Shea's stadium: Meet Satellite Ballroom's booker
Danny Shea is no high-powered booking agent; he seems to bristle at even being given an official title. To see him behind the counter at Plan 9 Music– where he's worked for 10 years– he might seem to be a typical record store geek.
You'd probably never guess that between raising an 18-month-old daughter, managing Plan 9's Corner location, and hosting a long-running rock show on WTJU, Shea has found time to cobble together a schedule of music that has put the Satellite Ballroom– and Charlottesville– on the map for some of the hottest underground acts in the nation.
Not to mention that he creates many of the shows' fliers from his home studio. So, okay, don't call Shea a booking agent– just don't call him a slacker, either.
Even though he's a novice at booking big bands, Shea is using his experience at the record store as a guide.
"I've been able to establish relationships with a lot of labels," he says. "Pretty early on, I got used to asking for things and not being afraid to be told no."
He estimates that for every show the Ballroom gets, he hears "no" for 12 others.
Nevertheless, the groups that have said "yes" represent a smorgasbord of independent music heavyweights. With acts ranging from underground hip-hop legends Blackalicious to indie-rock demigod and UVA alum David Berman (lead singer of the Silver Jews), Shea is filling the Ballroom with good tunes and grateful local music fans.
Though using the space as a music venue was first hatched by Plan 9 owner Jim Bland, it lay fallow until Michael's Bistro owner Chuck Adcock, a former Plan 9 employee, took over the lease.
Now the Ballroom hosts weekly free movies, private parties, and music shows. Adcock seems happy with the way the concert schedule is shaping up.
"I think Danny Shea's doing a great job, bringing the kind of music that I want to brand the room with," says Adcock. "I'm a lover of indie-rock. I always have been."
Vicky Long– who books shows around Charlottesville through the UVA group Tyrannosaurus Rock– is also excited by the music. "I think it's really necessary," she says. "He believes in it and cares about it."
Shea says that while pretty much everything he's booked has been something he's wanted to see, he tries not to book only his faves, relying more on the buzz he gets from patrons and co-workers at the record store.
"I'm going with what I know," he says. "Not everything I know is what I like. I go with what I have a good gut feeling will work and resonate with people. So far, so good."
The Ballroom seems to fit with the explosive growth of the Charlottesville music scene.
"Charlottesville has had its moments but never like this. It's really weird," says Shea. "It's a ridiculously good place for music. I'm almost honored to have a place in that."
PHOTO BY JEN FARIELLO