This is the latest in our series of reviews of local bars, clubs and other venues along the Grand Strand through the eyes of a music fan. Saturday night we headed south to Murrells Inlet for a show featuring Villanova under the tent at Uncle Tito's.
In heading out to a show at Uncle Tito's for the first time, at least a portion of me expected that the really loud and annoying, shrill-voiced Tiki God from the bar's radio spots would be on hand to greet folks at the door. Luckily, this was not the case.
Instead, I was greeted by a large white tent drawn across the bar's parking lot and one of the largest and most lively crowds I'd seen at a show this off-season.
On stage was one of S.C.'s fastest rising rock bands, recently-signed Universal Republic recording artists Villanova. The Columbia-based rock quartet was set to play what was billed as its last show in the Inlet.
This was a fact that was a bit misleading since before the show Rock 107's Mad Max got up and announced the band would be back for another show Feb. 12. The catch, however, is that when the guys return in the new year it will be under a new name as conflicts with the university of the same name will have forced them to drop the Villanova moniker.
Showing up just after 10, I immediately notice that parking looked packed. At that point the crowd wasn't huge, but the thing about putting a tent over your parking lot is that cars tend to use whatever space they can find to park. While K-Rae's parking lot and the side streets were jammed up with cars, it was easy enough to find a spot across the road in the mostly-vacant Marshwalk parking lot.
The crowd consisted of a typically laid-back grouping of Murrells Inlet inhabitants including a mix of young professionals and older folks. While the tent outside drew a good deal of dedicated Villanova fans and folks engaged in the music, the bar inside offered folks a chance to get away a chat or take in the college football on TV.
Uncle Tito's itself was cozy. Goofy murals of mad-looking Tiki Gods adorned the walls of the long, skinny interior. There's bar to the left and half a dozen high top tables to the right, leading to a more open area in the back with some game machines and a shuffleboard/beerpong/checkers table. The restrooms were clean enough, but only held one person at a time, which on this night caused a perpetual line for the ladies and often led guys to choose the nearby backdoor which led to a field out back.
The long bar always seemed pretty crowded, but I never had to wait very long for a drink. I had no issues with the staff myself, but I did witness a younger woman bartender rudely tell a woman to wait who was trying to get her attention and overheard a few patrons complain of getting warm beer from the bar.
Walking outdoors across the bar's front stoop — which was flanked with a pair of heaters and served as the de facto smoking lounge — a few steps down took you into the large tent which had been erected for the occasion.
There was a bar to left with some beer tubs and a limited selection of liquor, a small Villanova merchandise stand to the right and a large, brightly lit stage straight ahead toward the back of the tent. I few tables and chairs were scattered around the edges, but most folks stayed away from them as the wet weather had made portions of the parking lot below pretty mushy.
My first impression was that the tent was much larger than it needed to be, but by the time Villanova came on and beckoned folks to come closer to the stage it actually began to fill up pretty nicely. Numbers are always hard to judge on the fly, but I'd say the crowd in the tent expanded to about 200-250 people with another 75-100 scattered between the indoor bar and the surrounding outdoor area.
The show itself was typical of a Villanova performance. High-energy grooves put down by basisst Bobby Dreed are accompanied by Brian Conner's soulful vocals and accented by some clever cutting from DJ Able One and the showmanship of drummer Jeremy Robertson. The band played songs from 2007's "Make Noise," their 2010 release "Things I Have to Say" and even a couple brand-new cuts that they've been preparing for when they head back into the studio with Universal Republic.
There were a few quirky moments including a woman jumping on stage to hug Conner and ask for one of his wristbands, some momentary losses of power — "Villanova's energy is just too much for any PA to hold" joked Conner — and a solo rendition of "Grandma Got Run Over By a Renideer", but overall the night was quite enjoyable.
As far as our thoughts on Uncle Tito's, the bar itself didn't exactly knock our socks off, but we were quite impressed by the whole tent setup and the bar's ability to use great talent like Villanova to draw a crowd in Mid-December. If you get the chance to go check out one of these special events which the bar holds periodically definitely make sure and check it out.