Saturday, August 20, 10 AM
The 7th Annual GWAR-B-Q, feat. GWAR, Lamb Of God, Against Me, American Nightmare, Eyehategod, Lagwagon, August Burns Red, Murphy’s Law, Occultist, Brain Tentacles, Eat The Turnbuckle, Mobile Deathcamp, Sawyer Family, The Death Of Rock N’ Roll, Dillinger Escape Plan, Ramming Speed @ Hadad’s Lake (7900 Osbourne Tpk RVA 23231) – $60-75, or $299 for VIP (order tickets HERE)
OK so I thought Swamp Fest was a big deal last weekend. Clearly compared to the members of GWAR I am a total lightweight–but then, I already knew that. GWAR-B-Q, happening for the seventh year in a row this weekend, is only one day rather than three, but there are so many satellite events linked to it (some of which, never fear, we will be talking about later in this column) that it might as well be thought of as a three-day weekend of radical noise. What’s more, the sheer amount of hugely popular bands playing the Saturday afternoon main event at Hadad’s Lake is so overwhelming that I can’t even bat an eyelash at the $60 ticket price, regardless of how difficult it would be for me to swing that.
So yeah, let’s talk about what your $60 (or $300, if you wanna be a VIP–and who doesn’t, really?) will get you access to. Of course, the GWAR set is always the main course, and if you’re not up front wearing your white t-shirt and clamoring to get sprayed with blood by the latest illustrious character in the GWAR rogue’s gallery, something important has died within the depths of your soul. But honestly even if you get caught in the back during GWAR and have to miss out on an essential Richmond rite of passage, you can still get more than your money’s worth just by taking the opportunity to see Eyehategod AND Against Me AND American Nightmare AND Dillinger Escape Plan all on the same day.
There are also always some amazingly random ensembles on the GWAR-B-Q bill that remind you how unusual the rarefied circles in which this band travels truly are. Find out what I’m talking about by checking out one or more of the following: Brain Tentacles, Eat The Turnbuckle, The Death Of Rock N’ Roll, Mobile Deathcamp… all will provide you with some eye-opening entertainment–possibly of questionable taste… but come on, isn’t questionable taste what GWAR is all about? You knew what you were getting into. Speaking of questionable taste, there will be plenty of actual barbecue on hand, and you’ll wanna fill up on tasty sauced meat in order to absorb some of the mass quantities of alcohol you’re sure to ingest as part of this event. GWAR-B-Q remains the craziest, hard-rockin’est summer afternoon at the lake you’ve ever lived through, and you’d be a fool to miss it… even if you are probably gonna have to sleep all day Sunday just to recover.
Thursday, August 18, 8 PM
Multicult, Humanshapes, Buzzard Dust, Prayer Group, Charmer @ Strange Matter – $8
The whole noise-rock thing died out for a while, but it’s come back in a big way over the past few years, and this bill brings us two Northeastern bands who are carrying on the new-noise legacy of the sadly departed Dope Body. Multicult hails from the same hometown as Dope Body, that being Baltimore, but have a more straightforward approach to the noise thing, channeling the Jesus Lizard and Cherub with their repetitive, damaged grooves full of off-kilter note bends. Meanwhile, Philadelphia’s Humanshapes gets weirder with it, plunging more fully into shrieking atonal feedbackery and distorted vocal howling. Both of these bands are sure to be a thrill for all you audio-damage-loving weirdos.
There’s a triple threat of local awesomeness coming to you on this bill as well, and it includes a double dose of veteran RVA axeman James Hoffer–always a sign of top quality if you ask me. Mr. Hoffer not only lends his six-string talents to the sounds of Buzzard Dust, a thrashing-mad quintet featuring members of Psyopus, Hellbear, Unsacred, and more, but also to the fury of Charmer, a straight-up power-violence combo who have wowed me with their speedy rage on more than one occasion. The third local band involved in these shenanigans, Prayer Group, does not feature any illustrious ex-members (that I know of…), but has a weirder yet still compelling vibe. Their sound lands somewhere between the noise-rock groove of our touring headliners, the harsh metallic sound that’s so popular here in Richmond with the denim-jacket set, and a hallucinogenic noise-punk psychedelia that makes me think of long-departed and criminally underrated Bay Area freaks Dead And Gone. Let me be clear–I am here for any band who can inspire these sorts of comparisons. Let’s hit this shit up, y’all.
Friday, August 19, 6 PM
Honey Radar @ Steady Sounds – Free!
OK I fully recognize that there’s some big stuff happening down at the National on this night in the context of GWAR-B-Q, and if that’s your kind of thing, I certainly won’t dissuade you from hitting it up. But there’s something less likely to catch your eye happening here in Richmond this Friday night, and I really must bring your attention to it, for it is of the utmost importance. Philadelphia outsider-pop crew Honey Radar are coming to town for an in-store performance at Steady Sounds, and you do not want to miss this. Why would I say that? Well, do you miss Guided By Voices? Were you always in awe of Robert Pollard’s ability to churn out 90-second lo-fi pop ditties that somehow hit perfectly regardless of the layers of fuzz and surface noise through which they floated to you? Did you love that band’s incredibly prolific release schedule and seemingly inexhaustible well of creativity?
What I am saying to you, my wonderful readers, is that Honey Radar are the heirs apparent to Guided By Voices on all of these fronts. Leader Jason Henn is one of those talents who come along all too rarely and wow everyone they come in contact with by demonstrating their seemingly effortless pop genius. Records like Chain Smoking On Easter and the Rabbit’s Voice EP have been in regular rotation ever since I discovered them, and I can’t help but be curious about exactly what the band who brought them to me will have to offer in the live setting. For one thing, I can’t imagine these guys will be as drunk as GBV notoriously were–would that even be possible? But whatever they have in store for us, I’m more than willing to drink it all in. Come out to Steady Sounds this Friday evening, and you’ll never have to worry that you missed out on the opportunity to get in on the ground floor of the Honey Radar bandwagon.
Saturday, August 20, 9 PM
GWAfter Party, feat. BAT, Earthling, Vorator, Left Cross @ Strange Matter – $8 in advance/$10 day of show (order tickets HERE)
Can you still stagger on after departing a 12 hour lake party that was capped off with GWAR spraying (fake?) alien blood at you for an hour or so? That’s a question that all true music fans will have the opportunity to answer firsthand this Saturday night–because if you stop partying after things shut down at Hadad’s Lake, you’re gonna miss out on some of the raddest metal of the entire day! You don’t want that to happen, do you? Of course you don’t! So make sure you head over to Strange Matter for the GWAfter Party, starring BAT! Do you know about BAT? This thrash metal powerhouse features some major metal legends, bringing together as it does longtime DRI drummer Felix Griffin, Municipal Waste guitarist Ryan Waste (who plays bass and sings in this group), and former Cannabis Corpse/Parasytic guitarist Nick Poulos (who just joined Municipal Waste on second guitar) ripping it up on leads. The result is some serious thrash awesomeness, as documented on brand new album Wings Of Chains, for which this show conveniently serves as a release party!
There’s so much other local metal greatness happening on this bill, though, we can’t get too hung up on BAT. It’d be a crime if I didn’t spend some time telling you about Earthling, who hail from the western part of Virginia with some blackened thrash mania to get your head banging! If you’re a thrash fan and you haven’t caught up with this band yet, you really need to un-fuck that with the quickness. Saturday night is your opportunity! While you’re at it, get into some old-school lo-fi death metal from Vorator, who want to scream bloody gore in your face. Left Cross starts all this off with the kind of crossover thrash mayhem that just never gets old, and will only serve to whet your appetite for the embarrassment of headbanging riches to come.
Sunday, August 21, 11 AM
Morning After Chill, feat. Kepone, Unmaker, Petrichor @ GWARbar – Free!
The fun just never ends! And really, if you’re a true servant of rock n’ roll, the sleep never really starts. Speaking as an aging lady who gets 5 hours of sleep per night at MOST (these aching bones force me out of bed, y’all, it’s a whole thing. My advice: stay young forever), I will just tell you right now that being up and around by 8 or 9 every morning will allow you to catch a lot of things you’d otherwise miss. This GWAR-B-Q weekend, it’ll allow you to hit up Sunday brunch at GWARbar–and in light of the occasion, isn’t that the perfect place to be? It would be anyway, but it’s made twice as perfect (hmm, I sense a bit of a philosophical dilemma being proposed by my wording here… but who has time to worry about that?) by the fact that multiple awesome RVA alt-rock bands will be dishing out their unique sounds right alongside the plentiful bowls of Jizmak n’ Cheese.
Kepone are just as legendary as GWAR for their own reasons–having found the perfect hybrid of off-kilter mathy noise-rock and catchy pop choruses back in the early 90s when no one was even exploring that territory, this band of all-star ex-(and current once again, or so they tell me)-members of GWAR has carved out a niche in RVA rock n’ roll history in their own right, and we’re so lucky to have them back in action in the new millennium. Come check out a set of badass highlights from this trio of awesomeness, and catch some brand new excellence from Occultist side project Unmaker while you’re at it. This group explores a similarly catchy yet off-kilter vein as that of Kepone, but they replace mathy noise with a dark postpunk mood that is sure to enrapture you. Openers Petrichor appear to be operating within the world of “occult doom folk,” which is always intriguing, and may very well be the perfect sound with which to ease out of your hangover and into the more relaxed final day of GWAR-B-Q weekend. You’ll need it, I imagine.
Tuesday, August 23, 8 PM
S.N.A.F.U., 3:33, Pissing Contest, Skumboyz, Spicy Boys @ 25 Watt – $8
OK fuck it I guess it’s just a thrashy week, but as a girl who has cassettes by Sepultura, Kreator, and Testament in her car right now, I am certainly not complaining about anything of the sort. S.N.A.F.U. come to RVA from Detroit, Michigan, a no-bullshit sort of town, and they bring some ripping late 80s crossover-thrash that reminds me of Anthrax getting into a three-car pileup with DRI and Doom (I just hope no one was hurt). Headbanging riffs and galloping guitars meet up with anthemic shout-along choruses and pounding mosh interludes, and I for one am down with that!
Upon their arrival in Richmond, the punks of S.N.A.F.U. will head for the heart of Shockoe Bottom and arrive at legendary freak haven 25 Watt to meet up with several of the raddest metallic punk bands coming out of Richmond right now. 3:33 may be halfway to hell but they’re all the way to headbang heaven. There’s something really appealing about how gruff and grungy this band sounds (and I don’t mean in a Mudhoney-ish sense either). I also very much enjoy the names of the other three bands on this bill–Pissing Contest and Skumboyz are both amusingly evocative of typical gnarly punk behavior (though I do hope these boys shower at least once in a while). And Spicy Boys have named themselves after one of the more amusing memes I’ve encountered this year–plus, Spicy Boys is a better band name than “fire ants” any day, right?
Email me if you’ve got any tips for me about upcoming shows: firstname.lastname@example.org
NOTE: this episode is late, as a few of these have been recently. Not only was the fallout from helping coordinate Swamp Fest last weekend enough to lay me out for a solid 24 hours with nothing in my head and barely enough energy to stagger downstairs for periodic cups of water, the fact that I’m attempting to survive on very little income while still working 60 hour weeks has been taking a longterm toll on me. I feel bad about it, and also feel bad about calling attention to it, but the truth is I could really use a little help. If you are even a semi-regular reader, please consider donating to my Patreon page. $1 a month may not seem like much, and maybe it’s so small you would forget you were even contributing it. But it would make a huge difference to me, just to be able to buy that many more packs of ramen at the grocery store every week. Regardless of what you can give, even if it’s nothing, thank you for reading, and thank you for your support. I love you all. I’ll try to do better with the deadlines in the future.