School of rock: A guide to Lynchburg music venues [The News & Advance, Lynchburg, Va.]
(News & Advance (Lynchburg, VA) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Feb. 27--Sometimes it's the view.
Like when U2's now-legendary 1983 show at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Golden, Colo., showcased the Dublin quartet just as they were amassing a devoted following in the States.
Four years before the release of "The Joshua Tree," an album that made them one of the most popular bands in the world, the historic venue provided a stirring backdrop for their sweeping sound, complete with a sleety mist and enigmatic allure that seemed to soften the rock's edge.
But sometimes it's the history.
Like when an Irishman by the name of Pat Kenny opened Kenny's Castaways as a supper club on the Upper East Side after immigrating to the Big Apple in the late 1960s. An ardent supporter of all types of music, he wanted his venue to showcase diverse, up-and-coming talent, not just established acts.
There, in the early 1970s, singer/songwriter Willie Nile recognized a young man with a scruffy beard sitting at the bar: Bruce Springsteen, who'd just released his debut album, "Greetings From Asbury Park" and played some of his first New York gigs at the famed establishment.
And, yet, sometimes it's the sense of discovery.
Like when Nirvana took the stage at the OK Hotel in Seattle and unleashed "Smells Like Teen Spirit" in concert for the first time in April of 1991 -- debuting a song that not only would change the lives of Kurt Cobain and company, but would, in just a few short months, alter the course of popular music.
Whether it was Neil Young christening The Roxy stage on Sunset Boulevard in the fall of 1973 or Dave Matthews Band cutting its jam-band teeth at Charlottesville's Jefferson Theater in the early 1990s, each musicians' potential rise to the top has to start somewhere. And that somewhere typically is the local bar, rock club or music hall in their hometown.
With that in mind, we thought it was time to compile a list of venues in and around Lynchburg, where budding artists continue to hone their skills, established veterans showcase their mastery, and everyone hopes to prove they have the will to rock. (This is by no means a complete list; there are plenty of other venues out there, so we suggest you use this as a starting point)
Academy of Fine Arts (Warehouse Theatre), 600 Main St. (capacity: 320)
This cozy hall -- which hosted the likes of country music icon Marty Stuart and jazz specialist Freddy Cole this year -- puts the audience within earshot of catching a guitar string break while not leaving the entertainers or concertgoers too close for comfort.
Blues soulstress Shemekia Copeland, who's shared the stage with luminaries like the Rolling Stones and Eric Clapton, is set to perform March 15.
And with more than 20,000 square feet of space being readied in the historic Academy of Music Theatre on Main Street, executive director David Jenkins says the additional venue will be "small enough so there's not a bad seat in the house and big enough to bring in nationally touring acts, from alternative rock to modern folk to R&B." For more information, call (434) 846-8499 or visit www.academyfinearts.com.
Baine's Books and Coffee, 205 Main St. in Appomattox (capacity: 50)
Although more than 50 people actually can fit inside the three-story coffeehouse, which is situated between a bank and a row of shops in the heart of downtown Appomattox, the staff prefers to set up musicians in a modest corner of the shop's ground floor, adjacent to its vast selection of literature. Acoustic guitars and banjos hang along large, wooden columns around the space, creating the ideal setting for a stripped-down jam. Every Thursday is open-mic night, and Friday and Saturday nights boast a range of stylings, from bluegrass to Americana to gospel. (434) 352-3711, www.bainesbooks.com.
The Drowsy Poet, 3700 Candlers Mountain Road (capacity: 100)
Owners Nathan and Shani Roberts bought this nearly 30-year-old business last March, hoping to restore the cafe to its heyday of popularity. Determined to have it be a spot where the community can gather and showcase their talent, the couple is bringing in a rotating cast of musicians for weekly entertainment during open-mic nights every Thursday and shows every Saturday.
There's an elevated stage for performers along the back wall, and Shani says they'd like to add more lighting and an in-house sound system sometime in the future. Local neo-soulsters Josh and Jay, who blend elements of R&B and hip-hop, currently are fulfilling a venue residency every Friday night. And with spring just around the corner, concerts out on the patio are sure to crank up again as well. (434) 845-8800, www.drowsypoetcs.com.
The Ellington, 421 Rivermont Ave. (capacity: 175)
Serving as a part of the cultural and historic tapestry of the city since its construction in the early 1900s, this converted playhouse was a dinner theater venue in the mid-1980s.
The focus shifted to live music more than 20 years ago, with acts like flat-picking legend Doc Watson and prominent blues traditionalist Taj Mahal helping to solidify The Ellington as a venue for the classics. The large stage and digital lighting make for optimal viewing, while a recent audio system upgrade and soundproofing project gives the space those sought-after acoustics.
Upcoming shows include the blues-based Tommy C Band March 8 and the Lew Taylor Quartet's funkadelic musings March 22. (434) 845-2162, www.theellington.org.
Mangia, 2496 Rivermont Ave. (capacity: 100)
When a restaurant is known for traditional Italian fare by day, that doesn't mean its not capable of moving a few tables around and turning up the volume at night.
While sipping on one of bartender Larry Fournier's latest concoctions, spectators have soaked up a variety of sounds during recent months, from the frenetic fretwork of guitar virtuoso Graham Whorley to the old-time Americana of the Hackensaw Boys. Next up is the rootsy folk of Minnesota native and finger-picking guru Charlie Parr, who'll perform March 2.
And despite the fact that Mangia has one of the most desirable patios in Lynchburg, owner Melanie Chalmers Ellis says that future shows outside are highly unlikely.
"We kind of live in a neighborhood," she says with a laugh. "It probably wouldn't go over too well." (434) 846-2585, mangiaontheavenue.com.
Phase 2, 4009 Murray Place (capacity: 1,000)
Thanks to extensive renovations, plentiful sight lines, a ceiling rigged with rows of LED lighting and a floor area in front of the stage fit for the occasional mosh pit of 500-strong, Phase 2 has fashioned itself into a rock club that consistently books national recording artists. The more than 30,000-square-foot facility boasts several bars, a restaurant, a lounge and a VIP balcony section for fans who are willing to fork over a little extra scratch.
Country crooners Parmalee, a quartet with a flair for southern rock swagger, will perform March 2, while Lynchburg native and notable Nashville songwriter Phil Vassar is teaming up with fiddle ace Charlie Daniels from "The Devil Went Down To Georgia" fame for a benefit concert April 11, and heavy metal enthusiasts should be on the lookout for the Southern California-based In This Moment, set to play April 12. (434) 846-3206, www.phase2club.com.
RA Bistro, 1344 Main St. (capacity: 200)
Manager Ashley Rhodes says the eatery -- formerly known as Robin Alexander -- recently began aggressively booking bands on Tuesday and Friday nights, thinking it would feel more like a local hangout where patrons could kickback and relax while listening to some live music.
"We've been wanting to be a little more diverse," she says of the decision, made six months ago, to feature entertainment.
With the completion of a new lounge area, which opened the space up and provided additional seating, musicians now have more space for equipment along the back wall of the main dining room. Of course, concerts on the deck are always an option once the temperatures start to warm up.
"I love it when we set up bands out there," Rhodes says. "It's a great visual for people riding by."
Folky, southern rockers Steal the Prize will play March 1, and the howling guitars of Charlottesville's Kings of Belmont will arrive March 8. (434) 845-1601, www.rabistro.com.
Rapunzel's Coffee and Books, 924 Front St. in Lovingston (capacity: 150)
The places people often drive by and accidentally miss -- like an unassuming red barn that formerly was a fruit packing shed in the 1920s -- can be the venues with the most character and charm.
Weathered flooring, a string of Christmas lights hanging along exposed wood beams and a healthy selection of flea-market-style chairs and couches give this hidden gem an intimate vibe for live music. Along with an ongoing effort to improve the room's sound quality, owner Bob Taylor says a newly installed dance floor makes his remote locale ripe for a little easy listening or some fervent cutting of rugs.
Besides hosting an open-jam night every Wednesday, Lynchburg's Bigfoot County will pay tribute to the Grateful Dead March 1, Gene and Gayla Mills will play a folk-inspired set March 16 and fans of a more Celtic sound can catch the Dylan-esque Chamomile and Whiskey April 13. (434) 263-6660, www.rapunzelscoffee.com.
Rivermont Pizza, 2496 Rivermont Ave. (capacity: 100)
It's simply referred to as RP by loyalists of this hipster haunt, a somewhat sequestered location of beatnik-cool where indie rock and all of its necessary accoutrements have flourished, seemingly undaunted by the urge to conform.
Is it a tad dark Yes. Does the basement-level spread make for a decibel blitz when the band starts playing Yes. But sometimes the scene speaks louder than words.
The upside is that there's no shortage of crowds during the musicians' set. With a hefty selection of craft beer on tap and a late-night menu served until 2 a.m., RP embodies the mark of a hometown bar.
It will host Roanoke's retro-rockers The Young Sinclairs March 2, the moody dream pop of Virginia Beach-based Suburban Living March 8 and the post-punk, indie pop of New York's MiniBoone March 9. (434) 846-2877, www.rivermontpizza.net.
Speakertree Records, 522 Fifth St. (capacity: 100)
There's nothing quite as convenient as performing at a record store. The tangible benefit of coming off stage and browsing through the latest selection of almost-but-not-forgotten LPs just makes sense.
One of the ways record stores -- particularly small, independent shops like Speakertree -- have maintained loyal foot traffic is by supporting local artists. Admirers of homegrown talent know a visit to the neighborhood record store is still one of the best ways to tap into their community's music scene.
Owners Nathan McGlothlin and Joe Morgan took over the shop in August and immediately allowed local painters to cover the walls with their handiwork. They also made a few performance upgrades by building a stage, installing house lights and furnishing the space with a PA system.
"We like that 100 people can come out, get sweaty and listen to a rock band," McGlothlin says. "That's one of the reasons we bought the place."
To mark Record Store Day, which is celebrated each year on the third Saturday in April, Speakertree has booked more than 15 bands to play over the course of three days -- April 18, 19 and 20. (434) 485-8262.
The Stoney Badger, 3009 Old Forest Road (capacity: 150)
This family-friendly eatery with an outdoor deck, portraits of jazz and blues greats adorning the walls, plenty of TVs, and a reputation for tasty chicken wings prefers to roll up its sleeves for a little raucousness every now and then, too.
Like when the versatile power trio made up of Tim Reynolds (who also plays lead guitar for Dave Matthews Band), bassist Mick Vaughn and drummer Dan Martier took the stage there last month. Let's just say the veteran musician certainly gave concertgoers a dose of his palpable guitar attack.
Now the space may get a little hot, a little smoky and a little cramped, but that's rock 'n' roll, right Besides, owner Burt Taylor says he's not booking just anybody.
"Everybody's tired of the loud-for-no-reason band," he says. "I try to mix it up with anything from rock to jam band to bluegrass."
Virginia Beach's jam-infused rockers Woodwork, the Philadelphia-bred alt-country of American Babies and bluegrass duo Dale Reno and Mitch Harrell will join forces for a show March 30. (434) 384-3004, www.stoneybadger.com.
Vines Center, 1971 University Blvd. (capacity: 6,000)
The cool factor of arena rock is there from the time the first note rings out, emanating with a sense of purpose. It's as if Liberty University's Vines Center stage is larger-than-life -- maybe because it is. Rotating lights sweep the room with bright colors. Screens project images at a dizzying pace. Speakers tower high in the air, enticing the listener as the band's power chords chime atop a thunderous beat.
The vocals are big, projecting an audible clarity that's difficult to attain in a smaller club or music hall. This is where an audio engineer has the opportunity to transform a musician into a superhero. And it's difficult to compete with the collective roar of a sold-out crowd of eager fans singing every note at the top of their lungs.
But just as the encore ends, the entire production is torn down, piece by piece, and loaded into trucks for the next stop on the tour. Some might call it a traveling circus. Perhaps it is "The Greatest Show on Earth."
Upcoming concerts include rapper Lecrae -- whose sixth studio album, "Gravity," debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard Top 200 chart in September -- on March 22 and pop band Tenth Avenue North on April 12. (434) 582-7328, www.liberty.edu/sa.
White Hart Cafe, 1208 Main St. (capacity: 75)
It has the look of an English pub, where visitors peruse the day's happenings via the Internet or scroll through their favorite novel as they sip the hours away one steaming espresso at a time. The old wood floor seems to creak a little more with each passing footstep, while the aroma of owner Tim Patterson's fresh roasted coffee beans lingers in the air.
The long, narrow space makes for an esthetically pleasing listening room, which has showcased various folkateers and their acoustic-driven sets, along with the more voluminous full-band ensembles. But Patterson is trying to steer clear of the latter for future shows.
"It's just not a venue suited for that," he says. "We're slowly moving to a more intimate vibe."
Charlottesville-based songwriter Sam Cregger, who cites Neil Young and Willie Nelson as influences, will perform March 1. (434) 455-1659.
(c)2013 The News & Advance (Lynchburg, Va.)
Visit The News & Advance (Lynchburg, Va.) at www.newsadvance.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services
[ Back To Technology News's Homepage ]