Almost famous

Almost famous

The day that Feedback was scheduled to meet up with Sparky’s Flaw front man Will Anderson he called us up and asked, "Can we move things back an hour? Band rehearsal got pushed back. I don’t mean to be a diva or anything, but is that O.K.?" That was fine. We roll with things, ya know?

Keeping the spark going: Sparky’s Flaw has progressed from high school talent shows to college gigs, and now it’s on the verge of big-time success

We found it funny that Anderson was worried about looking like a diva, but we guess Sparky’s Flaw can’t help but have some stars in their eyes. The band that we once witnessed during lunchtime at a high school battle of the bands quickly gained a college fan base when they came to UVA, and now, though they’ve still got a year of school left, they’re on their way to becoming professional rockers.

Take a listen to "Under Control" from Sparky’s Flaw‘s new EP:

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Courtesy of Red Light Management – Thank you!

They’re on board with Red Light Management and A&R guru Bruce Flohr (he signed some guy named Dave back in 1993), and this week they’ll release their self-titled EP on Smash Records and celebrate by playing UVA’s amphitheater on Thursday, August 30 and Fridays After 5 at the Pavilion on August 31.

Smash Records? That name sounded familiar, so Feedback did a little research (read: Googling). The label was a Mercury Records subsidiary that released works by the likes of James Brown and Jerry Lee Lewis in the ’60s. Now, it seems, Mercury is resurrecting the imprint, with the Sparky’s Flaw EP as one of the first releases.

So, what’s it like to jump into the big time music biz while still an undergraduate? "It’s very busy," says Anderson. "We’re all over the place, so it’s hard to bring everyone together at once." That’s no surprise, as the four members’ studies run the gamut from business to computer science to music. "We miss lots of classes for shows and we’re gone most weekends," says Anderson. But with the prospect of big things ahead, Sparky’s Flaw is making it work.

With the group hitting up the East Coast college circuit (they’ll head to Clemson the day after their Friday show) and under the wing of Flohr, it’s hard not to blurt out, "Are they the next DMB?!" Well, hold your tongue just a second. Sparky’s Flaw is aiming more for modern pop rock than Dave’s jammy world beat sound. "We place ourselves between Maroon 5 and The Fray," says Anderson. "Not as sexy as Maroon 5, but not as bland as The Fray." Feedback hasn’t heard The Fray, but we must say that the Flaw’s new EP does have the same swaggering bounce as Maroon 5. Don’t take our word, though. Head out to the amphitheater or Pavilion and hear for yourself.

The Smog lifts

Charlottesville has a wealthy share of singer-songwriters, past and present, so it’s naturally a perfect place for lonesome strummers to make a tour stop. On Tuesday, September 4 Bill Callahan will do just that with a show at Gravity Lounge. Callahan has recorded introspective and beautiful tunes as Smog since 1990, but with his latest release, Woke on a Whaleheart, he lifted off the veil and used his own name.

Bill Callahan, formerly Smog, returns to the exotic wilderness of Virginia with his show at Gravity Lounge on September 4
Take a listen to "Sycamore" from Bill Callahan‘s Woke on a Whaleheart:

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Courtesy of Drag City Records – Thank you!

Feedback caught up with Callahan, who recently returned from some shows in Ireland and Wales, to ask him about his latest endeavors. Why the name change? Well, Callahan was ready to mix things up, and the new moniker is part of that. While Callahan wrote the songs on Whaleheart, he handed the production and arrangement reins over to former Royal Trux and current Howling Hex guitarist Neil Hagerty. "It’s a roll of polyhedra dice with him," says Callahan. "I never knew what to expect from moment to moment, and at the same time [I felt] very grounded and sure. He’s a true American individual."

Even with Hagerty helping out, songwriting is a difficult process, so we were curious about Callahan’s method. "I get a few words first," he says, "and they tumble around in my head like puppies gnawing on each other. Then it becomes a vat of puppies, wriggling, biting and yipping. Before you know it, it’s a young dog and it can run as fast as you can throw. That is when you have it all together and can play it over and over on a guitar. By the time you leave the studio, it is still a young dog but getting older." Well, Callahan’s obviously not only a seasoned songwriter, but also pretty handy with the metaphors. We’re sure some very well bred dogs will take the Gravity stage.

Callahan has been through town before, so we asked him about his experiences. "I played at Tokyo Rose maybe three times and I remember all of them," he says. "I love Virginia. Since I grew up in Maryland, Virginia was the exotic-seeming distant location for hiking and camping." We doubt he’ll have time for any outdoor adventures when he comes through town this time, but Callahan will surely put on a good show.

What should you expect of the night? Sir Richard Bishop, who opened for Animal Collective in May at Satellite, will start off the evening. We’re eager to see him again, as we think Gravity’s atmosphere will be perfect for his contemplative, experimental guitar sounds. Then Callahan will take the stage with bass, fiddle and drum accompaniment. We are hoping that harpist-songstress Joanna Newsom (whom he’s dating) will also join him. That seems unlikely, but we’ll keep out fingers crossed.

Satellite sounds get sweeter

UVA students are back, and we imagine they are happy to find that a slew of musical acts will be playing right across the street at Satellite Ballroom.

The venue teamed up with Starr Hill Presents at the end of June, and now they are in the process of upgrading the space with Starr Hill’s former PA system. We chatted with Satellite’s Danny Shea to see how things are going, and he says that the improvements will make for sweeter sounds. "The production value will be better than both Starr Hill and Satellite Ballroom," he says. There are also other upgrades in the works (including a new front door and a better backstage area), but Shea says the changes won’t be too drastic. "People aren’t going to come in and go, ‘Wow, look at this.’"

But "Wow" might be the appropriate response when taking a look at Satellite’s fall lineup. Whether it’s country singer Shooter Jennings, "doom rock" cult favorites Boris or hip-hop hero Del Tha Funkee Homosapien, Satellite’s bringing big names from across the board. Feedback is most looking forward to the September 20 show with mash-up madman Girl Talk. Dare we predict it to be the dance party of the year?

And while we’re talking highlights of the year, Wilco is coming back (we knew it!). They’ll return to the Pavilion on October 20. Tickets go on sale Friday, September 7.

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