As Feedback approached 214 Community Arts Center (formerly The Prism) on Rugby Road last week, we could hear the distant sound of sawing fiddles, plinking mandolins and strumming guitars. We entered the venue’s main room to find around 20 musicians jamming away on their favorite folk tunes. This was a gathering of the Charlottesville Friends of Old Time (C-FOOT).
Fiddle-dee-dee: The Charlottesville Friends of Old Time music fill 214 Community Arts Center with Appalachian sounds. Even the kitchen!
Finding a spot in the corner, we listened as they played traditional Appalachian music. A spontaneous spirit filled the room, with new arrivals joining in as soon as they had unpacked their instruments and departing players waved goodbye on their way out the door. The crowd ranged from eager young teenagers to retired folks who have probably been listening to old time music since, well, before it was that old.
In between songs, we could hear jams going on in other rooms, so we set off in search of those sounds and found ourselves in the kitchen, where Pete Vigour, an organizer of the C-FOOT jams and a member of local band Uncle Henry’s Favorites, was preparing to play a few tunes with a banjo and guitar player.
Though we had not brought an instrument along (these days Feedback has been spending more time plucking laptop keys than guitar strings), Pete offered up his extra guitar, and, inspired by all of the musical energy flying around 214, we couldn’t resist giving it a go. Luckily the group stuck to simple songs, and we had fun strumming our way through "Shortening Bread," "Cluck Old Hen" and "Cotton-Eyed Joe."
Video of Charlottesville Friends of Old Time jamming at 214 Community Arts Center.
In between tunes Pete told those new to the jam about the space’s rich musical history. Some form of the old time jam has been taking place at 214 Rugby Road since UVA students started The Prism in the ’60s as an alternative to fraternities and the other usual activities at the then all-male school.
Sadly, though, the venue that over the years has seen the likes of Joan Baez, Bob Dylan and Emmylou Harris walk through its doors will no longer overflow with such musical goodness come June. At that point, the Westminster Presbyterian Church, which has owned the building since its beginning, will start using the space for its own programming, and 214’s music lovers will have to find a new home.
Though 214’s days are numbered, the evening’s jam showed no signs of letting up. As the group from the main room began to disperse, those who still itched for more tunes joined us in the kitchen. A banjo player squeezed in between the refrigerator and cabinets, a mandolin player took up a spot near the sink and a bassist pulled a chair up next to the door. The jam was scheduled to end at 9pm, but the strumming, plucking and sawing kept on going. If this sounds like your kind of evening, come jam with C-FOOT on Monday, November 26 and every second and fourth Monday of the month at 7pm. And don’t worry about experience. The group provides a fun and comfortable atmosphere even for old time novices like us.
The good shit
Feedback recently caught up with Christopher Leva of the local Caribbean-flavored band Guano Boys. We were happy to hear that the group has found a new drummer, Baaba Seth‘s Jim Ralston, to replace former C-VILLE music columnist Spencer Lathrop, who made his tropical tendencies a reality when he moved to Hawaii back in July. "It was difficult to lose a founding member," says Leva. "We wrote songs for Spencer’s strengths. But we’ve landed on a great big pillow with Jim."
Leva also told us that Guano Boys have been getting some nice exposure through satellite radio and the Internet lately. XM Radio channel 101, The Joint, has played songs from the band’s album Guano Happens, and Leva says that there has been a lot of enthusiasm on the web for their reggae version of Santo & Johnny‘s "Sleepwalk." "There’s a league of steel guitar players around the world that really love it—like a ‘Sleepwalk’ fan club," he says.
You can see Guano Boys at their first public gig with Ralston this Saturday, November 24 at Outback Lodge, and you can also catch Leva in local groups the Stoned Masons, the Caton-Leva Band (who recently took their Appalachian sounds to France) and Shake Sphere, who will play at Outback with the Richmond Afrobeat Movement on November 29.
Get festive again
Lance Brenner, organizer of September’s Freakfest, has put together the second in his series of local music celebrations. This edition, called Noble Savages, will take place at Satellite Ballroom on December 1 and feature local pop, rock and hip-hop. Confirmed acts include Beetnix, The Blackout Project, The Nice Jenkins, Kate Starr and The Naked Puritans. We had a great time at Freakfest, and we are sure Noble Savages will rock just as hard.
What we’ve been listening to
"A Postcard to Nina," by Jens Lekman (from Night Falls Over Kortedala)—Burt Bacharach horns meet Beach Boys soaring harmonies in this unusual love song.
"You Don’t Miss The Water," by The Byrds (from Sweetheart of the Rodeo)—This version of soul singer William Bell‘s 1961 hit overflows with regret-soaked honky-tonk harmonies.
"Pet Cemetery," by The Ramones (from Brain Drain)
"Temporary Thing," by Lou Reed (from Rock and Roll Heart)
"Alice," by Tom Waits (from Alice)
"Do While," by Oval (from 94Diskont)
"Poison Cup," by M. Ward (from Post-War)