Remembering the Scene: Four Years Full of Rock

The Declaration – scene – April 26, 2007

By John Ruscher

Sunday night at Satellite Ballroom, Japanese psychedelic rockers Acid Mothers Temple blew my mind. It was a fitting finale for my music experiences during college. My fondest memories of the past four years are almost all music-related, and in this article I will look back at the many musical possibilities that I found at U.Va. and in Charlottesville.

My first encounter with music at U.Va. dates back to the first Fest Full of Rock which I attended as a high school senior. My friends and I showed up to the festival late in the afternoon only to find that it was sold out. Luckily, we were resourceful young kids, and we weaseled our way inside to see D.C.’s Q And Not U. This chance to see one my favorite bands on Grounds was a good sign of things to come.

Next year, my first of college, brought the second Fest Full of Rock, where I watched the now-extinct Unicorns swing from the rafters of the Student Activities Building and play their quirky synth pop numbers. My big regret of the night was dipping out early to go to a frat party instead of seeing RJD2. What was I thinking?

I made up for this mistake by helping organize the third Fest Full of Rock in 2006, which featured Les Savy Fav, my favorite live band ever, as the headlining act. The band put on an incredible show, with lead singer Tim Harrington swinging a fan’s video camera by its strap, running outside of Satellite Ballroom to sing through the windows, and convincing the entire crowd to lay down on the floor as the show ended.

While I regretted missing RJD2, there were some parties worth attending. One of my most memorable moments from first-year was dancing to The Faint’s Danse Macabre in an apartment on Montibello Circle. DJ Gavin Holland’s Release dance night at Rapture was another quality booty-shaking experience. While alcohol was a useful expedient for letting loose, it wasn’t always necessary. At a friend’s afternoon birthday party, a booze-free dance party broke out in a vacant bedroom.

Second year, living next to the RC in Lambeth made it difficult to host a full-fledged party, but, as my roommates or anyone who attended one of our 473-1 bashes can attest, we still partied hard. Our soirees involved dancing wildly to Annie, Daft Punk and Funeral until the resident staff knocked on the door and threatened to VSOC everyone.

During my first two years at U.Va., I also met some like-minded musicians and formed my first real band. Though our existence was fairly short-lived, we did get to play some sweet shows, including a couple with the great Cataract Camp, a Tyrannosaurus Rock benefit, and a gig in New York City.

After the experience of a proper rock band, I happened upon Matthew Burtner’s Introduction to Music and Computers class and the inhabitants of Cabell Hall’s Virginia Center for Computer Music. While I still love to bang on a guitar, there is something extremely satisfying about taking an idea from one’s mind, molding it with a computer, and then sending it out into the sonic world.

And of course there have been countless shows. Going to see live music has been one of my favorite things to do for as long as I have seriously liked music, and during my time here I’ve been lucky to see a ridiculous amount of awesome bands. There are many memorable moments, and many people to thank for them.

Atsushi Miura and the other good people at the Tokyo Rose brought great acts like Of Montreal, Circulatory System, and The Carlsonics before the stage shut down at the end of 2004. I only caught the tail end of the basement’s legendary days, but I’m happy to have experienced it.

When the Rose was gone, others stepped up to the plate, including the Twisted Branch Tea Bazaar and Satellite Ballroom. Memorable nights at the tea house include being mesmerized by Finnish krautrockers Circle, hearing Page France cover Dylan’s “Girl from the North Country” and dancing uncontrollably to the glitchy electro-piracy of Jason Forrest.

I can’t mention Satellite Ballroom without expressing infinite thanks to Danny Shea, who, despite having another full-time job as well as a wife and kid, has worked his ass off to bring a slew of amazing bands to Charlottesville. With amazing shows ranging from Melt Banana to the Silver Jews to Kid Koala, the Ballroom has become the best venue in Charlottesville.

Of course, proper clubs or concert halls aren’t necessary for throwing awesome shows, and three-year-old CIO Tyrannosaurus Rock has repeatedly demonstrated this fact. The group has combined wonderful bands and unlikely concert spaces for many magical shows. Listening to Mount Eerie in the pitch-dark Chapel and witnessing USAISAMONSTER shake the foundations of Maury Hall are only a couple of the great experiences that I’ve had at Tyrannosaurus Rock shows.

House shows have been another highlight of my live music experiences. Abodes like Fort Summit and Chez Dank have brought energetic shows with bands like Ultra Dolphins, Order of the Dying Orchid and Truman Sparks. Hosting these shows involves the risks of letting strange people into your house and enraging the neighbors, so thanks to those people who have willingly opened their doors for music.

Volunteering at WTJU, U.Va.’s college radio station, has become my newest way of interacting with music while at college. This month’s rock marathon provided a excellent time, whether it was helping out Tyler and Davis with their music show, listening to two hours of Leonard Cohen, or being turned onto Dusty Springfield by the “British Soul Birds” show.

I could never sum up my complete aural experiences over the past four years, but above are some moments that stood out. When I came to U.Va., I did not expect to find much musical excitement or creativity, but fortunately I was quite wrong. If you are graduating, hopefully you have similar memories and satisfaction. If you are younger, remember that, whether you want to space out, get down, rock out, tune in, or do whatever else with music, it’s all right at your fingertips.

John Ruscher is a fourth-year English major who will always be the quintessential indie kid in our hearts.

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