Ordering a beer from the Jefferson Theater bar on Saturday night, Dave Norris maintained that the Primary Voice Music Festival his campaign had organized and sponsored was not a campaign fundraiser.
Yet the evening sure did feature a lot of love for the Democratic candidate for the 54th District seat in the Virginia House of Delegates.
“This one’s for Dave,” kicked off the the opening number on Saturday.
The night featured big names from Charlottesville’s local music scene, including Marley Nichelle, David Wax, Devon Sproule, Kendall Street Company and others.
Norris took the stage multiple times throughout the evening.
“Obviously I would love to have your support,” he told the large crowd, adding that more information on his candidacy was available at a booth near the front of the theater. He also outlined key tenets of his platform.
When The Daily Progress asked Norris last Thursday whether the concert was a campaign event, Norris responded that his campaign was “organizing and sponsoring the event” and that the overarching goal was to encourage participation in the June 20 primary.
On Saturday night Norris was more direct.
“Obviously it’s a campaign event,” noting that his name could be found on posters throughout the venue. “I’m not trying to hide it.”
A PhD student who came to the Jefferson with two friends said they had heard about the concert because they are fans of Kendall Street Company.
“It’s not until I got here that I was like, ‘Oh, this is a voting event,’” he said. He added that he is not registered to vote.
Two other University of Virginia students said they were unaware of Dave Norris before the event. Asked whether the fact that Norris organized the concert might sway their votes on June 20, both were open to the possibility.
“Maybe, yeah,” said one.
“It’s a big thing to me,” said the other of being able to see live music free of charge.
“I love it. I love it,” Norris said after being told of the two students. “If they associate me with having a good time, a good party and music, and a message that resonates, then this will have been a success.”
He also claimed that the concert was the “biggest campaign event” any of the candidates for 54th District seat in the Virginia House of Delegates had had.
Late Saturday night, a Jefferson Theater employee estimated that 400 people had attended the concert to that point.
Upon entering, guests passed by a table where they could collect Norris campaign stickers and learn more about his candidacy. It was connected to a table where Natalie Oschrin, a Democratic candidate for Charlottesville City Council, told folks about her platform and offered a signup sheet for people interested in volunteering for her campaign.
Shymora Cooper and Amanda Burns, both candidates for Charlottesville School Board, and Democratic candidate for City Council Dashad Cooper were also in attendance. All three told The Daily Progress they were invited by Norris.
Across from the main bar was a photo booth that Norris encouraged attendees to visit, where they could snap pictures in front of a backdrop covered with Norris’ campaign logo.
At one point in the evening, musician Abbey Ellerglick sang a campaign song she had written for Norris, joined on stage by many of the other musicians who had performed throughout the evening.
“Vote for Dave!” Ellerglick shouted at the song’s close.
Neither of Norris’ rivals in the Democratic primary, former Charlottesville Police Civilian Oversight Board Chair Bellamy Brown and sitting Albemarle County School Board Chair Katrina Callsen, were invited to Saturday’s event.
When asked about the event, Brown said his focus is on connecting with voters to ensure they have the best representation possible.
“Whether it was a fundraiser or not is of no concern to me,” Brown told The Daily Progress.
One attendee with long dark hair and wearing a tie-dyed T-shirt said he had not been planning to vote for Norris prior to the concert.
“He seems like a nice guy and he says all the right things, but don’t all politicians?” remarked the man, who did not provide his name.
If he chooses to vote, he now expects he will give his vote to Norris.
“It seems like a clever use of a concert,” he said.