Six bands, no bucks

Springfest 2002 at Mad Bowl
Saturday, April 13

By Mark Grabowski

Do you remember a few years back, when a certain local band hit the big time, and every band in town seemed to be called “The {Something Something] Band?” I had just arrived in Charlottesville to “study,” and looking at the local club bookings made me giggle like a schoolgirl. And this local fervor went on and on, really dying down only in the last year or two. The fact that no local acts at this year’s Springfest at Mad Bowl had the words “the” or “band” in their names seems like proof to me that “Daveholism” is finally getting out of this town’s system. It’s about time.
For those not privy to UVA event schedules, Springfest is a once a year blowout, a day-long band bonanza with free food and drinks that keep the mostly Greek crowd parked on their picnic blankets. But this year, it was also a chance to see a lot of local talent at once (all the bands except Pat Green). So for the sake of journalism— and a free lunch— I set up watch.
The first band to play was Bennie Dodd. I had no problem with Bennie Dodd— the group stuck to playing covers, and they played them well. I did miss the mid-seventies-afro-sporting Don Henley when they broke out their near-perfect take on “Hotel California,” but their crunchy rendition of “Space Cowboy” was Steve-Millerific.
The next band up was The Virginia Coalition, which is not an a cappella group as I had always thought. They performed a totally un-ironic cover of “Africa” by Toto, but for the most part played part-rock, part jam-band pop songs.     Vandyke Brown on the second stage? Early ‘90s Gin Blossoms (Allison Road) without half the hokiness. “Texas Original” Pat Green was next on the main. Evidently he plays sold out 50,000-seat stadiums in Texas, and to our small town brought with him two tour busses with his Godzilla-sized face in living color on the sides. He played country, country, and more country, with a slight rock twinge. I took my dinner/hygiene break during the next band, Dogger’s, set, but a source on the inside reported, “They weren’t bad, just your general rock band.”
Guster, the headlining act, played for an hour and a half, and the crowd seemed to enjoy every minute of their on-stage revelry. Their music was fun but reminded me of REM with falsetto-backing vocals. The crowd loved them nonetheless; most mouthed every word of the group’s larger hits. All in all, they’re an all-right, not particularly inspiring rock band who played the crowd like a flute. And as they closed Springfest 2002, the timeless words of an aspiring musician-friend of mine rang in my head: “If you can get the ladies to dance, you will be popular.”
The charismatic Guster did just that. —M.G.
GRAPHIC: he sent 3 on email.

Vevlo Eel and b.c. at SERP
Friday, April 12

By James  Graham

The irony was there from the get-go. As a prompt defector from the C-ville when the axe dropped back in January, it might seem a little bizarre that I’d invite two bands involving three continuing C-villers to play in my living room. But music’s music, jobs are jobs, and besides the occasional taunts of Hooker, not much has really changed.
    Vevlo Eel, who kicked off the evening, builds their grooves from the bottom up, strutting along with a Medeski-ish agility. Drummer Frank Dubec (C-VILLEr #1) lays down a masterfully eccentric substructure to the affair (and could casually kick my ass any day of the week, for that matter), while bassist John Borgmeyer (C-VILLEr #2) puts down the floor.
With a standalone rhythm section behind him, guitarist Ford Englander (of the late, great Gift Horse) finds himself free to range as widely as he pleases— all the more fun for him and us, too. He weaves a wizardly web of textural complexity with a mind-numbing assortment of pedals and gadgetry and lends the band remarkable thickness for a three-piece.
Everybody sings some, but following in the footsteps of their influences, Vevlo Eel (who got named by somebody’s daughter or niece or something… I’ve forgotten), they shine most triumphantly during their extended instrumentals.
Then came b.c., a.k.a. Stephen Barling (C-VILLEr #3) and Brandon Collins, who can feel at liberty to call themselves the best (read: only) guitar/cello duo in Charlottesville. They take themselves none too seriously, and it’s that, along with b.c.’s spare instrumentation, hilarious lyrics, and ultra-catchy songs (several are stuck in my head right now, even ones they didn’t play), that can make even a rock-hungry audience dig ‘em. With all due respect for the folksters of Charlottesville, most acoustic music isn’t half this fun.
    Brendan Gilmore was in evidence, augmenting the standard b.c. setup with tasty doses of mandolin and fiddle that gave the music a grassier bounce than usual. You remember Brendan from Walker’s Run, likelier than not— now he’s headed off for a gig with the State Department or something. 
Despite the generally incompetent sound operation one tends to encounter at fratty gigs, the threesome was sounding tight and oddly in their element. There’s nothing quite like hearing mandolin and cello rocking out with the DJ Shadow album we had playing between sets, and shit-talking (which there’s plenty of in such venues) is among their specialties. 
A Daily Progress contingent arrived a short ways into the show and commenced heckling, although even those jaded, tasteless souls were soon won over by the neo-old-time aura of the room (or else they just got tired of being jerks… who knows?). 
Leave it to b.c. to end with a song that’s as appropriate a closer to this article as it was to the show. After all, if the evening taught me one thing, it’s that it doesn’t matter if you work for The Hook, or the C-ville, or if you don’t give a shit about who works for either. One way or the other, we’re all "American as Fuck.” Rock on.

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