Connecting music scenes, Past and Present

As a double major in Music and American Studies, I have developed a keen interest in local music scenes and the different cultures they harbor. I first came to understand this idea while attending local shows in my home of Richmond, which is a center for a fairly vast scene incorporating many different genres of music. Having lived in Williamsburg for a few years now I discovered that there is not much of a live music scene and it sparked my interests both as a musician and one who frequents live music performances.

After meeting with Professor Knight and Sarah, where we discussed the different possibilities and explorations I could make on the front of music scenes, I was given some past projects to read. Much to my surprise, I found out from Kevin Leslie’s project two years ago that Williamsburg had booming popular music scene back in the 1970s, hosting many national big name acts of the day including The Grateful Dead, The Allman Brothers and James Taylor. In addition to securing some of the biggest names of the day, Williamsburg also had a vast netword of bars and clubs where live music could be experienced any night in several places. This is in stark contrast with the Williamsburg that I know and am (somewhat) familiar with.

Another student, Jacob Charron, examined the music scene in present-day Williamsburg for his project last year. He chronicled the local music scene through three venues in specific: J.M. Randall’s, The Spot and the (still yet-to-be-opened) Green Leafe Underground. Charron discussed the scarcity of live music today in Williamsburg and how the few occurrences of it often go unnoticed with little or no advertising and publicity. As a musician and student of music, this frustrates me a great deal, especially when most other college towns and urban centers have incredibly diverse and in depth music scenes.

After reading those two reports from the past and reflecting upon my time spent in Williamsburg, several questions were raised. What happened between the 1970s when thriving music scene inhabited Williamsburg and today where there is not much of anything? How did these venues and institutions come to fall effectively dissolving much of the music scene in Williamsburg? For my project this semester, I intend on filling in the gaps between these two times in Williamsburg history. I plan on picking up where Leslie left off with the early 1980s and extending my research until the late 1990s or early 2000s, which brings us to up present day. This interests me a great deal, as well as fills in a major gap in the research of this topic that will connect us to a better understanding of the past.


About

The Williamsburg Documentary Project (WDP) strives to collect and preserve the rich past of Williamsburg, Virginia. By conducting oral history interviews, building physical and digital archives, and creating online exhibits, the WDP interprets Williamsburg’s recent past. The WDP works towards developing a better understanding of Williamsburg by bringing together individuals, local groups, Colonial Williamsburg, and the College of William & Mary.

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