The charm of C’ville [with audio]

When Rolling Stone writer Rob Sheffield first met his neighbors after moving into his apartment in Brooklyn, they asked him if he was from Charlottesville. “You were a DJ on WTJU,” they said, having recognized Sheffield’s voice from his time at the station. “It was so funny because I’d never met them face to face,” Sheffield told us, “and it’d been 15 years since they had left Charlottesville, but that’s the kind of place it is. Wherever people go, it just kind of stays in your heart.”

On January 22 Rob Sheffield returns to Charlottesville, the setting of Love Is A Mix Tape, to read and sign his memoir of cassette tapes, love and loss.
C-VILLE Playlist
What Rob’s been listening to

“From Here We Go Sublime,” by The Field (from From Here We Go Sublime)—Euro techno geek producer takes a beloved doo-wop chestnut (The Flamingos’ “I Only Have Eyes For You”) and turns it into a whole new song, five minutes of strange and beatific electro-chill. This song makes me wish I could go figure skate on Neptune.

“You Make My Dreams Come True,” by Hall & Oates (from Voices)—I heard this a couple weekends ago at a bar in my neighborhood while playing pinball and it made all the girls dance and it made my pinball skills so mighty I nearly sprained my hands. I wish I could be as cool as Oates. (Hall I can handle.)

“Lonesome Cowboy Dave Thomas,” by Manishevitz (from Grammar Bell and the All Fall Down)

“Doncha Bother Me,”  by the Rolling Stones (from Aftermath)

“Mr. Pitiful,” by Big Daddy Kane (from A Taste of Chocolate)

”Boots of Spanish Leather,” by Bob Dylan (from The Times They Are

“Black Out,” by Pavement (from Wowee Zowee)

Sheffield’s experiences while living in ’90s Charlottesville have definitely stayed in his heart, so much so that he wrote a book, Love Is A Mix Tape: Life and Loss, One Song at a Time, about those years. On Tuesday, January 22, he’ll come back to town for a reading and signing at New Dominion Bookshop.

When he first arrived in town for grad school at the end of the ’80s, Sheffield walked into Plan 9 Records and found a copy of And Suddenly, a fanzine published by soon-to-be Yo La Tengo bassist James McNew (read C-VILLE’s review of Yo La Tengo’s Satellite Ballroom show here) that featured interviews with bands like Sonic Youth and Happy Flowers. “It was exciting,” Sheffield says. “It was kind of a little introduction to what a musical place Charlottesville is.”

Then came an even better musical moment: The bartender at the Eastern Standard (now Escafé) popped in a cassette of Big Star’s Radio City, and Sheffield met Renée Crist (who spent time as a music columnist for C-VILLE) through their common affinity for Alex Chilton and “Thirteen,” a song they would later dance to at their wedding in the summer of 1991. After more than five happy years of marriage, though, Crist suddenly died of a pulmonary embolism in May 1997. We won’t attempt to describe the feelings that followed; Sheffield puts it better than anyone else could in Love Is A Mix Tape, so pick up a copy at his reading.

Listen to "International Airport" by Dump:

powered by ODEO
Courtesy of James McNew – Thank you!

Despite Crist’s death, Sheffield has many great memories of Charlottesville. He discovered his all-time favorite song, “International Airport” by Dump (the solo project of McNew), while listening to WTJU on a drive in Crozet. “As soon as I got home I called the DJ and was like, ‘What did you play?!’” he says. “I’ve been playing it constantly ever since.”

“It reminds me of the Corner Parking Lot,” he says of the song. “That’s where McNew used to work, along with every other musician in Charlottesville. I think of just sitting there and looking at the hills.”

He also remembers seeing Pavement’s first Charlottesville show at Trax in 1991 (they were nervous, he says, and slipped their local friends’ names into the lyrics) and being blown away by Sleater-Kinney at the Tokyo Rose in 1996. “It was this really celebratory punk rock moment that only could have happened in Charlottesville,” he explains.

Sheffield’s Charlottesville ties are still strong, and maybe that’s how local post-punkers Bucks and Gallants made it into a November Rolling Stone spread depicting the “Indie Rock Universe” (which has caused controversy for being coupled with Camel Cigarettes advertising). When we posed this to Sheffield, he laughed. “There are a lot of Bucks and Gallants fans, you know?” he says. “They played this phenomenal gig in Brooklyn [in 2006]. It was definitely the most fun that I had at any gig all that summer.”

We’re certainly glad that Charlottesville still has a big spot in Sheffield’s heart, and we’re psyched for his visit. He even agreed to give us a taste of his musical knowledge by curating our C-VILLE Playlist, so check out what’s in his cassette player.

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