Tom Tom beat: McGuffey block party kicks off month-long fest

Paul Beyer's ambitious vision for Charlottesville's own South by Southwest– the Tom Tom Founders Festival– debuts April 13, a kick-off to 30 days of music, art, and innovation on Thomas Jefferson's birthday, a date celebrated by both the University of Virginia and the Thomas Jefferson Foundation as "Founder's Day."

The street in front of McGuffey Art Center will be blocked off for the Friday-night block party, and 13 bands are lined up, including Chihamba, Beleza Brasil, and Invisible Hand.

With traditional street-food vendors, beer, and wine, the gala is outside from 5 to 8pm, and then it moves inside into three different McGuffey studios.

"All these different genres– punk, jazz, rock, funk, spoken word– will be playing at the same time," says Beyer, noting that the music is free.

"We wanted to kick off at McGuffey because it's a central art space," says Beyer. "One of the themes of Tom Tom is overlooked and under-appreciated assets. Here's a chance to see music where you don't normally see it. McGuffey hasn't been used that way fully."

Tom Tom's Music Festival weekend will come a month later, May 11-13, and also will utilize spaces not typically seen as music venues: Main Street Arena, the Haven, and Christ Episcopal Church's gothic-styled Meade Hall. In fact, there's nary an iNtelos Pavilion, Jefferson Theater, or Paramount on the bill.

On the big weekend, Josh Ritter, the Walkmen, and Mimosa headline, and a $50 wristband gets music-lovers into the dozens of performances.

Innovation is the other leg of the festival, and Beyer lists events like the Crowd Funded Pitch Night May 3, in which creative artists and entrepreneurs are asked, what would you create in Charlottesville with $1,000? The crowd decides, and the best pitch wins.

A Locavore Expo May 12 extends City Market and closes down streets again to explore the question of how Charlottesville innovation applies to local food, with chef demonstrations– and tastes.

And then there's the Latte Art Competition April 21. "Baristas from all over the commonwealth are coming in for a design competition," says Beyer. And judging from the Tom Tom logo reproduced in latte, these guys are really good.

Beyer has pulled in sponsorships: New Belgium Brewing, which makes Fat Tire, is the primary music sponsor, and the Charlottesville & Albemarle Convention and Visitors Bureau put up $15,000 for the month-long event, says Beyer, who thinks it will all be easier next year.

"It's a pretty enormous festival," he says. "People have to see it to know what it's about."

1 comment

what "punk" band is playing?