UVA Arts, University of Virginia

Vol 18 Spring 24 Library
Loose copies of the first four volumes of "Under The Table And Screaming" sit on a WTJU shelf. Volume 5 will be available in June 2024. | Image by Nathan Moore

Under the Table and Screaming

For five years, Erin O'Hare had a front row seat to the Charlottesville music scene as the music writer at C-Ville, the region's premier news/arts weekly. She couldn't have known that an opportunity was around the corner that would earn her an unofficial Ph.D. in the subject.

Erin O'Hare with Volume 1 of Under the Table and Screaming featuring the Tea Bazaar

O'Hare is the author of Under the Table and Screaming, a five-volume zine series from WTJU that chronicles the history of the Charlottesville music scene as seen through eleven prominent venues. The project began in 2020, just as O'Hare left her position at C-Ville, and Moore recognized she would be the perfect person to helm an effort he had been thinking about for years. Plus, she was already a longtime WTJU host of shows focused on rock, punk, and hardcore. 

O'Hare dove in as the pandemic descended, using Zoom and the occasional park bench to rack up more than 60 interviews with musicians and venue owners and researching old articles from C-Ville and The Hook. The fascinating and entertaining series is a barfly on the wall perspective on the scene that grew up in the shadow of the blazing success of the Dave Matthews Band (hence the tongue-in-cheek title).

Do you want to hear about John D'earth's first-ever gig in Charlottesville in the late 1970s with his band Cosmology? Or the history of the Thursday night Jazz night that has been like a church for jazz lovers for more than 30 years? It's in Volume 2, the one that covers Miller's and Fellini's. The moment when a teenaged Jay Pun, who would go on to be a favorite on the local scene, heckled the legendary Herbie Hancock at Cabell Hall to play his favorite song? That's in Vol. 3 – Old Cabell and The Paramount.

Erin O'Hare, writer and WTJU DJ, and Senlin Means, co-owner of "The Beautiful Idea," discuss the zine series and Charlottesville's local music scene at a Virginia Festival of the Book event on Friday, March 22
(Photo: Nathan Moore)

 Want to hear from local Black artists like Lester Jackson (aka Nathaniel Starr), Ti Ames, Ivan Orr, Rachelle Claiborne, and homegrown rapper Keese Allen about their profound experiences playing in the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center, including Ames' powerful recollection of a performance where they could actually feel their ancestors? It's all there in Vol. 4 – Front Porch/CVille Coffee/Jefferson School.

And there's more. A lot more. A whole volume is dedicated to the Tea Bazaar, the second-floor lounge on the Downtown Mall that welcomes genres from folk to punk to hip hop and everything in between while apparently boasting the scene's most signature scent. There is a look back at C-Ville Coffee, once home to shows by local and touring artists and, for a time, to the famed Prism Coffeehouse series.  The Front Porch gets a well-deserved spotlight for connecting this community through music both as an educational organization and performance venue that has presented everything from folk to bluegrass to 

R&B to 'Twan throat singing and more. 

Volume 4 of Under The Table And Screaming features The Front Porch, Cville Coffee, and Jefferson School African-American Heritage Center.

For O'Hare, the complex series carries a simple message. "There are so many ways to participate in the music scene here. You don't have to be in a band. You don't have to go to everything. You can book a show or make a flyer or put up flyers. Almost every night of the week you can go see great music here. I hear people talk a lot about there being no music scene in Charlottesville, and I find that insulting."

The connective tissue throughout O'Hare's storytelling has been a passion. "Almost nobody I talked to does this full-time," she said. "This is all people making music because they love music, and they love the community that they have worked really hard to create." That community's passion for the project has also been strong. "What has been so cool is that the jazz heads I have talked to have been just as excited about it as the punks, who have been just as excited about it as the classical composers, who have been just as excited about it as the electronic music people."

O'Hare is not just a chronicler of the Charlottesville music scene; she is also a participant. Since starting on Under the Table and Screaming, she signed on to this project she has joined two bands, Radon Abatement, and the newly formed Richmond group Outer World, with whom a tour is in the works. In addition, she and partner Davis Salisbury (whom she met working on the project) do book shows at Visible Records. Oh yes, and there is the full-time gig – she is the neighborhoods reporter for Charlottesville Tomorrow.

So, there are lots of reasons she jokes that her next project might be titled "Erin Learns to Say No." But music lovers around Charlottesville and beyond should be thankful she didn't learn this trait before putting in the hours of work and oodles of passion that became this five-volume set. "If a town wants a local space," she writes in the preface, "it must make the space for it. It must nourish it."

You can nourish the scene and yourself by contacting WTJU to order Under the Table and Screaming – Vol. 1 – Tea Bazaar today!

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