Saturday, June 11, 7 PM
Elbow Room presents the Second Annual First Time’s The Charm! feat. Fetish Gear, Khonsu Djinn, Local Woman, Status Symbol, Spirit Box, Twin Freaks, Two Fish Cult, Whoresees @ Strange Matter – $5
I know it might sound crazy for me to send you to a show featuring somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 brand new bands, none of whom have ever played a show before and most of whom cannot be listened to on the internet in advance. But seriously, this is probably the most entertained you will be all week at a Richmond show–regardless of price. Last year’s inaugural First Time’s The Charm (inspired by a similar event in Philadelphia and spearheaded by feminist art collective Elbow Room) was a ton of fun, and I say this even though one of my bands played our first show as part of it. We never even intended to keep going after that one show, but we had so much fun and were so inspired by it all, we ended up carrying on (albeit with a new name and a slightly altered lineup) and are still going today!
Crazily enough, the same is true of most of the bands that played last year; from Atta Girl to Schwarzkali Effect, local bands in all sorts of different styles and scenes got their start as part of the first edition of this show. With multiple bands playing this year having already booked follow-up dates, chances are just as good that you’ll be checking out a good many of these bands regularly over the next year. Getting in on the ground floor with those bands is a fun reason to go to this show, but the surprise one-offs and truly weird bands that dot the lineup will be perhaps even more important to catch. The surprise hit of last year was by Mostly Crying, a femme sludge-pop band whose members were all living in different cities within a month of playing their first of only two shows. A lot more people heard about this band than ever saw them. Don’t miss out on 2016’s version of that phenomenon.
Specifics are a bit sketchy on the ground, to be honest–I’m just as in the dark about the sound of most of these bands as you are. I can tell you that Khonsu Djinn is a queer feminist approach to 90s vegan moshcore, a la Earth Crisis or recent local phenoms ICE. I get this inside info by virtue of the fact that I am playing bass in this band, so don’t get too upset when you see me up there and realize that I recommended you go see a show one of my bands is playing (I know, I know, I do this regularly… at least I’m honest about it!). Meanwhile, Fetish Gear shares a practice space with my band, so I can tell you that this band takes a similar queer/feminist approach to brutal metal riffage, complete with crushing breakdowns. But there’ll be a lot of different styles on this bill, some of which won’t be heavy at all (I get the idea that Whoresees are folk-pop… don’t quote me on that though). The point is that the sounds you hear on this night will be fresh, sincere, and driven by the excitement common to all brand new endeavors. You might see one or more of these bands after this night (hopefully you’ll see them all), but it’ll never be like this. Don’t miss out.
Wednesday, June 8, 8 PM
Gland, Ultra Flake, Birds, Sports Bra, Dadmobile @ Strange Matter – $8 (order tickets HERE)
There’s nothing I love more than punk fucking rock, and this show has it coming for you in massive amounts! Gland hail from New Orleans, and while this all-female trio has a rager of a new LP out in Neurotica (not to be confused with the 1987 Redd Kross album–also a fuckin’ rager, for the record), I initially heard their debut EP Ambiance, which was recorded on an iPhone and is legit punk as fuck. Any record featuring a song called “Fuck Cops” is bound to be amazing, after all. Neurotica adds significant fidelity (and a rerecorded version of “Fuck Cops”) to Gland’s arsenal, but doesn’t water down their rage one iota. Plus, with the increased fidelity, a bit of melodic pop thrill sneaks through the rumble, haze, and low-end snarl that are this band’s typical end product. It seems likely that their live sound will be even tougher, more in-your-face, and more fun than their recorded material–and as good as their recordings are, I definitely want more of that!
A whole bunch of femme-powered punk bands will be filling the opening slots on this bill as well. By now you should all know that Ultra Flake is one of the raddest punk bands around this city, which would be true even if they didn’t have a significant pedigree (Hot Dolphin, Bitchmouth, Samantha Pearl, etc). Sports Bra has a similar femme-punk energy, though their songs are driven by a snarky wit that often revolves around mature sexual situations (she typed, in the third person, as if she were not referring to her own band…). Birds will be a bit newer to the RVA massive, as they hail from Brooklyn and may very well be bringing their sound to the metro area for the first time (certainly the first time I’ve heard about it, and I make this stuff my business). Their catchy tunes are more pensive, psychedelic, and shoegazey than the other bands on this bill, but should be equally as enjoyable, if nothing else offering a breather from the manic rage of the rest of the bill. Finally, Dadmobile will kick things off with a bare-bones rock n’ roll trio attack featuring former members of Hot Dolphin and Sacred Teachers, among others. These dudes really are dads, too–or at least they’re good at looking the part. Their set will still be fun, though. This will all be fun. Come have fun!
Thursday, June 9, 8 PM
Wax Idols, King Woman, Dorthia Cottrell, Shadow Age @ Strange Matter – $10 in advance/$12 day of show (order tickets here: https://kingidols.eventbrite.com/)
Let me start out by saying that short of a miracle, I will not be able to make this show–my car is in the shop, I have band practice, I had to sell some pretty treasured possessions to make rent this month… a lot is going on. I am crushed that I won’t be able to be there, though, so I charge all of you to go in my place and enjoy what I will be incredibly sad to miss. Why will I be sad to miss it? Well, for starters, there’s Wax Idols; in a time when most current goth music I encounter sounds like really gloomy EDM, this band captures a darkly romantic vibe that reminds me of Siouxsie And The Banshees and Bauhaus at a time when it seems too few people even know who those bands are. Leader Hether Fortune has been proving her songwriting chops for three stellar albums so far, and 2015’s American Tragic is still a big favorite of mine a year after it came out. Plus, she spent two years playing bass in White Lung; even during Wax Idols’ most jangly, melodic songs, Fortune’s punk background shines through to excellent effect.
OK, and then there’s King Woman. The third straight project from singer/songwriter Kristina Esfandiari to make a powerful impression on me, this group combines with her previous rad project, Miserable, to prove that the best part of Whirr was lost forever the second she quit that lame band. (Sorry, y’all, but they can fuck off.) King Woman’s gothic qualities make them an excellent pairing with Wax Idols, but where I hear more of an 80s New Romantic sound in Wax Idols, King Woman comes across to me as something more akin to Nick Cave’s Bad Seeds jamming with Neurosis. Apocalyptic is definitely the word. Windhand singer Dorthia Cottrell’s dark folk solo project is one of the local acts on this bill, and in light of the fact that King Woman are both gothic as fuck and the kind of thing that would go over really well in a stoner-doom crowd makes this seem like a really smart booking decision on the part of some promoter. Shadow Age rounds things out with their fog-enshrouded take on downcast 80s Anglophile guitar riffing (think the Chameleons or the Sound), and in so doing, becomes the perfect pairing with Wax Idols. This bill is goddamn unimpeachable. I can’t believe I won’t be able to make it. Curse my rotten luck.
Friday, June 10, 7:30 PM
AZ, DJ Doo Wop, Charged Up, Mutant, Gritty City, Rocstagis @ The Broadberry – $20 in advance/$25 at the door (order tickets HERE)
I think a lot about the way we’ve reached a time when the alt-rock milestones of my youth are reaching their 20th or 25th anniversaries, but as someone for whom hip hop has never been quite as important as rock (I know, I know), I haven’t given as much thought to the similar epoch reckoning occurring within the rap world. I should have been paying attention, though–after all, the late 80s and early 90s were an obvious golden age, even for a punk/alt-rock fan who only really checked out hip hop on Friday nights, when Yo! MTV Raps took Alternative Nation’s spot on MTV’s usual late-night lineup. I blame my relatively shallow awareness of hip hop at the time for the fact that I didn’t know Doe Or Die, the 1995 debut from Brooklyn rapper AZ. AZ seems best-known today for his association with Nas, which was extensive enough that AZ was a member of the short-lived supergroup The Firm (which also featured Nas, Foxy Brown, and others).
Anyway, here we are in 2016, and AZ is in the midst of a 20th anniversary tour celebrating the release of Doe Or Die. And here I am, finally listening to this record on YouTube. Maybe I’m Captain Obvious in this case, but… damn, this record rules. With production from legends like Pete Rock, Buckwild, and LES, as well as no less than three separate guest appearances by Nas, its quality is predictable even before you hit play, but AZ’s rhyming stands out enough to see this album exceed even the high expectations that one would gain by reading about it. I can’t really speak about AZ’s career since this powerful debut, but considering this is a 20th anniversary celebration, and that you can expect a heavy dose of tracks from this album when you head out to the Broadberry Friday night, I can see now reason to skip out on this hype jam. And of course, with top-tier RVA talents like Charged Up, Gritty City, and more on the schedule to open up, this is gonna be an evening of champion sounds from beginning to end. Whether you’re a serious hip hop scholar or more of a casual fan like myself, there’s a lot you stand to gain from checking out this show.
Saturday, June 11, 2 PM
DOOMSTONE, feat. Throttlerod, Kinghitter, The Medusa, Demon Eye, Gruzer, Dirt Merchant, Bedowyn, Book Of Wyrms @ Hardywood – $12 (order tickets here: https://doomstonehardywood.eventbrite.com/)
OK, so I gave you a great way to spend your Saturday night earlier with the First Time’s The Charm writeup. But a lot of us are off work all damn day on Saturday. So you’re probably looking for something to do while the sun is out that day too, right? Well, worry not, because I’ve got a hell of an afternoon/evening activity on tap for all you metal ragers and craft booze hounds. That’s right, there’s an all-day stoner/doom metal festival taking place at Hardywood starting at 2 PM on Saturday afternoon, and if you can drag yourself out of bed after whatever you got up to on Friday night in time to get down there when doors open, there’ll be plenty of delicious food-truck grub, fine craft beer (aka hair of the dog), and music suitable for headbangs–both regular-speed and slow-motion.
So who are we talking about here? Well, Throttlerod’s a name I’ve been seeing on metal flyers for nearly 20 years now, though I’ve somehow, unbelievably, never caught them live. Regardless, the studio output is enough to let me know that these bong-rockin’ rippers have a classic Kyuss/Fu Manchu groove to ’em, which should make their live set fun as fuck. Meanwhile, Kinghitter will also be in town from Raleigh, and while the most attention-grabbing fact about this band is that Blind-era Corrosion Of Conformity lead singer Karl Agell is now manning the mic for these guys, their riffs are enough to grab your attention entirely on their own. That might be enough right there to bring you out to Hardywood Saturday afternoon, but just to sweeten the pot, I should also let you know that local riffmasters The Medusa, who feature ex-members of Alabama Thunderpussy and Immortal Avenger, will also be performing on this day. And that’s not to mention Carolina headbangers Gruzer and Bedowyn, nor local RVA radness from Dirt Merchant and Book Of Wyrms. This is gonna be solid as a rock, folks, and when it hits you it’ll make that RPG IPA you’re slamming taste even better. Get down with it.
Sunday, June 12, 8 PM
The Vomiting Dinosaurs, Organ Trail, Basura, Cut The Architect’s Hand @ 25 Watt – $7
Count on Between 2 Beers and 25 Watt to come together and blast you with the sickest raging grind sounds to be found in RVA. Week after week, month after month, it continues to be true, and I continue to love it. This weekend we’ve got some pretty solid sounds from a band you may not know… but whose name demands that you investigate further. (Or at least, it demanded that of me…) The Vomiting Dinosaurs hail from Winchester VA, which is far enough out that even my parents have a 45 minute drive ahead of them if they want to get there. So yeah, I’m amazed that there are any rad bands coming out of there, let alone one that evinces such a unique and fun worldview. Seriously, what sort of weirdo do you have to be to name your band The Vomiting Dinosaurs? And how stoked am I to see you do your thing on that basis alone?
I know, you might not share my feelings on that one. But let me just tell you, I checked out the material this band has uploaded to Bandcamp, and I found a veritable cornucopia of rad riffage. Blast beats, guttural roars, sick death-metal riffage, plus the occasional irresistible hint of black metal and power-violence influence. I guess this is what the internet has wrought in today’s music scene–even kids from Winchester know enough to incorporate widespread influences into an adventurous and eclectic sonic palette. I dig it. PA gore-metallers Organ Trail (who’ve done a split with Vomit Stain, so you know they’re down with the RVA grind sickness) will also bring us some thick, speedy rage, while North Carolina lo-fi grinders Basura make plans to trash 25 Watt with some raw fury. Intense local metalcore veterans Cut The Architect’s Hand kick this whole thing off. Get ready to have your head ripped off.
Monday, June 13, 9 PM
Suneater, Flannel Mouth, Sacred Teachers, Uncle Drunk @ Strange Matter – $5
Hey, look at this–a bill consisting mostly of bands I don’t know at all. Brought to us all by the Gene Pool, a local basement-show venue, this evening of mostly local bands is a great reminder of the fact that, no matter how comprehensive your knowledge of the local scene might be, there’s always more that you can learn. In this case, I’ve learned what’s going on with Suneater, the Gene Pool’s main musical export, whom I saw something like two years ago at Our House but haven’t caught up with since. Their latest recording, as appearing on Bandcamp, shows an assured ensemble who’ve progressed significantly since I last caught them. Where I previously felt like I was seeing a bunch of Grateful Dead-damaged hippies reach for Mars Volta and land somewhere short of the mark, I now see a band who’ve drifted away from the jam influences and moved more fully into the Mars Volta/Jane’s Addiction terrain, while also bringing in some prime metal riffage and occasional manic screams to make things even more interesting and harder to pin down. There’s only one song up at Bandcamp–after listening to it, I officially want more.
Flannel Mouth is coming from a completely different place, but are just as hard to pigeonhole. This Illinois band has a weird sort of folk-punk fashion sense, and occasionally bust out some prime acoustic-troubadour moves, but are more likely to blast you with uptempo riffs and guitar distortion–though even then, there’s a weird hint of Gogol Bordello-style Eastern European sounds lurking in the background. I have no idea what to expect from these dudes live, but I bet it’ll be fun! At this point, Sacred Teachers is the only band on this bill with whom I feel like I’m on somewhat familiar territory, and I figure their garage punk sounds are pretty much a guaranteed crowd pleaser, so that’s always nice. Uncle Drunk opens up with some alcohol-fueled rock n’ roll sounds–which isn’t really that unusual, when you come right down to it. But it still should be fun!
Tuesday, June 14, 7 PM
Pity Sex, PWR BTTM, Petal @ Strange Matter – $12 in advance/$14 day of show (order tickets here: http://pitysexrva.eventbrite.com/)
This show is brought to you by the letter P, apparently. Not that I’m hating–Sesame Street motifs are fine with me when a lineup is this fucking rad. Pity Sex made an impression on me during my three-years-ago days of being full-time obsessed with the emo revival; their heavy shoegaze sounds made me think more about Dinosaur Jr and Swervedriver than early Braid and Death Cab For Cutie records, so I slotted them into the “alt-rock revival” corollary alongside personal favorites Ovlov, and then… kinda forgot about them for a while. That all changed in a big way earlier this year, with the release of their second full-length, White Hot Moon. I probably use the word “awesome” too much in this column to describe music I’m stoked about, but sometimes it just fits, and then what can you do? Bow down, I suppose. So this Tuesday, let’s all bow down to the awesomeness that is Pity Sex. And then we’ll get up and dance… or maybe just stare at the floor and sway back and forth.
PWR BTTM are another band who kinda slipped past me at first amongst my general emo-revival excitement. However, a few months ago I went through a real obsession with their debut LP, Ugly Cherries, and in particular couldn’t stop obsessing over the song “Dairy Queen.” The way every verse ends with the singer begging off from a particular social activity by saying “…but right now, I’m in the shower” made me think of–and laugh at–my own life. My experience of being a trans girl definitely involves a significant amount of time spent on personal grooming. Maybe that’s just me, though. Anyway, Petal rounds this whole bill out with yet another band I’ve been really digging on lately. They’ve apparently got a new full-length called Shame, which I do want to check out whenever I can, but I got into this band–really a solo project of Scranton singer-songwriter Kiley Lotz, who occasionally receives all-star backing by members of Tiger’s Jaw (ooh, ahh)–because of their debut EP, Scout, which… you guys, it’s fucking awesome. For a post in which I’ve made multiple emo-revival references, this is probably the band that most deserves assocation with that particular tag. And granted, in 2016, that reference may cause you to wrinkle your nose in disgust. But as Sly Stone once said, “If it felt good in the past, it’s still good.” Get over your hangups about being on-trend. Come to Strange Matter Tuesday night and let yourself feel some feels.
Email me if you’ve got any tips for me about upcoming shows: firstname.lastname@example.org
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