Behind the Local Music: 12 bands to watch in 2010
We all know the stories. The legendary Dave Matthews, a lowly Miller's bartender turned international star. A rough 'n' tumble UVA band named Sparky's Flaw attracted the attention of local music mogul Coran Capshaw and transformed into iTune-toppers Parachute in a few short years. Thanks to the tenacity of local musicians in the '70s and '80s (remember Skip Castro? Or Johnny Sportcoat and the Casuals?) and the aggressive UVA music department (oh, hey, John D'Earth!), Charlottesville has been a hothouse for breeding musical talent for years. But with the addition of the John Paul Jones Arena to the Charlottesville Pavilion, Paramount, and occasionally UVA's Scott Stadium, C'ville has been so busy courting hot international talent–- from the Rolling Stones to U2, Taylor Swift to Heart, Jay-Z to Lady Gaga–- that local listeners might be at risk of overlooking the still-burgeoning local scene.
Gone are the days of mega-rich labels scouring the country for the next big thing. Music these days has gone the DIY route–- venues crop up anywhere (garages, bookstores, porches), while bands are self-recording, self-promoting, self-managing machines. And with a pool of talent as large as Charlottesville's, who can keep up nowadays? Here's ten (with two to grow!) bands to watch in the next decade–- although let's hope it doesn't take that long for them to hit it big.
Best thing anyone has ever said about your band: "I know it didn't look like anyone was into it, but you moved me."
Biggest downer about being in a band in 2010: No Learjets! Gone are the days of hoping for a big record deal with all those sort of perks. Everybody is working on a lot smaller level these days, which is awesome and a lot more personal, and ultimately more rewarding. But it's sad to give up that "classic" rock 'n' roll dream.
On-stage presence? Vaguely effeminate, and a little bit rowdy.
You're writing a song. Is it a break-up ballad, anti-establishment anthem, or glittery feel-good pop song? None of the above. It's probably about food, snacks, candy, entrees or appetizers.
There are five concerts in town tonight. Why yours? Well, your options are probably: 1) A jam band with never-ending songs. 2) Late '90s cover band on the Corner. 3) A singer-songwriter who forces you to sit down and remain quiet so as to hear the intricacies of their brilliant word play. 4) A band made out of trash cans on the downtown mall; or 5) Us, a rock band that plays loud pop songs, has really funny jokes, and a lot of energy.
Has your grandmother listened? Yes. She and my grandfather both would like for me to cover "Moon River" for the older generation; they say that's "where the money is."
Why aren't there any girls in your band? I wouldn't mind having a girl in the band, but I wouldn't want her to be there just for eye candy. I also wouldn't mind having a unicorn in the band.
Highlight of 2009: Went into the recording studio with Chris Keup and Stewart Myers and produced a fantastic album that no one has heard yet.
How will you know you've made it? When Michael McDonald is on speed dial.
"Best band in town, hands down. Pure, raw, rock and roll, with the screws tightened all the way down. Think Built to Spill meets '70s punk rock. Just got a sneak peek of their forthcoming album, and let it be known that Invisible Hand is about to have a place on the map as much more than Charlottesville's strongest export." –Jacob Wolf, owner, Holy Smokes Booking
"Without a question, the most kick-ass rock band in Charlottesville right now. Their songs are perfect slacker anthems of the Pavement variety, mixed with the smart post-punk of Wire and the ebullient anthems of the Zombies. They play about 3 shows a week (here and elsewhere), and they've developed into an absolutely unstoppable and killer live show." –James Ford, Nailgun Media
"Adam Smith has somehow managed to wrangle four very strong musical personalities into one unbelievably cohesive rock juggernaut. His heady blend of psychedelic garage, four-track playfulness, and world-beating choogle makes their shows a can't-miss every time." –Dominic Devito, WTJU
"Invisible Hand is one of the most original bands in town– King Crimson meets Weezer. Catchy pop songs hiding behind intricately timed and executed parts." –Andy Gems, manager, The Southern Cafe and Music Hall
Hear Invisible Hand play next: April 23 at Westerwood Tavern, Greensboro, NC, April 24 at Berkeley Cafe, Raleigh, NC, April 25 at Happy's Flea Market, Roanoke, or April 26 at The Box.
Best thing ever said about your band: "This is better than anything I've ever seen on American Idol."
Band love story: Charlottesville is a small town, and it doesn't take long to get around. The guys and girls I play with have been playing with each other and playing with themselves for a long, long time.
Biggest downer about being in a band in 2010: I'm not sure music is still an art form. A lot of the time, it seems like something else.
Biggest perk about being in a band in 2010: Charlottesville has music venues again.
How will you know you've made it? Made what exactly? A career? No, there's always another step forward.
There are five concerts in town tonight. Why yours? You've already seen every other concert before– they were just under different band names.
My band can definitely beat up this band: The Sam Wilson Band. Serious wusses.
Where will the band be in 2015? Singing the national anthem at the Stanley Cup Finals, in Buffalo, NY.
Which song would you refuse to cover? Anything written by Toby Keith.
"I was fortunate enough to see Ted at the Prism Coffee House back when he was the lead singer of Colonel Catastrophe (who eventually became King Wilkie). He is by far my favorite Charlottesville songwriter. Just his demos from his newest recordings have become some of my most favorite music this year. Luckily, I'm not the only person who recognizes this, so Ted's bands are always made up of the baddest of the bad of Charlottesville musicians." –Michael Allenby, co-founder, The Artist Farm
"Ted is an absolutely amazing songwriter, and the material he's writing is friggin' amazing. He's captured that '70s West Coast sound that always makes me think of Laurel Canyon." –Andy Gems, manager, The Southern Cafe and Music Hall
Hear Ted Pitney play next: April 24 at The Blue Moon Diner or May 1 at The Jefferson Theater.
Craziest/creepiest groupie moment: If anyone acted in any way groupie-ish at me that would be both crazy and creepy–Tyler.
Craziest/lamest place you've played: Juvenile detention–Tyler. Canada–Josh.
Who would you jam with, dead or alive? Does the dead person come back to life when you jam with him or is he just lying there?–Tyler & Josh.
How will you know you've made it? We are not going to make it–Tyler. Already there, Brah–Josh.
Has your grandmother listened? My grandmother is never to hear this band. Are we clear on that? Stop calling her–Tyler.
Highlight of 2009: Playing a wedding. We didn't know it was going to be a wedding; otherwise, I would have cursed less–Tyler.
Childhood dream job: Crab fisherman–Tyler. Crab–Josh.
You're writing a song. Is it a break-up ballad, anti-establishment anthem, or glittery feel-good pop song? As a member of the establishment, usually some combination of the first and last–Tyler. Tyler writes the songs. I have no idea what they're about. Is he trying to break up with me?–Josh.
Where will the band be in 2015? Steely Dan–Tyler. Bathroom floor–Josh.
"Two of C-ville rock's bons vivants grow up, begin families, and start to get actually weirder. Dronetastic meditations with the occasional Lungfish cover– what's not to love?" –Dominic Devito, WTJU
"Two elder-statesmen of the Charlottesville underground (c. Pudhouse days) re-unite for a gentler, mellower project. Tyler Magill plays organ and sings, John Krahn plays guitar over drum beats. They sound like Beach House if Beach House were overly-witty malcontents pushing 40." –James Ford, Nailgun Media
Check www.myspace.com/mssmusics for upcoming shows from Mss.
Band love story: I'm playing solo mostly these days– that said, I've met myself in the most unlikely places: mountaintops, sunset-watching parties, traffic court.
Childhood dream job: Lead guitarist in '80s hair metal band.
Latest addition to your desert island mp3 collection: I love this question, not because I have an answer– I just like the thought of being on a deserted island with only an mp3 player and a Swiss Army knife– the answer, though: Randy Newman- Harps and Angels.
Biggest perk about being in a band in 2010: All the rhymes have been used up, and now we can just say whatever and it's cool.
Has your grandmother listened? She really preferred when people sang songs about Jesus– particularly the ones about what a great guy he was.
People would be surprised to know... I buy everything I see on TV informercials. I got really obsessed with juicing for about a week, and now my "Juiceman II" is sitting in the deepest darkest recesses of my cupboard...
Why aren't there any girls in your band? That's what I'm saying.
There are five concerts in town tonight. Why yours? You don't really feel like dancing, but you don't want to sit at home either– and you think acoustic guitar sounds nice.
My band can definitely beat up this band: the Dixie Chicks
How will you know you've made it? When the British Lady who lives in my GPS tells me in that "oh so reassuring" accent.
"Jesse is one of the premier talents in Charlottesville. With his years in Old School Freight Train, he grew into and through bluegrass music and has emerged one of the most talented guitarists and singers I have seen. He self-produced one of my favorite albums of last year. Jesse is one of the few singer-songwriters I have seen who I can see growing to large listening rooms and theaters." –Michael Allenby, co-founder, The Artist Farm
"I just had Jesse at The Southern opening for David Ford, and he killed it. While he's well known for his work with Old School Freight Train, I think he's extremely underrated on his own. He's a great songwriter and not only does he have an incredible voice, but the guy can play the heck out of a guitar!" –Andy Gems, manager, The Southern Cafe and Music Hall
Hear Jesse Harper play next: April 15 at Bel Rio with Richard Julian, April 16 at the Mockingbird Staunton, or April 20 at Jammin Java Vienna.
Why here? Why not? We are anti-fans of Charlottesville self-hatred and inferiority complexes. It's great here. If you disagree, do something to make it better, or move to New York.
Band you'd invite over for dinner: Jose over at La Michoacana has a band, Ideal, and the best food in Charlottesville. Would it be rude to invite him on the condition that he makes us dinner? We'd buy the beer! Mmm, tacos...
Lamest place you've played: Party at the UVA Golf House on 14th St. This was no one's fault, but let's just say Drunk Tigers don't translate across every culture equally.
Dream concert venue: Tokyo Rose and the Pudhouse, circa 2000-3.
There are five concerts in town tonight. Why yours? We can only assume you've been drinking and your decision-making skills are impaired.
Which song would you refuse to cover? Daniel has an irrational hatred of Heart. Get over it!–Mike. It's totally rational!–Daniel
You're writing a song. Is it a break-up ballad, anti-establishment anthem, or glittery feel-good pop song? Sloppy anti-ballad feel-good break-up-to-make-out song.
How will you know you've made it? When we play the halftime show at the Puppy Bowl.
Who would you jam with, dead or alive?: Jamming's for hippies.
Why aren't there any girls in your band? We would like to know the answer to this, too.
"A great hometown rock band, in the grand tradition of Great Hometown Rock Bands. A lot of other folks are trying to get really conceptual and mannered and stylized right now; these guys just write great rock & roll songs to listen to with your friends at a house party. Viva Charlottesville." –James Ford, Nailgun Media
"It's like Nirvana and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah got wasted and had a jam session." –Jacob Wolf, owner, Holy Smokes Booking
"Charlottesville's own version of a supergroup– like Asia or Damn Yankees. They play sloppy-yet-charming anthems about boredom and alienation with reckless abandon. Having a dual vocal attack keeps the songs interesting, and wearing their love of The Replacements on their collective sleeve doesn't hurt either. They definitely live up to their name, and they'll always be the third-best band in Charlottesville to me as long as they're around." –Dominic Devito, WTJU
Hear Drunk Tigers play next: April 22 at The Box.
UVA graduate and Glen Rock, NJ, native Andrew Cedermark is more than just the former guitarist for existentialist indie rock band Titus Andronicus. After departing from that Jersey-based band shortly after the group began blowing up the blogosphere with its debut release, Cedermark began his solo career to instant critical acclaim from the same blogs that hailed Titus. Alas, as the current music editor for C-Ville Weekly, Cedermark declined an interview– but the local lust for his passionate performances and sought-after talent demands a mention.
"He plays sincere, sloppy shoegazery balleds that build to a tremendously likeable boil; he has moments of climactic guitar-sprawl worthy of Yo La Tengo. He's only done a handful of compilation appearances and a few singles, but Pitchfork and a few other hot blogs are kind of kissing his ass right now, showing uncharacteristic insight in doing so." –James Ford, Nailgun Media
"Former Titus Andronicus member sheds his suburban Jersey roots but keeps the malaise in his music. Obvious reference points include Neil Young, Yo La Tengo, and any good band that used reverb ever. If Zach Braff could've listened to this stuff when he was writing Garden State it would've been a lot more like Linklater's SubUrbia." –Dominic Devito, WTJU
Hear Andrew play next: maybe he'll take the stage with his old bandmates in Titus Andronicus on April 17 at Random Row Books.
How will you know you've made it? The first time someone gets tackled by a security guard after rushing the stage to give one of our girls a flower.
Best thing ever said about your band: We "don't suck." It actually meant a lot.
Band love story: Kate and Jeff met playing music in another band in Charlottesville and then began making racket in Kate's basement– when the cops were called on us during our first session, we knew we had something. Kate's roommate, Jessie, heard said racket and came downstairs to start singing along. So we were three for a while, but then Jason hit on us at a Bear War show, and we decided he was cute enough to join the ranks.
Of the five concerts in town tonight, why yours? Our friends are really cute, so if you like shouting it's a great place to meet people.
Biggest downer about being in a band in 2010: Dream of playing on the Tonight Show with Conan is crushed. No Leno.
Where will the band be in 2015? Washed-up wedding band.
Best groupie moment: Some kids in the front row broke out into a dance from Ghana one time; that was cool.
Latest addition to your desert island mp3 collection: "Ambling Alp," by Yeasayer.
On-stage presence? We try not to stand still and look like assholes. But there isn't a lot of thought that goes into it, so you tell us.
"Over the past year, they've grown from a stage-shy new band with a set of catchy songs to a formidable power-pop power-house, capable of walking away with the first place finish at the UVA Battle of the Bands. And they're adorable. Pompadour is all heart." –Jacob Wolf, owner, Holy Smokes Booking.
Hear Pompadour play next: April 23rd at The Southern with Sarah White & the Pearls, or May 1st at UVA Springfest with Robert Randolph.
Hunter Smith and the Dead Men
Creepiest groupie moment: All I will say is that it involved daily text messages in which every letter was a different color.
Best thing ever said about your band: One of The Temptations once complimented my sound check.
Who would you jam with, dead or alive? Prince. I would love to see how that went.
There are five concerts in town tonight. Why yours? Because you probably haven't yet, and we deserve your attention.
Biggest perk about being in a band in 2010: Genre barriers are really disintegrating. People are opening up to different things left and right.
A ___ makes any song better: Call me biased, but I say piano. If that doesn't count, then cello.
Why aren't there any girls in your band? Aside from being a band composed of people who were friends first, I have only met a handful of girls who enjoyed being around all of us at the same time. It blows my mind that my wife can.
Which song would you refuse to cover? Anything by Bob Dylan.
Childhood dream job: Like most kids, I rotated through a couple of different things, but "Ninja Turtle" was the most prevalent one. I was serious.
"Hunter originally came to The Southern on a bill the Astronomers put together, and then I asked him to jump on a bill with the Wrinkle Neck Mules. The guy can write a tight song! Great melodies, interesting lyrics, and he's in and out in approximately three minutes or so. There's a real art to writing a solid and concise song, and Hunter has it down. He's got a great group of guys in his band and they were easy to work with and a lot of fun." –Andy Gems, manager, The Southern Cafe and Music Hall
Hear Hunter Smith and the Dead Men play next: April 15 at The Southern.
Borrowed Beams of Light
Best post-Cville show hangout: What Charlottesville's really got going for it: a good backyard.
Craziest place you've played: With the Nice Jenkins at a gigantic Hispanic rec center outside Harrisonburg. The place held about 750 people, and about 20 people were there. Of those, about 10 spoke English. Five of those were us.
Band highlight of 2009: EP release show at the Tea House, a packed house for my first show ever as the front man! Made me feel pretty loved, Cville.
There are five concerts in town tonight. Why yours? Cuz everybody in my band is probably also in one of those other five, and they won't start till we finish.
My band can definitely beat up this band: Red Satellites (sorry boys, it's true–- good band, though!)
People would be surprised to know... I portrayed a young Charles Darwin in a 2009 documentary for National Geographic Television Network.
Biggest downer about being in a band in 2010: It's not 1968.
Biggest perk about being in a band in 2010: It's not 1986.
"Adam Brock and Nate Walsh make BIG music inspired by sci-fi reveries and glam glitz. That they've only played a pair of concerts in town in a year only adds to their myth. This is perfect top-down music, epic in scope and honest at heart." –Dominic Devito, WTJU
Hear Borrowed Beams of Light play next: April 17, at Plan 9's Record Store Day.
Highlight of 2009: Forming the band–Kevin Hivick.
Craziest groupie moment: There was a "groupie" vs. Red Satellites football game after a show once. I had a busted lip, Kevin got nailed in the face, and I'm pretty sure Chris bit a girl–Brenning Greenfield.
People be surprised to know... I have only 8 toes–Brenning Greenfield. My first job in town was writing jingles for a company in New York–Drew Carroll. I am heterosexual–Chris Ambler.
Where will the band be in 2015? Dead, thanks to the Aztecs–Drew Carroll.
Why aren't there any girls in your band? Have you ever watched Boys Don't Cry?–Kevin Hivick.
Which song would you refuse to cover? Anything that would kill our indie cred.–Kevin Hivick.
The top three bands you'd invite over for dinner? Whoever is on the Family Values tour 2010; they'd probably be the most polite–Drew Carroll.
Pre-show warmup: Gin.–Chris Ambler. 50 sit-ups and push-ups the day before.–Kevin Hivick.
On-stage presence? Amplified and Buzzed–Drew Carroll. Wild and Wonderful–Brenning Greenfield. Sassy and Elegant–Chris Ambler.
"If you've ever wondered what it was like to see Bowie in a little dive-bar rock-club before he was the Bowie of fame and legend, this is the closest you're ever going to get." –Jacob Wolf, owner, Holy Smokes Booking
Hear Red Satellites play next: April 16 at the Twisted Branch Tea Bazaar, April 30 in Lynchburg, or May 1 in Washington, D.C. at The Red & The Black.
DBB Plays Cups
Best post-Cville show hangout: Landmark Hotel
Who would you jam with, dead or alive? Anyone really, percussionists especially, but Alex Chilton, Sonny & Linda Sharrock, Neil Hagerty, and James "Blood" Ulmer get honorable mention.
Best groupie moment: We take careful note of Samson of old, who got his hair cut off by a groupie and was handed over to Philistines.
Best thing ever said about your band: Listening is the best compliment anyone can pay anyone else, on any level.
How will you know you've made it? When we read this quote in The Hook's Local Music Issue.
You're writing a song. Is it a break-up ballad, anti-establishment anthem, or glittery feel-good pop song? Why can't it be all three?
There are five concerts in town tonight. Why yours? Whatever we are doing tonight in terms of line-up, set-list, or conceptual stylings, the odds are that tonight is your only chance to share this unique musical experience.
Latest addition to your desert island mp3 collection: Being on a desert island sounds too ideal to waste on mp3s.
Where will the band be in 2015? Playing a permanent day-gig as in-house band on actual desert island.
"DBB live shows are a charmingly ramshackle affair, with a different backing band pretty much every time, and with varying degrees of rehearsal under their belts. You can't help but think it's all part of the plan, though." –Jacob Wolf, owner, Holy Smokes Booking
"David Benson is one of the five most brilliant songwriters ever to reside in Charlottesville, but his live show is a continuous struggle against entropy; never the same line-up twice, he's invited some of the cream of the crop of Cville's musicians to back him up on short notice every few weeks, leading to an inevitably confusing shuffle of awkwardness that disguises the fact that this guy is probably the next Dave Berman, or even a Faulkner for the Friendster era, whatever that means." –James Ford, Nailgun Media
Hear DBB Plays Cups next: April 24, at a UVA house show or June 12, at a North Downtown-area block party.
Best thing ever said about your band: We've heard things like "radio ready" and "highly polished" from people, which is something we've worked hard at. But we do prefer hearing things like "Wow that sh*t was just crazy!"
Biggest perk about being in a band in 2010: The industry is changing. It's tough to be here in this time, but on the other hand, we can make our own rules. Every single bit of success that we've ever achieved has been through our own work, whether it be Alex's hair styling or Nate's ninja booking skills. It's definitely the age of D.I.Y., and it tends to bring the most personal satisfaction.
The top three bands you'd invite over for dinner? Radiohead, The Strokes, David Bowie. If Bowie is booked up, we would try to have Ben Folds on deck.
How will you know you've made it? 1.) If The Hook ever features us in their Local Music issue. 2.) Also, we all dream of becoming insufferable divas and becoming vehement if the venue doesn't provide us with Sour Skittles. So when we start getting angry over a barren table backstage, we'll know. But to be honest, when we can quit our day jobs and live on Ramen and beer.
Where will the band be in 2015? Crying alone in our basement because The Hook once again featured us in their Local Music issue.
Why here? Charlottesville is somehow a really important music destination. We're not quite sure how, but it is. People come from all over to play shows here, and we really love calling it our hometown. It's a scene that is not so easy to tap into that you have a diluted pool of talent, but one that is not so difficult that you feel like you're beating your head against a wall. There are great venues of every size, and furthermore, we're in a great spot whether we want to tour north or south.
Who would you jam with, dead or alive? Without a shadow of a doubt, we would jam with Nickelback so that we could ridicule them and pee on their instruments and faces.
There are five concerts in town tonight. Why yours? Because Alex is hot and Nate uses his guitar like a shotgun.
You're writing a song. Is it a break-up ballad, anti-establishment anthem, or glittery feel-good pop song? I mean, wow. Those are just horrible choices all around. All three of them, bam bam bam, just terrible. That's a question that maybe Parachute would read and think, "Oh yeah, now it's my time to shine." But Astronomers look at this question and think, "Wow. Those are just horrible choices all around. All three of them, bam bam bam, just terrible. That's a question that Parachute would read and think, ‘Oh yeah, now it's my time to shine.'" You see, to be honest, Astronomers are writing a song right now, and it's about being understood (as musicians) by a large number of people. So yeah, a glittery feel-good pop song.
"Among 60+ active local bands in Charlottesville, nearly every style/genre is represented. But there has definitely been a lack of key artists in the indie/pop/Pitchfork/Stereogum style genre. Astronomers (two of whom are actually UVA Astronomy Majors) are quickly changing all that. Catchy but complicated songs and playing tons of gigs." –Brad Savage, 106.1 The Corner
"I remember when Nate was first moving to town and was putting a lot of ads on Craigslist to find a band. I think the first time I saw Astronomers was at Rapture and honestly, I was underwhelmed. Then I mixed them at the Jefferson when they opened for Trees On Fire, and I was really impressed. It was like seeing a totally different band." –Andy Gems, manager, The Southern Cafe and Music Hall
Hear Astronomers play next: April 17 at the Downtown Mall 5k Marathon or May 21 at the Devil's Backbone Brewery.