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OPEN FOR BUSINESS: Chris Thompson liked what he saw.
"This has far exceeded expectations," said Thompson, the drummer for carnival-rock band New York Disco Villains as he stood on a raised platform in one of the two rehearsal rooms at The Mill, a new practice space for local bands.
"We need a place to crash for a couple of months to get this thing off the ground."
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Thompson is playing in a side project, the cover band Sucker Punch. Since the Sumter Street storage units known as The Sheds had to cease allowing bands to practice there in October, a lot of musicians have been looking for a new space.
Like Thompson, they should go see Jack Beasley, who recently opened The Mill.
The rehearsal space, off St. Andrews Road near Kmart, is in an office building. Inside, though, Beasley has created a comfortable area where musicians who are more keen on sounds than looks can work on their craft.
"I'm able to provide a higher level of quality than people were used to at The Sheds," Beasley said during a visit last week.
There's only two rooms equipped for bands at The Mill. They feature on the walls two-inch thick panels that tame the sound within the room, catching all the reflective noises. The panels are sheathed in garnet and black. The facility also has a PA system, heat and air conditioning and a bathroom. The latter sounds trivial, but if you've ever been to The Sheds when there were multiple bands practicing, you'd understand the importance.
Rehearsing at The Mill is by appointment only, and there are various monthly packages available. Bands can also rent storage space for their gear. Beasley, who has a desk set up in the lobby, will be there to open and close the doors for bands.
The paint on the walls smells fresh.
"Basically, I'll be here whenever the bands are here," Beasley, a USC graduate, said while sitting on one of the two couches - with pillows - near his desk. "I'll help people load in and stuff. I want people to feel like V.I.P.'s when they come here."
The Mill, a sort of co-op facility, is similar to efforts in larger cities. Before opening, Beasley went down to Charleston to check out The Hinge to see how it operated. Beasley, a guitar player who grew up playing music, has also worked in music production and concert booking. He has a feel for how the local music scene moves.
He opened the space to help musicians prosper, which is why leasing is on a month-to-month basis.
"I know people's situations change, people's needs change," he said. "It allows the scheduling to be more flexible."
Bands accustomed to driving a few minutes down the road to practice might balk at the idea of traveling to St. Andrews Road. But once you're inside - and if you're serious about making music - you'll see the ride will be worth it.
Just take a tour, like Thompson did.
"Did you want to go ahead and set up some time now?" Beasley asked.
"Oh yeah, Thompson," said. "This is a great thing you're doing for this town."
"Hopefully, I can make a living," Beasley said.
I hope people are listening.
For more information, visit http://www.themillsc.com or call Beasley at (803) 767-4068.
CATCHING FEELINGS: It just feels right.
That's how Matt Heath describes playing gigs with Tent Revival. One problem: the band doesn't play that often.
Tent Revival, which plays at New Brookland Tavern tonight, can't play any more than it does because the members are scattered. Lead singer Owen Beverly lives in Charleston; guitarist Brian Whitman has been working in L.A.; drummer Benji Lee lives in Brooklyn; and Heath, who plays bass, lives in Atlanta with Bryan Gibson, who plays cello and guitar.
"It's been a little harder to do because we live in different cities," Heath said of the band. "We'll go a month or two without any shows and everyone's like, 'I don't know.' Then we'll do one show, and we'll be like, 'that's why (we keep the band together).'
"I feel most at home with this band."
Heath, Gibson, Whitman and Lee are former members of I Nine, the local rock band that released "Heavy Weighs the King" digitally on Jive Records in May. When Clive Davis, an I Nine supporter at the label, was let go last year, so was the band.
Heath was dejected after I Nine's demise.
"You just need time for your wounds to heal," he said. "There's been enough separation of time. I know people that stay jaded and say I'm not going to deal with this industry."
He's been reinvigorated by Tent Revival. Currently, he and Whitman are mixing some songs for a possible album.
"We've been slowly putting together an album's worth of material," he said. "There's a steady stream of songs, and Owen's been sending us stuff.
"Every time we're in town doing shows, there's also something recorded."
The quartet hooked up with Beverly while touring as Jay Clifford's backing band. Heath joked that Beverly might say he was tricked into forming a band with them.
But Beverly can't complain because, for listeners at least, the band's sound, a mix of Southern folk and alt-country, feels so right.
"Me and the Brians have always been a fan of Owen's songwriting before we were in I Nine," Heath said. "He was always someone I respected, just being a good songwriter and singer. As a songwriter, I would like to write songs of that caliber.
"He has a clear direction, and it's a direction that we're all following."
There's one element of Beverly's songwriting, in particular, that Heath admires: Beverly's refusal to compromise. Some might argue that I Nine, which began as an acoustic-based band, let Jive alter the musicality into pop-rock destined for top 40 radio.
The freedom in Tent Revival is what feels best.
"When you've been in an experience when you've lost that...it's definitely something that's greatly appreciated," Heath said. "One thing working with Owen, that's not something he'd ever give up.
"And I respect him for that."
Now, if we could only get you guys together for more shows.
The show is at 8:30 p.m. The Brisbones and Mercy Mercy Me will open. NBT is at 122 State St., West Columbia. $5 for over 21 and $7 for under; (803) 791-4413