There were a lot of surprises in my first visit to the Sandler Center for the Performing arts. When I walked in there were people working the door, IDing and handing out wristbands for anyone interested in drinking? They have alcohol at the Sandler Center? Beer and wine it seems. I was also unaware there would be food available from California Pizza Kitchen. Pleasant surprises but even with the food there I didn’t spend any time in the lobby. I walked straight through it to the room where Broke Royals were performing as part of the Sandler Center’s Out of the Box series.
The Sandler Center, as expected is set up for great audio. The room has sound dampening materials all over to eliminate unwanted echoes. Other than that the room was pretty basic. On the far end the stage was set up already with all of the bands equipment on it with lighting assemblies framing it on each side.
In a row all the way across the front of the stage were VIP tables which I later learned came with a few drinks included (I’m going to have to look into this). Behind the VIP “front row” there were two clusters of about a dozen chairs each, set up in three rows against each wall, allowing for a large open space interspersed with a few high top tables. Even with the seating the room was large enough to hold over two hundred people comfortably. The rest of the floor was empty except for a portable bar in the corner by the entrance to the room. Beer and wine. Nothing wrong with that. I hadn’t gotten a wristband this time because I hadn’t planned on drinking but next time may be different. Its nice to know its an option. After scanning the room I headed to one of the chairs on the window side of the room to wait for the show. At this point it was about 6:20 and there were about twenty to thirty people in the room, mostly between the ages of 35 - 60, but the show didn’t start until 7:00 so I had time to kill. Thankfully for me I was engaged almost immediately by Whitney, who ended up as entertaining and memorable as the band. I’m not even going to guess at her age but she probably had about twenty years on me. We talked about the state of live music in the area, but our conversation centered mostly around my vision for Small Venue Live and my mission to change the Virginia Beach music culture. She was energetic and engaging and the time flew by quickly so before I knew it the band was taking the stage.
Like I said before this was my first time to the Sandler Center so I didn’t know what type of quality to expect from their shows. When the band was introduced they came out, each in a vest and tie looking very well put together. Each one looked like the type of guy thousands of mothers would be overjoyed to have their daughters bring home. The lead singer of the band has a classic attractiveness about him and an infectious easy smile that comes across even more in him confident persona and seemingly effortless vocals. Their music and lyrics caused me to think of a more clean cut version of Neon Trees or Imagine Dragons but that wouldn’t really be a totally accurate comparison. Since it’s so hard to describe a sound accurately you should check out their youtube channel to hear them for yourself.
Their first set was impressive and I decided pretty quickly that I would like to see them again, even if I have to wait for them to come back in May. Whitney and I both decided that, even though they were amazing fully powered and electric, our favorite part of that set was when they went acoustic and played a few “stripped down” versions of their songs. Even then they came across happy, hopeful and upbeat when some bands end up sounding melancholy and morose when they go acoustic. Broke Royals is an immensely likable band with a sound that will make you feel better about the world after you give them a listen!
If the Sandler Center delivers this way next week with Skye Zentz and Ian Randall Thornton then I may make it out to their entire out of the box series. So far for me the Sandler Center has one at bat and one home run!
I remember the first time I met Josh Toney from Channel Lounge. I caught him wearing a haoles shirt and just had to take a picture of him in it. We got into a conversation about Hawaii, where he’s from, and reggae music in Virginia Beach and ever since he's been sending me invites to his local shows. That was months ago and I've never been to one. I've seen him freestyle before and it got me interested but this is the first time I've been out to one of his shows with Channel Lounge. I originally had other plans but things fell into place for me to end up at Nat's with Josh and Channel Lounge.
My first thoughts upon arrival:
The are way more people he than I expected.
The crowd is nor what I expected. The range of people here is wide
Josh's music is unique and honest. Having heard him freestyle hearing written lyrics are just an extension of his personality. The band backing him grounds his unpredictably. Not just his lyrics but his delivery.
Josh tells us he wrote a children's book and a song around it.
The song starts with some mellow backing vibes from the band. Reggae based soothing sounds and a "Woah, oh oh," from Josh.
"Once upon a time in a land far away there liver a king so powerful."
Opening line of his story of power, fatherhood and sacrifice. Positivity, pure Josh. Unpolished. The product of a band and frontman not trying to please others and appease opinions that don't matter. Raw emotion.
Among some of the other lyrics of their original songs that stand out are these two gems that maybe hard to appreciate without hearing the beauty of their delivery or the peaceful feel of the music around them.
"Ground score I fell in love right there on the floor now that's what I call a ground score."
When the music stopped I got a chance to meet Mike Harris, an old childhood friend of Josh's who went on to chase BMX fame and stardom with the X-Games and realized the amazingly genuine type of people that the members of Channel Lounge attract to their shows. Just before I left I was able to link up with Josh for a second and let him know how much I enjoyed his show, especially his freestyling because it truly is a thing of beauty. I leave you with this picture of the RMC reunion.
I ducked into Cactus Jack’s late Saturday night a little bit wet from the ongoing downpour. With the rain it wasn't really the type of night I like to go out on but I wanted to catch Strange Rootz performing for the first time. A few days before front man Derek Moore had gotten in touch with trying to find out how to make sure all of his band's dates made it to the Small Venue Live schedule. It’s always humbling to me when a band reaches out and I wanted to return the favor as soon as I could.
When I walked into the restaurant I went straight up to the bar and sat down. The male bartender, who was one of three on duty came up to me immediately and asked me what I was drinking. A few seconds later I had my normal cocktail in front of me and the bartender introduced himself as Caesar. We talked for a few seconds before another of the trio of bartenders introduced herself as Megan. While the band played in the background Megan asked me questions about my day at work and I learned the rain had cleared everyone out. After a few minutes our conversation trailed off and I turned my attention to the band.
The first song that I heard them play start to finish was I Shot the Sheriff. Within the first few seconds of listening I knew that Strange Rootz was one of Virginia Beach's best kept secrets. Frontman Derek Moore's vocals were amazing. His confident relaxed tone seemed a perfect fit for the song. The band’s arrangement with the saxophone made the song come of a little bit jazzier than the original and I found myself wondering if I would have chosen their version over the Bob and the Wailers performances in the 70's.
After a few mellow reggae songs I didn’t recognize they picked up the pace with a Jimi Hendrix cover. At first I wondered if I was going to continue to hear a Caribbean slant in Derek’s voice and a reggae lean in the band’s arrangement but when the saxophone kicked in I knew what I was in for and I knew I liked it. Everyone knows Jimi was a guitar man but after a few dueling solos, sax then guitar then back again, I felt All Along the Watchtower could just as easily been written by a saxophone player.
I decided on a second drink when Megan asked and almost wished that the music would stop, but only so I could meet Derek and his band. Earlier I said that Strange Rootz is one of Virginia Beach's best kept secrets but every secret is a bad one when it comes to live music. Strange Rootz needs to be known. They need exposure and you need to get out to see them. Its a shame when the weather stops people from being able to see a live performance. The magic of a live performance can never be recaptured. Once its gone its gone and my only consolation is that this band has more dates coming and I know I'll get to see them again. Strange Rootz plays again tonight. They open up for Mike Love at Shaka’s and I know at least one person that will be in the audience. This guy!
How will something like this affect the immediate area around it? Places like Shaka's and Peabody's and LunaSea will obviously see a jump in business making them even more attractive live music venues. However the parking situation and traffic in the area would become even more "interesting".
What do you think about this?
I learned some valuable information on Thursday at Doc Taylor’s Seaside Market Lounge. The Small Venue Live team was told about the awesomeness that is the DJ Williams Project so we showed up for their performance. On one hand I want to get all gushy about how amazing the show was and how close we are to the action whenever we go to the Lounge but I’m going to hold myself back. What I am going to do is share a the things that I learned from watching the coolest band I’ve seen in as long as I can remember.
1. Standing in front of the DJ Williams Project makes you (or at least makes you feel) infinitely cooler. I cannot describe what emotions were going through me as I listened to them but I decided in those minutes that my life would be complete if I had a theme song. Something along the lines of the Shaft intro, performed by the DJ Williams Project.
2. I need more horns in my life. That’s exactly what I told Mark when I got a chance to speak to him in between sets. When I got to the show I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I was thinking that I was going to be bombarded by the ego of the band’s namesake. A lot of unnecessary vocals and guitar solos for sure. By the end of the set I knew I couldn’t have been more wrong. Of course I did love the DJ Williams’ guitar and vocals but I was most captivated by the trumpet. This was my first opportunity to hear a trumpet being played like that. Mark Ingraham was in complete control of the room whenever he put that horn to his lips. When I left that show all I kept thinking (aside from my newfound desire for personal theme music) was that I need to see more trumpet playing.
3. Virginia Beach needs more of the DJ Williams Project (and if we can’t have that someone tell me of a band that’s at least half as cool as they are). Doc Taylor’s Seaside Market Lounge gets another huge thank you from us at Small Venue Live for continuing to bring awesome acts to Virginia Beach.
The Small Venue Live team always looks forward to Thursdays thanks to DTSML and our unofficial afterparties at Croc's. We're checking our calendar now to see who's on for the next few Thursdays.
At Small Venue Live we aren’t journalists, or writers. We aren’t band managers, or club promoters. We aren’t in a band and we don’t have any musical talent of our own. What are we then? We are lovers of music. Plain and simple. Lovers of music whose dedication may go beyond what is normal but still just lovers of music. A few years back we noticed a void in the live music scene in Virginia Beach and we just now recently figured out a way to fill it. The void wasn’t that there were no talented local bands in Virginia Beach and no shows going on in our favorite local venues. The void is that we didn’t know about them. There have been too many times we’ve gone out to clubs where the music was some predetermined country playlist when all we wanted to do is shake our butts to some hip-hop. Too many times we’ve ended up at a bar that only had a jukebox (that charges you money, no less) when just seconds away there was an amazing acoustic blues show going on. You love music too. You love live music (or “live” DJ’s) just like we do. You want to know where to find great shows, just like we do. So we shared a common problem. We don’t know what’s going on.
Here at Small Venue Live our love of music is making us change that. We are going to tell everyone where to find the best shows. We are going to help people follow their favorite bands and let them know what acts are performing at their favorite venues. There are amazing shows going on all over Virginia Beach, but too many people are missing them. Our goal at Small Venue Live is to create a rich and diverse musical culture in our great city of Virginia Beach. We are going to put more people in front of bands they love. Its scientifically proven (I read it on the internet, lol) that bands play better when there are more people in the audience. Here’s how this works. More people, better shows, more people, more shows, more money for venues, more money for decent local bands, good local bands quit day jobs, great local bands play more shows, great local bands become amazing national acts, people get to say they saw amazing national act when they were just decent local band, amazing national act that used to be decent local band makes room for a new set of local bands. Win, Win. It’s the “Circle of Life” music. It’s the way we create a colorful and energetic music scene worthy of the largest city in Virginia. All we need to do is get the word out.
Here’s what we’re doing: Small Venue Live has a Facebook page, a Twitter page, a Google+ page and a traditional webpage. Most of our content is currently spread through our webpage. There you’ll find every music event we know of and some current events. In the future we’ll have better quality literary content (sorry, we said we aren’t writers or journalists) but the fact is you won’t find a more focused and complete lists of music events for Virginia Beach anywhere else on the internet. Our Facebook page is where we promote bands and events with more focus and connect with people like you who have our passion for live music. Facebook is our opportunity to share what our peers think is important in the local music scene. Like our Facebook page to interact with people who love music like you do and visit SmallVenueLive.com to find information on new bands and event information.
Improving the music scene in Virginia Beach is no small task and it’s obvious Small Venue Live will need help. Real music lovers, band members, DJ’s and venues are the people we need to make this happen. The first step is to keep up with what’s going on in the area by following us. Second we need your info. Help us promote your band by sending us your show schedules. Help us fill your venue by letting us know when and what live music or dj’s will be there. Talk to us. The third step is to share all this information with others. Tell your friends when you’re going to see great bands. Share and like our posts on Facebook as we’ll be doing the same with yours.
Remember the goal: better shows, more shows.