Random Row Books, Part 2 — Music

November 28th, 2013 · 2 Comments · By

When I first moved to Charlottesville in 2009, there was a sense of spontaneity in both performing and putting on shows. Nailgun itself served as a fun waterhole for last-minute shows, screenings, whatever bubbled up during the week. And despite something being organized day-of, a worthy event could bring a sizable mass of people.

Random Row had an open-door policy for booking. Anyone from a high school metal band (a popular booking niche RR fell into for a while) to headlining indie acts to stellar-level performances of classical new music to hip-hop was booked. This all combined to make Random Row a music hotspot and a sometimes failsafe for orphaned shows. Ryan’s amazing generosity also led to the space being used for the 2010 “Save WTJU” community meetings/benefit concert and the 2011 Special Use permit debacle (Ryan donated his business space for these and many other events).

Here’s just a small sampling of the rock bands that played at Random Row:

Titus Andronicus, The EvensGEMS/BirdlipsThe ExtraordinairesSQUEEZEUSInvisible HandBorrowed Beams of LightWhite LacesWe Are Star ChildrenLeft and RightThe Fire TapesInfinite JetsEternal SummersDwight Howard Johnson (perhaps their first show?), Books and the Ends of Books, Truman Sparks (reunion show), Double Complete Rainbow/Articulate Chewbaca,  Andrew Cedermark and Buffalo Wild WingPontiakGobletJonny Corndawg (Jonny Fritz), Order of the Dying OrchidUltra DolphinsBride of the NarwhalCloud NothingsDrunk TigersBuck GooterDais QueueArmaggeddon Community RoundtableCuddle MagicEars to the Ground FamilyHilarious PostersCorsairRhythm BanditNurse BeachDBB Plays CupsThe CaninosHorsefangKill Your BrainManorladyRed SatellitesGreat DadsGifts from EnolaGreat EasternYour Spirit Animal in the Unreal CityWorn in Red


Special Use Debacle

The bookstore was also the organizing point against the city’s strange attempt to enforce an ambiguous provision–a so-called Special Use permit–requiring any space having music to adhere to a series of standards difficult to implement without spending significant cash. Random Row was actually the first to be hit with this, as the city’s Fire Marshall came sallying into Random Row (he carries a handgun to give you a sense of the person) proclaiming the establishment closed for music. Apparently, a permit owner (i.e. another music venue owner in the city) had called the Fire Marshall to report Random Row Books for being in violation of this obscure code. (lame)

Random Row was shutdown as a performance space and while people complained, no real action occurred until the Fire Marshall started to pop-up at other venues around town. I can remember distinctly a Tea Bazaar show needing to have a counter at the door to ensure they stayed below their extremely low capacity (according to this Special Use provision). At that point people started to freak out and organized a huge community meeting. Here’s a comprehensive Nailgun post from Jacob Wolf, who booked shows here in town through his Holy Smokes! Booking. Here’s an impassioned op-ed from Baillee Elizabeth, also posted on Nailgun.

It was quite the show. The Mayor showed up, as did other city officials and a whole slew of musicians, venue proprietors, music lovers and enraged community members. Ultimately, the city backtracked and claimed all current venues would be “grandfathered in,” retroactively issued a Special Use permit. I don’t know what happened to the provision on the books, though. It was recently branded during the first days of Black Moto Saloon’s issues with its local neighborhood association, so perhaps the city keeps it in its backpocket for future shenanigans.



I know I will not be going as in-depth with this as I should, elaborations and detailing are welcome in the comments

In July 2010, WTJU got a new station manager Burr Beard. Mr. Beard had a plan to make WTJU “better” in the sense of increasing listenership and therefore money through fundraising. Typical UVA development stuff. Atypical response, however. While most of the time people simply complain, the WTJU volunteer network went into overdrive and within a matter of weeks UVA had declared defeat and promised to allow WTJU to stay weird. Later, Mr. Beard resigned. UVA has since hired Nathan Moore, who has been terrific in keeping the station vibrant. Here’s James’ post recounting “the whole WTJU story.”

Random Row was the meeting place for organizing meetings, community town halls and a benefit concert. We also used the “Keep WTJU Weird” flyers as scrap paper for years. Here’s a video of Brandon Collins recounting the event:


Okay! I think I’m done! Might do one more installment..we’ll see..


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2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Dave // Nov 29, 2013 at 11:29 am

    I will miss Random Row tremendously. In addition to the Hilarious Posters show which is represented by the above flier (to which I think maybe 10 people came) the Posters also played their EP release show there, SQUEEZEus debuted there, it was the first place I saw Borrowed Beams play and it was the site of most of my favorite Beams shows since I became a member of the band. I like to think that the video that Renee and I made for Invisible Hand’s Psychic Cat, which features footage from a particularly gnarly Hand show at Random Row, captures some of the spirit of that great place. RIP Random Row. Charlottesville won’t be the same without you.


  • 2 Nick // Dec 5, 2013 at 8:02 am

    Here’s another video from Random Row, featuring the wonderful Faux Ferocious. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EGXD13bPNjA

    Thanks for the fantastic posts, Coogan – and for keeping nailgun alive.