Above the twang of Hank Williams' “I Saw the Light” played on banjo, fiddle and guitar on Barnwell Avenue on Saturday, the rain stopped, the clouds parted and the sun shone through.
The weather may have put a damper on the turnout for Pickin' on Barnwell, but not on the enjoyment of the 20 or so spectators in attendance. At the intersection of Barnwell Avenue and Laurens Street, they listened to Pat Reidy, Jeff Myers, Steve Willis and Jim Teale play a variety of bluegrass tunes on the fiddle, guitar, banjo and harmonica, respectively.
They performed a well-known repertoire of songs, from “Will the Circle Be Unbroken?” to “Wagon Wheel,” with many spectators singing and swaying along.
According to Willis, the event started out as Pickin' on Park three years ago and was held on Park Avenue. Now, “pickers” gather on the parkway in front of First Presbyterian Church.
“It was pretty big. A lot of pickers came,” Willis said, adding that the event used to garner between 20 and 30 pickers and 60 to 70 spectators.
“We just show up and see if we can figure out something we all can play,” Myers said.
Reidy described their music as a mixture of old time and bluegrass.
“A lot of people think one broad thing is called bluegrass, but it's really several kinds,” she said. “Some people might call it Americana or traditional or old time or mountain music.”
The performers often take requests from spectators.
“Last month, some of them were hollering out requests, and if we knew them, we'd do them,” Myers said. “In fact, I'm like, 'Hey, if you sing it, we'll play it.' And this lady came up and sang.”
Mike Brickey came to Pickin' on Park multiple times but came to Barnwell Avenue for the first time Saturday.
“The times that I would go, it'd be more performers. But this is great; I love bluegrass,” he said, listening to the music while leaning against his bicycle. “The community being able to come out and listen to music on the street – it's great.”
Pickin' on Barnwell is looking for more “pickers” to play on the first Saturday of each month from 10 a.m. to noon. Anyone who can play an acoustic instrument is welcome to come out.
Teddy Kulmala covers the crime beat for the Aiken Standard and has been with the newspaper since August 2012. He is a native of Williston and majored in communication studies at Clemson University.