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The Charlottesville Music Scene

The Charlottesville area boasts many venues for live music lovers, from more intimate experiences featuring the area’s popular “live and local” bands at the Southern Café and Music Hall and the Twisted Branch Tea Bazaar, to stadium-style concerts of hit artists across genres at the Jefferson Theater and Charlottesville Pavilion, both downtown, and the John Paul Jones Arena.

Central Virginia offers several music festivals, notably the Central Virginia Family Bluegrass Music Festival. Charlottesville has fostered several nationally and universally acclaimed bands such as the Dave Matthews Band and Parachute.

At the Southern Café and Music Hall, shows range from no ticket needed to around $20 at the door. Most often focusing on independent singer-songwriters, the Southern features a variety of genres, from folk to indie rock, and occasionally a stand-up comedian or two.

The Twisted Branch Tea Bazaar, located on the second floor of Ike’s Underground on the Downtown Mall, has a vibe all its own. Known for its wide selection of teas (over 45 are on the menu) and reasonably-priced healthy (and vegan-friendly) menu, the Tea Bazaar is a place to relax and soak in the mellowest atmosphere around. Lights glow softly on the eclectic décor, and patrons can enjoy the rotating beer and wine selection offered. The Tea Bazaar is one of the more unique local music venues, and the area’s only hookah bar. When music is playing, the Tea Bazaar normally charges a cover $8 or under.

The Jefferson Theater is Charlottesville’s newest venue. A renovated old-fashioned movie theater, the Jefferson draws in larger acts than the Southern or the Tea Bazaar, but with a more laid-back, personal atmosphere than can be found in a stadium. More often than not, shows are general admission, with standing room near the stage. While the John Paul Jones draws in a large proportion of University students, the Jefferson is geared more towards local residents looking to enjoy a well-known artist for a reasonable price (tickets normally cost about $25).

Charlottesville’s Pavilion is the perfect place to enjoy live music while soaking up the warmth of a summer night on the bustling Downtown Mall. Though closed during winter months, the Pavilion reopens with a bang every year, kicking off Charlottesville’s popular “Friday’s After 5”. Fridays After 5 features a different artist every Friday of the spring and summer, and while alcohol is sold, the events are always family-friendly. Locals stand near the stage or sit at the tables underneath the Pavilion, or lay out blankets on the grass on the outside perimeter to enjoy the show picnic-style. The Pavilion is always laidback: shows are all-ages, and welcome outside food and drink and lawn chairs.

The John Paul Jones Arena, the University’s basketball arena, features large acts that small venues aren’t able to attract. The 16,000 seat arena plays host to another college once or twice a week during basketball season, but during the rest of the year, the JPJ has a slew of diverse events, from the ACC Wrestling Championships and the Harlem Globetrotters, to Cirque du Soleil and the Home and Garden Show. In recent years, the Arena has featured Rod Stewart, Maroon 5, Bob Dylan, and Rascal Flatts.