Acrobats, Gazebo Stage

All Day, 4H Open Horse Show, Horse Arena

1-5:15 p.m. 4H Kooky Cookie Cook-Off (junior), Creative Arts Bldg.

3:15-3:45 p.m. 4H Pumpkin Decorating Contest (ages 9-11 yrs.) Creative Arts Bldg.

5:30-9 p.m. Rice-N-Easy Contest - (junior, senior), Creative Arts Bldg.

10 p.m. Fireworks

Nov. 3

Gate Hours: Noon-9 p.m.

5 p.m. Dailey and Vincent, Lakefront Stage

3, 6 p.m. Mark Yuzuik, Hypnotist Show, Gazebo Stage

2, 5, 7 p.m. Elephant Show, Gazebo Lawn

1, 4:15, 7:35 p.m. African Acrobats, Gazebo Stage

Noon. 4H Agricultural Farm Stock Show, Ag Barn

8:45 p.m. Fireworks

Nov. 4

Gate Hours: 3-9 p.m.

7:30 p.m. Pam Tillis and Lorrie Morgan, Lakefront Stage

5, 7 p.m. Mark Yuzuik, Hypnotist Show, Gazebo Stage

4, 6, 8 p.m. Elephant Show, Gazebo Lawn

4:35, 6:35, 8:35 p.m. African Acrobats, Gazebo Stage

6 p.m. Professional Bull Riding, Horse Arena

8:45 p.m. Fireworks

Nov. 5

Gate Hours: 3-9 p.m.

7:30 p.m. Village People, Lakefront Stage

5, 7 p.m. Mark Yuzuik, Hypnotist Show, Gazebo Stage

4, 6, 8 p.m. Elephant Show, Gazebo Lawn

4:35, 6:35, 8:35 p.m. African Acrobats, Gazebo Stage

6 p.m. Professional Bull Riding, Horse Arena

8:45 p.m. Fireworks

Nov. 6

Senior Citizens Day

$4 gate admission all day for ages 60+

11 a.m.-3 p.m. for Seniors only

Regular gate hours: 3-9 p.m.

7:30 p.m. Grand Funk Railroad, Lakefront Stage

5, 7 p.m. Mark Yuzuik, Hypnotist Show, Gazebo Stage

4, 6, 8 p.m. Elephant Show, Gazebo Lawn

4:35, 6:35, 8:35 p.m. African Acrobats, Gazebo Stage

6 p.m. Professional Bull Riding, Horse Arena

8:45 p.m. Fireworks

Nov. 7

Gate Hours: 3-9 p.m.

7:30 p.m. Jerrod Niemann, Lakefront Stage

5, 7 p.m. Mark Yuzuik, Hypnotist Show, Gazebo Stage

4, 6, 8 p.m. Elephant Show, Gazebo Lawn

4:35, 6:35, 8:35 p.m. African Acrobats, Gazebo Stage

6 p.m. Professional Bull Riding, Horse Arena

8:45 p.m. Fireworks

Nov. 8

Gate Hours: 3-11 p.m.

8 p.m. Britt Nicole, Lakefront Stage

5, 7, 9 p.m. Mark Yuzuik, Hypnotist Show, Gazebo Stage

4, 6, 8 p.m. Elephant Show, Gazebo Lawn

4:35, 6:35, 8:35 p.m. African Acrobats, Gazebo Stage

6-8:15 p.m. 4H Pizza Pizzazz Contest (junior), Creative Arts Bldg.

7, 9 p.m. Barrel Racing Clinic, Ag Center

10 p.m. Fireworks

Nov. 9

Gate Hours: 10 a.m.-11:00pm

8 p.m. Brett Eldredge, Lakefront Stage

1, 4, 8 p.m. Mark Yuzuik, Hypnotist Show, Gazebo Stage

2, 5, 7 p.m. Elephant Show, Gazebo Lawn

Noon, 3, 6 p.m. African Acrobats, Gazebo Stage

2 p.m. Dorchester County 4h Club Program, Creative Arts Bldg.

2 p.m. King Arthur Flour Baking Contest, Creative Arts Bldg.

1-4:15 p.m. 4H Muffin Mania Contest (junior), Creative Arts Bldg.

4:45-8 p.m. 4H Chili Cookoff Contest (junior, senior), Creative Arts Bldg.

10 p.m. Fireworks

Nov. 10

Gate Hours: Noon-9 p.m.

5 p.m. Colt Ford, Lakefront Stage

3,6 p.m. Mark Yuzuik, Hypnotist Show, Gazebo Stage

2, 5, 7 p.m. Elephant Show, Gazebo Lawn

1, 4:15, 7:35 p.m. African Acrobats, Gazebo Stage

2 p.m. Livestock and Equine Awareness and Rescue Network Clinic, Horse Arena.

8:45 p.m. Fireworks