Feedback first stepped into Satellite Ballroom in February 2002. Plan 9 Music had just moved into the Anderson Brothers Building and a slew of performances were taking place in the adjacent room, then known as the “Outer Space,” to celebrate the new location’s grand opening. We rocked out to one of our favorite local bands, Order of the Dying Orchid, who joined the Hackensaw Boys, Rah Bras, Mando Mafia, The Carlsonics, John Mayer (yep) and more for the week’s kickoff festivities. And now, this weekend, following four solid showcases of local bands, we’ll step out of Satellite for the last time, as a CVS pharmacy prepares to take over the building.
Satellite’s first official show under that name, which featured Boston’s Devil Music Ensemble performing a live score to The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, didn’t take place until April 2004, but the spirit of the Ballroom was born during that first week of performances in 2002. Over the next couple of years, the space hosted a variety of small events, many of which were organized by Plan 9 employee Danny Shea. “I was able to put on something like a film event or some little musical event,” he says.
Satellite Ballroom booker and promoter Danny Shea has helped bring live music to the Corner venue since 2002.
|C-VILLE reviews of Satellite Ballroom shows:
Satellite Ballroom videos on YouTube:
And eventually, with the help of Michael’s Bistro owner Chuck Adcock, the room congealed into a formal music venue. Shea took up double duty, booking shows at Satellite and continuing to work at Plan 9, and for over four years he and the rest of the Satellite crew have helped provide Charlottesville with a broad selection of live music.
“I’ve said many times that I think Sharon Jones is probably my proudest accomplishment,” Shea tells us. “It was such a wide-reaching kind of show, and just infectious. I felt privileged to help introduce her to this town. Not many people really knew who she was the first time she played here.” People found out, though, and by the time Jones and her Dap-Kings rolled through town for their third Satellite visit this past January, they were greeted by a sold-out, booty shakin’ crowd. “Come on up here, Danny,” Jones said towards the end of the show, pulling Shea onto the stage to dance with her and snag a much-deserved moment in the spotlight.
We don’t have enough fingers and toes to count our memorable moments at the Ballroom. We’ve sipped on countless Red Stripes while being wowed by everyone from the Silver Jews and Yo La Tengo [C-VILLE review]to Mogwai and Acid Mothers Temple. We watched The Extraordinaires perform in a makeshift fort in the middle of the room, felt the sweaty condensation drip from the air ducts during Animal Collective’s sold-out show [C-VILLE review] and danced on the stage with Bonde Do Role and Girl Talk [C-VILLE review]. And that’s just off the top of our heads.
What made Satellite special? “I feel it was because of the autonomy that we had,” says Shea. “It was just a small group of people making decisions, and it was very empowering that way. Having the luxury, almost to our detriment sometimes, where we were almost booking for ourselves, our own interests, and feeling like that’s how we learned the business, doing it from what we knew. I don’t necessarily think it was a self-serving business plan, but I think when you kind of embrace what you know, you end up making better decisions.”
Shea cites the Tokyo Rose, which closed at the end of 2004, and its booker Darius Van Arman as one source of inspiration. “[The Tokyo Rose] changed the kind of bands you could find here, so I tried to extend that on a larger scale,” he says.
And, without an immediate replacement for Satellite, many of those bands will find it difficult to return to town. But the hunt is still on to find a new spot, and in the meantime Shea is looking to other spaces as potential hosts for shows. “I’ve talked to some local venues and we’re trying to work out some kind of avenue,” he says.
Don’t miss your last few chances to catch some tunes in the current incarnation of Satellite, though. The final four nights will provide an impressive and diverse selection of Charlottesville music. “Pretty much anybody who’s ever enjoyed going to the Ballroom will find at least one of those nights appealing,” says Shea.
On Wednesday, May 21, local rappers Q*Black and the Illville Crew and GeT (a.k.a Ghetti) will join North Carolina’s Endless Mic for a night of rhymes. Thursday, Charlottesville bands The Nice Jenkins, Truman Sparks and The Invisible Hand, Richmond’s Marshall Costan and The Awesome Few and the Valley’s Cinnamon Band will bring the noise. Friday, “hybrid-rockers” Trees on Fire, royal neighborhood rockers Kings of Belmont and longtime local hip-hoppers Beetnix will perform. And finally, on Saturday, Lance Brenner’s Acoustic Mafia festival, with Paul Curreri, Shannon Worrell, Andy Waldeck and The Cvillians, Helen Horal, Sarah White, Jim Waive, Morwenna Lasko and Jay Pun and the Acoustic Groove Trio, will provide the last swan song for so many great nights of tunes at the Ballroom.
What we’re listening to
“JPG in the Sun,” by Hot Lava (from Lavalogy)—This infectious jam from the Richmond band satisfies both our nerdy Photoshop-savvy tendencies as well as our sentimental, summer fun-lovin’ side.
“Center of a Galaxy,” by Marshall Costan and The Awesome Few (Live at Satellite Ballroom)—An epic and groovy tune, complete with horns, “na na”s and hot guitar licks, recorded during the group’s opening slot for The Walkmen.
“Black Man,” by Stevie Wonder (from Songs in the Key of Life)
“1984,” by Anais Mitchell (from Hymns for the Exiled)
“I Will Not Apologize,” by The Roots (from Rising Down)
We’ll miss the place, but we look forward to what’s next. In the words of George Harrison, “The darkness only stays the nighttime / In the morning it will fade away /Daylight is good at arriving at the right time / It’s not always going to be this grey.”
Change of address
Since we’re talking farewells, the 214 Community Arts Center will also be saying so long to its current home on Rugby Road at the end of May, when Westminster Presbyterian Church, which owns the building, takes the space over for its own use. “We’re not closing or shutting down,” 214 board member and local musician Pete Vigour tells us. “We’re just changing locations.” Vigour says that they have a couple good options for a new home, but likely won’t reopen in a new space until September.
And longtime local goth night The Dawning, currently at Outback Lodge, will also be looking for a new venue after its May 31 night with Synthetic Division and Myotis. Check back next week for more on that move.