Local Music Venue Check-in: The Jefferson

Posted on September 12, 2013 by

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thejeffersonlogoHaving become a sentry of the Charlottesville music scene, it may be hard to believe that The Jefferson Theater re-opened a mere four years ago. Since then, its hallowed halls have seen the likes of huge national touring acts like Walk the Moon, Grammy-award nominated artists like The Punch Brothers, and über-beloved artists like Jeff Mangum of Neutral Milk Hotel.

I recently had the opportunity to chat with Lindsay Dorrier, an employee of Red Light Management and member of Team Starr Hill Presents, the team in charge of marketing and promoting The Jefferson and its sensational acts.

Why did you (Red Light Management) want to re-open The Jefferson Theater?

I can’t speak to the direct calculations behind the acquisition of The Jefferson Theater, but my sense is that it had a lot to do with the sense of history and opportunity behind the building, originally opened in 1912, as well as the glaring absence of a mid-level venue in Charlottesville proper and more generally, Central Virginia. You had to go to Richmond, D.C., or Tidewater in order to find a 800-1000 capacity rock venue, and in a community such as Charlottesville that has such respect and appreciation for the arts, it just made sense. The renovation of the building was extensive and no expense was spared so this was and is a long-term commitment to the arts scene in Charlottesville, and I for one am very happy that an organization with the resources such as Red Light was willing to make the investment and create what I hope has and will become a local institution.

What is your vision for The Jefferson and its relationship to the music scene in Charlottesville?

Just as I indicated above, when folks think live music in Central Virginia, I want them to think The Jefferson Theater. We have a great booking manager that brings in both well-established talent and up-and-comers. Nothing is more gratifying than seeing a supremely talented but little-known act grow from relative obscurity to selling out a venue like the Jefferson.

The great thing is that [Charlottesville has] venues that can accommodate every level of act, from a 50 person show at the Southern to 60,000 folks at Scott Stadium, and everywhere in between.

We just had Shovels & Rope sell out The Jefferson Theater and they were reminiscing about playing in front of about 10 people at The Southern. That to me is pretty cool–to see an act grow like that, especially one that deserves the attention, such as S & R.

More important than growing regional acts is nurturing the local ones, nothing would make me happier than seeing another local band achieve Dave Matthews Band-esque success and for us to have had a hand in it.

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What was your favorite act to perform at The Jefferson? Why?

Recently, I really enjoyed seeing Walk The Moon at The Jefferson in January of 2013. An interesting story behind the show–it was originally scheduled for The Southern and was selling so well that we ended up moving it to The Jefferson to better accommodate demand. That rarely happens, and for Walk The Moon to then sell out The Jefferson after being moved was nothing short of unprecedented. They delivered the goods that night and you understand why they are receiving so much attention nationally. I saw them again at Bonnaroo this Summer and the crowd was so sprawling that you literally couldn’t see the edges of it if you were in the middle. Fun. in May of 2012 was a similar situation. I love seeing a sellout, but it also feels good to just see the talent that comes through this town because it is substantial.

You have had many Grammy-nominated acts play at The Jefferson. How do you find and bring in such talented artists?

Booking a band is not an exact science. There are many different reasons that we get the shows that we do get: we actively pursue bands that we want in Charlottesville, occasionally there is an artist that needs to fill an open date in the area on a larger tour, an agent reaches out to us because of a pre-existing relationship, or simply because of our growing reputation as a room and as a city that attends live music. That last point can’t be understated, the more highly attended shows we have, the better music we will get. The better we do across the board, the more likely it is that well-established acts will bypass other major markets and do shows in Charlottesville. We have a lot of things going for us and The Jefferson is building a reputation on a regional and national level, so you can expect many great and potentially Grammy worthy acts to come through here before all is said and done.

What are the most challenging things about running The Jefferson? What are the most rewarding things about it?

Probably the most challenging part is the grind of the industry on everyone involved in putting on a show. It’s not for the faint of heart or those looking for 9-to-5 jobs. Emails are sent and received at all hours of the day, speed in communication is a must, and the perception of the music industry as somehow glamorous will be quickly dispelled. That being said, it is truly gratifying to see the joy that live music brings to folks and to know that you had a hand in putting on a show that has been the highlight of the day for a lot of people.

With such a thriving and talented local music scene, what encouraging words would you give to people prone to not going out to shows?

Please go see live music! The Jefferson gets fantastic music, but there are so many other great venues in town and the local talent is as good as anywhere else in the country, and a lot of times better. When you think about it, music is everywhere in our lives, on TV, on radio, in movies, in your grocery store, the first thing you start your morning with, and often something that defines the quality of a night. Go to live music and make it a part of your life. It’s something that will enrich the human experience, and seeing live music made by talented people is a beautiful thing to behold.

In what ways has music influenced your life and driven your career path, past and present?

It’s the reason I’m in this business. I went to school for political science and with about 2 weeks left in my undergraduate career at the University of Illinois, I thought for sure that Law School was the next step. A funny thing happened, though. I had some friends that played live music, and I thought they were good and I might be able to help them reach another level. That specific instance didn’t pan out, but it kindled a passion that is still with me today. I’m really happy with where I am as well as with the opportunities in front of me and the potential of The Jefferson. Charlottesville is coming into a golden age of music appreciation with the resources to nurture it, and I’m happy to be a part of it.

What is next for The Jefferson? Anything exciting in the works for upcoming shows or events?

The Fall music schedule is fantastic! We have Mayer Hawthorne, Kip Moore, and STRFKR coming and that is all before the end of September. I’m in San Francisco currently and picked up a local Fall music preview today only to see many of the same bands coming through Charlottesville being highlighted here. You can expect more great announces from us in the very near future.

Charlottesville is a special place for music, and we need your support to keep it that way.

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