Best of C-VILLE 2016: Entertainment

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Love Canon. Photo: Chris Pecoraro Love Canon. Photo: Chris Pecoraro

What do a century-old building, a greenstone outcrop and an urban ruin have in common? This year, readers say they’re all great places to be entertained. We’ll trust ya.

 

MUSICIAN

Love Canon

Runner-up: Chamomile and Whiskey

Honorable mention: Erin & the Wildfire

A wise man once said, “If you’re good at something, you’ll tell everyone. If you’re great at something, they’ll tell you.” The readers have spoken: Love Canon nabs the top spot. The five-piece string band takes ’80s hits and turns them on their head, replacing electric guitar solos with violin, drums with dobro. It’s an unplugged take on megawatt tracks that we wouldn’t entrust to just anyone. But Love Canon has been at it since 2010 and, hell, they’re great. Chamomile and Whiskey, the Nelson County-based rock-folk-Americana-gypsy-Celtic-roots group, takes second place with originals like “Blue Ridge Girl” and “Wandering Boots.”

Photo: UVA Athletics
Photo: UVA Athletics

TRIVIA NIGHT Mellow Mushroom

Call and response

Can you answer these C’ville-centric stumpers?

If you’re a fan of Mellow Mushroom’s Wednesday trivia nights, you know to check the restaurant’s Twitter account (@mellowcville) at 8pm. That’s where hosts Greg Kane, Jordon Trader and Jim Fuson, who come up with the questions, post the night’s theme (“canceled Fox shows,” “fairy tale or fable,” “something you might put in a microwave”). We asked the trivia titans to give us some tough questions on the topic of Charlottesville.

1) On March 6, 1865, the town of Charlottesville and the university surrendered to what Union general under the command of Major General Philip Sheridan?

2) On June 10, 1940, Franklin Delano Roosevelt gave his famous “stab in the back” speech about Italy declaring war on France in what famous University of Virginia building?

3) In the past 50 years, what UVA football coach leads the all-time win categories of both total wins as well as winning percent?

4) Which former UVA School of Law student was offered the role of first president of the university, which he declined, almost a decade before he became president of the United States?

5) Charlottesville is named after the wife of which Mad King (hint: not a Targaryen)?

6) Which 20th-century Nobel Prize-winning American novelist was the University of Virginia’s first writer in residence?

Answers: 1) General George Custer; 2) Memorial Gym; 3) George Welsh (pictured); 4) Woodrow Wilson;
5) George III; 6) William Faulkner.

Runner-up: Tin Whistle Irish Pub

Honorable mention: McGrady’s Irish Pub

 

MUSIC VENUE

The Jefferson Theater

Runner-up: Sprint Pavilion

Honorable mention: The Paramount Theater

In 1912, the British ocean liner RMS Titanic sunk, the Boston Red Sox won the World Series and architect C.K. Howell designed a vaudeville house and cinema in downtown Charlottesville. That venue? The Jefferson Theater, which today is a little less vaudeville, a little more eclectic mix. In the last year alone, the Jeff hosted roots-rocker Sturgill Simpson, ’80s tribute band The Legwarmers and country-punk group Lucero. It’s a bit of a mixed bag that, come to think of it, isn’t too unlike a vaudeville show. There’s something for everyone.

Elite Eight today, championship tomorrow? We'll see you on the court, Coach. Photo: Matt Riley
Elite Eight today, championship tomorrow? We’ll see you on the court, Coach. Photo: Matt Riley

LOCAL MINOR CELEBRITY Tony Bennett

Tony, Tony, Tony!

Because he shares his name with a famous performer, it’s hard not to get confused when someone says the name Tony Bennett. Unless you’re in Charlottesville, in which case, “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” who? Around these parts, readers say, Tony Bennett is all the celebrity we need. Arguably one of the busiest men in UVA athletics, the C’ville Bennett led the men’s basketball team to the NCAA Elite Eight in the 2015-2016 season (which even earned him a mention in Vogue magazine as “the George Clooney of March Madness”). He’s one of your favorite things about Charlottesville, but we caught up with him while he was on the road recruiting to ask: What are some of his favorite things about Charlottesville?

Favorite place for a jog/bike ride/hike: On Grounds at UVA.

Most memorable local music show you’ve seen: Dave Matthews Band and Tim Reynolds at Sprint Pavilion. All proceeds went to charity.

Bodo’s order: Sausage, egg and cheese on an everything bagel.

Favorite date-night spot: Dinner at Tavola and a movie with my wife, Laurel.

Favorite local beer (or wine): No Veto English Brown Ale at Three Notch’d Brewing Company.

Runner-up: Michael Jones (“The Clapping Man”)

Honorable mention: Larry Sabato

 

PLACE TO GET CREATIVE

IX Art Park

Runner-up: Live Arts

Honorable mention: Wine & Design

Yes, the IX Art Park is home to the Love Butt (a 1,600-pound sculpture used in the pilot of a Comedy Central series), but if you think that’s all it is, the joke’s on you. It’s hard not to find inspiration at a place where nearly every square inch is a tribute to artistic liberties—from a set of abandoned steps turned into piano keys and a geodesic dome made of twigs and branches, to a painted maze underfoot and a giant mural compelling you to “Dream big.” It’s the kind of space that celebrates—rather than squelches—crazy ideas, and stands as a living monument to the creative spirit.

Jody Kielbasa.
Jody Kielbasa

ARTS FESTIVAL Virginia Film Festival

The star catcher

Jody Kielbasa on bringing big names to a little city

They call them movers and shakers in Hollywood, but here in Central Virginia we point to Virginia Film Festival Director Jody Kielbasa as our conduit to Tinseltown. Upon his arrival in 2009, Kielbasa took the University of Virginia festival from an enjoyable annual gathering to a nationally recognized industry event that breaks attendance records each year.

“Every year I hear from people how much they love the festival,” says Kielbasa. “They appreciate the opportunity to see many of the most highly anticipated films of the fall season—that will be up for Golden Globe or Oscar consideration—well in advance of their release dates. I also hear how much they appreciate discovering films that are unlikely to make it to the theaters and the incredible discussions with our guest artists.”

In 2013, Kielbasa was appointed as UVA’s vice provost for the arts, a role that (in addition to his work with VFF) allows him to collaborate with the Arts Advisory Committee and other university arts organizations to advocate for more excellence in the arts.

Runner-up: Tom Tom Founders Festival

Honorable mention: LOOK3 Festival of the Photograph

 

LOCAL RADIO STATION

91.9 WNRN

Runner-up: 91.1 WTJU

Honorable mention: Hot 101.9

With 20 years under its belt, WNRN continues to churn out a reliable lineup of triple A (adult album alternative) tunes, with an offering of programs—from “Grateful Dead & Phriends” on Saturday mornings to “World Café” on weeknights—for easy listening. Turning the proverbial dial to 91.9 gets you ear-to-ear with a listener-supported station that doesn’t have to worry about the mandates of corporate programming. It’s radio by the people, for the people.

Warren Craghead. Photo: Keith Alan Sprouse
Warren Craghead. Photo: Keith Alan Sprouse

GALLERY Second Street Gallery

Man with a mission

“Our official mission is to enliven Virginia through access to the best in contemporary art and artists; to inspire new ways of thinking, seeing and doing. We show contemporary art from around the world—literally around the world. This past season we’ve shown artists from South Africa, Egypt, Los Angeles, New York and right here in Charlottesville. We work to bring the world of contemporary art, with all its creativity, ideas and problem-solving, here to Charlottesville. We also have a robust outreach program, reaching into city and county schools, the juvenile detention system and partner institutions like the Boys & Girls Club to bring art and creative thinking out into our community. I see SSG as an essential part of a great ‘culture of creativity’ here in Charlottesville —a culture that makes our city really special.”—Warren Craghead, executive director of Second Street Gallery

Runner-up: IX Art Park

Honorable mention: Fralin Museum of Art

 

DAY TRIP

Shenandoah National Park

Runner-up: Blue Mountain Brewery

Honorable mention: Carter Mountain Orchard

What exactly is the Shenandoah National Park? It’s 199,173 acres from Warren to Waynesboro. Nearly 80,000 of those have been designated as wilderness and are protected by the National Wilderness Preservation System, but tourists are particularly awestruck by the views from Skyline Drive. The 109-mile road stretches the length of the park and affords travelers a peek of surrounding counties from 75 overlooks. It becomes particularly picturesque in mid- to late October, when the leaves are changing colors.

FREE FAMILY FUN

Fridays After Five

Runner-up: Carter Mountain Orchard

Honorable mention: Chiles Peach Orchard

The return of  Fridays After Five is a city-wide signal: Summer has arrived. Now in its 29th year, the April-to-September concert series lineup boasts up-and-comers and seasoned musicians at the end of every week, and draws a crowd of nearly 6,000 that comprises young professionals and, yes, families. (Kids like to boogie down in front, near the band.) In the runner-up spot, Carter Mountain Orchard offers events during each growing season, from its own summer concert series to pick-your-own orchard tours.

"There's something about this town," says 106.1 The Corner Program Director Jeff Sweatman. "People have an appreciation for good musicianship, and not only the players, but bands support each other." Photo: Amy Jackson
“There’s something about this town,” says 106.1 The Corner Program Director Jeff Sweatman. “People have an appreciation for good musicianship, and not only the players, but bands support each other.” Photo: Amy Jackson

LOCAL RADIO PERSONALITY Jeff Sweatman (106.1 The Corner)

The voice

Jeff Sweatman on modern music

106.1 The Corner’s Jeff Sweatman had sports in mind when he first switched on the mic in Springfield, Illinois, but the challenge of learning to call local games was upstaged by an opportunity to take a paid radio gig at age 16.

Sweatman landed in Charlottesville in 2006 as part of the 106.1 launch team, and it’s been a dream come true for the program director/brand manager, as well as for local radio fans who tune in to his warm voice and informative liners during weekday afternoons.

C-VILLE: How did your passion for music evolve?

Jeff Sweatman: This guy Keefer had a show called “Vinyl du Jour” (the inspiration for “Brighten the Corners”) where he was playing stuff like Pixies and The Replacements. That and MTV’s “120 Minutes” was my exposure to bands that never came to my town. I was living vicariously through this guy I would hear on the radio. And, as luck would have it, Keefer [eventually] gave me my first full-time job in radio.

Is it a 24/7 job to keep up with modern music?

Yes, and I’m thankful to have Kendall [Stewart] and Pat [Gallagher], because in the program director role it is tough to have the time during the day to listen to music. …You are not just plucking these songs out of thin air. What makes this format so fun is you can explore. I love the soul revival right now with Leon Bridges, Nathaniel Rateliff, Mayer Hawthorne—Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings started it. They aren’t just imitating something from the past, they are really in it. People still need to know, what is the next big thing? What is gonna be cool?

How does the discovery of new bands work with so many options? How do bands like The Lumineers get so big?

That’s been pretty interesting, especially with that type of sound. The Lumineers are on Dualtone and one of the most successful indie bands of all time. Mumford & Sons are with Glassnote, basically an indie label. Part of it is those bands are super hardworking and they have a different mindset.

I feel like in the early ’90s a lot of bands just took all the money that was floating around out there and took the big advance, didn’t really read the fine print.

Have you ever had a special on-air name? Well, it was inspired by Say Anything. The little kid in that movie. It was when I was on Top 40 on the weekends—“The J-Man.” At the time it was kind of a current movie, so that was my name very briefly.

Who are some local musicians to watch right now? My three favorites at the moment: Sally Rose Band’s album from last year, Michael Coleman has a new one and Annabeth McNamara, she came out of the blue.

Runner-up: Anne Williams (91.9 WNRN)

Honorable mention: Coy Barefoot (WCHV 107.5)

 

FIRST-DATE SPOT

Downtown Mall

Runner-up: Lampo

Honorable mention: Bang!

Restaurants, a movie theater, gelato—the Downtown Mall has all the makings of a rom-com montage. But here’s our advice: Start at The Alley Light for a drink (see page 93 for bartender Micah Le-Mon’s recs on what to sip on). If you’re still feeling into it, switch gears and grab a burger at Jack Brown’s. Then hop over to Splendora’s, where you can get a cone to go, and take a lap (or two) up and down the mall, chatting over your salted caramel. We’ll stop there, but here’s one last tip: Whatever you do, don’t forget to follow up the next day. That’s just good manners.

Terri Allard interviews filmmaker Geoff Luck for an upcoming installment of "Charlottesville Inside-Out," which airs Thursdays at 8:30pm and Sundays at 12:30pm. Photo: Ryan Jones
Terri Allard interviews filmmaker Geoff Luck for an upcoming installment of “Charlottesville Inside-Out,” which airs Thursdays at 8:30pm and Sundays at 12:30pm. Photo: Ryan Jones

LOCAL TV PERSONALITY Terri Allard (PBS)

Talk of the town

Terri Allard’s story days

One of the first things you realize when you meet singer-songwriter Terri Allard is that she’s the same in person as she is onstage: funny, smart, warm and generous. In other words, someone you want to hang out with after work on a steamy July evening. She apologizes for being a few minutes late for this interview at the Barracks Road Greenberry’s, and explains she was delayed in meetings for WHTJ’s “Charlottesville Inside-Out,” the weekly half-hour public television show she hosts, co-produces and writes.

Now in production for its 10th season, “CVIO” was created to spotlight “the people and places that define Charlottesville and the surrounding area and make it such a great place to live,” Allard says with a smile, clearly still enamored of where she grew up, the second-youngest of four children, and has spent most of her life.

Being a musician and a TV show host have more in common than you would think, she says. “I realized about halfway through my singing career that what I like most about performing is the connection with people; having that conversation, that whole exchange. I have spent the majority of my life sharing stories—some are mine, but most often they are the stories of those around me.” 

So it makes sense that when Allard met D.J. Crotteau, WHTJ’s then-general manager, it wasn’t long before the two began collaborating on a show that would highlight Charlottesville and “all of the interesting people and cool places here,” she says. Over the course of about 10 months in 2006, the pair planned their new venture while Crotteau raised funds for the show.

Among Allard’s favorite interviews—she guesses there have been close to 500 guests on the program during the past decade—is one she did with Annie Eplee, a Special Olympics Global Messenger who “is doing such wonderful things and is an inspiration to anyone lucky enough to know her.” Other highlights include pieces on the Charlottesville Lady Arm Wrestlers (she once wrestled as Terrible Tarot Allard, a card reader gone bad), the Charlottesville Derby Dames (“They taught me how to slide on my knees!”), MacArthur genius grant-winner Corey Harris, former UVA president John Casteen III and World Peace Game creator John Hunter. Among the people and organizations featured in the upcoming season, which begins airing in January, are filmmaker Geoff Luck, City Schoolyard Garden, Hope’s Legacy Equine Rescue, The Front Porch Roots Music School, the Darden Prisoner Re-entry Education Program and Free Union Grass Farm.

Allard, who is also WHTJ’s community engagement manager, says she couldn’t ask for a better gig—or a finer place to do it. “I leave every interview feeling mentally and emotionally charged,” she says, calling her schedule “floating and flexible,” which allows her and Dwayne Evans, her husband of 24 years, to take their son, a 15-year-old trumpet prodigy, “to hear so many of the great performers in our fine city.”

Shawn Freude, “Charlottesville Inside-Out”’s senior producer and director, calls working with Allard “a joy.”

“When she researches a story, she becomes immersed and intrigued and that interest shows through in her interview style.” Freude also gets a kick out of Allard’s fans, who regularly want to chat with her when she’s on location. “Terri may be a folk musician and TV personality, but she truly is a rock star in town,” Freude says.

Runner-up: Henry Graff (NBC29)

Honorable mention: Norm Sprouse (NBC29)

 

THEATER (MOVIES)

Violet Crown Cinema

Runner-up: Regal Stonefield Stadium 14 & IMAX

Honorable mention: The Paramount Theater

This time last year, Charlottesville was down to one movie theater: this year’s runner-up, the much-ballyhooed Regal Stonefield. It came onto the scene in 2013 and had dominated until the appearance of Violet Crown, where you can reserve your seat and bring a beer in with you. We’re still on board at Stonefield for the IMAX experience (and, let’s face it, the nachos and cheese), but this year, Violet Crown takes the, well, crown.

Dreamgirls capped off Live Arts' 25th anniversary season in May. Photo: Martyn Kyle
Dreamgirls capped off Live Arts’ 25th anniversary season in May. Photo: Martyn Kyle

THEATER (ACTING) Live Arts

And scene

Dreamgirls’ assistant director explains how the production hit the mission on the mark

In February 2015, Live Arts’ Artistic Director Julie Hamberg approached me about what show I would like to see at Live Arts. My answer was immediate: Dreamgirls.

Julie probably thought I made the suggestion because I wanted to play Jimmy Early (I did)—but my objective went beyond that. It had been 10 years since Live Arts had seen an all-black cast (Ain’t Misbehavin’ in 2006) and, as an active member of Charlottesville’s arts scene (I’m the membership coordinator and dance instructor at the Music Resource Center and have practically grown up on the Live Arts stage, starting with my first play, Hush: An Interview with America, in 2001), I’ve seen firsthand the community of talent, beauty and potential suited for performance. To show her just how serious I was about the possibility of staging this show, I bowed out. I told her I was willing to stay off the stage and do whatever she needed me to do to make it happen.

Ike Anderson. Photo: Martyn Kyle
Ike Anderson. Photo: Martyn Kyle

A few weeks before the 2016 season announcement party, Julie called to tell me that Dreamgirls was a go—we would direct it together and I would choreograph. Immediately, I felt an enormous obligation to get the word out—that Live Arts was bringing one of the most legendary musicals of all time to its Gibson Theater, and that it was going to need a lot of black faces.

I took to social media and searched for local friends who sang, danced or were just looking for a new experience. I hit the jackpot when I started to follow the karaoke scene. Judging a competition at Wild Wing Café helped me discover Jessica Lowry (Stepp Sister, Les Style, ensemble) and Winston Smith (James “Thunder” Early). Another night, even before I finished my first drink, I was in tears—Kim Riley’s performance of Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” knocked me to my knees. I knew right away: That was my Effie.

Finally, audition dates came around, and the response from the community was tremendous. Never had I seen that many black faces in the Live Arts building, all with nervous smiles and jitters. As directors, we were dumbfounded by the sheer volume of previously undiscovered talent in the room. By the end of the week, we had a cast…and I had a lot of anxiety.

Many of the actors we chose had never done a musical; some had never even been on stage. But that didn’t matter. Even as unexpected challenges arose, I watched as my cast cleared each hurdle with grace and professionalism, growing stronger and more unified with each challenge. We established trust, we chose joy and we chose each other. Black Americans are true pros when it comes to overcoming adversity. This creative challenge was no different.

During the four-week run of 17 shows, I had the great fortune to watch people come into the building for the first time, their faces beaming with pride and excitement. I found joy at intermission, overhearing little black girls say they want to be Effie, hearing women swoon over Jimmy Early. Most of all, I had the pleasure of seeing a colorful audience share emotions with each other during what was a genuinely moving show, performed by a truly colorful cast.

Our production of Dreamgirls was a hit: It sold out every night, often with lines out the door waiting for tickets, and it got great reviews. This show proved that Live Arts can not only forge community and theater (its mission) but can also simply forge community. That’s what it’s all about: bringing people together under one roof for one badass show.—Ike Anderson, Dreamgirls’ assistant director

Runner-up: American Shakespeare Center (Staunton)

Honorable mention: The Paramount Theater

 

HALL OF FAME

McGuffey Art Center

This is what one might call the OG “place to get creative.” In 1975, 58 years after the McGuffey Elementary School closed, a group of local artists with a vision proposed the space be repurposed into a cooperative art center. Classrooms were turned into studios, which made way for both the visual and performing arts. On a given day, visitors to McGuffey might find Joel Jones conducting an improv workshop, Rebekah Wostrel throwing pots or Russell Richards vacu-forming a plastic mask. That’s the thing about McGuffey Art Center: It continues to be a celebration of craft in all its many forms.

106.1 The Corner

Turn it up, please! Sure, the motto of 106.1 The Corner may be “Different is good,” but it’s reliability—of lineup, of community involvement, of just all-around entertaining programming—that encourages listeners to pump up the volume. Take, for example, The Corner Lounge, in which visiting music acts stop by the studio to play an exclusive track on the air. Or the One Second Music Quiz, a daily morning contest to identify one second of a random song for a prize. Or Jeff Sweatman, who takes home this year’s best radio personality (see p.37)—he’s the voice you hear on your afternoon commute home. Of course, after all is said and done, as they say, “It’s about the music” and, we bet, it always will be.

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