Tom Tom Founders Festival

If you would have told me in September of last year that central Virginia would see the establishment of three brand new music festivals in 9 months, I would have said, “That’s just cray.” But you would have been right! In the time it takes to make a human child, RVA Magazine has hosted RVA Music Fest (my coverage here and here), Style Weekly has put on the Shadrock Music Festival (Cheats Movement’s coverage here), and now — and I really do mean now, as it’s already started — we have Charlottesville’s Tom Tom Founders Festival, a month-long, SXSW-style music, arts and innovation conference that culminates in two amazing days of music this weekend. More than 50 bands will be performing on Friday, May 11 and Saturday, May 12, and the lineup includes a wonderful mix of heavy-hitting national acts (Those Darlins, Futurebirds, Josh Ritter and J Roddy Walston & the Business to name a few) and VA-based artists that promise to showcase the amazing pool of talent found in the area (Dead Fame, Eternal Summers, The Hill & Wood and No BS! Brass Band among them). Have a look at the full list of performers and their set times here. Though several jump out as must-sees, two in particular have me worked up into an anticipatory tizzy, the first of which is Nelly Kate.

The past few months have found Kate performing a flurry of shows in central Virginia and Washington, DC in support of her recently released album Ish Ish and, much to my dismay, I haven’t managed to make it to a single one. It’s been a torturous run of earnest intentions, near misses and unused tickets, made all the more torturous by the fact that Ish Ish, a truly amazing album that you should run-don’t-walk to buy here, has been in my car the entire time, taunting me and delighting me at the same time. Have a listen to her song “Blue Badges” below to see why I’m so desperate to finally see her perform.

Nelly Kate — “Blue Badges” [Spotify]

The second act that I’m over the moon about possibly seeing is The Walkmen. Just last week, I was having a conversation about The Walkmen with my bandmate 4eva Doug, who is the reason I started listening to the group’s previous effort Lisbon. I was telling him how, after just a short time listening to The Walkmen, they’d already climbed up into the stratosphere of bands I respect the most, which is a special type of esteem that’s not usually garnered in short order. Maybe it has something to do with the referrer (Doug’s is a musical opinion I value highly) or Lisbon itself (a completely brilliant album that sets up shop in one particular mood and works outward). Or maybe it’s Hamilton Leithauser’s voice, which climbs and climbs, even as it maintains a raspy hue that imbues each word with an extra measure of emotion. Whatever it is, I can’t recommend the group highly enough, and I invite you to find out what strikes you most by listening to the title track from their upcoming release Heavenwhich you can preorder here.

The Walkmen — “Heaven” [Spotify/iTunes]

There are many, many more groups worth checking out, so click here to visit the Tom Tom Founders Festival website, where you can check out the full schedule, buy tickets and plan your trip to Charlottesville.

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