Valerie’s story on the Sheds makes the cut

Remember when I mentioned running into Valerie Bauerlein (formerly of The State, currently of The Wall Street Journal) recently? She was having breakfast at a neighboring table with Tim Rogers, interviewing him for a story on longtime letter writer Clif Judy’s sadly successful campaign to close the Sheds to rehearsing bands.

I told her that sounded like a candidate for the page one feature read in her paper. She said that was what she and her editor hoped for. You know the story I mean — it’s generally at the center of the bottom of the front page. It’s almost always a great read, an excellent example of why the WSJ has long held the reputation of the best-written paper in the country (they told me that in J-school in the 70s, and it’s still true). According to Valerie, this story is called the “A-hed.”

Well, today Valerie’s story made the A-hed. (Although in this case, they ran it on the right-hand side rather than the middle.) So congrats to Valerie.

As for the story itself, here’s an excerpt:

COLUMBIA, S.C. — It looks like any other block of garage-sized metal storage units. But Sumter Street Self-Storage has long been the heart of this city’s rock ‘n’ roll scene.

Located on an industrial strip at the edge of the University of South Carolina, “The Sheds” are legend to local rockers — college kids with guitars, gray-beards still nursing band fantasies and hard-core professional musicians who have been cranking up their amps inside the units most nights for two decades.

It was in one of the 139 bays of The Sheds that hometown favorites Hootie & the Blowfish wrote and practiced hits like “Hold My Hand” and “Only Wanna Be With You.” Those songs, included on the 1994 Grammy-winning album “Cracked Rear View,” sold 16 million copies.

But thanks to a nearly two-year campaign by a local activist named Clif Judy, the music at “the Sheds” is coming to an end…

To me, it’s sad about the Sheds; two of my sons have been in bands that rehearsed there.  First, complaints to police helped shut down the legendary punk club “2758;” now the Sheds. What are kids supposed to do?

13 thoughts on “Valerie’s story on the Sheds makes the cut

  1. Brad Warthen

    “Zoned for it?” Come on, this was THE settled and established place for bands to practice, and about as out of the way as you could get. The closest neighbor was Habitat for Humanity, where I used to spend a lot of time when I was on the board, and we didn’t mind.

    Neither did anyone else, apparently, in Clif Judy’s neighborhood. Did you read about the one person who couldn’t hear the bands, but didn’t admit that to Mr. Judy, for fear of ticking him off?

    This was a place that was fine for this purpose with everybody, except one guy. How often does zoning reach that kind of near-harmony with the community?

    The fire safety thing, I don’t know. It was never considered a problem before. It feels to me a bit like nailing Al Capone on tax evasion because they couldn’t get him for being a gangster. I mean, would we have had the same problem at my house on the few occasions one of my sons’ bands practiced here — had a fire marshal inspected it? I don’t know. They didn’t do it very often, so as not to tick off my neighbors. There was a far better place for them to practice — the Sheds.

  2. Brad Warthen

    You don’t often hear me sticking up for the freedom of kids to make noise versus the grumpy old man. Usually, I’m the grumpy old man. So enjoy this while it lasts.

    Note that I’m not being libertarian here, sticking up for the bands’ “rights.” I’d put the interests of the community first. But in this case, the community seemed OK with it. It was an individual trying to impose HIS will on everybody else. That is, if Valerie got the story right, and she usually does.

  3. kbfenner

    The International Fire Code or whatever the formal name is is a statewide deal, and Columbia has been a lot better at enforcing it since the fire at the NC beach house,etc. The fire safety deal is beyond my expertise as far as your house goes, but as you admit they *did* practice at your house…so bands can practice somewhere. As far as the zoning goes, there are procedures, and appeals, etc. If it really wasn’t a problem, why didn’t BoZA grant an exception? BoZA is hardly a pawn of Clif Judy or any other neighbor…

  4. Maude Lebowski

    Brad – there are some homes in the immediate area. Just because they’re poor Olympia renters doesn’t mean they don’t need, deserve, and appreciate quiet evenings and nights at home. As you’d guess from my moniker I love the rawk, but oddly enough I find myself agreeing with the grumpy old men on this one.

  5. Burl Burlingame

    Finding a place to practice is always a problem.
    Hey, remember when you could teach your kid to drive in the empty mall parking lot on Sunday?

  6. Karen McLeod

    kbfenner, A band can practice a few times in a neighborhood and get away with it. When it becomes a regular thing, then someone is going to complain, and I think justly so. Many years ago, we had a band that practiced several nights a week in my neighborhood. My husband (who was partially deaf could hear it, even when listening to TV with headphones on. It was a continuous problem, until they left. And yes, we complained. I’m not arguing that the Shed’s had that problem. The police should have been able to determine, simply from standing in the street and listening, if the noise was too loud. And I’m not sure it’s appropriate to compare a fire that happened overnight with people who had been drinking heavily the likelihood of one in storage sheds where everyone is at least sober enough to be awake and make music. They weren’t living there.

  7. kbfenner

    Here’s the thing: I live in the University Hill neighborhood, so I am right in the thick of things. I have served on our neighborhood council for ten years and on the city’s Code Enforcement Task Force. I have attended countless meetings of city council and BoZA, and things don’t get railroaded through on one person’s word. However, residents’ right to peace and quiet trumps rockers’ rights to practice. I do hear the USC band practice fall afternoons–which is completely appropriate. I have never understood why “garage” bands had to take it to eleven. As a trumpet player and pianist myself,I can appreciate the difficulty of keeping all reasonable noise inside the four walls of my house, but when one is talking amplified music,the volume levels are easily controlled.
    As I said, I’m not the fire marshall, so I yield to Carmen Floyd on that, but just bc a fire hasn’t occurred doesn’t mean someplace is fire safe!

    Now as far as the Sheds go or went, I had no personal experience one way or the other, but I would support the residents and the code over squatters’ rights.

    I hear the Boozer Lumber site is being aggressively marketed….

  8. JdH

    I’m a 38 y.o. “kid” who has been annoying my family and neighbors since 1984 with amplified sounds of various types. Dealing with noise complaints has become old hat for me, although, I swear, except for once or twice, I’ve never intended to shatter anyone’s peace. Finding a way to make the noise I want to make without bothering others has always been a challenge.
    I still play with a local band, and it’s still an issue.
    I’ve spent enough time at the sheds since 1990 to develop an opinion on this topic, and mine is that it was rarely a pleasant endeavour to try to practice there anyway.
    Objectively, as a citizen, I have made some additional observations.
    The sheds were every bit as much a social scene as they were a place for bands to play. There always seemed to be lots of superfluous people about: friends, sycophants, etc. Parking was typically a hassle; sometimes simply navigating a motor vehicle, whether coming or going, through the jangled mess of skewed cars and drunken party goers was a hair-raising and life threatening experience.
    Leaving one night, solely by the grace of God did I discover some kid passed out with his legs beneath the wheels on the passenger side of my truck. I eventually found his “friends”, who were able to drag him to relative safety so that I could leave.
    I can only imagine the difficulties that any sort of emergency crew might have had trying to get in there at any given time, for whatever reason.
    Also, the reality is that there existed inadequate facilities on site for the typical occupancy, which is a nice way of saying that the place was, predictably, pretty nasty. People, especially drunken people, will relieve themselves in the most convenient way possible, given the circumstances. The sheds were by no means an exception. If you have actually been there, you know what I mean…
    Even so, I would not have wanted the sheds, or any locale, like Brad’s house, to become inaccessible to bands so long as it were compliant with laws and ordinances.
    As to the question: “What Are Kids Supposed To Do?”
    I guess they’re not supposed to do anything. The smart ones will get creative, and the creative ones have to get smart, if they wanna play loud. Society owes them nothing in the way of a Noise Barn. They’ll either figure it out for themselves or they’ll move on to something else. Or, perhaps, some entrepreneurial spirit will jump on the opportunity to provide a service for which there is a demand.
    Enough about Hootie, please.
    It’s not helpful to the cause… Save the fact that they were probably pretty quiet.

  9. EJ

    I live in Clif Judy’s neighborhood and never have heard anything. He’s a nut, plain and simple, and it’s a shame that his solo campaign succeeded in shutting down the sheds.

  10. Clif Judy

    I am taken back by your comments Brad. Usually you are right on target..I don’t think you have the facts.
    The bands, there were 28, played until 3:30 am on a normal outing. For several years, I took to the streets trying to figure out where the noises….which woke me up at hours after midnight often and alot…were coming from.
    There are laws about bands playing in is normally illegal. Yet in this case,politics ruled the day. Check the city limits, county limits to see further complication.
    They are not there anymore and I am back to being able to sleep at night. No apologies to you, the writer nor to the bands ..some of whom reacted by calling me late into the night with a not so glamorous song for me to listen.
    It would serve you well to document your story, to tell the truth.
    Clif Judy

  11. Clif Judy

    Shoot me an email..I need your email address.
    My sorrows go out to all the tatooed buddies who have had to find a place to play their band insturments, bellow out their amplifiers. At least they are still alive and well.
    If you were there,(at the hearing), you would have heard the testimony of the State Fire Marshall as well as local Fire Marshall. Had there been a fire, the tatooed and their friends hauled out mangled and scarred, you and your co hart would have crucified them in the paper.
    But I want to tell you about another issue, another story, and a positive for all ending.

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