Rockabilly around the clock [with video]

Rockabilly around the clock [with video]

In the 1990s, Wrenn Mangum earned a degree in printmaking and painting from Virginia Commonwealth University. You might think, then, that by now he’d be in a studio sweating over a canvas or rolling ink for his next print. But after finishing up school, Mangum headed for the stage, fronting Richmond rock band Frog Legs (whose name he embodied on stage with hops, splits and more, we hear) and then Boneanchor, whom he still plays with on occasion. It was after his regular bandmates started to settle down and have children, though, that Mangum found his true calling: a career as a solo rockabilly performer.

All shook up: Wrenn Mangum brings you back to the ’50s with his performance at Mono Loco on February 22.
C-VILLE Playlist
What we’re listening to

“New Orleans,” by Silver Jews (from Starlite Walker)—This tune threatens to crumble into careless immobility at every turn, but its teetering progression grabs you and proves David Berman’s words even as he sings them: “We’re trapped inside this song.”

“Dry Your Eyes,” by The Streets (from A Grand Don’t Come for Free)—English rapper Mike Skinner demonstrates his talented lyricism in this eerily intimate narrative of a break up.

“Red Flags and Long Nights,” by She Wants Revenge (from She Wants Revenge)

“Factory Girl,” by Alex Caton (A Rolling Stones cover from her self-titled record)

“Doo Wop (That Thing),” by Lauryn Hill (from The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill)

Mangum actually has two acts, which seem to mirror his earlier artistic studies. His Elvis tribute, which won first place at November’s regional Images of the King contest in Fredericksburg, is akin to printmaking in its goal of replicating Presley’s physical and musical essence, while his broader rockabilly show presents a more painterly portrait of the ’50s artists that he loves, revealing his own energetic, pompadour-sporting persona. On February 22, Mangum will bring the latter to Mono Loco with songs by artists like Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis, Richie Valens, Elvis (naturally) and more.

When we talked, Mangum was still recovering from a long weekend of shows, including a gig at the Conservative Political Action Conference’s presidential banquet in D.C. “It was really upscale,” he says “There were lot of people and a really nice dinner. They had audiovisual stuff there, so my head was about as big as a building on these two screens. It was really something.” As for his own politics, Mangum tells us that he just sticks to music. “But I applaud anybody who’s doing it because it’s a very difficult job,” he says, “and I’ve met people from different political leanings, and I like everybody.”

Mangum’s own job, traveling around the East Coast to play live music, isn’t that easy, either. “It’s really difficult,” he says. “But every time that I think it’s really hard, I have to kick myself to remind myself how much I love to do it and that it’s absolutely better than doing anything else.” In addition to playing bars and nightclubs, Mangum takes on birthday parties, conferences, fundraisers and anywhere else with room to sling his guitar and wail his way back to the days of Sun Records.

Wrenn Mangum performing Rufus Thomas, Jr.’s "Tiger Man."

Charlottesville, Mangum says, is one of his favorite places to play. “Some of my best shows have been there,” he says. “I think there is a lot of music in Charlottesville and a lot of support for music. And it’s a real diverse musical appreciation.”

“Elvis has always been my favorite, ever since I was a little boy,” Mangum says. “And 1950s music is my favorite era.” So much so that he’s made it his living. Mangum’s polite and grateful tone evokes that simple ’50s idealism and affirms that he’s quite content to be strumming his strings and boogying the night away just like his idols before him.

Hip-hop is dead. Long live hip-hop.

Remember C-VILLE’s December 18 cover story that explored the struggle hip-hop has faced in Charlottesville? After the short-lived hip-hop night at Outback Lodge was shut down due to a shooting, there was nary a place to spit rhymes or drop beats. So what did local rapper Q*Black and his Illville Crew do? On February 8, they took it to the streets, setting up a PA in front of the Jefferson Theater (and right next to the C-VILLE offices) and performing a set to promote their last-minute show with Endless Mic at the Tea Bazaar that night.

Video of the Illville Crew performing on the Downtown Mall in front of the Jefferson Theater.

As the bass frequencies rattled our desks, we stepped outside and watched the trio kick it on the bricks while local promoter Jeyon Falsini, who has worked hard to get hip-hop heard in town, tweaked the volume and watched on. It was one of those unexpected and spontaneous musical moments that makes us extra thankful to live in Charlottesville. And, with people like the Illville Crew and Falsini still making things happen, it looks like Charlottesville hip-hop is refusing to just rest in peace.


Feedback also got the chance to check out some of the great acts that played at this past weekend’s Surround Sound festival at Satellite Ballroom. Check out the photo gallery to your right to get your own taste of the night. [Photos by Jason and Tammy Keefer]

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