Tune up: A new generation of concert bookers finds its niche

Local musician Katie Wood launched the booking company Valence Shows to take on the duty of filling the Twisted Branch Tea Bazaar’s live music calendar. Photo: Rammelkamp Foto Local musician Katie Wood launched the booking company Valence Shows to take on the duty of filling the Twisted Branch Tea Bazaar’s live music calendar. Photo: Rammelkamp Foto

valence bond is when atoms are held together by the electrons they share. It seemed really fitting for how music events can bring community members together through the things they share,” says Katie Wood, describing her new endeavor, Valence Shows. Under this moniker, Wood is one of the newest live music bookers in town.

Wood’s venue of choice is the Twisted Branch Tea Bazaar, where she stages bands and solo acts to share their musical stylings. “To me, the Tea Bazaar holds a critical niche in the Charlottesville music community by showing what couldn’t or wouldn’t be put on anywhere else,” says Wood. “This includes fringe genres, smaller acts, more intimate shows and acts by misrepresented performers.”

Though Valence Shows is new to the local music scene, Wood has booked shows in Williamsburg, Virginia, and is a musician herself. She had some help from the previous Tea Bazaar contact in getting the project off the ground. “Annie [Dunckel] from Lap The Miles offered me the Tea Bazaar,” says Wood. “I was one of a list of interested and qualified people. I jumped at the offer, and she saved the spot for me while I was traveling out of the country the past few months.” She launched Valence in October, taking the reins from Lap The Miles. But the story of how bands get to play the Tea Bazaar goes back much further than that.

When Jacob Wolf started Holy Smokes Booking, he was a student at Bennington College. After graduation, he moved back home to Charlottesville and eventually began booking shows at the Tea Bazaar under the same moniker. In 2013, Wolf passed the task of filling the venue’s event calendar to Amanda Laskey, who started her own company named Lap The Miles. In due time, Laskey migrated to New York, but not before showing Dunckel the ropes. Now, Dunckel is stepping away and Wood is taking over, beginning another chapter at the Tea Bazaar.

Born and raised in Nelson County, Wood is connected to the local arts and culture community in more ways than one. In addition to forming Valence, she is a visual artist who draws inspiration from the region. Her prints and collage-like paintings invoke the subtle curves of the Blue Ridge Mountains; her drawings have a folk art quality to them, with an emphasis on lines and texture.

Music, however, is clearly where Wood’s passion resides. Performing under her own name, she plays dreamy, lo-fi tunes with a haunting, fuzzy underbelly that keeps them from being pure pop. She performs locally, and it’s this very detail that makes her such a great fit for the Tea Bazaar. “Having been on the other side of the booking process as a musician, I try to be as good as I can to the artists by responding to e-mails in time, paying them well and just being nice,” says Wood. “What musicians like about the Tea Bazaar is that it’s so personal. It’s just me setting stuff up—there’s no bureaucracy, no overhead.”

This welcoming environment and creative freedom is something the local music scene has come to depend on over the years, at venues ranging from the Satellite Ballroom and The Bridge PAI to the Pudhouse and Dust Warehouse. Musicians and those interested in supporting their work have consistently led the efforts in fostering independent venues and putting on the shows that appeal to a variety of tastes. It keeps Charlottesville’s music scene diverse and vital.

“I’m trying to continue to make this space available,” says Wood. “In particular, I’m working towards creating more chill, queer space, which is something that I feel like Charlottesville needs.”

As Wood gets underway with Valence Shows, another up-and-coming group is working to “showcase touring and local artists that might not necessarily get commercial backing,” according to Andy Dunlap, who, along with Jack Lilienthal, Alexander Tanson and Mike Waite, has recently started arranging shows under the name Dead City.

The Dead City approach is simple and “open-sourced,” according to the four. “We just want people to have fun and get excited about music. We think it will really bring the community and music scene closer together,” says Dunlap on behalf of the team. This means that Dead City shows could more readily be described as underground or punk. Dead City venues can be anything from a parking lot to an under-utilized stage, with wide variation in between.

The group has already booked a handful of shows that represent the local music scene, from rock bands like New Boss to more experimental acts such as analog synthesizer project The Voice of Saturn, and there’s more planned for the coming months. In fact, if all goes well, Dead City will demonstrate that Charlottesville is anything but.

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