Live Music in Charlottesville

Two musicians stand beneath their band logo

Live in March 2024

BY WILLIAM COCKE

March comes in like a pride of lions at the Jefferson Theater. Starting on Friday, March 1
and going through Monday, March 4, the intrepid—and hardy—concertgoer can see
Donna the Buffalo, The Weight Band, St. Paul & the Broken Bones, and GWAR over the
course of four consecutive nights. If that schedule sounds intimidating, remember the
adage: We train for this!

The four-night run begins with an Appalachian, zydeco, string band mash-up as
Trumansburg, New York’s Donna the Buffalo makes yet another stampede through
town. Charlottesville is a consistent stop for these jam band road warriors and the
Herd—as DTB’s loyal fans are known—should be out in force.

The Empire State is represented the following evening as The Weight Band—which
began in the Levon Helm Studios in Woodstock—brings the spirit of The Band to the
Jefferson stage. Local heroes Koda and Marie of Chamomile & Whiskey are the
openers.

We move south, to Birmingham, Alabama, for St. Paul & the Broken Bones on Sunday,
March 3. This band’s revival tent R&B vibe is well-suited for a Sabbath day show, but
this is a big tent where even the heathenish can get rock ‘n’ roll religion. I’ve seen them
a couple of times and St. Paul, aka Paul Janeway, has a true soul shouter’s set of pipes
and a stage show that James Brown would envy.

Speaking of stage shows, GWAR is bringing its sick crew of intergalactic (by way of
RVA) alien monsters to the Jefferson on Monday, March 4. These Scumdogs of the
Universe put on the wildest, bloodiest, funniest, raunchiest, heavy metalfest this side of
Uranus. Even though late front man Dave Brockie, aka Oderus Urungus, has left this
astral plane, the band still brings the full-on freak show. GWAR is like an insane art
project run amok.

The pace at the Jefferson hardly lets up from there. Later in the month we get an
evening with Dawes and Lucius (March 8), followed in quick succession by the Disco
Biscuits (March 10), and Carbon Leaf (March 15).

I’ve been hearing a lot of buzz about Hermanos Gutiérrez, a sibling guitar duo whose
intricate interplay evokes a mystical, shimmering Latin-tinged desertscape. Their latest
album, Sonido Cosmico, was produced by Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys. They
perform on Tuesday, March 19.

Live in February 2024

BY WILLIAM COCKE

February starts with a big twang when Daniel Donato’s Cosmic Country comes to the Jefferson Theater on Saturday, Feb. 3. A purveyor of what he calls “cosmic country,” Donato’s psychedelic stylings put him firmly in the country rock camp of forebears the New Riders of the Purple Sage and Gram Parsons. Parsons famously described his sound as “cosmic American music,” and the hippie country vibe aside, Donato’s high lonesome tenor even resembles that of the long-lost music icon’s.

This 28-year-old guitar prodigy from Nashville got his start busking on Music City’s Lower Broadway before graduating to a standing gig at the scene’s last authentic honky tonk, Robert’s Western World. Donato is a Telecaster shredder, and he has the same kind of buzz behind him that I saw with Billy Strings a few years ago. I kept hearing about this Billy Strings kid and watching him sell out larger and larger venues, until I finally caught up with him at the Jeff a few years ago. I went in something of a skeptic. It took all of 10 minutes for me to become a true believer. I haven’t seen Donato yet, but I’m genuinely hoping for a similar experience.

At the Southern on Friday, February 9, is another Nashville up-and-comer, Jaime Wyatt. Wyatt has been getting a lot of airtime on Sirius-XM’s Outlaw Country show, and her soulful, sultry voice evokes female outlaws such as Jessi Colter and later Southern singer-songwriters such as Shelby Lynne and Allison Moorer. She’s stopping by the Southern on her first tour as a headliner and I plan to be there to support her as she tours behind her most recent album, Feel Good.

In what’s becoming a February tradition, local jam band Kendall Street Company is holding down a five-Thursday residency at the Southern, and that includes a Leap Day show on the 29th . It might be worth showing up to test out the old saying – “Never Miss a Leap Day Show.”

And just in time for Valentine’s Day, word on the street has it that Red and the Romantics is back in business after a five-year hiatus. This quirky, hard-to-define Americana band, which resurfaced at a January gig at Dürty Nelly’s, is headed by Erik “Red” Knierim, one of the true originals to come out of Charlottesville in recent years. The affable Knierim cuts an unmistakably lanky John Hartford-esque figure onstage and his warbly tenor sounds like no one else’s. The song, Firewood and Whiskey, is a great one to put on during the dark, dreary days of February. Keep your eyes peeled for the next Red and Romantics show, preferably by a roaring fire at Nelly’s.

Check out more ideas for Charlottesville Experiences HERE.

 

 

Live in January 2024

BY WILLIAM COCKE

Live Music in Charlottesville in January you say? This can be a long, frosty slog of a month. Sure, it’s a new year, but the holidays are over and the prospect of nearly three more months of winter can bring a cold blast of reality. Fortunately, we have a handful of hot shows coming to town to warm your bones.

A difficult decision confronts the live music patron on Friday, Jan. 19, when bluegrass veterans the Steep Canyon Rangers and old-school jam band New Potato Caboose come to the Jefferson and Southern, respectively.

The Steep Canyon Rangers won a Grammy for Best Bluegrass Album in 2013, are members of the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame, and have recorded three albums with a wild and crazy banjo player named Steve Martin.

New Potato Caboose, named after an obscure Grateful Dead tune, began in the D.C area in the early ‘80s and quickly rose to prominence in the burgeoning jam band scene, establishing
themselves on the college circuit, and even playing the opening gig at the late, lamented Wetlands club in New York City.

During their heyday of the late 80’s-early ‘90s, NPC was a helluva good time, whether you caught them in a fraternity house basement, a smoky club like The Bayou in Georgetown, or in a college-sponsored keg-filled field party. (Remember those?) I distinctly recall catching a NPC show in Nameless Field in the spring of 1988, when, as a slack-ass graduate student at UVA, I blew off my studies to see them on a beautiful, sunny day. I do not regret that decision at all.

And finally, make room on Sunday, Jan. 28 for The Record Company at the Jefferson Theater. This L.A.-based power trio has a big, bluesy, Stonesy, sound and this is a good chance to catch
them on a small venue winter tour. If the pickings seem slim for January, never fear, February promises to be a busy month.

 

Check out more ideas for Charlottesville Experiences HERE.

Live in December 2023

BY WILLIAM COCKE

Since we’ve all been good boys and girls this year, it’s a good time to peek under the tree to see what Santa’s elves have planned for the month of December.

On Wednesday, Dec. 6. The Paramount Theater presents the Allman Betts Family Revival, a stocking stuffer of Allman joys if I ever heard one. This all-star tribute to Gregg Allman and Dickey Betts is curated by Devon Allman and features a constellation of Brothers-adjacent stars such as Anders Osborne, Luther and Cody Dickinson, and Jackie Greene. Deep cuts from the expansive Allman Brothers will abound.

The next night, Thursday, Dec. 7, The Jefferson will shine a light on LaMP, a supergroup featuring Scott Metzger (Joe Russo’s Almost Dead) alongside Russ Lawton and Ray Paczkowski (Trey Anastasio Band). A pandemic-era instrumental jazz-funk project, LaMP is touring in support of its eponymous debut EP. Plan to show up to support these stellar musicians playing original tunes while taking breathers from their day jobs.

The holiday vibes always get stronger by the last week of December, and what better way to ease into the season than Sarah White’s Country Christmas Show at The Southern on Saturday, Dec. 23. White, joined this year by Eddie from Ohio’s Michael Clem, is a rough-hewn singer-songwriter in the Kitty Wells mold. She has excellent taste in classic country covers so expect a lot of cheatin’, drinkin’, and honky tonkin’ Christmas songs.

This same night just up the way at The Jefferson you can catch two leading local favorites, Kendall Street Company and David Wax Museum. Kendall Street’s wavy jam band ethic led by comical front men, Louis Smith and Ben Laderberg, has been entertaining Charlottesville audiences since their UVA undergrad days in the mid-aughts.  And they keep pushing the envelope. By combining poetry, musical virtuosity, and stand-up comedy, these guys always put on a good show. Add the artful rhythm and singing of David Wax and the lovely Sue Slezak and you’ve got a show that’ll make your knees buckle.

And it’s still December until 12 a.m. Jan. 1, right? So why not warm up on Friday the 29 with Love Canon at The Jefferson? Love Canon has been pickin’ on the hits since 2010. Whether these virtuoso musicians are laying down “Sledgehammer” or revving up “Working for the Weekend”, the pop hits of yesteryear always sound better with banjo and bluegrass-style arrangements.

But wait! It’s not New Year’s yet! So why not turn out the next night (Saturday, Dec. 30) for the venerable Skip Castro Band? “Skip” has been around long enough to become a bona fide Charlottesville institution. Even after 40-plus years of boogie-woogie beats, this old school bar band still has plenty of bounce and bop. You haven’t truly arrived in Cville until you’ve heard Skip rip through “Boogie At Midnight” on a rockin’ eve before New Year’s Eve.

And on the next night, New Year’s Eve, the pièce de résistance: Illiterate Light, Mo Lowda & the Humble, and Holy Roller, at The Jeff!

Happy 2023 everyone!

Check out more ideas for Charlottesville Experiences HERE.

Live in November 2023

BY WILLIAM COCKE

As the year winds down and we head into the holidays, let’s stop for a moment and give thanks
for the thriving music scene and the range of local, regional, and national acts that continue to
perform in or pass through our town.

In November, things begin to slow down a bit later in the month as we all go into hunker-down
mode, but there are still options out there if you’re looking for them.

On Saturday, November 4, the Buzzard Hollow Boys return to their favorite indoor roost – the
Batesville Market. The Buzzards are Tim “T.A.” Anderson on lead vocals and rhythm guitar,
Sonny Layne on upright and electric bass, Jeff Saine on pedal steel, lap steel, and accordion, and
Kurt Dressel on electric and acoustic guitar.

Collectively, these four musicians represent an adult portion of the last half century of
Charlottesville Americana music. Johnny Sportcoat & The Casuals, Wolves in the Kitchen, the
Hanks, the Stoned Wheat Things, the Terri Allard Band, Spike Jr. and His Saddle Sores, are just a
few of the bands they’ve played in, either collectively or individually.

The band took a long hiatus during the pandemic, so it’s always a treat to catch a Buzzards’
show. As a front man, T.A. is an irrepressible font of knowledge when it comes to the Great
American Songbook, and he’s one of the most powerfully expressive singers I’ve ever heard. A
typical show will include murder ballads, jug band stomps, train songs, and a whole host of jazz,
blues, rock, and country deep cuts. To take just a few examples, the band covers — and T.A.
absolutely kills it on vocals – everything from Warren Zevon’s “Carmelita” to Jesse Winchester’s
“Biloxi” to Dave Alvin’s “Border Radio.”

The Batesville Market continues its November roll as the Terri Allard Band makes a rare
appearance on Saturday, November 11. Allard is a Batesville resident who was a working
musician and singer-songwriter before she became the host and co-producer of VPM’s award-
winning television show, Charlottesville Inside-Out. She still plays a few select solo gigs a year,
and this is a good chance to hear her backed by a full band, which includes Buzzards Jeff Saine
and Sonny Layne, as well as her long-time harmonica player, Gary Green.

Other shows to consider in November include a Friendsgiving Revue at the Jefferson on Friday,
November 24 with the reliably raucous Chamomile & Whiskey and special guest Deau Eyes.
Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real brings some star power to the Jeff on Tuesday, November
14. And finally, let’s not forget to be grateful for a big ol’ Thankful Dead show at the Jeff on
Wednesday, November 22 with Sisters & Brothers, The 77z, and Mama Tried.

Check out more ideas for Charlottesville Experiences HERE.

Live in October 2023

BY WILLIAM COCKE

Ahh, October. Warm days, cool nights, hot tunes, Halloween shows.

The first week of the month begins with a one-two punch at The Jefferson. On Saturday, Oct. 7,
Mike Campbell and the Dirty Knobs bring the full Petty to town. Campbell was the long-time
axman for a little band known as the Heartbreakers and was responsible for much of the all-
American Tom Petty sound that most of us over 30 grew up with. This is a great chance to
experience the kind of crunchy, hook-filled, guitar-heavy arena rock that used to dominate the
FM radio. Expect a handful of originals in the Petty vein, some old rock chestnuts, and yes,
“Runnin’ Down a Dream.”

The next night, Sunday, October 8, Renaissance punk icon Henry Rollins brings his spoken word
slam— “Good to See You”—to the Jefferson’s stage. The former Black Flag and Rollins Band
front man doesn’t do music anymore, but no matter, his talent and personality are big enough
to carry two-plus hours of storytelling and truth telling in his inimitable black t-shirt and jeans.
He may be a grizzled old punk, but he can still enthrall the room.

October, of course, means Halloween shows. Most of us love this annual excuse to express our
inner goofball and musicians are no different. Any act booked in the vicinity of the last weekend
of the month will most likely appear in costume. I’ll never forget a Halloween show in Raleigh
back in the ‘90s when all of Wilco came onstage in drag and ripped through most of “Being
There” and a handful of Uncle Tupelo tunes. Or the time in Richmond when all of the Drive-by
Truckers came out dressed as cops. Halloween shows can be fun in a way that elevates an
ordinary gig into something that sticks in the memory for years.

At The Southern, celebrate Halloween two nights in a row on Friday and Saturday, October 27
and 28, with the long-running Mock Stars Ball when a passel of local musicians play dress up
while they play homage to their favorite bands. It’s always a blast and this year’s shows benefit
a good cause, Shelter for Help in Emergency, a local resource for those facing domestic
violence.

Finally, Memphis roots veterans Lucero will be at the Jefferson on Tuesday, October 31 and if
they don’t come out dressed like zombie Elvises (Elvii?) it will be a huge letdown. Fingers
crossed.

Check out more ideas for Charlottesville Experiences HERE.

Live in September 2023

BY WILLIAM COCKE

The month of September promises to be a busy one as an impressive roster of musical acts blow through town.

We’re smack in the middle of hurricane season and a perfect storm is brewing for the night of September 13. At the Ting Pavilion, Bob Weir and the Wolf Brothers, featuring the Wolfpack lope into town, while just down the street, James McMurtry stops in for a solo performance at the Southern.

Since yours truly is a tie-dyed-in-the-wool Deadhead, we’ll start with Bobby. Fresh off the final Dead and Company run—his primary gig for the last eight years—Weir has barely taken a breather before hopping back on the bus with the Wolf Brothers. While he’s still pretty spry for 75, Weir’s game plan may be to stretch out the Dead’s long, strange, trip by easing into steady touring with a different outfit. 

The group includes keyboardist Jeff Chimenti and drummer Jay Lane from Dead & Co (and prior to that, Weir’s old band Ratdog) along with legendary producer Don Was on bass and Bay Area musician Barry Sless on pedal steel. The secret weapon is the Wolfpack, a classically trained horn and string sextet that brings the game up to another level entirely. I saw the band at Nashville’s fabled Ryman Auditorium back in March and, for the final show, they performed the entire Terrapin Station suite, with strings and horns, a feat never attempted by the Dead in concert back in the day. This Deadhead’s mind was officially blown. 

Overall, though, it’s a mellower, more countrified affair that allows for performances in smaller venues rather than oversized stadiums. A Wolf Brothers show reminds me of the old Jerry Garcia Band days when Garcia would take his side group out for a spin between tours without all the madness that surrounded the Grateful Dead. If this is Bobby’s retirement plan, then count me in.

If the Wolf Brothers weren’t in town, there’s no doubt I’d be at James McMurtry’s show at the Southern. Simply put, McMurtry is one of the best, if not THE best singer-songwriters of his generation. His gift for lyrical imagery, mastery of storytelling, and understated, wry wit is unsurpassed. The opening verse of one of my favorite songs, Hurricane Party, says it all: 

The hurricane party’s windin’ down

and we’re all waitin’ for the end

And I don’t won’t another drink,

I only want that last one again

McMurtry rocks the room with Texan attitude when he tours with his band. This time he’ll be solo, which promises to be a more intimate affair. I’ve seen him in both incarnations and when he’s up there with just a guitar, the strength of his 30 years’ worth of amazing material really shines through. He’s a no-nonsense performer and a bit of an ornery cuss at times, so, in my experience, it’s not a good idea to shout out a bunch of requests. You’ll get what you get and what you get is the best of the best. Never fear: You will get his great big ol’ masterpiece, Choctaw Bingo. He plays that one at every show.

Other shows to consider include Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats on September 15 and Gov’t Mule with G. Love & Special Sauce on September 29. Both shows are at the Ting Pavilion. 

Gov’t Mule, like its namesake beast of burden, always gets the job done without a lot of fuss. Band leader Warren Haynes may be the hardest-working musician in the business and the Mule has been kicking its heels since 1994. Philadelphia-based G. Love is a funky, rootsy blast of fun and should make for a great opener for the evening.

When Nathaniel Rateliff and The Night Sweats take the stage, a go-for-broke attitude runs the house every time. Since forming in 2013, this powerhouse of a band, and its larger-than-life front man, have been the embodiments of next-gen rock and soul. Rateliff, accompanied by a horn-heavy, road-tested band, consistently electrifies audiences with a rousing, sweat-drenched set of grooves and grinds that evokes old-school performers such as James Brown, Little Richard, and Jerry Lee Lewis, while testifying his sound for the future. This show will also raise funds for the annual Charlottesville Free Clinic benefit. 

Check out more ideas for Charlottesville Experiences HERE.

Live in August 2023

BY WILLIAM COCKE

Welcome to August in Charlottesville, where the mercury is rising outside, and things are heating up on the music front as well. 

The month starts off with a twang when two bona fide country legends come to town on consecutive nights. 

Dwight Yoakam honed his southeast Kentucky-meets-Bakersfield sound as a part of the late ‘70s-early ‘80s Los Angeles country rock scene and spent many late nights on the Sunset Strip sharing stages with other legends in the making such as the Blasters, X, Lone Justice, and Los Lobos. He shook up mainstream country music in the mid ‘80s with his debut release, Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc., Etc., which is now considered a genuine honky-tonk classic. On Saturday, August 5 at the Ting Pavilion, he’ll front an outstanding triple bill with The Mavericks and 49 Winchester

The following night, Sunday, August 6, The Paramount Theater hosts Lyle Lovett and His Large Band. Lovett came to prominence around the same time as Yoakam, but his brand of country evokes the Texas hills and the singer-songwriter traditions of Lone Star State compadres such as Townes Van Zandt and Robert Earl Keen. Onstage, he’s the master of the wry, deadpan one-liner, and, like Yoakam, he’s found time to carve out a quirky indie film acting career on the side. 

The twangfest continues on Sunday, August 20, when The Del McCoury Band comes to the Paramount. As a member of Bill Monroe’s Blue Grass Boys, the elder McCoury is one of the last living links to the first-generation bluegrass greats. His band, which includes his sons Ronnie and Rob, is one of the best in the business. Del is getting on in years, so this is a great chance to see him in a small theater. 

Some acts with deep Charlottesville roots round out the month. Baaba Seth makes a rare appearance at The Southern on Friday, August 18. One of this town’s first worldbeat acts to achieve a measure of success, Baaba Seth has been around since 1991, and despite personnel changes over the years, still puts out a highly danceable mix of original afro-funk-jazz-rock. Like other Charlottesville institutions The Skip Castro Band and Indecision, Baaba Seth still has a devoted local following and can always count on a full house for their one-off shows. 

On Thursday, August 31, the Front Porch hosts Corey Harris with special guests Jamie Dyer and David French. Harris has gone from busking on the Downtown Mall in his early days to elder statesman status, appearing in venues all over the world, and in the process becoming one of the foremost interpreters of the blues as a living and evolving art form. 

Dyer is the wise-cracking genius behind one of Charlottesville’s longest-running bands, the late, lamented Hogwaller Ramblers. When I moved back to this area for good in 1998, the Hogs were the band to see, performing every Sunday night at Escafe and later, Fellini’s.

I’ll never forget one hot Fourth of July in Scottsville’s Dorrier Park when guitarist Sandy Gray performed a scorching version of The Star-Spangled Banner, Jimi Hendrix-style, that sent a good portion of the crowd fleeing for the exits. Throughout the show, people were lighting fireworks everywhere, helter-skelter. A knife fight broke out and some dude lost part of his ear. It was a perfect setting for one of Charlottesville’s most gloriously anarchic bands. So, it’s good to see Dyer out there performing again. He’s one of the last of the old, weird Charlottesville and I mean that sincerely, as a compliment to an old friend.

Check out more ideas for Charlottesville Experiences HERE.

Live in July 2023

BY WILLIAM COCKE

It’s July in Charlottesville and summer’s coming down. It’s a good time to take a breather, slow your roll, and try not to sweat the small stuff. And what could be better when the livin’ is easy than FREE MUSIC!

WTJU 91.1 FM has a cool weekly concert series, Offbeat Roadhouse, every Friday at 8 p.m., with an hour-long concert live from the radio station’s performance space. Offerings range from blues, folk, jazz, roots, world, and more. In July, look for Red Sammy (July 7), BopCats (July 14), Jolie Fille (July 21), and Hard Modes (July 28). Between sets, you can pop over to Vivace to slake your thirst.

The grandpappy of free music traditions in Charlottesville is, of course, Fridays After Five. This venerable concert series has been a part of the town’s warm-season, workin’-for-the-weekend vibe for 35 years. The stage setup has migrated from a modest set of risers at the west end of the Downtown Mall, where the CODE building now sits, to the east end, with a sideways jag in 2005 to Garrett Street while the current Ting Pavilion was being constructed. 

The lineup these days showcases local talent, but past years have seen the occasional regional and national act pass through—bands such as War, the Gourds (from Austin), American Aquarium, the Turnpike Troubadours, and back in the day, the Dave Matthews Band. 

One of the most refreshing things about Fridays is the unpretentious nature of the crowd. It’s a motley mix of young and not-so-young professionals, sunburned tradespeople, tourists, and parents looking for some hang time for the kids and a little draft beer-and-tunes time for the parents. A whole generation of kids has grown up happily semi-supervised and free to run wild at Fridays. 

Other light-on-the wallet music options include a growing number of restaurants with weekly lineups and even monthly residencies. Rapture, The Whiskey Jar, and Holly’s Diner all have robust music offerings on a regular basis for no—or a very modest—cover charge. 

A special shout-out goes to The Blue Moon Diner, a bona fide Cville institution that has been in the same West Main Street location since 1979. Another Cville institution, Jim Waive, has set up a Wednesday night residency during the month of July. He’s has been playing around town for years, sometimes with his full band, the Young Divorcees, and sometimes solo. He’s a veritable jukebox of classic country tunes, ranging from Prine to the Possum and he has a passel of swell originals too. 

if you must reach into the money jar, The Head and the Heart revisit the Ting Pavilion on July 11 for the first time since 2017. Though the indie folk-pop ensemble formed in Seattle in 2009, two of its six members have recently returned to their Richmond, Virginia roots. 

The band will bring its casual, communal vibe and lush, heartfelt instrumentation to headline a night that also features a slate of up-and-comers from the Commonwealth, including Illiterate Light, Landon Elliott, and Deau Eyes. The Head and the Heart still wears its heart on its sleeve, and true to its commitment to social causes, $1 from each ticket will go to The Rivers and Roads Foundation, which the band started to raise money for Seattle-based music programs and initiatives with an emphasis on equitable access to music education for youth, and mental health resources and support for musicians. 

Finally, while this month’s theme is FREE MUSIC! always remember to put what you’ve saved in ticket fees and cover charges toward a tip for your server, the bartender, and the band. Buy some merch if they have it for sale. For working bands, that can mean the difference between a hot breakfast the next morning or crummy service station coffee and a honey bun to go. 

Check out more ideas for Charlottesville Experiences HERE.

From the Archives…

Live in June 2023

BY WILLIAM COCKE

For years, I’d walk by a small, standalone garage on 1st Street between Market and Jefferson Streets. It was a sturdy affair, constructed of brick, adjacent to the Hill & Wood Funeral Service parking lot and behind the Christ Episcopal Church parish house. A dusty vintage car was the sole occupant. It was like a time capsule preserved in amber, a secret space hiding in plain sight, unused and forgotten.

In 2008, Paul Walker, Christ Church rector, and a crew of young visionaries saw the building’s potential as a performance space. They cleaned it up, installed lighting and a hardwood floor, and The Garage was born. It’s been hosting local and regional acts—mostly folk and Americana—on a regular basis ever since. A quirk of location means that the occasional car passes between the audience, seated across 1st Street on an elevated bank of Market Street Park, and the venue. On one rainy Sunday night that has since gone down in Garage lore, the Lumineers showed up to play to an audience of nine lucky souls. 

The Garage also hosts art openings, exhibitions, film nights, and other events. There’s never a cover charge and musicians play for tips. When the door opens for a performance, the Garage can have a magical, otherworldly feel—like a jewel box aglow from within. An enormous linden tree on the corner looms over the audience, and on sultry summer nights, cicadas sing and hundreds of chimney swifts swirl in the sunset as they prepare to roost in the nearby McGuffey Art Center.

The best-kept secrets are sometimes the most easily stumbled upon. A tiny concert at the Garage is both accessible and tucked away, intimate yet wide open, a welcome gift to the community on any given evening.

Choices abound in June if you’re looking for something on a larger scale. 

On June 15th, the Wood Brothers return to the Ting Pavilion after a slot opening for Greensky Bluegrass last summer. Headliners this time, the trio—brothers Oliver (guitar, vocals) and Chris (bass, vocals) Wood and Jano Rix (drums, keyboards, vocals) perform a fine-grained blend of styles that showcase the group’s distinctive folk, rock, gospel, jazz, and blues influences. Openers Shovels and Rope, the South Carolina husband-and-wife duo of Michael Trent and Cary Ann Hearst, present a fractured Lowcountry Americana sound that’s equal parts sass and Southern charm. 

Both groups’ warm, organic stylings would be perfect for a pop-up show at The Garage. Just sayin’…

And, on June 6th, Trombone Shorty returns to the Ting Pavilion, after a raucous throwdown at the same venue last summer. A musical ambassador for the Big Easy, Trombone Shorty, aka Troy Andrews, along with his backing band Orleans Avenue, brings the funk, N’awlins-style, to every town he visits. 

This time, he’ll be accompanied by the incomparable Mavis Staples. As a member of the Staples Singers and as a solo performer, she was the voice of multiple ‘60s R&B, soul, and gospel hits, such as “I’ll Take You There.” As a civil rights activist who marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. she was the voice of freedom. And, at 83, with her voice as powerful as ever, and accompanied by her long-time touring band, she’ll take you there and bring the house down.

As I write this, I’ve just learned of the passing of another icon, Tina Turner, also 83. I’ll reiterate what’s unfortunately becoming a theme at this blog: Go see the legends now. Staples is simply—unquestionably—a living legend.

Check out more ideas for Charlottesville Experiences HERE.

Live in May 2023

Outdoor music season begins in earnest this month as three big shows come to the Ting Pavilion.

The first day of May—May Day—is traditionally observed as a time of rebirth and a celebration of the return of spring. We can also take the occasion to hail the return of Nickel Creek. After a nine-year hiatus from recording and performing together, the acclaimed Americana trio—mandolinist Chris Thile, violinist Sara Watkins, and guitarist Sean Watkins—is headlining a tour in support of a new album, Celebrants. EDITOR’S NOTE: This show was canceled due to health issues with Chris Thile; a rescheduled date is not yet announced.

On May 18, in one of the biggest shows of the Pavilion’s early season, Robert Plant and Alison Krauss will raise the tent as they arrive in Charlottesville for a superstar night of ethereal Americana by way of Albion. Plant’s rockstar swagger is perfectly complemented by Krauss’s bluegrass sway and the two can harmonize till the cows come home. They do a killer version of When the Levee Breaks, too.

In between, on May 11, Joe Russo’s Almost Dead—affectionately known as JRAD—brings a big ‘ol Grateful Dead show to town. Formed by drummer Joe Russo, who played for several years with the post-Dead group Furthur, the band recently marked its 10-year anniversary and can now claim its own devoted fan base while still attracting loads of loyal Deadheads. Unlike most bands, Russo and his drumkit are front and center onstage, flanked by bassist Dave Dreiwitz (of Ween), keyboardist Marco Benevento, Scott Metzger on guitar and vocals, and Tom Hamilton (American Babies, Ghost Light) on guitar and vocals. All are virtuoso musicians, but Russo is simply a monster drummer and a mesmerizing sight to behold. Like the Dead’s Stealie, Bertha, or dancing bears, JRAD fans have adopted a stylized and psychedelicized octopus as the band’s emblem. Rightfully so—it can sometimes seem as if Russo has eight arms instead of two.

Better yet, JRAD is more than a cover band. With each performance, Russo, Dreiwitz, Benevento, Metzger, and Hamilton don’t just play Dead, they honor the band’s original spirit by thoroughly blowing the songbook to smithereens, leaving nothing but a smoking crater, and building back the structure bone-by-bone. It’s the Dead, deconstructed.

Finally, a special shout-out to the mighty Lucinda Williams, who’s performing at The Jefferson on May 2. She’s back on the road after suffering a major stroke in 2020, and at age 70, is set to release a new album, Stories From a Rock ‘n’ Roll Heart, in June. The stroke left her unable to play guitar, and while she may seem frail now, rest assured that her voice is as ferocious as ever. 

And what a voice. Her molasses twang has deepened and thickened with age, but it’s as distinctive in its own way as Petty’s, or Young’s, or Dylan’s. It’s the voice of a woman who’s lived life in full and staked her claim to authenticity without compromise. She’s a songwriter’s songwriter, more poetic than most, and onstage she’s funny, opinionated, prickly, sweet, and raw as an open wound. Listen to Pineola and tell me it doesn’t knock you out flat. 

Check out more ideas for Charlottesville Experiences HERE.

Live in April 2023

April is the coolest month for a road trip. About 20 minutes southwest of Charlottesville, lies the sleepy crossroads village of Batesville. Once the bustling mid-point on the Staunton and James River Turnpike, with general stores, blacksmiths, barrel makers, and a post office, the community today revolves around the last remaining vestige of the glory days of small-town life—the Batesville Market.

Built in the 1880s, the Batesville Market is located at the corner of Plank Road and Craig’s Store Road in the center of the Batesville Historic District. The business has had several incarnations over the years, starting out as the Charles Joseph Store, then for three generations as Page’s Store. More recently it has been known as the Batesville Store and the Plank Road Exchange. Whatever the name, this country store is the heart of town. 

The current proprietors set up shop at the most inauspicious of times—March 2020. Through a mix of experience, resourcefulness, grit, and community support, they’ve weathered the dark days and gray aftermath of the pandemic and emerged as a fine example of what a modern-day country store can be. Offering an eclectic array of local food, local crafts, and a full-service deli with beer and wine, the Batesville Market now serves as a destination for thirsty, hungry travelers on the Virginia winery, brewery, and cidery trail. 

The store also has a long history of live music. Charlie Page and Page’s Store was the subject of Robin and Linda Williams’s song “Old Plank Road,” which was included in the soundtrack for the 2006 Robert Altman movie, “A Prairie Home Companion.” In recent years, bands that have performed on the Batesville Market stage include Chamomile & Whiskey, Trees on Fire, Lord Nelson, the Buzzard Hollow Boys, Mama Tried, and Kendall Street Company

This month, look for local rock ‘n’ pop stalwarts the Gladstones on April 1, the An Lar Traditional Irish Band on April 2, and the Second Sunday Bluegrass Jam on April 9. 

On April 22, Conley Ray & the Joneses bring hard country honky-tonk to Batesville. Playing a mix of classic covers and originals, this engaging band will have you boot-scooting on the hardwood and jonesing for an ice-cold Shiner Bock before the night is over. Squint and you could be in Luckenbach, Helotes, or New Braunfels.

The store even has its own house band. The Pollocks (Jason Pollock, Thomas Gunn,

Maryline Meyer, Nathan West, and Randy Mendicino) perform on the first Saturday of every month (April 8) and never fail to deliver. The group is fronted by two gifted and prolific songwriters—Pollock and Gunn—who have a knack for crafting catchy, crunchy melodies for guitar-driven rock and pop originals that seem to have been around forever. Add a rambunctiously rock-solid rhythm section (West on drums and Mendicino on bass) and a touch of European mystery (the trés chic Meyer on vocals and tambourine) and you’ve got the recipe for cooking up a Saturday night road trip. Originals comprise most of a typical set, but the band’s influences show whenever they reach into their bag of covers—Stones, Beatles, Velvets, Petty, Neil, and, on occasion Serge Gainsbourg. 

Any music night at the Batesville Market can summon up some serious magic. The outdoor stage is great for cool spring evenings, for mingling and dancing under the stars in a crossroads town. But there’s real alchemy in the room itself, a warm-sounding space that brings out the spirits of a well-worn past. The floorboards, polished by countless footsteps, creak and settle. Just inside the door, a few steps to the right, you’ll find a slight depression in the floor. This is where decades of patrons stood in line to ring up their wares at the old cash register. Yes, there is history in this place. 

Check out more ideas for Charlottesville Experiences HERE.

Live in March 2023

March music in Charlottesville has a New York state of mind as two longstanding acts out of the hinterlands of the Empire State pay visits to our town. 

The month comes in like a buffalo when Trumansburg, New York’s own Donna the Buffalo visit the Jefferson Theater on Friday, March 3. This band has been on the trail for more than 30 years now and has built up a devoted following—the Herd—drawn to its upbeat dance rhythms and zydeco-inflected roots sound. Founding members Jeb Puryear and Tara Nevins write socially conscious lyrics to tunes that allow you to really trample the floor.

Look out for a mid-week March moe.down when fellow Buffalo-area musicians, moe., return to the Jefferson on Wednesday, March 22. Kind of a thinking person’s jam band, with a history nearly as long as DTB’s and a similarly devoted fan base—the moe.rons—the quintet has survived and thrived despite a pre-Covid hiatus following bassist Rob Derhak’s brush with throat cancer (he’s now cancer-free.) 

Speaking of bands from the hinterlands—this time from the Garden State—Hoboken, New Jersey legends Yo La Tengo return to the Jefferson for a sold-out show on Thursday, March 16. 

Don’t be fooled by their slightly nebbishy record-store geek appearance. These guys (and gal) are as close to indie rock royalty as it comes. Ira Kaplan, Georgia Hubley, and James McNew have been cranking out weirdly accessible, or accessibly weird, art rock for decades and show no signs of slowing down. Few bands can go from hushed whisper (Autumn Sweater) to screaming feedback (Pass the Hatchet, I Think I’m Goodkind) like YLT. They are also the masters of the eclectic deep cut. Recent shows have seen covers from artists as disparate as the Circle Jerks and Sandy Denny.  

Charlottesville has a special place in the band’s heart, too, as longtime bassist McNew lived here for a while, spinning records for WTJU-FM and working as a parking lot attendant at the equally legendary Corner Parking Lot. Look for his cameo in The Parking Lot Movie, a must-see for a loving portrait of the old, weird Charlottesville of years past. 

Don’t be discouraged by the lack of tickets, either. The rule of thumb for committed concertgoers is that there’s always a ticket available. Just commit yourself. Get to the venue a little early, hang out, observe the crowd. Look for the guy who’s nervously scrolling or checking his phone. Strike up a conversation. Chances are he’s got your ticket. 

Check out our complete guide to Charlottesville music venues HERE.

Check out more ideas for Charlottesville Experiences HERE.

Live in December 2022

Some of Charlottesville’s best live music comes from the hands and voices of locals. Since we can all use some warm fuzzies this time of year, let’s comfort ourselves by keeping it local and celebrate music that’s home-grown as we head into December. 

The Front Porch is a Charlottesville-based nonprofit dedicated to connecting people through music. It began in 2015 on a front porch in Belmont – really, it did. Since then, it’s grown into a staple of the Charlottesville music community, offering classes, presenting concerts, and providing community outreach. Its outdoor summer music series on the grounds of the Rivanna River Company is a welcome addition to the warm weather mix and is a much-appreciated throwback to the old school laid back Cville vibe.

On Sunday, Dec. 11, starting at 4 p.m., the Front Porch is teaming up the Rivanna River Company for a cold weather cozy time event, the 2nd Annual WinterSong. Dress in your puffiest puffy for an evening of holiday revelry with live music, warm fires, and tasty seasonal beverages. This event is free and family friendly. Tara Mills and Friends will play from 5-7 p.m., followed by caroling led by members of the Front Porch. 

And on Thursday, Dec. 15, the Front Porch is the beneficiary of this year’s Xmas Jam at The Jefferson Theater. Not to be confused with the Warren Haynes-led extravaganza of the same name (that’s in Asheville, N.C.), this homegrown jam, now in its 15th year, is sponsored by the Charlottesville Music Showcase. This is a night to celebrate the season with an eclectic lineup of talented local musicians, such as Andy Waldeck, Joe Lawlor, members of Ebony Groove, Sally Rose, John D’Earth, Travis Elliott, members of Disco Risque, Chamomile & Whiskey, Kristen Rae Bowden, and a whole bunch more. The event is hosted by Tucker Rogers and BJ Pendleton

Seasons greetings everyone!

Check out our complete guide to Charlottesville music venues HERE.

Check out more ideas for Charlottesville Experiences HERE.

Live in November 2022

It may be turning cold outside but rest assured, when Keller Williams plays The Jefferson on Nov. 5, he’ll
be barefoot. Unshod, shaggy, and shreddy, Williams—20-plus years into his regular-dude-makes-good
career—can still pull off that unmistakable ‘90s slacker vibe. You know, the one where it’s 1 a.m. and
you’re three bong hits into the flip side of “Dark Side of the Moon.” Remarkably, he’s still that guy, the
amiable goofball with the guitar and the loops, but for this show, the 20th anniversary of his album,
“Laugh,” he’ll bring along the original players Tye North (Leftover Salmon) and Dave Watts (The Motet)
to reprise the disc in its entirety. And no worries, man, he’ll do “Freeker by the Speaker” —it’s on the
record.

Earlier in the week, on Nov. 2, Sarah Shook and the Disarmers play The Southern in a show that was
originally scheduled for May 2022. She and her Chapel Hill, N.C.-based band are another kind of ‘90s
throwback, but this time it’s more like the Great Alt-Country Scare of 1997 when groups like
Whiskeytown, the Bottle Rockets, the Backsliders, 6 String Drag, and Trailer Bride were traveling the
country in broke down vans and tearing up dingy rock clubs with a skronky, twangy sound that’s not
really in fashion anymore. Most of those long-gone bands hailed from the Tarheel State and Shook’s
roots remain there, but she’s created her own music that’s at once defiant, loud, and full of fractured
grace. Don’t miss the opener, Charlottesville’s own she-metal trio, Shagwüf.

Check out more ideas for Charlottesville Experiences HERE.

Live in October 2022

The days are getting crispy and cool with the advent of fall. Outdoor shows are shifting inside with the
changing season, but outdoor festivals still have a brief window before the chilly winds blow and the
temperatures plunge.

The Hoopla is one such small local music festival. Held in the shadow of Wintergreen ski resort at Devils
Backbone Basecamp in Roseland, Virginia, the Hoopla runs this year from Oct. 7-9. It’s a beautiful setting
to catch some tunes, quaff some brews, and bask in (fingers crossed) warm, sunny days and cool, get-
out-your-fleece nights.

The Saturday night headliner this year is Charley Crockett, a throwback country crooner with a mellow
baritone and mixing bowl of country blues influences that evoke Texas by way of New Orleans. He calls
his music “Gulf & Western” and he’s currently touring to support his new release, “The Man From
Waco.”

I recall a late September evening at the Hoopla in 2018 when I caught one of the last small venue
appearances from Tyler Childers. The air was electric that night. I expect it will be the same for
Crockett’s set.

Calexico, another evocative regional act that rarely makes it to our neck of the woods, will appear at The
Jefferson on Wednesday, Oct. 19. This Tucson, Arizona-based Americana, Tex-Mex, indie rock band is
the brainchild of its two main songwriters, Joey Burns and John Convertino, and they’ve been steadily
putting out a slew of records with a sound that’s best described as “high desert” since 1995. Burns and
Convertino have impeccable indie rock cred, first as members of the genuinely weird Howe Gelb project
Giant Sand, and later in the more accessible Calexico-like precursor, Friends of Dean Martinez. These
guys are pros, and this show is worth a Wednesday night.

Check out more ideas for Charlottesville Experiences HERE.

Live in September 2022

September is a month of transitions. Summer turns to fall. Summer vacation comes to an end and school begins in earnest. Days stay warm while the nights begin to cool. 

With the outdoor concert season winding down, the Ting Pavilion presents three strong shows spanning the month—from Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit (Sept. 4) to My Morning Jacket (Sept. 19) and Gary Clark Jr. (Sept. 28). 

Befitting the transition to harvest season, many local wineries and cideries offer music through September and well into the fall. Most shows are acoustic or lightly amplified and the agricultural atmosphere lends itself nicely to a mellow, golden afternoon with a glass, a few friends, and perhaps a bottle to share.

Knight’s Gambit Vineyard in western Albemarle has sweeping views of the White Hall area of the county and the Blue Ridge mountains beyond. It has a robust lineup that stresses full bands rather than solo or duo acts. The Jon Spear Band begins the month on Sept. 3 and local power pop veterans, The Gladstones, will play a benefit for ovarian cancer research on Sept. 25. 

The Glass House Winery near Free Union features a stage inside of a large tropical conservatory that is a welcome refuge when the weather is on the cool side. Local indie-pop band Boxed Lunch is scheduled for Sept. 9.  

Potter’s Craft Cider is just a hop, skip, and a jump from the Charlottesville city limits on Rt. 29 South. The restored stone building has an English country house feel to it and its location on a wooded hill beside the railroad tracks evokes a bygone era. Watch out for and rock steady with The Cows on Sept. 10.

And a cidery that uses vintage apple varieties to evoke the fruit’s heyday in these parts, Albemarle CiderWorks, is located a bit further south on Rt. 29. It hosts singer-songwriter Tara Mills on Sept. 11. 

Check out more ideas for Charlottesville Experiences HERE.

August 2022

These days, the final dog days of summer invariably coincide with the Days Between—the equally celebratory and poignant nine days (Aug. 1-9) that mark the time between Jerry Garcia’s birthday and the date he died in 1995. Named after the mournful, late-period Garcia/Hunter tune, “Days Between,” Deadheads know that early August means they can depend on a few local bands to play Grateful Dead music somewhere in their town. Charlottesville is no exception.

On August 5, Fridays After Five hosts Mama Tried, a local Dead cover band composed of Cville musical stalwarts Susan Munson, Charlie Pastorfield, Stuart Holme, Kent Raine, and Sam Johnston. While they’ve recently introduced a batch of catchy original songs to their set, they can still knock out a mean “Brown Eyed Women” when they want to. The vibes continue Saturday, August 6 with a dose of pure Jerry from Sisters and Brothers as it brings its interpretation of the Garcia Band to The Southern

But that’s not all, folks. The rest of the month has a full slate of excellent shows around town. On Wednesday, August 17 Greensky Bluegrass and The Wood Brothers team up for an evening of Americana at the Ting Pavilion. On Tuesday, August 30, Hiss Golden Messenger returns to the Jefferson. Spearheaded by prolific songwriter M.C. Taylor, master of soulful mid-tempo roots rock, Hiss is one of the best and most consistently excellent touring bands out there.

The August show to be on the lookout for, in this writer’s humble opinion, is Town Mountain at The Southern on Friday, August 19. This Asheville, N.C.-based band started out as a nimble bluegrass unit with a touch of outlaw country. With the recent addition of Sturgill Simpson’s drummer Miles Miller, Town Mountain may be on the verge of a big-time break out in much the same way as Billy Strings and Tyler Childers did in the last few years. They may not be playing small venues like the Southern in the future, so catch ‘em while you can. 

Check out more ideas for Charlottesville Experiences HERE.

July 2022

What a summer. By mid-June, it was already hotter than Hades, as my mom used to say. Don’t be surprised, if, by mid-July, it’s fry-an-egg-on-the-sidewalk-hot outside.

So what could be better than a night of red hot Texas blues in a cool, classic theater? Jimmie Vaughan comes to The Jefferson on Saturday, July 16. If his name isn’t immediately familiar, it may be due to the fact that his little brother was a guy named Stevie Ray. Yeah, THAT Stevie Ray

Nevertheless, the elder Vaughan is no slouch on the Stratocaster and is considered one of the best blues guitarists in the business. With a signature Fender Strat in his name, a recent tour opening for (and playing with) Eric Clapton, and four Grammys under his belt, Vaughan has little to prove – and a lot to play.

Never as flashy as his late brother, Vaughan was the rock-solid center of The Fabulous Thunderbirds, an ‘80s-era Austin band that had a taste of commercial success with the 1986 album, “Tuff Enuf.” He’s been on his own since 1990 and continues to uphold the jazz and rock-influenced Texas blues tradition of legends such as T-Bone Walker, as well as the Three Kings (Albert, Freddie, and B.B.)

Vaughan recently released “The Jimmie Vaughan Story,” a career-spanning five-CD box set. The current set of shows, titled “The Story Tour,” should draw from all phases of his career. 

I remember seeing the Fabulous Thunderbirds in the spring of 1982. They played an outdoor show in the gravel parking lot in front of the gym at my small Virginia college. Vaughan, his hair slicked back, in jeans, white t-shirt, and shades, was the epitome of cool. At 71, he’s still cool enough—and tough enough—to catch on a hot summer’s night. 

Check out more ideas for Charlottesville Experiences here.

June

A few weeks ago, the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, or Jazz Fest, made a triumphant return to the Crescent City after a two-year hiatus. If you were fortunate enough to make it down there, you know what I’m talking about when I say there ain’t no place like NOLA for a healthy dose of musical funkification. And red beans and rice, of course.

It’s no exaggeration to say that New Orleans is foundational to American music. It’s more than just the birthplace of jazz, it’s where that most indigenous of American art forms gets all mixed up with the blues, R&B, rock, funk, and hip hop to create its own mélange of styles, which is just a fancy way of saying a gumbo of influences. 

That’s why it’s so exciting that the Ting Pavilion is hosting Trombone Shorty’s Voodoo Threauxdown on Sunday, June 19th. This mini-Jazz Fest, curated by Troy Andrews, aka Trombone Shorty, is a blast from the Big Easy, with enough meat on the bone to satisfy even the most devoted fans of New Orleans music.

With Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue as the headliners, the bill also includes a range of musicians associated with the past, present, and future of the city’s traditions. The other artists on the Threauxdown include Tank and the Bangas, Big Freedia, Cyril Neville the Uptown Ruler, and The Soul Rebels

But the act I’m most stoked to see is George Porter, Jr. and Dumpstaphunk playing the music of The Meters. If N’awlins is where it all began, then The Meters were there at the Big Bang, and George Porter, Jr. was holding down the bottom end on bass. Dumpstaphunk, headed by Ivan Neville, is the spiritual heir to The Meters and the band that best captures their pioneering sound. It’s a dream pairing of New Orleans musical royalty that may not be repeated any time soon, so if you want to seriously funkify your life, be sure you make it to the Pavilion on June 19.

Check out more ideas for Charlottesville Experiences here.

May

May has sprung.

Outdoor shows flourish in the sweet spot before the summer heat drives us all inside again. With old standby Fridays After Five in full swing, look for a fledgling concert series to keep the river of vibes flowing into Saturday evening. 

Rivanna Roots is a concert collaboration between local music collective The Front Porch, Rivanna River Company, and Sun Tribe Solar, held on the banks of the Rivanna River. In keeping with The Front Porch’s nonprofit status, the concerts will support Roots & Wings, a comprehensive music education program for children. The inaugural lineup, which begins in May and runs into sweater weather in October, is an impressive cross-section of local talent. We Are Star Children kicks things off in style on Saturday, May 21. Rivanna Roots is a welcome addition to Charlottesville’s summer scene.

If lazing on a blanket by the river is a little too mellow for you, the Southern Café & Music Hall has several options for breaking out the black t-shirts and Keds sneakers. May is packed with good stuff. 

On Sunday, May 8, old skool wild man Jon Spencer brings his latest band The Hitmakers to town. 

Spencer has played his patented brand of distorted fuzz-rawk with everyone from The Sadies (RIP Dallas Good) to R.L. Burnside. When Spencer (with the Blues Explosion) teamed up with Burnside for the 1996 classic “A Ass Pocket of Whiskey,” the planet shifted slightly on its axis. I still put this one on for maximum-volume R&R therapy. Bonus: On the skins with the Hitmakers and opening band Quasi is none other than Sleater-Kinney alum Janet Weiss. I do not plan to miss this Sunday show. 

And if that doesn’t satisfy your girl power jones, Sarah Shook & the Disarmers, with Shagwuf, are at the Southern on Friday, May 27. Shook, whose popularity continues to rise, may not be playing clubs this size for much longer. Catch her while you can.

April

Wow. Spring has sprung and shows are popping up  just like daffodils as two years of pent-up demand, from both performers and patrons, brings live music back to bars, clubs, theaters, and larger venues.

Shows Not to Miss

April at the Ting Pavilion promises three great shows within 10 days – Modest Mouse (4/19), The String Cheese Incident (4/21), and Old Crow Medicine Show (4/28). On Saturday, April 30, Pro Re Nata brewery in Crozet will host New Potato Caboose in its airy and spacious performance space. This reunion gig from the ‘80s jam band pioneers (they are contemporaries of homegrown heroes Indecision) promises to bring in a crowd that’s older, not necessarily wiser, but definitely ready for an excuse to trip down memory lane.

Old Venue, New Life

Speaking of crowds, I ventured out to local dive bar Dürty Nelly’s on St. Patrick’s Day. I realize the day that honors the patron saint of the Emerald Isle can turn into a green beer amateur hour headache, but I was curious to check out the pub’s new outdoor patio. Sure enough, a steady stream of honorary Irish lads and lasses packed the bar three deep as happy hour turned into dinner hour and beyond. The patio is located smack on the corner of Fontaine and Jefferson Park Ave and it’s a great place to people-watch as well as a highly visible advertisement for what I’m calling the Nelly’s renaissance, or Nelly-sance.

The new management has taken a beloved, but (if we’re being honest here) declining, establishment and breathed new life into the old girl. The old-school regulars still haunt happy hour, but Nelly’s now has added a patina of cool to go along with the layer of beer, grease, and old cigarette smoke. The patrons sport more ink, piercings, lumberjack beards, dreads, and high-water skinny jeans (what’s up with that look anyway?) than before. That’s a good thing because dive bars are not to be taken for granted. This town already has precious few. By tweaking around the edges without changing the essential nature of what made this joint unique, the new owners have made Nelly’s into a throwback place where locals, hipsters, undergrads, grad students, and assorted ne’er-do-wells can feel at home. And don’t forget the working fireplace, the only bar that has one (that I know of) in Charlottesville. 

Even better, with a brand-new house PA system, Nelly’s has improved what was already one of the best-sounding small room music venues in town. They’ve been steadily building up the live music bookings and now have offerings most nights and on weekends. I’m psyched to see the Silas Frayser Band on the lineup for April 16. Frayser is a singer-songwriter in the bluegrass vein of Tyler Childers, but with a more hippie country feel. It should be a great evening to celebrate the Nelly-sance.

Viva Nelly’s!

March

Okay, I’m going to get this one out of the way right up front: Southern Culture on the Skids is NOT the title of a Ph.D. dissertation on the decline and fall of a depraved Faulknerian family dynasty. It’s the name of a long-running band out of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, that might just be the most fun you can have without getting nekkid. They hit The Southern on Friday, March 4.

Formed in 1983, the band consists of Rick Miller on guitar, Dave Hartman on drums, and Mary Huff on bass. This southern-fried power trio serves up an adult portion of some of the funkiest, slinkiest, greasiest tunes this side of the wrong side of the tracks. Their manic stage show is a sight to behold and makes the best use of a bucket of Wayco fried chicken I’ve ever seen (Eight Piece Box). The music itself exists in a dimension all its own way out where surf, punk, garage, and psychobilly intersect. 

Over the years, I’ve seen SCOTS (as most fans know them) more times than I can count. Once, at The Jefferson, I witnessed two drunk frat boys catch pieces of fried chicken and hurl them back at Mary Huff way harder than they should have. Huff, in all her badassery, sized them up, made the V-shaped, in front the eyes “I see you” sign, gave them the finger, and never lost the beat. I worship her to this day. 

Fried chicken mischief aside, SCOTS loves Charlottesville. They’ve passed through here many times, making regular stops at long-gone venues such as the Outback Lodge and Zippers. Don’t miss them when they descend on the Southern.

Later in the month at The Southern, check out a record release show from Nelson County’s finest, Lord Nelson (March 12) The Wooks (March 16) for some bluegrass, and, at the Jefferson, a two-night run with jamgrass stalwarts Railroad Earth (March 25 and 26).

Check out more ideas for Charlottesville Experiences here.

February 2022

It’s a good thing that February is the shortest month. It’s consistently cold, it still gets dark early, and we’re all genuinely fed up with winter. So, in honor of the season, this month’s entry will be brief.

And to add to the season’s misery, covid is still with us and is playing havoc with concert scheduling. At least two shows at The JeffersonYola (Feb. 13) and The Cadillac Three (Feb. 17)—have been postponed. So be advised to check the venue’s website before you go out.

The show that really grabbed my ear this month is Mdou Moctar at the Jefferson on Feb. 26. This left-handed guitar shredder is an ethnic Tuareg who hails from a tiny village in Niger. Inspired as a kid by Eddie Van Halen, Moctar and his band weave hypnotic textures of psychedelic Afro-pop, traditional melodies, flat-out guitar pyrotechnics, and socially conscious lyrics (in Tuareg, natch). 

When I listened to his latest release, Afrique Victime, I heard echoes of another mesmeric guitarist, Philadelphia-based Steve Gunn. I’ve been a fan of Gunn’s music for several years, and his hooky songs conjure up a dreamlike state with catchy, repeated melodies. He’s a prolific artist, and sure enough, when I checked his website, I found that he’s just released an EP, Nakama, with bassist Mikey Coltun and rhythm guitarist Ahmoudou Madassane from Moctar’s band. Kindred spirits, indeed. 

Moctar’s music is as expansive as his native Sahel, that vast region of Africa just south of the Sahara Desert. The opener, Emily Robb, is a one-woman guitar whirlwind whose squalling, feedback drenched instrumentals should be the perfect lead into the main act. I can’t think of a better way to spend a bitter February evening. 

January 2022

Omicron willing, January is a good month to go underground. It’s cold outside and even the hardiest music fans find that layering up only gets you so far. And besides, numb fingers can make musicians a bit grumpy.

At the Jefferson, check out the dark country tones of Lost Dog Street Band on Sunday, Jan. 30. Starting out as buskers, guitarist/vocalist Benjamin Tod and fiddle player Ashley Mae (with bassist Jeff Loops) delve deep into a ghostly Americana sound that evokes rough living, hard roads, and the redemptive power of song. Their upcoming album, Glory, echoes the stripped-down old time folk ballad direction the band will likely follow when it takes the stage. This show was moved from the Southern, so the buzz seems to be strong on this one. Also check out their cover of Warren Zevon’s classic junkie lament, Carmelita, from The Magnolia Sessions, a disc of originals and covers recorded live under the shade of a Southern magnolia on a hot, humid summer evening in Nashville.

The rest of the month belongs to The Southern. Jocelyn & Chris (Jan. 13) are brother/sister rockers with a big outdoor summer festival sound. This one promises to be loud and sweaty. Ryley Walker (Jan. 23) is an adept fingerstyle guitarist with roots in the flourishing Chicago indie scene. Palindromic jam band Dopapod cranks it up on Jan. 28 and the following night (Jan. 29), Nellie McKay, who has been making records since 2003, brings her torchy cabaret-style act to this small venue. 

And if you’re willing to go further afield, Crozet’s Pro Re Nata Brewery has a full schedule slated for January. PRN has plenty of room for music with a spacious main hall and a smaller outdoor side stage. On Jan. 7, local Grateful Dead tribute band, the ‘77z, pays homage to the sound of the Dead in and around their late ‘70s, mid-career heyday, and usually open the second set with a killer Help/Slipknot/Franklin’s.

December 2021

The spirit of the season is upon us. Robert Earl Keen is back in town on Wednesday, Dec. 8th at The Jefferson with his annual Christmas show, this year titled, “The Road to Christmas.” Keen’s signature holiday song, referenced below, has become a kind of country-fried, three-sheets-to-the-wind, Yuletide singalong and a staple of his live show. 

…Carve the turkey, turn the ball game on

Make Bloody Marys ’cause we all want one

Send somebody to the Stop ‘N Go

We need some celery and a can of fake snow…

  • Robert Earl Keen, “Merry Christmas From the Family”

Several years ago, he began structuring a holiday-themed tour centered around subjects ranging from the Apollo moon landing to ‘70s outlaw country. The evening showcases a selection of songs from each band member, a cluster of Keen classics, and features elaborate stage sets. But the centerpiece is “Merry Christmas From the Family” and its irreverent evocation of fractured – yet loving – family dynamics. The song is like a good-natured second cousin to fellow Texan James McMurtry’s more barbed and cynical “Choctaw Bingo.”

While Keen is a serious songwriter and a well, keen, observer of human nature, he’s also a master of the boozy party anthem. Keen always enlists a solid Texas-based opening act for this tour. In 2019, it was Shinyribs, and this year it’s singer-songwriter Waylon Payne. If you really want to get into the holiday spirit, don’t miss this show. Just remember to call an Uber and consider calling in a sick day on Thursday.

At the Southern, check out North Carolina-based Zack Mexico with New Boss and Piranha Rama on Saturday, Dec. 11. Signed to local label, Warhen Records, Zack Mexico has an interesting psychedelic surf sound anchored by two drummers. The band opened for Future Islands on a 2017 European tour. 

And that’s it for the month. See you next year!

…A bag of lemons and some Diet Sprites

A box of tampons and some Salem Lights

Hallelujah, everybody say “Cheese”

Merry Christmas from the family

Feliz Navidad!

November 2021

The live music lineup for November looks promising. See our top recommendations below. But first, allow me to riff a tad…

On Friday nights, the Champion Brewing Company taproom is punk AF. 

Tucked away just off the Downtown Mall at 324 6th St. SE, this local brewery has more of a dive bar feel than others in the area. The sidewalk-level entrance leads to a basic barstool, a handful of tables facing two TVs and a big picture window of the brewing operation. The walls are decorated with framed black-and-white photos of historic, and in many cases, long vanished Charlottesville street scenes. But the real action is found on the outdoor patio area, a pandemic-era addition that includes a covered stage and ample picnic table seating. 

On a recent Friday, a friend and I checked out a trio of local bands – Linda., Girl Choir, and the XSmashcasters – and it was a blast. Each band played a short set and the music ranged from indie rock to power pop crunch to punk yowl. It was loud, fast, and over by 10 p.m. 

It was also a reminder that Charlottesville used to have small venues like Tokyo Rose, the Outback Lodge, the Annex, and a succession of others that hosted bands just venturing out from the garage. The Southern, the Front Porch, Miller’s, the Looking Glass space at Ix Art Park, and, well, the Garage are still out there, but the Champion taproom shows seem like a welcome throwback to the kind of indie rock showcase gigs that should exist in every respectable college town. Check out the apt pairing of Boxed Lunch and 7th Grade Girl Fight on Friday, Nov. 5th.  

Both The Jefferson and The Southern have full slates in November. At the Jeff, join the Herd (as the fans are known) as jam band pioneers Donna the Buffalo (Nov. 6) trample their way through town. On Nov. 10, Circles Around the Sun play instrumental psychedelic jams, and to continue the Grateful Dead-adjacent theme, Lettuce roll into town on the 14th. Their Jerry Garcia Band-focused throwdown with members of Dead and Company at Lockn 2018 has gone down as one of that festival’s hottest sets ever. And to top off the licorice sundae (Deadheads will get the reference) Bigfoot County with Brothers and Sisters do a full-on pre-Thanksgiving Dead tribute on Nov. 24.

At The Southern, November has more of an Americana vibe. Chris Smither (Nov. 3) and Martin Sexton (Nov. 12) check the singer-songwriter box, while all-woman string band Della Mae (Nov. 14) and post-Old Crow Medicine Show Willie Watson (Nov. 16) check the folk and bluegrass boxes. Happy Thanksgiving!

October 2021

Say a warm goodbye to the 2021 season at the Ting Pavilion as folkie stalwarts the Indigo Girls take the stage on Oct. 26.

But Wait! This just in: Management has just announced a crowd-pleasing Halloween show! Chamomile & Whiskey is already one of the best live acts in Charlottesville, hands down. The band’s Halloween Bash, like its St. Patrick’s Day throwdown, is the stuff of local legend. Don’t miss this show!

Then winter will have its way with this outdoor venue. Never fear! With spring shows already scheduled for the String Cheese Incident and Leon Bridges, here’s hoping for a full 2022 slate—heralding a return to normal—to be announced soon.

The action shifts inside as the fashion slides into flannel and fleece. The Jefferson opens the month with a one-two punch of Tennessee-based bands. I’ve got a soft spot for Boy Named Banjo (Oct. 7) — Note: this show has been moved to The Southern — because two of the founding members went to Sewanee, where I grew up, and the band’s gentle, Avett-style Americana is a great choice for date night. 

Lucero (Oct. 17), on the other hand, hails from Memphis. These guys have been playing greasy, punky, Southern alt-rock for a long time and are the perfect choice for when your date bails, or better yet, if she shows up in cowboy boots, ripped jeans, Sun Records t-shirt, and a trucker hat. Yowza!

The shows come fast and furious the last week of the month, with two jam-heavy bands (Spafford, Oct 26; Tauk, Oct. 30) bookending a couple of rootsier alternatives. Lubbock-based Flatland Cavalry (Oct. 28) showcase fiddle-heavy tunes full of Texas twang and ‘tude. On Oct, 29, literate and long-lived The Mountain Goats bring the kind of indie cred that’s possible when your front man, John Darnielle, is a New York Times bestselling author and your drummer Jon Wurster’s other gig is with Superchunk

Down at the Southern, two shows stand out. Chatham County Line sprang out of the Great Alt-Country Scare of the late 1990s and has had several discs released on Yep Roc Records. The Raleigh-based quartet recently added a drummer to its mostly stringed instrument lineup. The band’s 2019 all covers release, Sharing the Covers, included a great version of Wilco’s I Got You (At the End of the Century). Politely request that one at their Oct. 16 show. 

On Oct. 24, Austin-based Emily Wolfe brings her skronky, effects-heavy guitar rawk to the club, with a show that should please all the gear heads out there. The Southern is one of the last underground (literally) clubs left in Charlottesville, (RIP The Mineshaft and Tokyo Rose) and it’s a great place to see a band that’s really loud. Wear your ear plugs for this one or stand right next to the speaker. It’s your choice. 

See our comprehensive list of Live Performance venues here.