Break Even Fest
Day One: Saturday, May 14, 9 PM
The Huntingtons, The Prozacs, Insubordination @ Wonderland – $10
Day Two: Sunday, May 15, 5 PM
The Parasites, Savage Remains, The Gospel, Clever Girl, Stiletto Bomb @ The Camel – $10
One of the many great things about punk rock is that it has grown so much over it’s 40+ year history that it’s come to encompass a ton of different sounds and styles. It’s also a multi-generational scene, containing everyone from fresh-faced teens to 50-somethings, all of whom end up standing next to each other at the same shows. That whole multigenerational-crowd thing will be in effect at Break Even Fest this weekend, you can be sure of that! This punk-themed weekend, taking place over two nights at two Richmond clubs, is headlined by the return of two long-running melodic punk mainstays, but also features new bands from excited kids, and plenty of music that falls somewhere inbetween.
Let’s talk about our headliners, though, because they’re the big reason to show up to these shows. Baltimore’s Huntingtons come from that era in the mid-90s when a lot of people were finding new ways to re-imagine the catchy fun of the earliest Ramones material. These guys even did multiple Ramones covers albums–though the real attraction was always their original material. They’ll be revisiting their 1999 album Get Lost in its entirety at Wonderland Friday night, and there’s sure to be a lot of pogo-ing going down! Personally, I’m even more excited about the Parasites, whom I’ve loved for nearly 20 years and actually saw last time they played Richmond–in 1998! I dug out the cassette copy of Rat Ass Pie that I bought at that show when I heard about this show, and believe me, it still smokes! You can probably compare the Parasites to a cross between the Ramones and the Descendents, but the truth is that their sound is their own, and all it takes is one taste of it to get completely addicted! Kinda like sugary candy… and just as much fun!
There are a ton of other great bands on this two-day fiesta as well, from goofy Massachusetts sweethearts The Prozacs and Fredericksburg’s own doom-punk freaks Savage Remains to several of the best old-school punk bands running around this town right now. That’s not to mention fellow Mass natives Stiletto Bomb, who keep things spooky and fun, Misfits-style, and locals Clever Girl, who mix emotional punk sounds with a classic Fat Wreck skate-punk approach and spin gold! There’ll even be an opportunity for you to buy awesomely scary merchandise from local vendor Burn In Hell at The Camel on day two. So hey, if you had other plans this weekend–maybe change ’em? Break Even Fest is where you wanna be. Come find me down front when the Parasites play and let’s dance.
Thursday, May 12, 7 PM
Wild Nothing (Photo by Shawn Brackbill), Charlie Hilton @ The Broadberry – $15 (order tickets HERE)
Oh shit, the VA boy made good returns to the old home place! Well, sorta–even though nobody talks about it, Wild Nothing is secretly from Blacksburg, and so what if it’s a four-hour drive from here? Close enough to claim him for the central VA alt-rock scene, right? I think so! Anyway, Jack Tatum’s bedroom synth project has grown quite a bit since its beginnings if their brand new third album, Life Of Pause, can be taken as any indication. Highly polished production makes these tunes shine and glimmer–and I do mean that as a compliment? Damn, remember that time somebody got really mad at me for calling his record “polished” in the pages of RVA Mag? That was weird. But to be absolutely clear, Life Of Pause sounds excellent, and was apparently recorded in one of ABBA’s old studios in Stockholm–so now you know why!
Wild Nothing’s recent sound often gets compared to smooth 70s soul, especially the Philly variety, but honestly, I hear a lot more drawn from the early 80s postpunk scene–specifically the segment that got really into incorporating funk/jazz textures, then used those elements to create brilliant pop albums that proceeded to subvert the pop charts of the time and remake them in their own image. If you dig Scritti Politti, ABC, or Culture Club, you need to come see what Tatum and his pals can do on the Broadberry stage to bring that sound into the new millennium. You’re sure to be pleased! And with a solo set from former Blouse singer Charlie Hilton kicking things off, you’re bound to be well in the mood by the time Wild Nothing hits the stage.
Friday, May 13, 7 PM
Graduates Rise, Dadmobile, Cream Dream @ Gallery 5 – $10 (order tickets HERE)
The current system of higher education that is in place here in the United States of America is flawed and needs serious overhauling. We all know this, right? I definitely am known to rant about it at parties, which is probably no surprise considering my defiant college dropout status in a world where everyone acts like you need to have a master’s degree just to make more than $10 an hour. Punk scholar Cyn Corrigible definitely knows all about all of this, as she’s freshly completing a graduate program herself. But she wants to do more than rant at parties; she’s actually formed a one-off band to back her up on a set of Avengers-style classic punk tunes, all of which are about the crappiness of the modern collegiate system. This is Graduates Rise.
The real purpose of Graduates Rise is apparently to play some sort of protest role during VCU’s graduation ceremony on Saturday, but much like a DIY house show, specific details being released ahead of time might very well compromise that entire endeavor. So for all of those who really want to see this band perform in a live setting, Graduates Rise is doing a record release show at Gallery 5 the night before VCU’s graduation. This show is in honor of the release of their album Math Is Hard!, which will be available in a limited-edition physical format on this night. Featuring backing musicians including The Grey A and Herschel Stratego, this band is not just a political protest but a legitimately good musical experience, and anyone who likes old-school female-fronted punk is gonna get a big kick out of their performance! Locals Cream Dream and Dadmobile open up with their own takes on catchy punk and alt-rock tunes, so this will be a fun show throughout! And maybe it’ll help topple the modern American collegiate system, right? We can hope…
Saturday, May 14, 9:30 PM
Screaming Females, Aye Nako, Pleasure Leftists, The James Badfellows @ Hardywood – $12 in advance/$14 at the door (order tickets here: http://hardywoodscreamingfemales.eventbrite.com)
You guys, Screaming Females are back! This amazingly rad DIY punk band from Baltimore have clearly got the goods, especially in light of the fact that they’re six albums deep into a prolific career and are only getting bigger. It’s been over a year since the release of their latest album, Rose Mountain, which is a significant amount of time for this consistently productive band, but it seems likely that by now they’ve got some new tunes in store for us–and even if I’m wrong about that, the experience of getting one’s face blown off by Marissa Paternoster and her outstanding guitar pyrotechnics is always a thrill. Plus, while Screaming Females have become more introspective since the all-out screaming rage of 2007 debut Baby Teeth, there’s still a ton of emotional power packed into every one of their songs. They’ll have you feeling some feels, that’s for sure.
Now, if you’re one of those jaded showgoers I often encounter who goes “they’ve played here at least once a year for over five years now, do I really need to see them again?” you may be asking your usual frustrating question about this Screaming Female show. However, let me assure you that for the opening acts on this bill alone, you need to get your ass to Hardywood this Saturday night without another word of complaint. Aye Nako’s energetic, emotional punk tunes are reminiscent of early Superchunk, only with a huge injection of intersectional feminist content–this is the kind of shit we need way more of in the modern music scene, and thank goodness Aye Nako is here to provide it for us. Pleasure Leftists are pretty rad in and of themselves, though I think in this case they use the word “leftists” in their name for confusion rather than political purposes. Regardless, this band’s slightly off-kilter brand of catchy postpunk will thrill you greatly. It all starts off with a set from the mysterious James Badfellows, who hail from Harrisonburg and seem to show up around here once a year or so to mystify and delight us all once again. By the way, this isn’t even the only show happening at Hardywood that night, which is wild. But if a craft beer brewery wants to turn themselves into an honest-to-goodness venue and throw shows like this on a weekly basis, god knows I won’t complain.
Sunday, May 15, 5 PM
Forced Into Femininity, Other Girls, Filth, Dromez, Radiator Greys, Unguent, Cloning, Finished @ Gallery 5 – $5
Things are getting weird and uncomfortable in the RVA noise scene lately, and not really in the way most practitioners of experimental music prefer for it to, either. I suppose it’s understandable that a genre built around confrontation and aural assault would end up creating some negative feelings–and in fact, that kind of thing is built into the history of noise music as I understand it, from Throbbing Gristle and Whitehouse’s pioneering work all the way into present day. What’s refreshing about this show, and what makes it, in my humble opinion, the one noise show you should make sure to hit up this summer (I reserve the right to revise this opinion later) is the fact that, at least on this particular bill, the artists presenting you their harsh sounds and confrontational stage presence will consist mainly of women. As changes go, this is a welcome one.
Now that I’ve spent a paragraph telling you that, I need to get a lot of information out very quickly, so strap in. Forced Into Femininity is your headliner, and this project by Jail Flanagan, formerly of Coughs and Learned Helplessness, among others, explores trans female identity the difficulties of existing within society as a woman who doesn’t fit typical social expectations for her gender. She does this through a whole lot of hectic electronic experimentation and outright harshness, which I find to be pretty #relatable myself. Other Girls is a Pennsylvania project involving cloth sculptures and electronic music, which come together in a manner that must be witnessed to be properly understood. Filth and Dromez are on tour together; the former is going to blast you with harsh synth damage while the latter just gets really weird and really loud. There are quite a few other groups on this bill, many of which also hail from out of town. It should be an evening of radical weirdness and perception-challenging sounds, and not just from the usual suspects, either. Give it a shot.
Monday, May 16, 9 PM
Useless Eaters, Christi, Naked Baby @ Strange Matter – $7
The modern DIY postpunk scene just keeps getting weirder and weirder, and Useless Eaters are at the forefront of that trend if their latest EP, Temporary Mutilation, is any indication. It’s not like they started in the most normal place, but it used to be that once you stripped away all the strange production techniques and bizarre interludes, you found a raw, noisy punk band with some excellent primitive riffing. These days, it seems the primitiveness goes into their choice of drum machines and synths, with songs like “Poison Dart” coming off like something you’d find on an obscure British demo recording from 1983. And if you’re not into that, I don’t really know what I can do for you. This weirdness is pure delight, in my humble opinion.
So when Useless Eaters arrive in RVA this Monday night to weirdo-rock the hell out of Strange Matter, you should definitely be in the house and ready to do oddball hunch-shoulder dances. But you should also be prepared for some much more straightforward rock n’ roll from Christi, who will carry on their by now years-strong tradition of mingling three-chord garage punk with sugary harmonies lifted straight from 60s girl-group records. I can’t wait to see what their latest set has in store for us. I’m also really stoked to check out Naked Baby, who are always evolving but have a solid core of rock n’ roll talent and manic punk energy to dispense to us all. So yes, wear your leather jacket, because you’re a punk. And prepare to get sweaty, because you’re gonna dance all night.
Email me if you’ve got any tips for me about upcoming shows: firstname.lastname@example.org
Hit up my Patreon page if you’d like to be a supporter of my endeavors here! RVA Must-See Shows will always be free, but any contribution helps ensure I can keep the column going into the future, and is massively appreciated! $1 a month is all we ask. Please consider it. https://www.patreon.com/rvamustseeshows
PS–hey, sorry the column is late this week, my day job needed me to work extra hours. If you didn’t hear about the Dead Meadow show last night from anyone else, I’m sorry, but I promise not to let you down again. We’ll be back to the normal Wednesday schedule next week, see you then! –Drew