Friday, October 14, 8 PM
Fucked Up, Cloak/Dagger, Omega Boys, The James Badfellows @ Strange Matter – $15 (order tickets HERE)
I first saw Fucked Up a decade ago, at this very same club (it was called Nanci Raygun then, but still). Even at that point, Fucked Up were already becoming a divisive band. They’d just released their debut album, Hidden World, on which they complicated their relentless midtempo hardcore drive with epic song lengths, multilayered lyrical conceits, and a variety of strange interludes and unconventional instruments thrown into the mix.A bunch of the more-HC-than-thou kids I knew thought they’d already passed their peak, longed for the days of “Police,” “Litany,” and “No Pasaran.” Personally, I thought their early ragers were brutal but too tedious, that they needed more intriguing musical elements to make the band as interesting in execution as they were in concept. I saw the first hints of that intrigue begin to creep in on Hidden World.
Since then, things have only gotten better. The band took a quantum leap on 2008’s The Chemistry Of Common Life, which won the Polaris prize, thereby demonstrating that Canada’s loyalty to its homegrown music knows no bounds. Followup David Comes To Life was in another universe entirely, acting as the band’s Zen Arcade by bringing in an appropriate Husker Du influence, as well as quite a few more melodic elements, and overlaying a conceptual structure that is brilliantly metatextual and has layers like an onion. Some would tell you that their most recent album, Glass Boys, is a step backwards from David Comes To Life, but quite frankly those people can take a flying leap. For my money, it’s their best work yet, making wonderful use of vocalist Damian Abraham’s completely unmelodic roaring screams, which are underpinned with rock-solid songwriting that results in a punk album for the ages. I swear not a month goes by that I don’t find myself spending an afternoon with the album’s closing title track on a loop.
So now, a decade later, I’m incredibly stoked that Fucked Up are returning once again to the stage where I once saw them. I don’t have the scratch to get myself in the door (what can I say, my life is a mess), but that just means another one of you, readers, will be able to cram in there. And you really should not miss the opportunity! See the hectic triple-guitar attack of the best punk rock band of the decade thus far in a room small enough that you can still stage-dive! (But don’t actually do that dumb shit, it hurts people.) To sweeten the pot, Cloak/Dagger will make one of their periodic returns to the land of the living before vanishing again for several months. Omega Boys will grace the world with one last set before going their separate ways. And the James Badfellows will ride down from the mountains to rock this town once again. Really though, you’re there for Fucked Up. Anything else is just gravy.
Wednesday, October 12, 8 PM
Cosmonauts, Hey Guy, Imaginary Sons, Naked Baby @ Strange Matter – $10 (order tickets HERE)
I admit it, y’all–I’m not typically too interested in a band that would describe themselves as “drug punk.” The fact that this phrase was also the name Lester Bangs gave one of his earliest literary efforts sways me a very little bit towards the positive, but for the most part it just sounds like a massive bummer. Fortunately for me, Cosmonauts make up for all that with their rad music, which sounds not like the shambling junkies of my punkhouse nightmares but instead like the sort of swaggering coolness mixed with buried trauma that resulted in some of my favorite early punk records. Way before the Sex Pistols though–think the Velvet Underground’s first couple, or those Rocket From The Tombs demos that got unearthed over two decades after the band fell apart. Go figure; I love that stuff! There’s a bit more of a West-Coast psychedelic twang here, which should please the fans of White Fence and Thee Oh Sees amongst you. So yeah, go check these guys out! Maybe leave the drugs at home though?
While you’re at it, check out Hey Guy, a combination of words that inevitably reminds me of the most annoying kid in my high school–he’d scream that phrase out at people in the hallways when they didn’t see him coming and make people jump and drop stuff out of their lockers. His friends thought that was hilarious. High school sucked, y’all. Anyway, guitarist Boris Pelekh from Gogol Bordello is in this band, and their prog-punk leanings are way way less annoying than that kid from my high school. Thank god. Opening sets from local rockers Imaginary Sons and Naked Baby are sure to be your jam as well, assuming you like good music. Rock with it.
Thursday, October 13, 7 PM
Balance And Composure, Foxing, Mercury Girls @ The Broadberry – $17 in advance/$19 at the door (order tickets HERE)
I would start this by talking about how the word is that Balance & Composure have gone shoegaze, but really the word I’ve gotten is entirely complaints from people on social media who are mad that other people are calling the new B&C record shoegaze. Have these Hum/Far-reminiscent citizens of the now-passe (but secretly still pretty cool) emo revival truly gone full Anglophile dream-pop fuzz? Much as it pains me to say so, in this case I stand with the social media skeptics. This seems to me like yet another case of internet kids letting their terminology get fuzzy; what they’re really trying to say is that the new B&C is mid-80’s guitar-driven UK postpunk. The Sound, The Chameleons, even some of the best early albums by The Cure are touchstones here, but those who show up to Light We Made looking for My Bloody Valentine are sure to be disappointed.
I don’t really think they should be, though. Balance & Composure’s new material pulls off a trick that a lot of bands fail miserably at, which is moving on from an initial sound without losing the plot or losing one’s soul. This stuff still has the emotional center that drove the band’s earliest material, and is as deft with melodies as anything they’ve previously turned out. It just directs those melodies towards a slightly different goal–one just as valid and interesting. This record isn’t gonna light a fire under you the way Things We Think We’re Missing might have, and the band’s live sound is bound to be more contemplative and slightly less stirring as a result. But when these songs meet a live performance in which everything is sure to thunder through you like a word from the voice of god, you’d have to be dead not to be moved. With Foxing and Mercury Girls kicking things off, you’ll get a great prelude of melodic, contemplative emo sounds that will lead wonderfully into B&C’s main event. This will be 100% worth your time and hard-earned cash.
Friday, October 14, 8 PM
Merchandise, Public Memory, Flasher @ Gallery 5 – $10 in advance/$12 at the door (order tickets HERE)
Florida’s Merchandise is impressive in that they manage to keep my attention with every new release they bring out. I was thinking they might be losing it a little when they went for more of a shiny new-wave pop vibe on 2014’s After The End–this was definitely one that stuck with me more as a concept than a fully realized album. However, their brand new effort, A Corpse Wired For Sound, sees the band simultaneously heading back towards their more DIY roots and continuing to expand their songwriting in intriguing new directions. The mixture of lo-fi static and chiming guitars, monotonous drum machine bounce and incredibly human vocals, makes me think of the sort of nigh-forgotten early 80s coldwave cassettes that people were starting mp3 blogs five years ago to immortalize. This album may be on 4AD, but the truth is it’s got Captured Tracks written all over it.
Whatever. Hipster signifiers be damned! The important part is that the current trio lineup of Merchandise has something new and cool to bring to you, and how they’ll animate it in a live environment is one of the most intriguing parts of the equation. Brooklyn’s Public Memory will augment Merchandise’s sure-to-be-intriguing set with their own twist on early 80s coldwave, featuring heavy percussion vibes and a darkly ethereal mood. And don’t show up late, or you might miss Flasher, a brand new effort from Priests bassist Taylor Mulitz and some co-conspirators from Big Hush, Bless, and others. And sure, I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you this was continuing the dark 80s postpunk vibe–but god knows that’s a cool sound, one you could surely enjoy for an entire evening. So go to Gallery 5 in your darkest shades and baggiest trenchcoat and goth it up, y’all.
Saturday, October 15, 8 PM
Stuck Backwards, 3:33, The Donalds @ Wonderland – $5
There’s nothing like a good old-fashioned punk rock show to get the blood moving and make you happy to be alive. When you get right down to it, Wonderland is the most likely purveyor of such entertainments–a dive bar that wears its punkness on its sleeve and celebrates bands like The Misfits over the house PA every night is sure to give over its live stage to some wild n’ crazy don’t-give-a-fuck punk rock sounds on a regular basis. And here we are with the latest example of that very theory–a performance by VA Beach’s own Stuck Backwards, happening this Saturday night!
This band has a surefire hint of the metallic running through their punk-rock clang-bang, and it comes out in heaping doses as part of the band’s chunky riffage. But the punk fury can’t be denied either, and these guys ride the crossover line with aplomb, showing equal influence from Municipal Waste, GWAR, and Sacred Reich. I’m digging it. RVA-based openers 3:33 have set their alarm clocks for the halfway point between here and hell, and when they arrive, they’ll open a can of crust/metal whup-ass that’ll make your ears ring in the most glorious of ways. Starting the evening off will be The Donalds, who I’m assuming are NOT named after current presidential candidate Donald Trump (I mean, you know the tabloids have been calling him “The Donald” for years, right?). They are certainly way louder than that guy ever thought about being, and also way less lame. Which is reassuring–maybe we should elect these guys president instead.
Sunday, October 16, 7 PM
Polyphia, Captive, Inquiry, Lucy In Battle Armor @ The Camel – $12 in advance/$14 at the door (order tickets HERE)
Some out of control creativity is here to wrap up your weekend when instru-metal guitar geniuses Polyphia roll into town and rip The Camel to shreds. These young men are serious shredders, as they show on their latest album, Renaissance. This record combines the sort of progressively-minded guitar pyrotechnics that have spun out from the remains of the djent scene (think Periphery’s more recent work) with an undeniable melodic sense that finds an emotional heart at the center of something that could easily become nothing more than a showcase for chops overdose.
Polyphia forgoes technical wankery for something pretty beautiful, and mars that only slightly with an unfortunate tendency to fill their music videos with scantily clad women amid strip-club scenarios. It’s cool, I’ll just minimize the YouTube window and let the lush sonics whisk me away to a carefree land of beauty. And you’ll be able to do that very thing Sunday night when these (rather attractive, I must say) young men take the Camel’s stage and serenade you with their six-string axes. You’re sure to go home with a smile on your face. The opening sounds from locals Captive, Inquiry, and Lucy In Battle Armor should be an ideal appetizer for Polyphia’s tasty main course, so show up on time and get the most bang for your buck available.
Monday, October 17, 9 PM
Illiterate Light, Akasha, Hot Reader @ The Camel – $5
Occasionally people will drop me a line about upcoming shows, make me aware of things I otherwise wouldn’t have known about–and believe me, I always appreciate it. My email address is below if you’ve got any tips for me in the future. Anyway, I get a fair few contacts like that, but generally the sorts of things I hear about are things I already know about and am at least considering for inclusion. I had no idea who Illiterate Light were, though, until one of the members dropped me a line with a Soundcloud link and a Facebook event. I was amazed when I discovered an incredibly talented Harrisonburg-based duo with math-rock chops and excellent emo-influenced melodic technique. How had I not already heard of these guys?
Well, I don’t know how it happened, but I’m just glad the situation has been remedied. And those of you here in Richmond who dig Clair Morgan’s intriguing mix of complex, technical guitar riffery and gorgeous vocal melodies will be just as glad. With only two members, Illiterate Light’s sound has a lot more open space within it than that of Clair Morgan, but regardless, these two gentlemen fill the room and the world with wonderful sound, as is easily heard on their recently released EP, Earthworm. Come to the Camel next Monday night, check it out, and grab a copy of the EP for yourself! And get down with some excellent opening sets from locals Akasha and Hot Reader, both of whom promise to bring some rad rock n’ roll sounds to your ears. Not bad for five bucks, y’all. You can skip a meal at Taco Bell for this, right? (Don’t answer that.)
Tuesday, October 18, 8 PM
Mondo Drag, The Well, Crypt Trip, DJ Vinyl Conflict @ Strange Matter – $10 in advance/$12 day of show (order tickets HERE)
Almost a decade ago now, I kinda fell down a rabbit hole as the result of a Decibel Magazine article trumpeting the virtues of unknown “proto-metal” albums from the dawn of the 70s. Rhapsodizing both bands whose names I’d encountered many times (Atomic Rooster, Dust) and those I had no clue existed (Three Man Army, Bitter Blood Street Theatre), this list inundated me with new avenues for exploration into the world of sonically and thematically heavy shit. Sludgy tempos, buzzing organs, and impossibly powerful grooves lurked within the, um, grooves of these lowbrow vinyl masterpieces. It’s that sort of downbeat space exploration vibe I get from the pounding psychedelic heavyosity of organ-driven proto-metal revivalists Mondo Drag, who’ll be touching down at Strange Matter this Tuesday night.
These guys, as well as opening acts The Well and Crypt Trip, all make records for Riding Easy, a label I hadn’t previously heard of but whose catalog I need to dig into, stat. Apparently these bands, this label, and this sound are all big faves of Vinyl Conflict head honcho Bobby Egger–which is really no surprise if you ever stop by that place while the man is spinning some tunes. It’s pretty much always stuff like Black Widow and May Blitz on the turntable when I go in there, and I very much approve. I also think this will bode well for Bobby’s opening DJ set at this show. Plenty of propulsive thud-rock bummers to put you in the proper mood for a triple-threat attack of Riding Easy bands to knock you on your ass. What could be better? OK, yes, seeing Black Sabbath in 1973 would probably be better. Call me when you invent a time machine. Or, alternately, travel six days into the future and plant yourself at Strange Matter’s front door with 12 bucks in your hand. That seems a lot easier to me.
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