Showtime in C’ville

The Declaration – scene – August 31, 2006

By John Ruscher

If you’re a first year, you might not know what to expect from the music scene here in Charlottesville. On that orientation tour this summer you probably learned that Dave Matthews got his start here. If that fact suddenly made you reconsider your decision to attend Jefferson’s fine university, I’m happy to tell you that though Dave’s influence is present, there are plenty of venues, people, and organizations to help you forget that shit.
Twisted Branch Tea Bazaar (414 East Main St.)

Often called the “Tea Haus” among those in the know, Twisted Branch is a essential spot for underground music in Charlottesville. They host many smaller touring acts, as well as local and regional bands. Bands range from experimental electronic to psych-folk to post-punk to breakbeat to whatever else you can imagine. Along with the music, you can enjoy a wide variety of teas and other delicious edibles.

How to get there: On the Downtown Mall. Take the trolley or ride your bike.

Past shows: Circle, Calvin Johnson, Ris Paul Ric, Nethers, Jason Forrest.

Upcoming shows: USAISAMONSTER, Decibully, The Extraordinaires, Howling Hex, Joe Lally.

Satellite Ballroom (1435 University Ave.)

The Ballroom is a fairly new venue. Since opening a year and a half ago, they have steadily improved their show schedule. This fall is looking like the best yet. In addition to the Dec-sponsored Xiu Xiu show, there are many other great acts coming to the Ballroom. If things stay on track, the venue will be well on its way to becoming a popular stop between North Carolina and DC for national acts on tour.

How to get there: On the Corner, in the alley next to Plan 9 Records.

Past shows: Caribou, Mogwai, Silver Jews, John Vanderslice, Dungen, Tilly and the Wall.

Upcoming shows: Architecture in Helsinki, Of Montreal, Wolf Eyes, Xiu Xiu, Cursive, Mates of State, Islands.
Atomic Burrito (109 2nd St.)

Atomic Burrito serves burritos during the day and beer and music at night. Atomic hosts rock, punk, and acoustic shows, usually with no cover charge. The down side is that the place is usually 21+ at night. You might not want to risk making the trek from dorms just for a show if you are underage.

How to get there: Atomic Burrito is located on 2nd Street, right off the Downtown Mall.

Past shows: Sarah White,Graboids, Jim Waive and the Young Divorcees.

Upcoming shows: Uh . . . not sure. They don’t have a website, so look for fliers.

Gravity Lounge (103 South 1st St.)

Gravity Lounge is a modern-looking eclectic bookstore and venue. Their space is really nice, but ticket prices can often be very high. Most acts that come here are aimed towards clientele older than us college students, but occasionally they book a really sweet show.

How to get there: Gravity Lounge is on 1st St. right off the Downtown Mall.

Past shows: Mary Lou Lord, Akron/Family.

Upcoming shows: Smog, Bella Morte.

Outback Lodge (917 Preston Ave.)

The location of Outback Lodge makes it a difficult place to go unless you have a car, but if you are looking for unabashed loud rock and similar things, this is the place to find it. Every Saturday the Lodge hosts The Dawning, a popular goth/industrial club night with a combination of DJs and live music.

How to get there: Go down 14th St. until you reach Preston Ave. Turn right, and Outback will be on your left at the top of the hill.

Past shows: The Sad Lives of the Hollywood Lovers, Bella Morte.

Upcoming shows: All of Fifteen, No Gods No Monsters.

Starr Hill Music Hall (709 W. Main St.)

Besides being a tasty microbrewery, Starr Hill also has a music hall that hosts a wide array of shows. Though it is associated with the Dave empire (its owner, Coran Capshaw, is Dave’s manager), it brings in a respectable number of big indie acts.

How to get there: Go past the Corner and down Main St. Starr Hill will be on your left after the bridge.

Past shows: Built to Spill, Frank Black, Steve Malkmus & The Jicks, Neko Case, My Morning Jacket, Death Cab for Cutie, Ben Kweller.

Upcoming Shows: Jose Gonzalez, Del: The Funkee Homosapien, Junior Boys, The Melvins

Charlottesville Pavilion (Downtown Mall)

The Charlottesville Pavilion, a new addition to the Downtown Mall and another Capshaw investment, brings in big acts, which means you’re gonna pay big bucks. But a few of the bands that they have brought are worth the money.

Past shows: The Pixies, Wilco, Drive-By Truckers, Ryan Adams.

Upcoming shows: Flaming Lips, Deerhoof, Lyle Lovett, George Clinton and Parliament.

Tyrannosaurus Rock

A few years ago a few students got together and started T-Rock, a club that puts on DIY shows both on grounds and around Charlottesville. They work on a shoe-string budget, but with hard work and creativity, T-Rock has been able to bring tons of awesome bands to Charlottesville. Tyrannosaurus Rock shows are often in unusual places, such as warehouses, chapels and classrooms. You can stay in-the-know by going to their website and signing up for the mailing list.

Past shows: Melt Banana, The Wrens, Calvin Johnson, Harry and the Potters, Jackie-O-Motherfucker, Magik Markers, Mt Eerie, Q and not U.

Upcoming shows: Architecture in Helsinki, Yellow Swans, Mouthus, Calvin Johnson/Mt. Eerie.

WTJU (91.1)

WTJU is U.Va.’s college radio station. They play just about everything, from jazz to classical to folk to rock. If you dream of hearing your own voice and musical selections on the radio, fill out a volunteer application from their website or stop by the studio, which is located in the Lambeth Commons.

Nailgun is a local music blog that provides up-to-date show listings, as well as other news, previews and photos. If you want to know who’s playing in town, this is the place to find out.
PK German

The live music subcommittee of the University’s Program Council, PK German brings a variety of bands to U.Va. each year. For the past few years, PK German has organized an independent music festival called Fest Full of Rock. Previous participants in the festival include Pretty Girls Make Graves, Q and not U, The Unicorns, Pedro The Lion, Les Savy Fav, Wolf Eyes, Engine Down, RJD2, Hopesfall, Avail and many more. If you’d like to see something like this happen again, attend PK German meetings and help suggest ideas and bands.


Monkeyclaus is a “combined recording studio, digital music distributor, arts collective and social movement” located outside of Charlottesville. Those involved in the organization have helped contribute to Charlottesville music. They co-sponsored a show with Liars and The Apes, they have conducted interviews with many of the experimental and progressive musicians that have come through town, and they have provided many live recordings and reviews of local shows on their website.

There you have it. With the information above, you are ready to set foot out into the world of the Charlottesville independent music scene. But wait a second. Before you start heading out to that show, remember that underground music exists because of the people who make it happen. Don’t just stand there and nod your head while you’re watching the band. Find a way to make Charlottesville music your own. Go to Tyrannosaurus Rock and PK German meetings and help set up shows, talk to the people around you and make friends, review a show for the Dec (really!), or just fucking dance. Many people have made music in Charlottesville great, and you have a chance to make it even better.

John Ruscher is a fourth-year English major who likes that one Creed song with the moaning.

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