Clif Rhodes

High Water Music Festival Reaches New Heights

Music Scene Media
May 3, 2024
9 min read

The High Water Music Festival returned to Charleston’s Riverfront Park, and this year's lineup brought over 15,000 fans to the green fields near the scenic Cooper River. High Water promised a variety of stellar acts for its 2024 lineup, and Mother Nature offered up her very own special lineup for the fest. Day 1 was set against brilliant blue skies and was an absolute scorcher. With temperatures reaching well into the 90s, demanding festival-goers refill their water bottles and clutch onto their Liquid Death cans for dear life.

Day 2 delivered a completely different weather flavor, with cloudy skies, rain, and temperatures dropping into the 50s. It was the perfect example of Charleston's temperamental weather. But the heat and cold wet mud would not deter fans from lining up as early as 6 am, anxiously waiting to dash the front barriers of their chosen stage, once the gates opened.  

High Water consists of two stages, the Stono stage, and the larger Edisto stage. Fans moved like schools of fish, flowing from one stage to the other. Al Olender treated the growing crowd to angelic acoustic melodies, Leyla McCalla’s soulful sound set the perfect tone as The crowd began to create a patchwork of blankets across the riverfront lawn. Houndmouth rocked the Edisto stage, not letting the peak heat drain their energy and feeding it back to the sun-battered crowd. Veteran rock band The Walkmen tore up the stage to the booming roar of an enthusiastic and sweaty crowd.

Olivia Jean brought her gothic garage band sound to the Edisto stage. Draped in leather, with hair done up to the 9’s, Olivia’s raw sound won over the crowd. When she performed the song “Trouble”, from 2023’s Raving Ghost Olivia was a force to be reckoned with on her solo and was amplified by the slick guitar licks from guitarist Marco Argiro, and thumping low-end hair whippingly delivered by bassist Erica Salazar. 

The Aussie act Courtney Barnett expressed excitement about visiting her first Waffle House before serving up an awesome live performance of “Pedestrian at Best” from the album Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit. Witty lyrics, loud grunge guitar runs, and Courtney’s electric energy all added to one of the best sets of day 1.

As the sun began to set, and temperatures cooled Fleet Foxes took to the stage. The crowd settled and front man Robin Pecknold introduced singer Uwade Akher and the two began to perform “Wading In Waist-High Water” from the album Shore. The beauty of Akher’s vocals accentuated the sunset. It was perfectly timed. The Fleet Foxes are a sight to behold on the stage. The performance of “Mykonos” highlighted the Foxes' ability to create beautiful musical compositions. 

Festival founders Shovels and Rope rocked the massive crowd. The twosome had the crowd hootin’ and hollerin' with sultry live performances of “Jonny Come Outside” from Little Seeds and “Bridge on Fire” from Swimmin’ Time.

The High Water crowd had swelled to a massive 15,000 people. When Noah Kahan took the stage, it seemed like all 15,000 people were crammed as close as they could be to the stage. Whether you like it or not, Noah Kahan is having a moment and, when he hit the stage, it was clear that he planned to make the most of it. He saluted the screaming crowd and kicked his set off with “Dial Drunk” from his smash album Stick Season. At that moment, it seemed that everyone at the festival knew every word of the song and was singing it out loud. He looked on, stunned and smiling, as his lyrics to “Everywhere, Everything” were lovingly recited back to him.

Day 2 began as a cloudy day. Fans lined up for merch, ate tasty treats, and debated whether it would rain. Most festival-goers were prepared, but those who opted for more traditional festival attire of a raincoat most definitely had a rough day. Most fans were still in good spirits even when the sky opened up. They even started a massive conga line that weaved in and out of the crowd. Day 2 festival-goers were treated to the sounds of the Cut Worms, The Heavy Heavy, and Kevin Morby throughout the day.

Glam rock band Babe Club opened on day 2 of the fest. Charleston's only local band to be featured on the line-up, Jenna Desmond's velvety vocals and stage presence were reminiscent of Madonna in all of the best ways. Babe Club opened their set with their brand new single “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” and performed a sinfully seductive set that delighted the crowd. 

The Linda Linda’s brought the Los Angeles punk angst to High Water. Ranging in age from 12 to 19, they may be young but The Linda Linda’s got things rowdy! They dominated the stage while performing their song “Growing Up” and had the crowd raging with their song “Resolution/Revolution”.

Briston Maroney didn't let the rain stop him from performing one of my favorite sets of the fest. Briston ran out on stage and hyped the crowd up before opening his set with “Body” from his album Ultrapure. Briston’s energy was infectious.  The crowd was wet and cold, but none of that seemed to matter as he laid into his guitar, face buried in his hair, raw emotion on display during the performance of “Small Talk”. 

The Flaming Lips performed their hit album Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots in its entirety. From “Flight Test” to “Approaching Pavonis Mons by Balloon”. Giant Pink robots inflated on stage, and eclectic front-man Wayne Coyne appeared between them. The rain began to subside when the legendary bass line in “One More Robot/ Sympathy 3000-21” echoed across the field. Giant balloons were released into the crowd and massive fog cannons spewed into the air as the memorable opening bell tone of “Do You Realize??” hit the captivated crowd. 

Grace Potter brought her brand of roadhouse rock to High Water. Grace puts on a show, she is fierce and fearless. She opened with “Empty Heart” from the album Midnight. She whipped her hair and expertly worked the tambourine before shedding her red leather jacket and picking up her flying v guitar to shred. Grace’s set was one hell of a good time and one you should catch if you get the chance.  

Hozier took the stage, the humble Irishmen walked to the mic, and the crowd erupted. Without a word, he started to perform “De Selby (Part 2)” from Unreal Unearth and quickly reminded the audience why they stuck it out through the miserable weather. It was funky, soulful, and epic. He thanked the crowd for coming, braving the weather, and went right into “Jackie and Wilson” followed by the crowd-pleaser “Too Sweet”. Amongst the deafening roar of the crowd the performances of “Francesca” and “Unknown/Nth” were beautiful and captivating. Hozier is impressive live, hitting every note, striking every chord, and delivering a performance that is as close to “record” perfect as possible.

The weather for High Water may have been a mixed bag, but ultimately it didn't stop music fans and festival-goers from coming out for good eats, delicious bevies, and awesome tunes. This year's line-up seemed to draw an even bigger crowd, and if that is any indication for years to come High Water is on the verge of being one of the biggest fests in the U.S.





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