What's it like? Depends on who you ask

The Hamiltons
Starr Hill Restaurant
Saturday, September 4

I met a dude about a week ago who had just moved into the area from Florida. He proclaimed himself a diehard music lover and inquired about the music scene in Charlottesville. On many occasions I've been asked what the scene is like, and I find myself always giving the same answer: "Depends on who you ask."

I've never been able to give a straight answer to the question to myself, much less anyone else. The phrase "music scene" means two things to me:

-the people attending, and

-the performers.

Now, when discussing the former, I'd have to say that the support of local artists is a bit suspect. With regard to the latter, I rate Charlottesville very highly.

Saturday, I attended a performance downstairs at Starr Hill. Starr Hill has been having these little in-restaurant acoustic showcases for a few months, but for some reason I just wasn't too keen on attending until I found out that The Hamiltons were performing.

The Hamiltons, as far as I can tell, consist of Ezra Hamilton on guitar and vocals, Will Coles on drums, drum machine or percussion, and whomever else Ezra is vibing with at the time.

I try to catch them whenever I can. Ezra and Will are a perfect match. In my opinion (as well as the opinion of many of my colleagues), Ezra is one of the most talented and treasured musicians around town. He sings with the pain of soul, the power of gospel, and the passion of rock.

Saturday was no exception. Will was on fire. I was amazed to see Johnny Gilmore (who changed my perception of how drum could and should be played) in attendance to watch Will play. I would glance up occasionally to see Gilmore's wide grin after a fill or odd-time syncopation. Will never left his zone. He continued to hammer out beats somewhere between hip-hop, jazz, blues, and he-pulled-that-out-of-you-know-where.

I forgot to mention that there were not too many people in attendance for The Hamiltons. Sure, there were the regular diehards and a few casual converts who stayed longer than their allotted dinner dining time. But honestly, The Hamiltons deserve better– as do many other talented groups and individuals in town.

So to answer the question: the music scene sucks, and it's great. It sucks for the artist who feeds off crowd energy. It sucks for the talented musician who deserves support and adulation.

However, it's great for the casual concertgoer who may stumble into a bar randomly and hear someone, like Ezra, crooning in a corner. It's great for the listener who's handed phenomenal material because (everyone knows) a starving artist is better than a fed one.

That's just Charlottesville. The reason why some people hate the music scene is the same reason why some people love it. Me, well... uh, I don't know how I feel, if I feel anything. I just accept it and keep prowling for another column every week.

The Hamiltons at Starr Hill