Satellite: Let's hear it for big venues

For the last few years, Starr Hill Music Hall has had a monopoly on the live show scene in Charlottesville. To their credit, they've brought in a number of stellar acts. Now we have the Pavilion and the Paramount bringing in big shows, but they're not booking with the college crowd in mind. Having only one venue for that audience is a problem.

I've heard people complain that Starr Hill caters to a few certain demographics in town. There's some truth to that criticism, but it's not what many think. It comes down to the basic element that creates division in any aspect of life: people tend to gravitate to what they know and understand.

Acts like Kenny Chesney, Derek Trucks, Soulive, and Israel Vibration are established touring bands that have built a name on the same festival circuit that took DMB, Blues Traveler, and G. Love to success years ago. It's a formula that those involved in Starr Hill are very familiar with.

To a promoter, avoiding risk is a huge factor in choosing events for a venue. So, Starr Hill going out and booking a ton of indie rock and emo bands, hip-hop acts and soul groups would be absurd– like Bella Morte opening at a country-western bar. It just wouldn't work.

However, there comes a time when the natives get restless and want more. There's a market for indie, soul, metal, and hip-hop in Charlottesville. In fact, there's a market for them everywhere. Hip-hop is the number-one selling music in the country, and indie dominates college radio. Is this not a college town?

Q: Okay, then, who will bring forth the counter-culture icons and trendsetters we all know and love? (cue majestic horns)

A: The Satellite Ballroom. And that's exactly where I was this Wednesday to see Sharon Jones and The Dap Kings.

The buzz about Jones was tremendous, and I would have been a fool not to attend. The show started late, but it was worth the wait. The night began with The Dap Kings laying into a few outrageously funky soul numbers– mostly instrumental, except when the guitarist would bust out a small verse or talk to the crowd. He was the host, warming us up, getting us ready.

When Jones finally came out, after about 20 minutes of The Dap Kings, we were ready. Her entrance could have been much more dramatic, but the entire night the soundman was really having problems. The high-end coming from the speakers was already almost too piercing. So when Jones grabbed the mic with that church-bred Holy-Ghost-presence roar of hers, the sound nearly ripped me apart.

If the band had not been so good, this would have been a bigger problem, but they handled it beautifully. Jones even coached the soundman from the stage, singing instructions to music. Classy. About 20 minutes later, the sound had become almost bearable. Still not the best, but better.

Sharon Jones and The Dap Kings are like James Brown and the JB's. They took the music back to the days when soul was actually... soulful. It was like a Baptist Church revival, except the subject matter was love, life, and politics– not the father, son, and....

So the Satellite Ballroom has the potential to be a great venue. A couple of little changes there could make a huge difference– starting with the sound. I believe I speak for many concertgoers who love the bass, especially with soul music. You gotta feel it.

In the meantime, I'm glad there's a second large venue in town. When it comes down to it, there can never be too much music. Never.