The Velveteens bring high-energy ska to Jumpin'. 

Easy Skanking

The Velveteens
Virginia Museum Sculpture Garden
6:30-9:30 p.m.
Thursday, June 24
$7 in advance; $8 day of show

When the Velveteens got together at the College of William and Mary in 1996, the band was at the right place at the right time. With few other bands on campus, the nine-member ska band quickly found an audience that embraced its danceable, driving, party-time groove.

Drummer Blake Surbey says the band received a lot of early encouragement it might not have garnered in a more competitive market. "I think everyone in the band will acknowledge we've had a lot of luck."

Regardless of whether The Velveteens have built their reputation on luck or talent, the band grabs listeners' attention. It brings its rhythm-driven mix of ska, soul, funk and rock to Jumpin' on Thursday, June 24.

The Velveteens are no stranger to the stage — the group has played its share of bars, colleges and dance-a-thons around the mid-Atlantic region, and west to Chicago and Michigan. The experience has been rewarding enough that the players, who have now all graduated from college, recently relocated to Northern Virginia to concentrate on a full-time musical future.

In the beginning, the group came together in part because several members lived in the same dorm and they quickly decided they liked churning out ska's rhythmical riot.

"We got more serious as time went by," remembers trombone player Matt Larsen. "As we reached our goals and got past every fight, every challenge we thought, 'Maybe we want to do this.'"

The Velveteens booked plenty of gigs and were also able to work up set lists of original songs. Larsen says the group took plenty of time to focus on the music before cutting "Viva," its self-produced CD, in 1997.

Larsen had connections in Chicago and the Velveteens eagerly ventured off-campus during school vacations. On their first foray into the Midwest, they played in bars for older audiences who were unfamiliar with the Velveteens party-hearty style. On another tour, the Velveteens played three shows in three cities in two states in 22 hours. These experiences and approval from off-campus audiences did wonders for the band's confidence.

With realistically balanced high hopes, the band says its goal is to perform in front of bigger crowds and to record a new CD. The Velveteens want to take the party as far as it can go.

"It's like we're starting over," Surbey says, "But for me, that's exciting."

Single-event tickets for Jumpin's current week's concert are available only at seven Wachovia offices: James Center, West Park, Westhampton, Main Street, Bon Air, Carytown and West Broad Street. Ticket sales end Wednesdays at 5 p.m. Any remaining tickets will be sold Thursdays from 11 a.m. in the Virginia Museum's lobby.


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