ANNUAL MANUAL: Culture- Music
The recent closure of Starr Hill Music Hall has left many local concertgoers wondering what lies ahead for the local club scene. For any normal college town, the closure of a such a dandy venue– for up-and-coming local bands as well as such renowned and diverse artists as Kenny Chesney, Richard Thompson, Method Man, and They Might Be Giants (who wrote a song about the place!)– would be devastating to the local music scene. But Charlottesville is no normal college town, and around here, the music scene has a way of working in cycles.
Case in point: there's no doubt that local rock enthusiasts quaked in their boots when Trax closed six years ago. But even though many folks worried that the last slam of those worn and grungy doors meant the end of Charlottesville as a destination for big-time acts, there wasn't a soul around who was ready to write off our music scene as a result. At Miller's, Outback, and a small band of venues in between, the local talent kept chugging along, seemingly oblivious to the change until they were asked about it over a beer between sets.
Coming toward the end of the darkness of the teen pop age, Trax's metamorphosis into a glorified dance club had been particularly ominous. But flashing forward a few years reveals that the fears were misplaced: there's more music in Charlottesville than ever, and many more places to play and hear it.
But perhaps most importantly, there are Rolodexes filled with musicians to fill them all, and it's to those hardly little artists we owe the continued survival of culture in this town. As long as they're here, they'll find places to play.
So what does Starr Hill's closing mean?
In the grand scheme of things, not much. Just as Starr Hill took up the baton when Trax faltered, the torch has now been passed to the Satellite Ballroom, which is now poised to make an even bigger impact thanks to its lucrative Corner location and the endless supply of youthful energy that is the University. Shortly after opening a few years ago, Satellite quickly became the sort of place that can inspire a devoted fan following in ways Starr Hill never could. And that enthusiasm is what Charlottesville needs right now– let's hope it will serve us better than a glut of venues.
As tempting as it is to cap this survey with a eulogy for Starr Hill, the truth is that it's just another page whose time has come to be turned. As last year's retro-rock documentary Live From... The Hook demonstrated, there was a vibrant music scene in Charlottesville decades before the Dave Matthews Band, and barring any unforeseen catastrophes, it will continue for a few more.
Just as Bob Girard and Charlie Pastorfield waxed nostalgic about the Mineshaft on the big screen, we'll eventually see the same memories flowing from James Wilson and the Sons of Bill boys– and every one of their fans– when this generation greys. The next time you buy an overpriced beer as your eardrums blow out in some seedy bar, instead of toasting Starr Hill, raise your glass to the musicians who played there and made it what it was; they're still around and able to interpret your toast as a renewed call to arms.
And hey, Satellite, now it's your turn.
Atomic Burrito: No cover charge to see many local and regional rock bands and wolf down plenty of exotic salsas, but practically no room to breathe! That's okay, though– they just open up the entire front of the shop. 109 Second St. SE. 977-0117.
Live Arts: It's one of the major hubs of the downtown arts scene; usually they'll end up fiddling about with a play of some sort, but every once in a while a good rock show will come along to flummox the theater geeks. 123 E. Water St. 977-4177.
Mudhouse: Only rarely do they host musicians– maybe because the espresso machine is too loud. Downtown Mall. 213 W. Main St. 245-0924.
Rapture: Rapturians usually prefer DJs to live musicians, but if a band really means business, they'll be able to work their way into the back room. Downtown Mall. 303 E. Main St. 293-9526.
Coupe DeVille's: This Corner establishment is a clear student favorite, where locals will often cut their teeth alongside bands on shoestring tours. 9 Elliewood Ave. 977-3966.
Satellite Ballroom: This place recently partnered with big dog Coran Capshaw and his promotion company, Starr Hill Presents, and will likely become the focal point of musical energy for the time being– at least, that is, until the renovations to the Jefferson Theater (also owned by Capshaw) are complete. 1435 University Ave. on the Corner. 293-7005.
John Paul Jones Arena: In addition to being the toast of the sports world, UVA's new 16,000-seat arena also brings the legends to town for sold out shows that draw fans from all over. Budget at least an extra half hour to get out of the building once the show's over. 295 Massie Road, near Barracks Road. 883-JPJ-TIXX.
Twisted Branch Tea Bazzar: Two years before you heard about them, your favorite indie rock and experimental bands probably performed in this cozy, hookah smoke-filled establishment. 414 E. Main St. Downtown Mall. 293-9947.
Charlottesville Pavilion: The biggest shows of the summer, without exception, are always at the Charlottesville Pavilion, the large outdoor amphitheater at the east end of the mall. Just follow the streams of people– or, if you're in Belmont, just open your window. Downtown Mall.
Saxx: What started as a jazz and blues club has recently turned to booking more eclectic local acts. Next to Belmont hotspot La Taza (which occasionally hosts bands itself). 407-C Hinton Ave. 979-5277.
The Paramount Theater: If you want to impress your parents next time they visit, take them here to see The Beach Boys, Herbie Hancock, Peter Frampton, or any number of other touring acts who stop in– it's the classiest game in town. 215 E. Main St. Downtown Mall. 979-1922.
Bashir's Taverna: Another eatery that dips its toe into the venue game only casually, but it's the place to go if you want to see any of the local jazz guitar wizards take the spotlight– or some exotic belly dancers take the stage. 507 E. Main St. Downtown Mall. 923-0927.
Fellini's #9: From the looks of it, you'd think this was a much more highbrow joint than it actually is. The decor may be slick, but the schedule is filled with bands of every shape and color, sometimes with three shows on the same day. 201 W. Market St. 979-4279.
Old Cabell Hall: As expected, UVA is the nexus of Charlottesville's academic musicians. Frequency of attendance at concerts is roughly commensurate with IQ. The Lawn. 924-3984.
Uncle Charlie's: Folks at this Crozet joint have been heralding their "Soon-to-be-World-Famous-for-Falling-Off-the-Bone-All-the-time-Smoked-Chicken-Wings" on the website since they opened, but so far the only thing they're famous for is being the town's musical oasis. Hey, it could be worse, guys. 5793 The Square in Crozet. 823-9600.
Outback Lodge: When Starr Hill Music Hall bit the dust, Outback became the oldest Charlottesville rock club still ticking. Best known as home of rock, heavy rock, really heavy rock, and reggae. 917 Preston Ave. 979-7211.
Gravity Lounge: Let's see, shall we spend tonight on quirky rock or acoustic folk? Split the difference at this funky little basement club that also brings such stellar luminaries as Slaid Cleaves and Chris Smither! 103 First St. NE. Downtown Mall. 977-5590.
Miller's: The Dave Matthews Band may have been launched from this downtown institution, but these days the main attraction has been the jazz bands on Wednesday and Thursday nights. 09 W. Main St. Downtown Mall. 971-8511.
UNDER THE RADAR AND DREAMING
Move over, Dave. Local experts are predicting these Charlottesville bands are the next big things!
Sons of Bill
FILE PHOTO BY JEN FARIELLO
SONS OF BILL
Charlie Pastorfield, Skip Castro Band: "I've heard a live recording of them, and it just knocked me out."
John D'earth, Thompson-D'earth Band:" These folks are known to many around here, but the world should and will hear of them beyond our garden walls. Sam Wilson looks like a teenager and plays and writes like an elder statesman, except that his band's music is so fresh, varied, masterful in all traditions and free from cliché and dogma that it could only be of the present moment."
Bruce Flohr, Red Light Management, ATO Records: "They remind me of everyone from Rust Never Sleeps-era Neil Young to Waylon Jennings to Wilco, and if they're given the right exposure, they'll be huge in this town and beyond."
Boyd Tinsley, Dave Matthews Band: "She has a great voice and really seems to understand the craft of songwriting."
Andy Waldeck, Earth to Andy: "She barely knows what chords she's playing on the guitar, but she's absolutely in control of it all, especially with her singing– she's absolutely killing it. She's not just your average chick with a guitar."
Bruce Flohr: She has an angelic voice, and her guitar reminds me of Sarah McLaughlin, but most importantly, she's doing all the hard grunt work to get her name out there.
Trees on Fire
FILE PHOTO BY JEN FARIELLO
TREES ON FIRE
Tinsley: "With such amazing harmonies and a killer drummer, this is a band to watch for sure, and I hope to work with them."
Flohr: "Sometimes they sound like Crosby, Stills and Nash, sometimes like Sublime, and they make it all work."
FILE PHOTO BY JEN FARIELLO
Damani Harrison, Beetnix: "He emanates the true spirit of blues music in its most viciously raw form."
Jamie Dyer, Hogwaller Ramblers: "When you're young and playing old-school blues, it doesn't always work. But he's been fearless in following what he wants to do as opposed to being a scenester. He actually gives a good darn about the music he's playing. He's a student of the guitar, he has the voice for what he does, and most importantly, he's a self-realized musical entity, which is the hardest thing to do in music."
Pastorfield: "He has an old soul and plays old blues, so he sounds authentic without being a copycat."
FILE PHOTO BY JEN FARIELLO
ACOUSTIC GROOVE TRIO
Harrison: "Before these guys, there was no soul music in Charlottesville. While you can hear they're influenced by D'Angelo, Lyfe Jennings, and Musiqsoulchild, they strip it down to acoustic guitar, acoustic bass, and percussion. All the modern soul music has been bastardized by the hip-hop sound, but this is back to basics. It's the kind of music you'd definitely want to make love to."
Waldeck: "They're definitely one of the more intriguing and exciting things to come out of Charlottesville at a time when a lot of people expect folk-centric, white singer-songwriters from us."
Tinsley: "They're great songwriters who remind me of John Legend but with a guitar."
Ash Lawn-Highland Summer Festival
When the weather gets warm, it's time for opera and musical theater at Ash Lawn-Highland, home of President James Monroe. Kids' events, too. 293-4500
Charlottesville Chamber Music Festival
Annual series of five chamber music concerts featuring musicians of international stature. Dates throughout September in Old Cabell Hall. cvillechambermusic.org or 295-5395. Tix: $22, $26, $6/students.
Charlottesville & University Symphony Orchestra
Performs in Cabell Hall throughout the school year. Tickets to individual concerts on sale, subject to availability, two weeks before each concert at the Cabell Hall Box Office. All seats are reserved. Tix: $22, $15/general, $11/students. 924-6505
McIntire Chamber Music Series
Chamber groups from the area and from farther afield perform in Old Cabell Hall from October to April. Tickets available two weeks before each concert. 924-3502
The Municipal Band of Charlottesville
Doing everything from folk and opera to classical and big band for over 80 years, it's the official band of Charlottesville. Every summer, these guys and gals come out of nowhere to make the Downtown Mall pulse with excitement. They perform this September at Wintergreen and again right before Christmas.
Oratorio Society of Charlottesville-Albemarle
Performs four concerts this season: Choral pieces at First Presbyterian Church on Sunday, October 21; Holiday music at the Paramount on December 21; R. Vaughan Williams' "A Sea Symphony" at PVCC on March 9; "Spirit of America" on May 31 at PVCC. 295-4385
Tuesday Evening Concert Series
Internationally renowned musicians give performances in Cabell Hall Auditorium. Shows begin at 8pm. $5-25. 244-9505
The Virginia Consort
A choral group that performs nearly year round at various locations in the area. 244-8444
Early music choral ensemble, performing from October to April. 293-5339