Ol’ Tippecanoe and Win Butler, TooPosted: June 9, 2011
CULTURE SHOCK: I’ve made it to Charlottesville, where Urban Outfitters outnumber slave plantations and Arcade Fire shows appear at the drop of a hat. Seriously: this town is [hip/urban/post-bellum/all-of-the-above] to an extent that seems centuries removed from where I’ve spent the past 36 hours. (In many ways it is centuries removed.) Just outside of town, in Barboursville and Shadwell, are the highway markers designating the birthplaces of Taylor and Jefferson respectively. That’s not to say they were easy to find. More in depth posts on these sites will follow when I am home with time and internet, but suffice it to say that I got miserably lost in Barboursville seeking a simple marker for Montebello (above), the 250-year-old estate (now a private residence) designating Zachary Taylor’s place of birth; that I nearly nearly suffocated in the sweltering 107-degree Virginia heat (that’s if I didn’t end up flat on Route 33 while crossing the brutal highway stretch simply to photograph the goddamn marker); and that the Barboursville Ruins (the burnt remains of a house once belonging to Governor James Barbour, designed by Thomas Jefferson) are well worth the vineyard detour. Here they are:
Somehow, before ditching Charles City, I also snagged time to stop by Greenway Plantation (sup, John Tyler?); to tour historic Berkeley Plantation, site of the first official Thanksgiving and birthplace of William Henry Harrison and his father, Benjamin Harrison (the Declaration of Independence signer, not the 1880s president); and to catch a taste of the Richmond Battlefield Tour Route. Here’s the main house at Berkeley where Harrison was born. (“They knew slavery was wrong,” explained my tour guide, a woman clad in miserably uncomfortable-looking period garb. “But they needed the slaves to do the work. And plus there was slavery in Africa, too, anyway. They enslaved each other.”)
And Charlottesville? I arrived here around 7 pm, found a reasonable enough motel, and wondered how to spend the rest of my evening. I texted my friend Sydney, who goes to UVA and knows what’s up in C-Ville. “There’s a downtown area that you could probably get to with a GPS,” she replied. “There are some concert venues, don’t know if there’s anything good tonight though.” So I found my way downtown, not bothering to check concert schedules; I parked, wandered through the square, wondering how I would entertain myself, or if there was a snazzy enough coffee shop open late. Surprise: it’s a college town. With young people and music and skinny jeans, and other things notably absent from Charles City.
I saw a crowd forming at the end of the block. It was the Charlottesville Pavilion, though I had no idea at the time. I saw a gated entrance to the outdoor concert venue, heard James Blake’s “Limit To Your Love” blaring, wondered what was up. “Need a ticket?” asked the woman in front of me. “I’m selling mine. Just above face value. I paid $45, and it’s yours for 50.”
“Um. Ticket for what, exactly? Who’s playing?”
“They’re called the Arcade Fire, I dunno if you’ve heard of them…” I thought I misheard, or she was fucking with me.
“Wait. What? Arcade Fire is playing here?”
“You’ve heard of them!?”
I texted a friend to see where Arcade Fire was booked tonight: Charlottesville Pavilion, he replied. Confirmed. The band took the stage six minutes after that. Talk about convenient: alone, aimless, and bored in a strange city, I had cluelessly, and totally inadvertently, wandered into an outdoor Arcade Fire concert, where I could easily hear the whole thing just outside the gated Pavilion free of charge, probably the same distance I would be from the band at, say, Bonnaroo. I didn’t need the woman’s ticket. (Here’s where I was.) So I stayed, figuring “Wake Up” would be the encore (am I really so psychic? I was right, obviously) and resolving to hear it. Here’s a clip from “No Cars Go”:
I’m still not totally sold on The Suburbs, but tonight was still by far the best concert I have ever accidentally seen.
Here are some images from my second full day in Virginia—of Berkeley and Greenway and North Bend Plantations; of the Barboursville and Shadwell; and of the lengthy drive from Charles City to Charlottesville: