Saturday, July 16, 9 PM
Wussy, Sunndrug, Lady God, Various Eggs @ Strange Matter – $10 (order tickets HERE)
Attention all you alt-rock/power-pop fans! This show might sneak under your radar due to the fact that Wussy has always been a sort of low-key presence on the scene, but they’ve finally started to get proper credit in the past couple of years, and if you ask me it’s long overdue! Now that they’re in your town, you owe it to yourself to find out exactly why lots of people besides me are hella stoked on this band.
Their 2014 album Attica saw them receive quite a bit of props from critics like Robert Christgau and the Chicago podcasting duo known as Sound Opinions, but what’s really crazy is that this was actually their sixth album. Starting back in 2001 when former Ass Ponys leader Chuck Cleaver, who’d already proven himself an off-kilter power-pop genius in his previous band (no seriously, go dig up some Ass Ponys records, you won’t be sorry), met up with Lisa Walker, Wussy quickly became an unstoppable dynamic duo, with Cleaver and Walker trading off on lead vocal and songwriting duties but always coming up with beautiful harmonies and glorious choruses. They’re coming through in support of recently released seventh album Forever Sounds, and you’ll wanna play this album forever once you finally hear its sounds, so I’d say it’s aptly named!
Sunndrug joins Wussy on this bill, and this Tidewater-based band has a long term pedigree in its own right. Featuring the men who once formed the nucleus of long-running metalcore band Spitfire (Chris Raines, Jimmy Reeves, Matt Beck), this band is a step away from their breakdown-laced legacy in favor of catchy, toe-tapping post-hardcore. If you’re down with Quicksand and Texas Is the Reason, you’ll find something to like in Sunndrug’s brand new sounds. Local indie/psych combos Lady God and Various Eggs round out this bill with some trippy yet catchy tuneage. Seriously, you don’t wanna miss any of this! If you’re falling behind in your power-pop studies, this is the perfect night to catch up!
Wednesday, July 13, 8 PM
Toward Space, Suneater, Lucy In Battle Armor, The Smirks @ Strange Matter – $5
There are so many different scenes constantly percolating and bubbling under in this town–I really love it. I tend to hang in the whole hardcore/emo world myself, but there are plenty of other rockers around town doing their own thing, and I’m still catching on where a lot of them are concerned. Toward Space are pretty damn intriguing to me, mainly because this young band started out as a primitive duo with stomp-pedal drums a la King Khan & BBQ Show. I didn’t know anyone was doing that kind of raw rock n’ roll around town until this crew showed up in my living room last year and got a whole roomful of wild-ass teens getting down like crazy! Since then, they’ve added a full-time drummer and ditched the pedals, which has revealed a more melodic side to their sound but not slowed down the rock one iota!
Suneater are another recent discovery for me, a Mars Volta/Jane’s Addiction-style prog-psych-metal crew with stratospheric inclinations and an assured way with their instrumentation. Expect to rocket straight into the sun when these dudes start playing. Lucy In Battle Armor is a name I’ve heard around town for a bit, but I never really picked up on their whole thing until now; from what I can tell by jamming the tunes on their Bandcamp, I’m thinking the vibe with these guys is similar to Suneater, only maybe replace some of the psych influences with a funkier, jazzier swing? Seems pretty cool to me. The Smirks are a garage-punk trio with some cool ladies up front bringing the rock, and I definitely love bands like that, so I’m stoked! Honestly, I have no idea how the order in which I just talked about these bands will match up with–or diverge from–the lineup order tonight, so how about you just show up early and stick around til the end? I promise it’ll be worth it.
Thursday, July 14, 9 PM
Prisoner, Old Lines, Asylum, Komodo @ 25 Watt – $7
Depending on how you look at things, the stacked lineup at 25 Watt this Thursday night could probably also be categorized as down n’ dirty rock n’ roll. I think for most normal people it’d be more correct to call these bands “brutal hardcore,” though, so let’s go with that. Prisoner is a local crew featuring former members of Balaclava who forsake their former band’s doomy touches in favor for straight up Discharge/Tragedy-style velocity. Their dark, apocalyptic sound will fit well with Baltimore’s Old Lines, which is a good thing considering that this show represents the kickoff party for a tour featuring both bands. Old Lines just released a collaborative release with political author Will Potter, entitled To Build A Fire–which should let you know a little bit about where they’re coming from. In light of today’s political and cultural climate, you can imagine that this band will have a lot to rage about, Thursday night and well beyond.
Our opening acts may not be headed out on tour with Prisoner and Old Lines, but they’ve got sounds that will be highly complimentary, giving this whole night a unified dark/angry feel. Asylum keep things moving quickly and rumbling with harsh, downtuned riffage; this band might be described as d-beat or crust or just plain hardcore but no matter what label you put on them, they’re ready to wipe the floor with you regardless. Komodo don’t quite have the high tempos of the other bands on this bill, but they make up for it with noisy, swaggering menace. Ex-members of Mensroom carry on that band’s legacy of barely-controlled chaos, while taking things to the next level with even better songs. Again, this is surely someone’s idea of dirty rock n’ roll. It probably should be yours.
Friday, July 15, 9 PM
Zach Rowden + Gus Caldwell, Hoax Hunters, Charmer, Cut The Architect’s Hand @ 25 Watt – $5
This Friday marks yet another opportunity to come together with your friends from the Swamp Fest crew at 25 Watt to help pull funds together for the upcoming 3-day extravaganza that is Swamp Fest 2016! This fundraiser show will bring together quite a few different sounds and social circles, uniting behind a mutual love of loud, weird music that is–regardless of genre boundaries–100% punk as fuck. Zach Rowden and Gus Caldwell will come together to close the show, and the set you’ll see from this duo will be totally unique and impossible to forget. Experimental bassist Rowden has chops aplenty and could hold his own with the foremost free jazz ensembles active today, but tends to turn his energies towards sounds that push the boundaries of even that anarchic form. Meanwhile, Caldwell is probably best known around town for heading up metallic screamo trio Ostraca, but his sometimes beautiful, sometimes menacing noise and ambient solo efforts are worth recognition in their own right. These two friends and collaborators will get together to see just how far they can take their sonic experimentations–prepare to be challenged.
But hey, if you don’t really feel like getting all that far out, no worries–there are a bunch of straight up punk rock bands on this bill as well! Hoax Hunters will be revealing their latest incarnation, featuring longtime bandleader PJ Sykes backed by a drum machine. How the band’s Husker Du-style raging melodic noise-rock will sound with programmed beats is as yet unknown, but PJ’s songwriting chops are sure to make up for a whole lot. Local brutal metalcore veterans Cut the Architect’s Hand will join with up-and-coming grinders Charmer to round out the bill, so be prepared for an evening of headbanging and fist-raising… which will then culminate in some truly fascinating weirdness. What’s not to love? See ya there!
Saturday, July 16, 8 PM
Mutilation Rites, Tond, 3:33, Charmer @ McCormack’s Irish Pub – $7
Between 2 Beers Promotions have come out of basically nowhere over the past year, and their booze-loving founders have wasted no time in making themselves the first name in RVA metal. They’re taking things to the next level this weekend, though, bringing us a fiery Saturday night gig with US black metal rippers Mutilation Rites. Their 2014 second album Harbinger won some much-deserved critical acclaim from quite a few circles around the internet, and I’m pretty sure I joined in that praise (don’t make me dig through old RVA Mag web articles… I know I liked it a whole lot at the time, OK? Let’s leave it at that).
Since the release of that album, these guys have added stickman extraordinaire Tyler Coburn, of personal faves Yautja and Gnarwhal, on drums, which makes me even more excited to see their latest live incarnation. Come to McCormack’s this Saturday night and let’s watch them devastate the place, shall we? They’ll be joined by some rad local acts, including Tond, who come to black metal from the opposite end of the spectrum. Rather than digging in with a wall of raw, primitive noise, this band explores the folk and symphonic influences that make up the other side of the black metal coin–and to excellent effect. Thrashers 3:33 are halfway to hell and halfway to ripping your face off, and power-violence mavens Charmer will hit Shockoe Bottom like a ton of fuckin’ bricks for the second time in two days. I know I’m not complaining!
Sunday, July 17, 8 PM
Straw, Toner War, Sugarlift, Stephen Hennessey, Kentucky Fitz, Emigdio Turner, Human Apartments @ Strange Matter – $5
Y’all, I’m a little snakebit by noise lately. It seems like every month brings a new rumor of sketchy activities by some artist or another, or some other story about violence and bad vibes at shows. People love to romanticize a “sense of danger” in certain musical genres, and noise definitely falls under that umbrella, but personally, I’m tired of all that shit. These days I wait until I hear about shows featuring people I know are cool before I really let myself get excited about local noise. And fortunately, one of those shows has come along! So let’s all head down to Strange Matter this Sunday night and get down with some noise sounds that hopefully won’t involve sharp objects
I confess I don’t know much about Brooklyn solo artist Straw. They’ve got some very long and strange tracks uploaded to Soundcloud, and while I’m not sure how that will correspond to the live show, I certainly expect interesting things. I’m on surer ground with locals Toner War, who are some of the more reliable drone practitioners this city’s got on hand these days. I’m pretty stoked to see what Sugarlift has in store–I know Katie Wood as an indie songwriter, so this is a whole other side to what she does, and I can’t wait to find out more about it. Based on his previous work with the duo Alpha Decay, I look forward to finding out what now-solo performer Emigdio Turner has to offer. And while I may not know the other artists on this bill, the fact that they’re all working together leads me to expect very good things. Richmond noise can still rule, y’all! I still believe!
Monday, July 18, 8 PM
The Gotobeds, Positive No, Naked Pictures @ Strange Matter – $8 (order tickets HERE)
OK, I’m gonna admit a bias here. Any band that names themselves after a member of Wire is automatically on my good side. Having an album called Blood Sugar Secs Traffic only makes them that much cooler. So even before I checked out The Gotobeds–who just recently came to my attention, but have apparently been shredding hard for years now–I was expecting to hear rad sounds. Thankfully, I was not let down! Their catchy, energetic postpunk is not quite as full of hardcore fury as that of, say, So Stressed, but there is an undeniably similar vibe here. Meanwhile, I hear some of the catchy tunefulness that bands like Parquet Courts flirt with at their best (but usually can’t pull off for long enough to really keep my interest). The Gotobeds inspire nothing in me so much as manic mutant pogo-ing around my bedroom. Seeing a hundred or so people replicate that sort of hyperkinetic goofiness on the Strange Matter dancefloor might be a great show in itself, but you’ll be too busy rocking out yourself to really even notice.
The opening bands on this bill aren’t quite as manic as The Gotobeds, but they should do plenty to please anyone who is digging what they do. After all, if you love manic postpunk, you probably also love gorgeous shoegaze-influenced indie power-pop tunes, right? I hope so, because you’d be blowing it in the extreme if you don’t fully appreciate the wonderful sounds of RVA stalwarts Positive No. Singer Tracy Wilson and guitarist Kenneth Close continue to soldier on regardless of constant rhythm section turnover, and thankfully they seem to have found a compatriot that’s in it for the long haul in new drummer Keith Renna (who, like Tracy, hails from the underrated-in-retrospect Jersey indie scene of the 90s). The matter of who’s handling bass duties is much less important than how great all of this band’s songs are, so don’t worry about that too much–just get ready to dance and smile and feel all kinds of feels. Recently arrived indie/post-hardcore crew Naked Pictures opens this jam up–show up on time, and find out what they’re about! (Spoiler: good things. Very good things.)
Tuesday, July 19, 8 PM
Freakwater, Morgan Geer’s Drunken Prayer @ The Broadberry – $12 in advance/$15 day of show (order tickets HERE)
Hey, Freakwater! Wow, this is an unexpected treat! Janet Bean has been someone whose music I have followed since back when I was a clueless junior-high kid frantically taping any rock show that aired on the local university station (life was weird before the internet, y’all). I discovered Eleventh Dream Day, who featured Janet Bean on drums, when I was 15 or so, and their excellent 1991 release Lived To Tell was enough to keep me hanging on for any and all future musical exploits any of the members got up to. This is how I eventually ended up a Freakwater fan. The project united Bean with fellow songwriter Catherine Irwin, and saw her forsaking percussion in favor of acoustic guitar and an old-time influenced songwriting style that might have gotten branded “freak folk” if it weren’t for the fact that Freakwater beat Devendra Banhart and Joanna Newsom to the sound by a good 15 years.
Bean and Irwin are still at it over a quarter-century later, and are coming through town in support of their eighth album, Scheherazade, next Tuesday night. This is their first album in a decade, and there’s been a lot of progression in the interim–the typically spare Freakwater sound, which often featured little or no percussion, has been expanded to that of a full band, and things have gotten closer to straight-up old-school country. All the Carter Family references people have been making with this band make more sense than ever today. For a band which has at times featured members of Califone, the gothic overtones that wash through their music also make a lot of sense, and are just as present as they’ve ever been. If you’ve sometimes wished Bobbie Gentry’s “Ode To Billie Joe” were less subtle in its haunting vibe, or that the Carter Family were as downright spooky as Woven Hand, you’ll probably be down for some Freakwater action. So go get you some! A group with a nearly three-decade history, who has just reappeared with their first album in a decade, is probably not going to make full US tours a habit. Catch this one while you have a chance.
Email me if you’ve got any tips for me about upcoming shows: firstname.lastname@example.org
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