Children danced in dizzying circles in front of the stage as families spread their picnic blankets on the grass. Elderly couples lounged in folding chairs and took pre-concert selfies. The Charlottesville community gathered at the Ting Pavilion Friday evening to watch the Isabel Bailey Band, a folk-rock ensemble out of Richmond.
The concert was the most recent edition of Ting Pavilion’s summertime Fridays After Five concert series, a weekly free event run by volunteers to raise money for local nonprofits. The band’s performance — led by frontwoman Isabel Bailey — was defined by a sense of togetherness.
Bailey, who graduated from Nashville’s Belmont University in 2022, appreciates the palpable sense of community in Charlottesville. “Charlottesville is just very supportive,” Bailey said before the concert. “There’s a lot of really great people here, and people here really care about their artists.”
Audience members swayed to the music with Bailey, who commanded the open-air pavilion as a golden sunset washed over the stage.
Backed by guitars, keys, drums and horns, Bailey delivered a set of genre-bending original songs that displayed her folk-rock and country roots. The artist cites Van Morrison, Joe Cocker, Bob Dylan and the Indigo Girls as musical influences.
“Also Taylor Swift,” Bailey said, recalling seeing the singer-songwriter at John Paul Jones Arena in Charlottesville back in 2010. “That was the first concert I ever went to.”
Bailey is no stranger to the Charlottesville arts scene, playing in a variety of local venues — The Jefferson, Starr Hill brewery and Miller’s, to name a few. In 2022, she recorded four songs for student radio WXTJ’s “WXTJ Jamz”, a series of pre-recorded intimate concerts available on the radio’s YouTube page.
Bailey learned to play guitar at eleven and started busking on the Downtown Mall at fourteen, singing at the end of the district on the opposite end from Ting Pavilion.
“I worked my way to the other end of the Mall!” Bailey joked.
Bailey combined the clear, rich vocals of Maggie Rogers and Hayley Williams with heartfelt songwriting and an infectious energy. Onstage, she demonstrated the confidence and charm of a real-life Daisy Jones. She thanked the audience after every song and spoke to them directly throughout the set, making the spacious venue feel intimate.
“My heels are coming off a lot sooner than I’d anticipated,” she laughed partway through the set, stooping to take off her sandals. “We’re kicking off the shoes tonight.”
Strumming her acoustic guitar in white maxi sundress and soft curls, Bailey looked like a Southern sweetheart completely in her summertime element. Her songs ranged from guitar-powered rock to romantic folk, all written with a playful flair for rhyme.
“Favorite Color in the Summer,” an ode to the purest, most precious kind of love, sounded as refreshing and sweet as a fruit popsicle. “Bricks and Stones” offered a more laid-back sound, dusted with the soft brush of a hi-hat and jazzy runs on the keys. “How the Light Gets In” stole the second set with Bailey’s floating soprano register.
Bailey’s loyalty to and love for Virginia shine through in her songwriting. In “Virginia’s Best-Kept Secret,” Bailey paid tribute to the state and its people.
“I hope, on an individual level, you feel like you are Virginia’s best-kept secret, because you are to me,” Bailey smiled to her audience before launching into a gentle melody.
Bailey and her band perform with a natural artistic chemistry, clearly enjoying their music as much as the audience.
“I can’t even tell you how good of a time we’re having right now,” Bailey said before a brief intermission, her grin spreading ear to ear.
Isabel Baily’s upcoming single “Wooden Leg” will be released on all streaming platforms in the next few months. With driving vocals, touching lyrics and a joyful energy, Bailey and her band are rising artists to watch out for.