CULTURE-ART Year in Review- Visual recollection
The year in music
The Pavilion brought in big names in the form of Fiona Apple, Lyle Lovett, Wilco (again!), Randy Travis, and Bonnie Raitt. Meanwhile, the indie scene's top venue, Satellite, as well as Radiohead came into Capshaw's grasp while JPJ got the Police.
Akron/Family breaks barriers: Though underpopulated, the second recent Charlottesville
performance by this ambitious New York-based rock ensemble is still a transcendental experience, with rough-hewn vocal arrangements draping over guitar frameworks peppered with the occasional oddball instrument. The evening climaxes with opening bands and audience members storming the stage and cooking up a racket on kazoos and finger-cymbals. [February]
Daughtry comes home: The former Fluvanna County resident returns to Charlottesville for the first time since his run on American Idol as part of a "warm up" tour with his new bandmates, who are deliberately playing at tiny venues until they can find their sea legs. Starr Hill proves to be far too small– the show sells out in seven minutes. Daughtry's album, on the other hand, stays on top of the charts for several agonizing months. [April]
Beetnix reach out: The local hip-hop duo recruits a dozen or so talented musicians as the supporting cast for an ambitious and highly orchestrated unplugged performance that fills Gravity Lounge to capacity just before blowing its doors off. Still the stuff of local legend, the show's multitrack recording proceeds to disappear and has yet to see the release it deserves. [April]
Battles transform: The four-piece math-rock man-machine obliterates the Satellite Ballroom with a tornado of instruments flying around former helmet drummer John Stanier in one of the year's most inspiring performances. The points at which each member plays several instruments at the same time– one hand on the guitar, the other on a keyboard as a looping device cycles along in the background– give us the highest rate yet of riffs per capita. [June]
Starr Hill's lights out: The local restaurant– a leader in the music scene since Trax disappeared seven years ago– shuts down almost out of the blue. A heated rivalry is patched up when remaining shows and new bookings are moved to the Satellite Ballroom, formerly known best by Starr Hill staff as the club's most troublesome challenger. [July]
Sparky's Flaw grows up: The precocious hometown rocker lads get snapped up by Red Light Management, which then negotiates a deal with Smash Records, a subsidiary of Mercury, in one of the biggest local major-label signings of the past ten years. Their song about wanting to be indie rockers promptly makes our irony meters explode. [August]
Atomic fizzles: The eensie weensie Downtown burrito bar rolls up its last fajitas on Halloween, leaving many local punk, rock, and alt-country acts with no place to get those rare, beloved gigs that leave all their belongings both beer-soaked and grease-stained in one fell swoop. [October]
Police arrest sales: The biggest reunion tour, if not the year's biggest tour in its own right, The Police played John Paul Jones Arena, Virginia's biggest indoor concert site, basking in its Pollstar-declared status as America's best new venue. Yet with Police tickets topping $200, sticker-shock may have been a reason this was one of the trio's rare North American dates that didn't quite sell out. [November]
Radiohead lands: A year and a half after headlining Coran Capshaw's Bonnaroo festival and riding high from the groundbreaking digital release of their highly anticipated seventh album, the biggest band not fronted by a political activist buddies up with the DMB manager and releases the physical version on his new label, Side One Recordings. [November]
O'Riordan gives it away: The former Cranberries singer turns up at Gravity Lounge for a free solo show, which turns out to be a bit of a hit parade populated by material from her old band. Heavy promotion on local radio helps set a new attendance record for the venue, and some unlucky lads and lasses are out of luck when the club is forced to lock its doors due to safety concerns. [December]
The year in art
In 2007, the ‘ville was artier than ever, and, for three short days, it even became a "living image."
Going South I: New York-based artist Jane South presented "Infrastructures," an exhibition of her stellar paper compositions, fusing drawing and sculpture in complex industrial constructions, at Second Street Gallery, in May.
Oh, snap!: No contest, the biggest art event of 2007 was National Geographic photographer Nick Nichols longtime dream-come-true: Look3: Festival of the Photograph. Shutterbugs from around the world swarmed the Downtown Mall to celebrate the still image in early June. Featuring exhibitions and interviews with William Albert Allard, Sally Mann, and Eugene Richards, as well as numerous other photo-oriented shows and events (including a fantastic display of Nichol's wildlife life photos in the branches of the Mall's trees), the festival transformed downtown into a "living image" and brought the town beautifully into focus.
Circus Ix-imus: Picking up where the previous summer's "Charlottesville Wunderkammer" left off, "Shentai" once again transformed the decrepit Ix Building into an eye-popping carnival of artiness in July. Tap-dancing vampires, an "educational" peep show, insect-like stilt walkers, and, of course, fire dancers (featuring a hula-hoop of flame) were just a few of the elaborately stage attractions. It was big, hot, sweaty art fun!
Going South II: In October, the University of Virginia Art Museum launched a series of exhibitions and lectures under the rubric "Forming American Identities: Our Southern Legacy." First up: William Christenberry's "Site/Possession," a tour-de-force examination of the Alabama-born artist's photographs, drawings, and sculptures from the last half-century, including an installation of his epic "Klan Room Tableau." To see the show, viewers had to run a parking and security gauntlet, but it was well worth the trouble.
A Room with a View: What began as a cubicle constructed for a video piece in last year's "Complicit!" show, the New Media Gallery at the University of Virginia came into its own during 2007. Curated by Virginia Film Festival and Film Society czar Richard Herskowitz, the small venue has evolved into an always-interesting showcase of video and film, ranging from Sandra Gibson and Louis Recorder's experimental work to Peter Whitehead's rarely seen 1960s documentaries to Alan Berliner's acclaimed short films.
Art Upstairs changed locations— moving from the Hardware Store to York Place— and Transient Crafters changed names to C'ville Arts, but, happily, no galleries threw in the art towel in 2007. And Kronos Gallery breathed some avant-garde life into Staunton's art scene!
The year for kids
UVA reaches out to the kids, as does Parks & Rec.
Being Big: In one of their most successful exhibits in recent memory, the Virginia Discovery Museum's "Meet Me on Main Street" provides all the props kids need to imagine themselves as big people. Costumes, grocery carts, life-sized plush pets, play money, and all the storefronts one finds on Main Street bring make-believe alive for the 10-and-under crowd.
Bookish: With "Bored Games," "Knitwits," the Anime Club, Wonderful Wednesdays, Nicolo the Gypsy, writing workshops, Renaissance-style comedy, and much more, the eight branches of the Jefferson-Madison Regional Library offer so much year-round fun that tots to teens don't even realize it's the reading they're after.
Great Outdoors: Several new programs from Charlottesville Parks & Rec introduce more families to the nature in our own backyard. A series of guided trail walks, for example, give folks with kids an excuse to explore sections of the Rivanna Trail, and family canoe trips— guides and gear provided— get them rollin' on our river.
Families First: The UVA Art Museum opens a new hands-on studio where wee ones can get a feel for fine art. New programs– and promises they'll be more regular in the coming year– give young artists and their adult companions the opportunity to explore the museum's galleries with a studio instructor, and then create their own art related to what they see.
TJ for Tots: Once again, Monticello singles out 6-11 year-old with Tours for Children and their Families. In these special guided tours of the big house on the little mountain, kids can get their hands on interesting artifacts and glimpse what life was like for the children who lived at Monticello in the early days.
The year on stage
Two presidential contenders provided unusual star power to area stages this year.
Lively Arts: Once again, the happening spot for all things theatrical was right downtown on Water street. From serious drama (American Buffalo) to sentimental crowd-pleaser (Little Match Girl), Live Arts had it all this season. Coming up in 2008: The Goat, or, Who is Sylvia?, In the Blood, String of Pearls, and more.
American Shakespeare Theater: The Winter's Tale, Romeo and Juliet, Antony and Cleopatra– the Staunton theater company formerly known as Shendandoah Shakespeare, continues to dazzle year after year. In addition to mounting gorgeous performances, the actors hang around afterward to chat with the audience, conduct fascinating tours of the theater, and bring in experts to discuss the plays. A world-class treasure just over the mountain, entertaining audiences now with annual seasonal favorites The Santaland Diaries and A Christmas Carol.
Paramount Power: The Paramount draws big-names– from Art Garunkel to Peter Frampton, from Wynton Marsalis to Wynonna Judd– lots of fun for old and young alike. And the fun's just beginning: the 2008 season promises The Temptations, Martin Short, Judy Collins, the Martha Graham Dance Company, and more.
Presidential Candidates: Hilary chewing the fat with John Grisham at the Paramount, Obama rocking the Pavilion, and even Dennis Kucinich making an appearance (sans UFO)– what does it mean about us that so many presidential candidates performed for eager crowds in the 'ville this year? Is Mitt or Rudy on the way?
The Lesser-Known Greats: A round of applause to the lesser-known but truly outstanding performance venues in the region. Piedmont Virginia Community College, New Lyric Theatre, UVA's Drama Department, and The Four County Players delivered consistently skilled and entertaining shows. And of course, this year's weekly City Council meetings, starring an always-impassioned group of actors, puts on one fascinating improv show after another, week after week, free of charge.
The year on foot
From dancing to cinema, there was plenty to do.
Dancing Around Town: You can dance your way through central Virginia at the region's various venues for the light-footed. Fry's Spring Beach Club sponsors weekly country dance night, the Senior Center offers regular Wednesday dances featuring everything from ballroom and swing to Latin and country, the Satellite Ballroom holds an every-other-Thursday Salsa/Merengue/Bachata night, and Terry Dean's Dance Studio throws Friday night social ballroom dance parties. The Outback Lodge's Salsa Club has made Charlottesville Salsa Central!
On the Run: Charlottesville remains a runner's paradise– and a great place to "just do it" for a good cause. The Women's Four Miler raises funds for breast cancer research (as does the Run for Life 5K), the Carl Tribastone Memorial 5K benefits organ donation/transplantation, the Kiwanis Independence Day 5K gives proceeds to Camp Holiday Trails. The Kelly Watt memorial two-miler honors the 18-year-old journalist/runner who died of heat stroke in the summer of 2005. Then there's the 11th Annual Blue Ridge Burn 10K/5K Trail Run for the Southern Environmental Law Center, the AIDS Walk (so it's not a race or a run, but still–), and the Boar's Head Turkey Trot, benefitting UVA Children's Hospital. Fit and philanthropic, that's our town.
Food-a-riffic: Sure, the restaurants are good, but Charlottesville food lovers also relish the region's culinary eductional opportunities. Jim Winecoff, owner/chef of Mona Lisa Pasta, and Terre Sisson, of Charlottesville Wine & Culinary, team up to teach home cooking techniques and time-saving tips with a gourmet flair. Then there's The Seasonal Cook's diverse cooking series, and the continuing efforts of E.A.T., a group devoted to promoting conscientious husbandry and consumption of local food.
Festival Fun: From the Vegetarian Festival (hippie-dippie fun) to the Dogwood Festival (the rides, the queens, those little Shriners zipping through downtown!), almost every weekend brings a chance to celebrate the region's tastes and traditions. Apples to pumpkins, blueberries to bluegrass, sheepdog trials to simply fine wine– every season is festival season in Central Virginia.
Virginia Film Festival: This festival stands alone– our own Hollywood on the Rivanna this year featured "kin flicks," and drew glitterati such as John Turturro and John Sayles. UVA alum Sean Patrick Thomas also dazzled as locals flashed skin and finery at the opening night extravaganza– this year at the Transit Center.
The year in books
Bob Dylan concerts no longer make headlines, but the man still draws a crowd.
Festival of the Book: This year's Virginia Festival of the Book (VABook!) wowed as usual. Festival highlights included "The Motivational Magic of Reading Aloud," with Jim Trelease, and "The Stories Not Being Told," with War Letters editor Andrew Carroll. Keep your reading glasses polished– the 13th installment is set for March 26-30, 2008.
Readings and Signings: From Ralph Nader to Susan Tyler Hitchcock to Valley homesteaders Logan and Susan Ward, authors read, spoke, and signed. Uptown, downtown, all around the town, a year of word feasts from the mouths of the artists themselves.
The Big Read: The Virginia Foundation for the Humanities's Center For the Book presented "The Big Read," a community-wide reading of The Great Gatsby. One event saw local luminaries Tim Longo, Nancy O‚Brien, Jane Norris Dunlap, Rosa Atkins, Kendra Hamilton, David Toscano, and April Taylor doing their best Fitzgerald rendition. The 2008 pick? To Kill a Mockingbird. Did out your high school copy and get started.
Dylan: A few years after The Stones, another lyrical legend landed in town. So what if no one could understand a word? It was Dylan. Next up: Bruce. We know all those words by heart, too, so The Boss can mumble as much as he wants.
Blogs: This year saw the debut of The Hook's styling new website. All the news you need, all the time– and you can help make it. Also new to the Cville blogosphere this year: Cvillain, a fun addition to the otherwise staid Cville blog-world (sorry, Waldo).