By Ken Wilson –
It’s free, it’s family-friendly and, lucky for us, it’s happening again.
For 30 years now it’s been our favorite way to let the good times roll—and rock and rumble, moan and purr, shake and shimmy, and however else the spirit moves. Thank God it’s Fridays After Five, with live music and concessions benefitting local charities once every seven days from now till mid-September at Charlottesville’s Sprint Pavilion. Meet up on the Downtown Mall.
Fridays After Five started outside the Omni Hotel in 1988, moved to the grassy bowl at the other end of the Mall sometime in the 90s (memories are hazy) and took up residence at the Pavilion when it opened in 2005.
Corey Harris, the Dave Matthews Band, and the Sons of Bill have played it, and so has every other local and regional act gunning for the big time or just soaking up the local love. Funk or rock, alt-country or disco, oldies or the hot and hyphenated next big thing, Fridays After Five is where the hometown crowd hears the homegrown sounds.
What Sprint Pavilion General Manager Kirby Hutto calls “a celebration of summertime in Charlottesville” draws a crowd—an average of 5,000 to 6,000 in good weather. Local non-profits help put on the show and reap the rewards. “It’s a really good fundraiser,” Hutto says. “They don’t have to do any of the organizing, they don’t have to do any of the cleaning up—they just come down, we slot them in, and our paid staff takes care of getting everything set up and breaking it down at the end of the night.”
Remuneration is based on the number of volunteer hours a group provides, “so that even if they come down and it’s a colder night and the crowds aren’t there, they’re still going to get paid for the work they’re putting in.”
The 31st season of Charlottesville’s favorite way to kick off the weekend continues through September 14 at the Sprint Pavilion, with music beginning at 5:30 p.m. and running to till 8:30 p.m. Singer-songwriter Adar Seligman-McComas and her five-piece band Adar, with Nick Berkin on keyboards, Andrew Hollifield on bass, Brandon Toliver on drums, and Aaron Spring on saxophone, bring soul, funk, jazz and rock to the Pavilion on April 27. Shagwüf opens.
Inspired by the Djembe and Djun Djun drums of West Africa, Richmond reggae artist Mighty Joshua wants to open minds and activate bodies, creating positive change with consciousness-raising lyrics. Mighty Joshua was named Virginia Reggae Artist of the Year in 2014 and 2015 in 2015. He plays on May 4. Footwerk opens.
Virginia (and West Virginia) native Sarah White doesn’t play country, rock, or folk, but what she does play, whether solo or with her band, sounds a lot like all three. Once named Charlottesville’s best songwriter, she recently took first place at the Ashland Coffee & Tea Songwriter Shootout. White sings at the Pavilion backed by pedal steel, keyboards, guitars and her own well-worn Jumbo Gibson acoustic on May 11. Small Town Rodeo opens.
Some of Charlottesville’s best vocalists and instrumentalists join together on May 18 to pay tribute to Minneapolis’ finest, the late great singer-songwriter, producer, actor, and style setter Prince.
Cville’s Purple All Stars, will feature Jamal Millner (Guitar/Conductor), Anita Byers, Davina Jackson and Ezra Hamilton (Vocals), Ivan Orr (Keyboards), Jeff Louderback (Drums), Chris Redd (Keyboards) and Vic Brown (Bass/Vocals). They will play two sets: first the entire Purple Rain album, and then more greatest hits. Supervixen opens.
Red & the Romantics love roots music and Americana: blues, gospel, gypsy jazz, rock ‘n roll and whatever is in between. Erik “Red” Knierim writes the songs. On stage he has help from Steve Riggs on upright bass, Steve Vargo on guitar, Betty Jo Dominick on accordion , and Dan Barrale and Seth Johnston on drums and percussion. Red & the Romantics have been making Charlottesville dance since 2011. They’ll do it again on May 25. Sweet Afton opens.
Blend rhythm and blues, funk and old school hip-hop and you get a Washington, D.C-based sound called go-go music. Veterans from Charlottesville’s own go-go pioneers Double Faces (Blacko, Larry, and J.R) recruited guys from the rap/reggae group Vibe Riot to form Seductive Sounds. They’ll get everyone on their feet on June 1. DJ Rush Hour opens.
Combine the sophistication of Steely Dan, the soul of Little Feat and the improvisatory daring of Grateful Dead and you get Indecision, a band that’s been jamming longer than First Fridays has been happening. Aaron Evans (guitar and vocals), David Ibbeken (guitar and vocals), Craig Dougald (drums and vocals), Shawn McCrystal (bass) got together in high school in 1980 and played their first nightclub gig four years later at the Mineshaft Cellar on Main Street in Charlottesville. Expect both original and cover songs. Charleston’s The Blue Dogs opens.
Take five guys who love blues, funk, gospel, rock and jazz and you get a band that might hail from Memphis or New Orleans. When those five guys are Aric van Brocklin on guitar, Skip Haga on keyboards, Granville Mullings on drums, Andy Rowland on sax, and Victor Brown on bass,
you have The Chickenheads, Charlottesville’s “premiere” boogie-woogie, upbeat, rhythm and blues dance band. They promise to get everyone up and dancing on June 15. The Charles Owens Quartet opens.
Just a few years back, the brothers Kai and Bram Crowe-Getty were hanging out and trading Americana tunes with friends in the Nelson County countryside. Nowadays they’re cruising up and down the East Coast and into the deep South in a 2007 Ford Econoline van with Lord Nelson, a five-piece “Dirty Funk n Roll” band featuring “greasy trombone, backbone bass and dirty south guitar.” They play the Pavilion on June 22. The Can-Do Attitude opens.
They call themselves Disco Risqué, but this high energy band with guitars, bass, drums, horns and vocals pumps out everything from rock and hardcore to funk and hip-hop and propulsive pop. They will bring their “controlled chaos” to Fridays After Five on June 29. The Tyler Dick Band opens.
Fridays After Five continues through September 14; the second half of the season has yet to be announced.