Friday, November 4, 6 PM
First Friday at Gallery 5, feat. Andrew H. Shirley’s Wasteland2, Slug & Lettuce Zine Retrospective, and music from Dumb Waiter, Unstoppable Death Machines, Toward Space @ Gallery 5 – Free!
Am I the only one who has noticed just how hard Gallery 5 has been knocking it out of the park lately? Boy, I hope not! Hitting this converted fire station up has become a very safe bet on First Friday every single month. Heck, calling it “a safe bet” is if anything underselling the notion. “In a class by itself” is probably closer to the truth. This month, Gallery 5 follows up an month of literally-hot Carnival Of 5 Fires action with a triple-header of a First Friday show that’s got something for everyone. Seriously, if none of this stuff catches your eye, I advise you to check your pulse. Word to Wow Owls.
The whole raison d’etre for art galleries is to showcase art, so let’s start by talking about Andrew H. Shirley’s Wasteland 2, the main exhibition Gallery 5 has on offer for the month. Wasteland 2 is not just an art show but a 30 minute short film, around which has been constructed a multimedia exhibition featuring graffiti-style art, site-specific text, interactive sculpture, and more! Seems like it might be a real sensory overload, but in order to get the full experience, make sure to head into the gallery’s main room at 6:30, 7:30, or 9:00, at which times the film will be started from the beginning.
If you show up inbetween screenings, no worries–there’s so much more to check out! In fact, this is the sort of night where arriving early and sticking around all night will really pay off. When you’re not digging Wasteland 2, head over to the recently inaugurated Independent Zine Library wing of Gallery 5 and check out an exhibition honoring Richmond-based zine Slug And Lettuce. Founder Chris Boarts Larson began publishing this zine in the mid-80s when she was a teenager, and kept it going until around a decade ago. Once she moved to RVA in the mid-90s, her photography became one of the essential documenting elements of the Richmond punk scene. Check out a gallery of her best photos as well as tons of art originally published in the zine and a display of some of the zine’s most memorable issues. This is important history for the Richmond musical community, y’all.
Oh my goodness, we’re going to a fourth paragraph! I know I need to chill but I can’t when shit is this cool! Besides, I haven’t even begun to talk about the bands playing this show–and they’re a big part of what makes the whole thing great. By now you are all aware of Dumb Waiter, right? This instrumental quartet could probably be described as jazz-metal fusion, but I’m not sure any one genre tag, no matter how hybridized, could ever contain the wild music this band has to offer. You need to see for yourself what they’re bringing to the stage. New York-based duo Unstoppable Death Machines are coming down to blast us all with some wild hectic punk noise, which will rule. And scrappy teen garage punks Toward Space will get things going with some youthful spitfire energy. If you need more convincing, I don’t know what to tell you.
Wednesday, November 2, 6 PM
Off With Their Heads, Long Arms, Living Rheum @ Strange Matter – $8
There are two shows at Strange Matter tonight, and if you wanna stick around for the second one and catch some wild musical experimentation from Kayo Dot, I certainly wouldn’t blame you. But what we really need to talk about is this appearance by Off With Their Heads, the Minneapolis punk band with the gruff sound and emotional lyrics. Frontman Ryan Young’s had his issues over the years, and he’s channeled them into some really classic melancholy melodic punk, as can be heard on the band’s three excellent LPs, the most recent being 2013’s Home, released by Epitaph Records.
In recent years, the band’s had some lineup fluctuations, and that’s reflected in this tour; instead of a full band, Young is doing this tour as an acoustic duo, with the help of touring guitarist John Polydoros. Who knows which of the band’s many classic tunes will get an airing, but the more personal vibe of an acoustic show is sure to bring new power and resonance to many of the affecting lyrics. As for local openers, Long Arms is the older, wiser, more folk/country-influenced project of veteran RVA pop-punker James Menefee. Expect some Westerbergian vibes from them. Living Rheum, the folk-punk project of local raconteur Nonnie Seitan and a shifting lineup of friends and comrades, will kick the whole thing off. And if you’ve gotta get home early for bed, this three-band bill will see you off in plenty of time!
Thursday, November 3, 8 PM
Bad Friends, Truman, Womajich Dialysiez, Human Apartments @ 25 Watt – $6
OK y’all, pay attention, because although you may never have heard of any of the bands on this bill, you would be a fool to pass this one up. Bad Friends comes to us from North Carolina, and they bring the true darkness of the deep south to life in much the same way that other Southern sludge champions (Thou, The Body, etc) do such a great job at. I find myself thinking slightly more of Damad or Ire (OK yes they were Canadian) than the modern examples of this sort of thing, but I have absolutely no complaints where that’s concerned. Plus, these humans wear their queerness with pride, and as a fellow queer, it makes me so happy to share the world of loud music with people who relate to my personal experiences of life. If the crushing doom of sludge metal often feels a little too male for you, this is a show you don’t want to miss.
And there’s a lot more awesome heaviness from diverse and politically aware artists on this bill as well, so I’m just that much more stoked. I can’t pretend that I’m unbiased where Truman is concerned–after all, I’m in another band with 2/3 of the members. They’re my friends; I love them. Even if I had no clue who they were, though, this summer’s raw, raging, and oh-so-real Exponential Decay cassette would be enough to convince me that this crew is for fucking real. Expect volume, power, emotion, and plenty of flying hair (always a plus if you ask me). Womajich Dialysiez, the experimental/improvisational ensemble with the shifting lineup formerly known as Femme RAIC, will unleash some noise on ya as well. This group has featured members of Tavishi, Gemtone, Fetish Gear, Ghost Piss, and a whole lot more–but who knows if any of those people will be on hand this time. You’re sure to be blown away regardless of who shows up, though, so why worry about it? Opener Human Apartments will drop some solo noise to get you fired up for a night of super rad sounds.
Friday, November 4, 9 PM
Trash Talk, Antwon, Black Noise @ Strange Matter – $15 (order tickets HERE)
I love shows like this! At first glance, you might think there’s no way these three artists belong on the same bill. After all, none of them sound anything alike. Trash Talk are a straight-up hardcore band with a lot of aggressive energy, and their music is the sort of thing you might find teenagers in a mosh pit killing themselves to. That might even happen Friday night at Strange Matter! However, those teenagers will also be exposed to the music of Antwon, an intelligent, introspective rapper whose music features consistently excellent production and whose 2013 album In Dark Denim was one of the best hip hop releases I’ve heard in the past several years. The show kicks off with a DJ set from Detroit’s Black Noise, which should add a dark electronic flavor to the whole evening… at least, from what I can tell by poking around on Soundcloud.
So what brings this evening all together? The fact that all of these artists come from multi-cultural backgrounds and share a variety of influences from a ton of different musical styles. Trash Talk is a multi-racial band with hip hop connections–their last album even came out on Odd Future’s label. Antwon may be best known as a rapper, but he used to play in the outstanding Philly hardcore band Leather (who are still in heavy rotation for me, years after their breakup). This show will lead to skate rats rubbing shoulders with hip hop heads, and I personally think that’s great. Fact is, there’s a lot of kinship between these artists, and it really shouldn’t be hard for open-minded fans who love one to discover great things about another. So let’s all open our minds and appreciate a show that doesn’t just sound like the same thing all night. And then let’s open this fucking pit up.
Saturday, November 5, 9 PM
Pete Curry, Glass Twin, Illiterate Light, Camp Howard, New Boss @ The Camel – $7 (order tickets HERE)
OK yes, this is a bill made up almost entirely of artists I’ve recently written about. Even non-locals Illiterate Light hail from Harrisonburg, and were just in town last month. So why is this Saturday Night’s Main Event for the week? Simply because, as local indie, alt-rock, and power-pop go, you can’t really come up with a better collection of VA bands to represent the state of the genre in 2016. And at least in THIS state, the genre is doing quite well, thank you. Pete Curry’s 2015 LP Advice On Love is a bizarre, adventurous take on an alternate-universe form of 70s AM radio pop. Like Ariel Pink trying to be Cheap Trick? I don’t know, it’s fascinating. If you haven’t caught him live yet, you’ve had plenty of chances, but fear not–here’s another one. Take it already.
What else? Well, Glass Twin are coming closer to a sort of post-Radiohead-ish experimental dream pop than anyone else on the scene in RVA these days. They’ve stuck it out for years, laboring away in obscurity while continuing to make legitimately great records. It’s time to stop overlooking this band–god knows they’ve paid enough dues. I really dug Illiterate Light last time they came through, and their glowing, ambient pop sound is tough to describe and just as tough not to love. Camp Howard keep things on the super catchy tip, and you’ll be hard-pressed to stand still once they’re onstage. I don’t know much about New Boss but with the other four bands on this bill you’ve really got reason enough to show up, so why not show up on time? What else do you have to do on a Saturday evening? Belly up to the bar, order a burger, and get ready for a night of rad music. It’ll be there for you–I promise that.
Sunday, November 6, 7:30 PM
Greys, Clair Morgan, Lady God @ Sound Of Music – $8
There’s seriously a ton going on this Sunday night. It’s actually way out of hand, and if you make the choice to go see Joe from Smoke Or Fire play acoustically at Wonderland, or to catch Druglord at Bandito’s, or Shana Falana at Gallery 5, or, I dunno, Dweezil Zappa playing Frank Zappa songs at The National (I know, right?), I really can’t blame you. But for my money, the best show in RVA this Sunday night is happening nowhere else but Sound Of Music, and it’s all because of the headlining band.
Greys hail from Toronto and play a style of music that manages to be “mature” in a rock-critic-approved manner (I mean hey, I’m writing about them, right?) without losing the fundamental punk rage that lies at the heart of their music. Their first album, If Anything, won me over with its Fugazi-homage first single and its Shellac-meets-Naked Raygun kick. More recently, they’ve gotten more experimental, and latest LP Warm Shadow flips the script on last year’s Outer Heaven with strange tape loops and instrumental explorations. Live, though, the focus will remain on power and volume–which will do nothing to obscure the memorable hooks that make all their stuff so worthwhile. Clair Morgan and Lady God acting as local representatives on this bill just seals the deal. There’s a lot you could do with your Sunday night, but attending this show is the BEST thing you can do with it.
Monday, November 7, 7 PM
Mikey Erg, The Unlovables, Emilyn Brodsky, Smoke Break @ Gallery 5 – $8
I know the Sublime With Rome show is happening on this night at The National, but none of us are 14 anymore, are we? (Apologies to any 14 year olds reading… I hope you’re over your Sublime phase too.) Those of us who love real punk rock and not just weird warmed-over bro-ska from a band whose frontman died 20 years ago know the true action is with creative genius and still very-much-alive renaissance man Mikey Erg. The man’s solo debut can in some ways be compared to the moment when Jay Reatard finally stepped out from behind all the band names and pseudonyms and blew us all away with the best work of his career. But honestly, that comparison doesn’t sit too well with me, because Mikey is so much cooler and nicer than Jay ever was. And Tentative Decisions, his solo debut from this summer, is every bit the equal if not the superior to Blood Visions. Yeah, I said it.
There are a lot of details about this show of which I am unsure. Will Mikey be fronting his solo band or trying to sing and play drums the way he used to in The Ergs? Will he be playing drums in The Unlovables, as he has been known to do? And oh by the way, will Smoke Break ever get a website? None of that’s really too important in the grand scheme of things, though. What matters is how great the music you’ll hear throughout this night will be. The Unlovables deserve more space than I have room to give them–their melodic punk is every bit as cool and memorable as that of The Ergs, which should be enough for ya, I’d think! Emilyn Brodsky’s solo LPs are more adventurous and unique than anything else you’ll hear on this bill, but they shouldn’t upset your digestion too much… if anything, you’ll have an opportunity to break out of the pop-punk groove the rest of the evening will offer you. Which is a pleasant groove, I admit, but still. Smoke Break will open up with some catchy yet ripping melodic punk action from members of Close Talker, Springtime, and Hold Tight. Yeah, see how great this night’s gonna be? I wouldn’t steer you wrong.
Tuesday, November 8, 8 PM
REC Room presents Cape Claw, Ant The Symbol, Santa Kilmagik, Lopside, PHD Khari, Phyzl @ The Camel – Free!
I admit I tend to focus on artists who use guitars to play rock music in this column. Hey, a girl can’t help what she likes. But I like a lot more than just that, and I’m sure you do too, so it’s always nice to break up the usual vibe and check out something a little different. Specifically, REC Room is the monthly showcase run by Richmond Electronic Collective, with a pun relating to studios and the rooms our parents sent us all to when we were kids and they didn’t want us tearing up the house. Tuesday night at the Camel, REC will be bringing together half a dozen different producers who still love to tear up the house, but do so now with the aid of turntables, mixers, and complex software.
Speaking of software, the music on this night will actually kick off at 10 PM, but if you show up at 8, you’ll be able to catch the special REC Talks opening feature, in which headliner Cape Claw presents a talk on mixing hip hop in Ableton Live. Whether you’re a veteran producer or a novice trying to get your feet wet, this talk should be educational and is certainly worth your time and attention. Afterwards, you’ll get the perfect soundtrack for the Election Night results to roll in from Cape Claw as well as a personal favorite local hip hop auteur, Ant The Symbol, and several other excellent artists. If nothing else, you’ll be able to relax and catch a groove inbetween nail-biting moments of pure panic. Eep.
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