Our favorite moments from High Water Fest 2023

By Cameron Lee

April 20, 2023

Photo: Dusana Risovic

Since 2017, Charleston folk-rock duo Shovels & Rope have created an enclave for music lovers within the charming confines of Riverfront Park. High Water Fest returned for its fifth iteration in the weekend full of indie rock, folk, Americana, blues, and alt-country acts with the addition of hip-hop (Big Boi) in 2023. 

April marks the beginning of festival season and, for many eager to enjoy warm weather, it was a sunnier retreat than expected. With no rain in sight and timely breezes wafting through the park, it was another grand weekend at the old naval base-turned city park set against the picturesque Cooper River. 

Aerial shot of High Water Fest in North Charleston at Riverfront Park. Photo: Grant Hodgeon

With boats anchored along the bank of the river, a variety of food and beverage options, and a lineup that featured Beck, Orville Peck, Wilco, Father John Misty, Rainbow Kitten Surprise, Lucius, and a few special guests, High Water 2023 was a memorable one.

Here are some of our favorite moments from High Water Fest 2023: 

Jack Antonoff (Bleachers) brings out Lana Del Ray 

Following the second song of the Bleachers set, Jack Antonoff, the prolific songwriter and producer well known for his collaborations with superstar musical acts such as Taylor Swift, Clairo, Lorde, and the 1975, casually introduced Lana Del Rey. The stunned crowd watched as Del Rey strolled out in a red sundress and waved to the audience before treating them to an acoustic performance of “Margaret,” a song he wrote with Rey about his fiancé, Margaret Qualley. 

Big Boi 

High Water’s first-ever hip-hop act was welcomed with open arms as Big Boi of the iconic Southern rap duo Outkast and his cohort Sleepy Brown (Organized Noize), moseyed on stage like a cool breeze. Playing a set of mostly OutKast classics including “ATLiens,” “Rosa Parks,” “Ms. Jackson,” “Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik,” “The Way You Move,” and more, the set offered a high-energy departure from the predominantly rock-leaning lineup on the Stono stage. 

Tre Burt 

Since its inception, High Water has been a platform for fast-rising folk artists and no one shined brighter than this year’s opening act, Tre Burt. Signed to the late John Prine’s record label, Oh Boy Records in 2020, the Sacramento native quickly drew a large crowd with his captivatingly brusque voice, equally as dynamic as it is vulnerable. Burt, who has been a fan of festival curators Shovels & Rope (Michael Trent and Cary Ann Hearst) for almost a decade, toured with the duo in 2022. With his extraordinary storytelling ability, Burt awed with songs like “Sweet Misery” and “Dixie Red” from his latest album, You, Yeah, You, along with the popular single, “Know Your Dreams.” 

Wilco performs “Jesus, Etc.” with some help from Lucius 

Just past 7:30 p.m., as the sun was starting to set, clouds hovered above the Stono stage as Jeff Tweedy of Wilco welcomed indie pop-folk group Lucius’ Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig on stage. Wilco performed their beloved song, “Jesus, Etc.” from the critically lauded and commercially successful album, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, with Wolfe and Laessig harmonizing for the chorus. The masses swayed and bobbed their heads as the evening started to wind down.

Beck and Jack Antonoff cover Depeche Mode’s “Just Can’t Get Enough” 

Jack Antonoff made sure his set would be the most memorable at High Water in 2023. Antonoff’s energy was easily the most enthusiastic of the weekend; repeatedly encouraging the audience to get up, jump, dance and hop on shoulders throughout his 14-song performance. Quite possibly the most animated moment of the weekend was when Beck joined Bleachers for an impromptu cover of new wave synth-pop pioneers, Depeche Mode’s “Just Can’t Get Enough.” 

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