Rock out on the ‘town
Downtown performance venues offer variety and atmosphere
The Downtown Mall lies just a trolley ride away from Grounds for incoming first-years seeking a slice of Charlottesville culture. Lovers of music and theater may find the quaint strip of shops and restaurants even more interesting once they discover the number of diverse performance venues — ranked the No. 1 “Thing to Do” in Charlottesville by US News — the area has to offer.
The nTelos Wireless Pavilion
Known simply as The Pavilion, this concert venue has hosted nationally-acclaimed artists including Death Cab for Cutie, Passion Pit and fun. Kirby Hutto, the Pavilion’s general manager, said this makes the venue a great starting point for new students and provides a sense of what makes Charlottesville unique.
“Back when the Mall was dead with empty storefronts, [the Pavilion] kickstarted the redevelopment of the Downtown Mall as an entertainment hub,” Hutto said.
The cost of ticketed shows ranges from $15 to $100, depending on the performer’s reputation and level of seating. From April to mid-September, free shows are offered at The Pavilion every Friday at 5:30 p.m. as part of the Friday After Five local series. Each year, on the Friday before the season’s first home football game, the Paint the Town Orange Pep Rally features a parade down the mall by U.Va’s marching band and coach Mike London. This year’s event will feature local cover band In Full, which will perform the area’s favorite rock, soul and pop hits.
The Southern Café and Music Hall
One of Charlottesville’s true gems, The Southern’s comfortable intimacy and striking set of performers makes it perhaps the most notable venue the Downtown Mall has to offer University students. With a capacity of 300 and ticket prices generally less than $25, Marketing Manager Lindsay Dorrier calls it “your classic basement rock club … that allows concertgoers to really be immersed in the live music experience.”
The venue specializes in indie and rock music, reggae, EDM and bluegrass artists and even hosts the occasional comedian. Bands such as Bombadil, Lucius and local group The Anatomy of Frank have performed at The Southern in recent months.
“We’re going after the Vampire Weekends and Arcade Fires of the world before they hit it big,” Dorrier said. For interesting and talented rising artists — and a heavenly grilled cheese sandwich — The Southern is the place to be.
Not your average performance venue, LiveArts caters to lovers of the weird and wonderful world of contemporary theatre. With seven performances per year, the organization provides unique plays and theatrical workshops for all ages as an artistic outlet for students who may want to look outside the acting troupes the University has to offer. Everyone involved works on a volunteer basis, according to Executive Director Matt Joslyn, who encourages the public to audition for a show or join the technical crew.
“Live Arts is made by the people creating it,” Joslyn said. “We’re a direct representation of our artistic community.”
Major productions of the past year have included “The Motherf***** with the Hat,” “Getting Near to Baby” and “The Master and Margarita.” The troupe dabbles in “the classics, the chestnuts and the big cheesy musicals,” Joslyn said, in addition to modern works. LiveArts also offers a number of classes and intensives focused on topics from tap dancing to interpreting Shakespeare to the do’s and don’ts of auditioning.
“We believe in helping people connect with other human beings in meaningful ways…and the free expression of ideas and artistry,” Josyln said.
Main Street Annex
Downtown’s Main Street Annex caters to lovers of the area’s heavy metal and electronica more so than any other venue around. Ticket prices hardly ever rise above $15, and with a maximum capacity of 375 guests, Main Street Annex is an ideal space to visit with a group of friends.
Venue owner Jeyon Falsini said he aims “to help augment the already fantastic music scene this little city offers [and] foster the talent of locals DJs and live bands.”
Situated above the Main Street Arena ice rink, Main Street Annex also hosts indie-rock performances; dance parties every Saturday night for those aged 18 and older; and a darker, alternative dance party each month called Sanctum.
“People are encouraged to wear whatever they like, cut loose and forget about their stresses,” Falsini said in an email. For University students, Falsini hopes the space can provide an outlet for new styles of music and a gateway to greater fame, inviting anyone with musical experience to request a performance slot at the venue.
The Jefferson Theater
The Jefferson has a long history in the entertainment industry — more than 100 years worth. The Jefferson can hold up to 800 people, making it perfect for “those emerging and mid-tier bands that really resonate in this community,” Marketing Manager Lindsay Dorrier said.
Hosting a cohesive mixture of national, regional and local artists — and a stand-up comedian, once in a while — the Jefferson’s lineup spans genres and generations. Past performances have included such acts as old-time string band The Carolina Chocolate Drops, bass-heavy EDM artist Excision and 80s cover band The Legwarmers. Tickets vary in price depending on the scale and number of performers, but it is certainly worth the money for a venue which boasts “The Best Live Music in Charlottesville.”