The Downtown Mall conjures up an eerie atmosphere on Monday nights. With most restaurants and bars closed, you’ll find few souls traversing the diagonal bricks. This barren landscape makes it easy to discern the sounds and neon red glow of Miller’s, one of the few places where one can take refuge after that difficult first day of the week and enjoy local live music at the same time.
When Feedback arrived at the bar, we found Harry Faulker tuning up his acoustic guitar while drummer Johnny Gilmore squeezed his drums into the narrow window space that doubles as a stage. Billing himself as “Guitar Harry,” Faulkner was preparing for his second of three Monday night performances. He’s no stranger to the place, though.
Harry Faulkner, who once made musical rounds with future DMB-er Boyd Tinsley, hopes to play more local gigs as "Guitar Harry."
What we’re listening to
"Happiness Is A Warm Gun," by The Breeders (from Pod)—On her first post-Pixies release, Kim Deal teams up with her twin sister, Kelley, for this eerie indie rock interpretation of the Beatles tune.
"1 Thing," by Amerie (from Touch)—The multitalented R&B singer gets us trippin’ with this go-go-esque, catchy love song.
"Glenn Tipton," by Sun Kil Moon (from Ghosts of the Great Highway)
"Red Right Hand," by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds (from Let Love In)
"We Takin’ Over (Remix)," by Lil Wayne (from Da Drought 3)
"Amarillo," by Emmylou Harris (from Elite Hotel)
“I used to play here early on with Boyd [Tinsley],” he says as we sit at the bar. “Dave was our bartender then. That was always an amusing thing. That was in ’88.” Faulkner and the future Dave Matthews Band violinist formed Down Boy Down and made their way around the local bar circuit. “We would play Trax, The Mineshaft and Zipper’s,” says Faulkner, referring to Main Street musical haunts that are no more.
Fraternity parties also made for steady gigs, Faulkner tells us. “We were real troopers,” he says. “We had a big truck and a big PA and would go around and play all of the college stuff.” Sometimes shows would even take them out of town. “I remember we once had to play two shows in two states,” he says. “We had to get from some place in West Virginia to some place in Pennsylvania in like three hours. Boyd worked this thing out where we were on this kind of puddle jumper, this kind of bread box with wings. It was the most terrifying plane ride I’d ever been on.”
Good times were had, but fame beckoned for Tinsley, and when DMB took off, Faulkner became a teacher. For the past few years he’s been riffing more on Shakespeare than on his guitar as an English teacher at Albemarle High School, his alma mater. But now he’s hoping to strike up some chords again.
Do his students know about his musical side? “I don’t always want to share everything with him,” Faulkner says with a laugh. “I have helped a couple of them with songwriting projects, though.”
One-time Charlottesville resident Ali Marcus will play Miller’s on Tuesday January 29.
Though Guitar Harry was originally supposed to be an ongoing weekly affair, Faulkner says that won’t be the case, as former Monday night axe-wielder Matthew Willner will be reclaiming the slot on February 4. But the shows that he has played have inspired Faulkner to keep strumming, and he hopes to line up some future gigs at Miller’s and Fellini’s #9.
After our chat, we hung around to listen to Faulkner and Gilmore play songs like “Ballad of the Durty Girls” and “Velvet Elvis.” We enjoyed the laid back, narrative-laced style, and hopefully we’ll get a taste of that again soon.
|Listen to "Trash Day" by Ali Marcus
And since we’re talking about music at Miller’s, we suggest checking out Ali Marcus, a former Charlottesville resident (she attended UVA from 2000 to 2004 and played shows around town during those years) and current Seattle songwriter, on January 29 (that’s tonight if you’re picking up the paper on Tuesday; get your ass Downtown!). Marcus released two albums in 2007 on her own Turtle Rock Records, and, based on the tunes we’ve heard, she’s got a wonderful voice and a keen, Neil Young-ish songwriting sense. When we spoke with Marcus, she told us that her song “Trash Day” is about the differences between the quiet peacefulness of Charlottesville and the noisy bustle of the big city. We’re happy to welcome her back to our serene scene for this show.
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