The skirts were short, the heels were high, and the bar was open. This was not your average school fundraiser. All the women, even the quiet ones, crowded the stage. Parents danced badly and sang loudly. All fell under the spell of local musician Patrick Davis.
Shortly after our very fun fundraiser, Davis opened for Hootie and the Blowfish in Europe. I hoped to see him again so I started following him online. I did a double take when I saw the last stop of his January 2020 line up: Greenville, Atlanta, Charlotte, Charleston, Augusta and Bishopville. Bishopville? My little small town of Bishopville? Turns out Davis is a small-town boy himself. He grew up in Camden, SC, and loves supporting quaint venues like the Bishopville Opera House.
Davis drew an eclectic mix for the sold-out Lee County show. Season ticket holders and a good many out-of-town folks filled the charming space.
It was a classy, clean-cut kind of night. Every man on the stage wore a coat and tie. Davis’s lead guitarist/father shed his jacket pretty quickly. Nobody minded. Senior Davis is beloved in the community as a guitar teacher and owner of Davis and Sons music shop in nearby Camden.
Davis shared the backstory of almost every song. The room hushed as he told about his brother, who died on his ex-wife's birthday in a drunk driving accident. He broke up the heaviness of the message against drunk driving with a line about being married 13 years but only being happy for two.
Davis read the Bishopville crowd perfectly. He did not do his famous Gamecock song. Since I was sitting beside my 84-year-old mother, I appreciated that omission from the line up.
Black And White Jesus is one of Davis’s best songs. He addressed racism the way a wise man does, without using the word “racism.” He simply kept hitting the theme of “we’re all in this together.”
Davis introduced all his band members, but spent a little more time on the piano player whose father is a minister. Davis called him a part-time preacher because he sometimes fills in for his father. I think Davis has a bit of preacher in him as well.
To close out the night, Davis wanted the crowd to sing along to That’s Where I’m From, but folks hesitated. I was about to purchase and start passing a bottle of Davis’s Whiskey Jam whiskey to loosen folks up, but Davis didn’t need my help. He told the audience members to close their eyes and trust him. They did. Each time he repeated that classic line, "Amazing grace, how sweet the sound," more people joined in. Before long, everyone sang along.
Amazing grace, how sweet the sound.
This concert was one of the last shows I attended before the big shut down. I can't wait to go back to my hometown and hear Davis again next week. Now more than ever, we need to sit and let music wash over us. Now, more than ever, we need the reminder that yes, we are all in this together.
A version of this article ran in several publications in January 2020.