When I sat down to think about the best concerts I saw in 2014, the only events that came to mind were disappointments. Don’t get me wrong. There were highlights. Joe Pug got intimate at the Southern. Shovels and Rope entranced the Jefferson. But by and large, the most highly anticipated events of the year were something of a letdown.
New year, new expectations. The Jefferson Theater already has a nice slate lining up for 2015, starting with Dr. Dog and Ingrid Michaelson within just over a week at the end of January and into February. Donna the Buffalo, jam band staple Umphrey’s McGee, upstate Virginia’s Soja, the North Mississippi Allstars, old school country throwback Sturgill Simpson and Neutral Milk Hotel round out a pretty fresh spring schedule. But what after that?
No one in the booking office is talking, so why not make some wild predictions. Sleater-Kinney is releasing an album for the first time in years this month, but the girl-punk icons have announced dates through May 9 and don’t come close to swinging through Charlottesville. With the band’s last scheduled stop being in Seattle, it’s probably a stretch to hope it might make it through our hamlet anytime soon.
Folk-rock darlings the Decemberists are also eying a January release, and the band is slightly more likely to grace this town. With a U.S. tour starting March 21, the Decemberists seem to be focusing on larger markets through April 13, its last announced gig. But with that leg of the tour culminating in Nashville, C’ville can dream.
In the extremely bold predictions department, let’s ask ourselves if indie rock inscrutables Modest Mouse might hit the Pavilion sometime this year. The band reunited for a few dates in late 2014 and is planning its first LP release since 2007 on March 3. No 2015 tour has yet been announced, but this is one wild-ass guess that would be fun to see play out.
Country rock curmudgeon Steve Earle is dropping an album in late February, which could set him up for another local appearance. Maybe at the Southern Café and Music Hall? Another venue that’s declined to offer details about what might happen after its already announced slate ends April 26. But rest assured the Southern is projecting a fruitful year with locally represented reggae rockers Passafire, Charlie Mars, Richmond-based Pat McGee Band, the Lone Bellow, Horse Feathers, and another Joe Pug appearance already on the schedule.
The Southern might be the venue to attract Zella Day, the indie warbler radio personality Brad Savage said will be an “artist to watch for the New Year.”
“We discovered her stuff online and just immediately started playing her music,” said Savage, who hosts the morning show on 106.1 The Corner and is the station’s brand manager. “Well, come to find out that she just signed a big national deal with Hollywood Records, and I was told that they will definitely work to bring her to Charlottesville for a show early in 2015. So we’ll see if that all comes together.”
The smaller venues and concert series around Charlottesville are also looking forward to an interesting year, headed up by the sudden re-emergence of the Prism Coffeehouse. The last time C-VILLE Weekly checked in, the Prism revealed little about its future, but the organization’s Facebook page has since been active, announcing multiple small shows (a stage at First Night Virginia, a one-man show at C’ville Coffee, etc.) and a full-fledged Haven show scheduled for March 6 featuring Dry Branch Fire Squad. More details are expected soon.
The Main Street Annex has also hinted at big things for 2015 but is not providing details. The venue is looking to establish some autonomy by renaming itself, and its management has said some of its upcoming acts are more in line with the types of indie rockers you might see at the Southern than the hip-hop and metal shows the venue has leaned on in the past. Those genres aren’t likely to be abandoned by the Annex, but the still-in-renovation space could become a competitor for the Downtown Mall’s staple venues in 2015.
It’s easy to forget about The Garage during the chilly winter months, but it’s one of the more exciting venues in town for up-and-coming acts, not to mention music lovers who dig outdoor spaces but not so much the crowds at the Pavilion. Predicting the singer-songwriters, folk acts, or indie rockers that might appear at The Garage this year would be like plucking a speck of stardust out of the cosmos, but there are at least two tangible things to look out for in 2015. The Garage Video Sessions is a collaborative project with local production team Pando Creative, and the team has produced 13 music videos to date. The project has resulted in some high-concept videos for local musicians David Wax Museum, New England’s Sam Moss, and Philly’s The Extraordinaires, and Garage cultivator Sam Bush has hinted he expects bigger acts to be coming in the future thanks to the project’s connections with Red Light Management. Bush has also said he expects The Garage’s Makers Series to continue in the New Year. The series has attracted some regional talent in the past, as well as some non-music national speakers.
Whatever the touring acts that end up in C’ville this year, 2015 sets up as another growth year for the local music scene. Local musicians continue to attract regional and national attention, and the demand for music venues continues to build. The only question is which spaces will step up and provide the supply.
What acts are on your wish list for 2015?
Tell us in the comments.