Fest foot forward: Downtown, everything's waiting for you

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Here We Go Magic brings its layered, stream of consciousness lo-fi to the acoustically excellent Haven stage on Saturday. (Photo by Gregory Mitnick)

Spurred on by the success of their Nelson County-based festival, the Festy organizers are now spreading out the atmos-phere with events through-out the year. On Saturday, The Infamous Stringdusters, curators of The Festy, will headline a concert at the Pavilion, along with country-rockers Sons of Bill and Sarah White & the Pearls. The event is sponsored by Blue Ridge Mountain Sports, marking an impressive 40 years of business in Charlottesville. The cover charge is a mere $2.50 in advance, all of which will be donated to the Big Brothers, Big Sisters of the Central Blue Ridge.

From church to tea to garage to whiskey to ice
Also this weekend, several other Downtown venues will open their doors for the nascent Tom Tom Founders Festival, an unrelated event that marks the culmination of a month of smaller events that began with a well-attended block party outside the McGuffey Art Center. The Tom Tom roster is a lengthy one, with too many acts to discuss in detail, but there are several highlights worth mentioning.

In addition to headliners The Walkmen, the Main Street Arena (still colloquially known to many as “the ice park”) will host local rockers Red Rattles and Dwight Howard Johnson, while late nights see the venue convert to an electronic stage featuring the house music of AutoErotique, the lush synths of Virtual Boy and MiMOSA, and the dreamy instrumental hip-hop of superb Brooklyn-based producer Eliot Lipp.

The Haven, a former church with excellent acoustics, will make an interesting venue for the tough-chick country-punk of Those Darlins and the nervous indie-pop of Here We Go Magic, two of the performances restricted due to limited seating capacity. Casual attendees will still be able to catch other Haven performances, including formerly local troubadours BirdLips and the No BS! Brass Band.

And while Invisible Hand is usually a four-piece rock act, eclectic frontman Adam Smith has something else in mind for Saturday night’s post-midnight Haven performance: a “guitar orchestra” reminiscent of experimental composers Rhys Chatham and Glenn Branca, featuring “two drummers, one or two bassists, and as many guitars as we can get,” playing a dissonant piece Smith composed for the event, inspired by Igor Stravinsky’s “Augurs of Spring.”

Those looking for traditional rock are advised to investigate Friday night at Random Row Books, featuring three of the strongest rock acts plying their trade in Charlottesville; The Fire Tapes, Infinite Jets, and Left & Right, which will release an album at the show. An impressive feat for a band whose members still include UVA undergraduates.

The Whiskey Jar will host a solid line-up of country-flavored rock acts on both Friday and Saturday nights with Mister Baby, PantherBurn, and Chamomile & Whiskey, spiced up by mellower appearances by Nelly Kate and Phillip St. Ours.

The Garage has often been a home to a particular strain of Americana over the years. Several such acts will play to a larger crowd at Meade Hall in Christ Episcopal Church, the organization who allowed their garage to become “The Garage” in the first place. Meade Hall will host The Hill & Wood, Sanders Bohlke, Spirit Family Reunion, Diane Cluck, Small Sur, and Deleted Scenes, while Carl Anderson, Hope for Agoldensummer, and Due Diligence are among the acts playing to an outdoor audience in the Garage itself.

The Tea Bazaar’s small stage has been a crucial part of live music in Charlottesville over the past decade. The line-up there is varied, beginning on Friday evening with gentle mountain man Erik the Red, and concluding Saturday night with the taut jangle-rock of Roanoke’s Eternal Summers. The Tea Bazaar’s history of eclecticism is evident with Red sharing the bill with Baltimore aggro-math-punks Dope Body, Jenny Besetzt, Ming Ming, and Birdie Busch over the course of the weekend.

This being the inaugural year for the Tom Tom Founders Festival, it’s too early to say whether it has the potential for longevity or durability. But it’s clear that it has already succeeded in one regard: The weekend is packed with dozens of performers, all playing within the space of a few city blocks. Since most contemporary music festivals require a day of driving, a plan for parking and camping, and personal challenges ranging from endurance to hydration, the scattershot approach of the Tom Tom Festival—decentralized, yet closely-knit—may represent an appealing alternative. Whether you’re a die-hard festival lifer who plans to go in for the All Access Pass, or a curious passerby whose interest is piqued, it won’t be difficult to find a good concert in Downtown Charlottesville this weekend.

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