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At Illiterate Light's New Year's Eve show, fans will look for 'something magic to happen'

Although Illiterate Light will be spending its first New Year’s Eve at Charlottesville’s Jefferson Theater, the venue already is on the duo’s list of favorite places.

Harrisonburg-based guitarist and vocalist Jeff Gorman and drummer Jake Cochran, who lives in Nashville, Tennessee, look forward to the show, which begins at 8 p.m. Sunday. Mo Lowda and the Humble and Holy Roller also will be on the bill.

“The first time we played the Jefferson, we reopened it after COVID” in July 2021, Gorman said in a phone call with The Daily Progress. “Then we did our album release show in January of 2023.”

The album release show for “Sunburned,” which Gorman called “our biggest headlining show to date,” drew more than 800 people. That night, Gorman said, he and Cochran thought, “This could be the beginning of a new thing.”

“The Downtown Mall is great for people to just hang out in,” Gorman said. “You just can’t beat the Mall. There are people flying in for this show. We have a lot of Virginia pride.”

“What a joy it is to be able to bring people together and create community,” Gorman said. “I’m just happy to bring people together and help people bond over something celebratory.”

Expect to hear music from “Sunburned,” the sophomore full-length album released in January on the Thirty Tigers label. The recent “Aloe” EP features four tracks from “Sunburned” sessions; its lead track is “Don’t Settle Down.” A follow-up album is in the works for 2024.

“Sunburned” was recorded mainly in Richmond, with some tracks captured in Gorman’s Harrisonburg home studio. Gorman said he and Cochran “weren’t thinking of how we’d play it live” when they started recording.

“We didn’t play any of these songs live before we went into the studio,” Gorman said. “I’d be working on lyrics up until the last minute at the studio.”

The sentiment, he said, was, “Let’s just make something cool.”

“Everything we do is completely live and in the moment,” Gorman said. “When you see us live, it’s just another story. That’s the heart and soul of Illiterate Light — feeling the crowd.”

For a duo that can sound like a much larger group, flexibility is essential.

“There are not many duos out there that can take on a 12-minute guitar solo and make it captivating,” Gorman said. “I pride myself on being able to do a lot with a little.”

The band’s fans stay involved, too, which delights Gorman.

“With some bands, the show is kind of the backdrop for fans to party,” Gorman said. “For our shows, everybody is really watching the show and engaged with the performance. When we really play for the people who believe in what we’re doing, people are focusing on the show and waiting for something magic to happen.”

Working without a net has its advantages, and one of them is getting rewarded for taking musical chances.

“I’ve gotten so comfortable with taking risks and succeeding and failing,” Gorman said. “We’re really going out there, just the two of us.” Although, in a sense, “we’re kind of naked” without bandmates to fill in at times, Gorman said, “Now I like going out there and being bold and taking a risk.”

Fans can consider themselves invited to join the party and see where the music takes them.

These days, Illiterate Light “will have a few things planned out” before a live show. “And, after that, we just want it to be an adventure.”

“Music can be so many things,” Gorman said. “It can be comforting to a lot of people, but I also want it to be pushing into a new territory.” On New Year’s Eve, listeners can expect to ring in a new year with a show that is “going to push the edge and be exciting.”

Tickets for the all-ages event, which is presented by WNRN, begin at $25. Get details, and tickets, at


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