Pulling the plug

Pulling the plug

Guano Boys
Mary Chapin Carpenter Devon Sproule

Alex Caton
Andy Waldeck Shannon Worrell
Shep Stacy Heather Maxwell DJ Stroud
Jay Pun and Morwenna Lasko
Paul Curreri
Jen Fleischer

The Hackensaw Boys
Jim Waive John D’earth

This is my last column for C-VILLE, and it has been an indescribable pleasure to talk to so many musicians, bands, club owners and people on the local music scene. I want to say thanks to my editor, Cathy Harding, who took a chance on publishing that first On The Record, a column about shopping for CDs with local musicians, which might have seemed somewhat limited from her side of the desk. I’d also like to say thanks to John D’earth, who was the subject of that first article, as well as the hundreds of people who took the time to talk about themselves and their work and appear on these pages filtered through my prism. I felt sorry for Nell Boeschenstein, the staff writer who in 2004 must have drawn the short straw and had to sort through my own rock music musings. Let’s face it, some people can talk about music forever. It has been the most important thing in my life, for sure.

I should also apologize to all the musicians whom I never got to. It is a testimony to this town that I went more than three years without mentioning many musicians with seemingly unlimited amounts of talent and dedication (Mike Rosensky jumps straight to mind). I should also say that I will miss the music scene here massively. In 1992, I came back from San Francisco with $4 in my pocket. Joe Mead and Dave Grant knocked on my door the next day and I was in two bands. Today, I play in six bands and I have eight bucks in my pocket.


Self-taught drummer for numerous bands, such as Rude Buddha and Stoned Wheat Things; proprietor of Spencer’s 206 music store for 11 years; music writer for C-VILLE since 2003… Did we leave anything out? The multitalented Spencer Lathrop is moving to Hawaii, and for what? Sun? Sand? Surf? Say it ain’t so, Spencer. It’s hard to imagine Charlottesville without you.

If you want to get to know someone quickly, toss out the name “Bob” in casual conversation, and see whether they come up with Marley, Dylan, Nastanovich, or Girard.
That being said, I wanted my last column to reflect the vibrancy and generosity of our music scene here in town, so I threw out a series of questions to as many musicians as I could, and here is what I got in response.

Best ever/worst ever gig in town?

Bartley (from The Stabones): Best: Starr Hill to a sold-out crowd for our CD release party last year with the Pietasters.

Worst: Our first and only show at the Tokyo Rose. Too much free Kirin equals way too drunk to play.

Jen Fleisher (from Jim Waive & The Young Divorcees): Best gig in town? Opening for Dwight Yoakam at the Pavilion.

Shannon Worrell:  My worst gig ever was actually played with you, Tony Fisher and Art Wheeler at the former Fellini’s back in ’94 when Sam Shepard screamed all night for me to stop singing. “Art, Art please make her stop.” But I kept singing and even loaned him my guitar to play a song during our break, which he almost smashed to matchsticks trying to put it down. The stinger was, I totally idolized him and had pictures of him hanging all over my room in high school. Hmm.

Best gig: Playing The Olympia in Paris with Kristen (in their band September ’67) on their very last night open. It was a beautiful, century-old theater where The Beatles played their first show in Paris and Edith Piaf’s signature stage.

Chris Leva: Best gigs for Guano Boys were late ’90s-2001 at the Outback Lodge and Starr Hill when it first opened. Oh yeah, and Faster Than Walking at the Grass Roots festival when the girls in the front celebrated with the old topless two-step.

Worst gig: Any gig at Farmington!

John Whitlow (from Scuffletown): Best gig: One would be my recent gig at Gravity with Cephas and Wiggins. Phil Wiggins was my mentor 20 years ago and it was a great to hook up with him again at Gravity.

Worst gig: My denial skills work too well for me to pull up these memories.

Doug Schneider: Two GREAT Ones: a 2003 concert for Live Arts and a 2005 CD release concert.

Rick Olivarez: I must have blocked out my worst gig, but I am sure it involved a harmonica player.

Does Charlottesville have a scene?

Bob Girard: No. It has, like, three scenes. And they are barely connected.

Helen Horal:  I applied to UVA and moved to Charlottesville from Florida based on the promise of a “music scene.” It has been three years, and I am saying now that I am never leaving, so yes, there is a great music scene, and I feel incredibly lucky to be involved with it.

Jay Pun:  Yes, but it’s very competitive (for no good reason!). It seems as though a lot of people think “stardom” or “success” is owed to them because of other successes in town (and because Charlottesville has a plethora of music), and it’s not, it’s something you work for and need to earn. In order for Charlottesville to be a great music scene, we need to show the rest of the world where we’re at and how good the really great music actually is.

Robert Bullington (from The Hackensaw Boys):  Of course, haven’t you noticed all the hipsters running around town? That’s why I moved to Richmond years ago.

Where is the music business headed?

Heather Maxwell: That’s what even the music business is wondering itself!

Jesse Fiske (from The Hackensaw Boys): It is being reinvented before our eyes. Only those who can keep up with the latest innovations seem to make a buck. However, there are more opportunities to create music and get your songs to the masses. Public opinion is still in charge of deciding who is popular but the results can be terrible.

Bullington:  Anywhere it figures it can make money.

Peter Agelasto (from new generation recording studio Monkeyclaus): DIY + DIY + DIY = Do it Together.

Mike Sokolowski (from Soko): Away from a business and back to a tribal expression.

Shep Stacy (from Sickshot): Mainstream artists will eventually have to give their music away! The money will be in the live performance. Indie artists will always have their grassroots mediums to sell their songs.

Girard: Down the crapper in terms of the big business. Blossoming like anything in terms of the DIY aspect. There is a paradigm shift developing in the way music is created, marketed, presented and greed will hopefully have less to do with it.

Tim Clark (from This Means You): The Internet. Easily. I’ve worked at Plan 9 Music for over five years and I’ve personally witnessed the decline. I think it’s pretty sad. I have an iPod, in fact I’m pretty much in love with it, but I still have over 5,000 CDs. Yes, I’m an eclectic loser. For one, I don’t trust computers with every piece of music I own. Also, I’m a fan of the CD booklet, which downloading doesn’t provide. I think if people knew how bad the retail music industry was suffering they would think twice about it. What would Charlottesville be like without Plan 9 Music? Paying $20 for a CD in the mall, and that would suck. Downloading online is fine, just pay for it so the artist doesn’t get screwed and the record company can afford to still press physical copies for nerds like me.

Biggest technological change in biz and why?

Stacy: MP3 and cheap home recording equipment. Why? One word: Moby.

DJ Stroud: Music going digital. Now my “record” collection doesn’t take up a whole room of my house, and my record label makes money because the cost of distribution is virtually nonexistent.

Bartley: Decent sounding and affordable home recording equipment/the ease of spreading music on the Web. It just made recording/exposing your music much more available to many more people. We’ve never paid for any of our recordings and 10 years ago we would have had to go to a real studio to get something that sounds O.K.

Bullington: Wireless Internet computing, because it allows musicians like myself to supplement their paltry earnings with freelance work while they’re on the road.

What do you always/never do before a gig?

Girard: I used to nearly throw up before every gig, so I would meditate… Now I don’t have any rituals except to take the band’s temperature and try to loosen them up.

Stacy: Before I perform, I just kick back and relax, I never socialize. It freaks me out to know that someone actually came to see me!

Maxwell: I never drink alcohol. And when I’m gigging in Africa, I never wear rings on my fingers.

Charlie Pastorfield: Duct tape my glasses to my nose.

Most famous person you’ve played with?

Bartley: Probably the Queers. Legendary pop punk band from New England. Also on that bill were the Independents who were formerly managed by Joey Ramone, but they never really broke big.

Greg Howard: Tony Levin.

Devon Sproule: Most (should be) famous? Michael Hurley!

Fiske: I smoked a blunt with De La Soul.

Bullington: Slate Hill Phil.

Mary Chapin Carpenter: Depending upon one’s generation and musical taste, there are a couple of diamonds, like Tony Bennett, Paul Simon, Doc Watson, James Taylor, Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan. Hard to gauge who is the “most famous.”

Stroud: I opened for Steve Lawler at a “Buzz” party in D.C. at the superclub Nation. Hailing from England, he was considered a Top 10 in the world DJ, and remains one of my favorites.

Pastorfield: Stevie Ray Vaughan, Kinks, Beach Boys, Muddy Waters, Chuck Berry, Dave Matthews.

Morwenna Lasko: Steven Tyler.

Pun: We got to open up for Ralph Stanley.

Olivarez: Roland Colella.

How has music scene in Charlottesville changed?

Bartley: Well, we lost Trax and the Rose which were both great for getting some national punk/harder bands, but we also got the Pavilion, John Paul Jones Arena, and the Satellite along with Starr Hill. The punk scene has always been a little weak here compared to college towns like Richmond or Gainesville, but I think we do O.K. considering this is the town that gave us DMB. Atomic Burrito does a good job of getting good unknown rock ‘n’ roll bands too.

Stacy: I think there are better bands, better musicians, and more camaraderie. Charlottesville is a better place to play today than it was five years ago.

Olivarez: More music, less scene.

What musician do you have a thing for, musically or otherwise?

Bartley: Well, I think the Ramones were the best band ever, but if you are asking if there is a musician I would like to bang, I would definitely have to say Britney.

Alex Caton: Definitely Jeff Buckley. His voice is transcendent and his recordings are examples of the best songwriting found anywhere. I only wish there could have been more in his short life. Also, Robert Plant will always be someone I have a thing for musically and otherwise.

Clark: True, I like a lot of metal, but Elvis was clearly the coolest motherf*$#^er that ever lived. If you think Elvis wasn’t cool, then you aren’t cool. It’s a scientific fact. So naturally I would like to emulate the biggest rock star ever.

Pastorfield: Aimee Mann.

Stacy: Allison Krauss! Here voice is haunting!

Sproule: Jesse Winchester.

Horal: I want to be Bjork in my next lifetime.

Howard: Coltrane.

Fleisher: Jesse Fiske, musically and otherwise.

Fiske: Who is that bass player for Jim Waive?

Your favorite Beatle?

Bartley: Paul. He used the name Silver Ramon when checking in to hotels so his fans wouldn’t know he was there. This is where the Ramones got their name.

Andy Waldeck: Paul, always Paul, but people have said I’m more like John.

Stacy: Paul. He’s seems like he gets paid the most.

Pastorfield: George.

Do you enjoy making records?

John D’earth:  I love to record but I find it hard work mentally and physically.  You learn the most when you record.  And the musical legacy of our era is defined and has evolved through the recording medium.

Waldeck: It is my very favorite thing in the world to do. For me, it’s the place where spontaneous thought and energy meet the everlasting. Recordings are forever. You make decisions at the spur of the moment that you must live with. I like that. You learn to really trust your self.

Sokolowski: Just about my favorite thing to do in the world. Certainly in the realm of “work.”

Worrell: I thought I stopped being a musician but apparently the sirens or the muses or Satan himself want to torture me into being a musician again. I have been writing new stuff, reluctantly at first, but now I’m cranking out the songs and am grateful and very excited to make a new record in the fall. I hope I can finally make a record I would want to listen to. Getting some good ideas and advice from local piano saint, Wells Hanley.

Maxwell: Yes. Love it! It’s a high I just can never get enough of.

Leva: In a time of flea-sized attention spans and totalitarian DUI laws, making records has become one of the most rewarding and enjoyable aspects of making original (or any) music.

Favorite musician joke?

Bartley: How do you get the drummer off your porch? Pay him for the pizza.

Girard: Three guys in a bar. The first one says, “I have an IQ of 130. I’m a lawyer.” The second guy takes a sip, says, “My IQ is 145. I’m a doctor.” A few minutes pass. Third guy takes a sip and says, “My IQ is 78.” Before he can get another word out the lawyer asks, “What size sticks do you play with?”

Stacy: How do you make a million dollars in the music industry? Start out with two million.

Doug Schneider: What do you call a trombone player with a pager? An optimist.

Paul Curreri: Question: How many indie rockers does it take to screw in a light bulb? Answer: What…You don’t know?

Pastorfield: What did the drummer get on his SATs?  Drool.

Howard: Question: How many Chapman Stick players does it take to change a light bulb? 
Answer: What’s a Chapman Stick?

Olivarez: What’s the difference between a vacuum and a banjo? It’s easier to get the dirt bag from a vacuum.

Fiske: There’s money in this business.

Advice for up-and-comers?

Bartley: Do it for the fun of it. Play shows for free when you first start out. Drive two hours to play in front of 20 people. Don’t worry about making money ‘cause it’s a very small percentage of people that will make a living off of this stuff. Our band is still very much in debt and probably always will be, but I think we have a lot more fun than bands that are trying to “make it” or whatever.

Girard: Find a Charlie Pastorfield to learn to work with. Write. Write. Write. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Only do it if you love playing. Never put yourself in front of the process. Love what you do. Never think of money. That will come only if it’s supposed to. And here’s some really sage advice I gave two great female singers in the ’70s: “Never get drunk faster than your audience.”

Pastorfield: Don’t eat crappy road food. Take the extra time to find a good place to eat.

Olivarez: If you have to use the bathroom on the road, Cracker Barrel.

Schneider: Study, listen to lots of people you respect, play out as much as you can and don’t worry about the result—do the work and enjoy the ride. Sometimes it’s just about being in the right place at the right time…

Howard: Write music and publish it. Do your own thing. Save your money for lean times. If you always want a gig, learn how to play bass.

Jenn Rhubright: Dive into the world of the industry on both sides. As an artist and as a businessman/woman. It’s tempting to just play “the talent” but you’ll end up getting burned, swept to the side, or managed by your best friend’s cousin. Learn the business, learn booking, and how to resolve band issues in a diplomatic sort of way. Learn some sort of wave editing software and record and release an entire album on your own. Grass roots style is key. Don’t believe the shuck and jive that you need to hire a producer and record in a charge-by the-hour studio. Save that for later so that you spend your money and time wisely when you’re paying high dollar for professionals. Support other local music. Fellow musicians will be more likely to come see your show if you make the effort to go see theirs. There is some camaraderie in this town but not enough. And most importantly, the only way you’ll learn and grow as an artist is if you are constantly redefining your definition of “success.”

Agelasto: Most people overestimate what can be accomplished in a year; the same people underestimate what can be accomplished in 10 years.

Bullington: There’s no end to the up-and-coming part of it.

Fleisher: Make friends with Coran Capshaw.

What is the one thing that people don’t know about you?

Bartley: I really love the new Avril Lavigne song, “Girlfriend.”

Rhubright: Most people may not know that I’m terribly shy and self-conscious around people I don’t know very well. People always assume that since I get up and sing in front of crowds that I don’t have any social fears or phobias, but the truth is, I’m somewhat of a recluse! I’m pretty much socially retarded…and I thank the kind people of Charlottesville for looking past that.

Pastorfield: I would trade all my musical experiences to play for the Boston Red Sox.

Chapin Carpenter: That I live here. I am something of a hermit, but I am pleased to be considered a local musician!

Schneider: I wasn’t all that desperate to be on Broadway when I was in New York. Even less so now. I just wanted to sing—still do and hopefully as long as there is something to say, I will always want to.

Girard: I’m always thinking about dying. And I never learned the words to “Freebird.”

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