Saturday, December 3, 9 PM
Weak Wrists, Magnus Lush, .gif From God, Brandon Hurtado, Cremains @ 25 Watt – $3-5 suggested donation
I’m excited for this. Here’s the thing–Weak Wrists rule. Anyone who caught their set at Swamp Fest this past summer knows it. Anyone who’s heard their new self-titled LP on Halo Of Flies Records knows it. And anyone who makes it out to 25 Watt on Saturday night is sure as hell gonna know it. Weak Wrists are a great band in every format, but they truly shine in a live environment, and what better spot at which to see a passionate, intense, and heavy as hell band than at 25 Watt, where there isn’t even a stage separating you from the action? If you ask me, there isn’t one.
Back when Weak Wrists started out, they were pretty straightforward; fast, angry hardcore with screamed vocals and metallic guitar riffs were what they had to offer on their 2014 demo. But their new LP, which was nearly two years in the making, shows advancement in leaps and bounds beyond their original no-frills sound. Singer Janie Warstler occasionally switches from tortured screaming to beautiful clean vocals, and vocal counterpoints provided at crucial moments by other band members help to add further layers to the sound, even as the song structures become more complex and dynamic and the guitars explore the possibility of melody. There’s still plenty of speed and power to this sound, but the complexities just make the heavy parts hit that much harder. Live, it makes for a hell of a performance–one you really should experience for yourself.
There are a lot of other great artists on this bill too, all hailing from right here within the RVA city limits, all hailing from slightly different circles of the music scene. Magnus Lush’s post-hardcore sound calls up thoughts of Fugazi, but also integrates a gothic darkness that comes through in spooky vocal melodies. .gif From God are torchbearers for the more intense aspects of metalcore that got lost along the way when everyone got too focused on clean-vocal choruses and swoopy hair (not that these kids don’t sport swoopy hair at times… hey, it’s a good look). Brandon Hurtado’s experimental solo performances revolve around guitars and tons of looping, psychedelic effects, which create huge cascades of sound several layers deeper and wider than one person with one instrument should be able to create. Finally, local death metal punks Cremains are on hand to dish out some powerful riffage. This show is packed with awesomeness. Don’t miss it.
Wednesday, November 30, 9 PM
The Hurt Ensemble, Disavow, Och, Majorel @ 25 Watt – $3-5 suggested donation
I know what you’re thinking–starting out the column with two Great Dismal shows in a row? And you know, I might feel bad if I’d had anything to do with either of these. As it is, I’ve been taking a back seat in the crew lately, rediscovering my own love for just what it is that my friends are capable of when they set their minds to it. It inspires me all over again. This show is a great example of the reasons why. Great Dismal’s bringing two different touring bands to town as part of this evening’s entertainment. The Hurt Ensemble have been through before, and have an intriguing and unique approach. Whereas the tendency amongst my colleagues in the critical world is to call instrumental bands with long songs post-rock, I think in this case we have to acknowledge that The Hurt Ensemble have a lot more in common with progressive hardcore bands like Funeral Diner or Drowning With Our Anchors than anything you’d hear on the soundtrack to a football movie.
Disavow, meanwhile, have a far different approach. This band likes to put the pedal to the floor. Speed, energy, and passionate delivery combine in Disavow’s approach to create music that has plenty in common with classic chaotic hardcore bands like Heroin and Swing Kids, but also pulls from more metallic grind to add intensity. These two Rhode Island bands are joined by a couple of equally powerful RVA locals. Och are without a doubt the loudest black metal duo this city ever plays host to, and they will give your mind a thorough scrubbing with their steel-wool double-time riffage and blasting drums. Majorel opens things up, and this band brings together members of so many excellent bands (Swan Of Tuonela, Mothlight, This Land Is Now Dead, Caust, Van Hagar, etc) that there’s no way for their debut performance to be anything other than essential. Come out tonight and get down with it.
Thursday, December 1, 7 PM
Battlecross, Allegaeon, Necromancing The Stone, US Bastards, Gritter @ Strange Matter – $15 (order tickets HERE)
Some ripping thrash metal is on the menu Thursday night at Strange Matter, and that’s enough to get me showing up every time. I am honestly not that familiar with the bands on this bill, but when they shred this hard, how much biography does one really need? I can tell you that Battlecross have three LPs out on Metal Blade Records, hail from Michigan, and describe their sound as “blue collar thrash metal.” That sentence alone has me champing at the bit, and then I checked out some songs from their albums War Of Will and Rise To Power. Now all I can think is “where has this band been all my life?” I may not be able to answer that question, but I know they will be at Strange Matter tomorrow night, and that’s good enough for me.
The other touring bands on this bill, Allegaeon and Necromancing The Stone, are also on Metal Blade Records. Denver’s Allegaeon are serious shredders, wielding seven-string guitars and six-string basses not because they need to tune down to drop Q but because they’re giving themselves as big a space in which to create huge riffs and mind-blowing arpeggios as possible. The results bear fruit on recent album Proponent For Sentience, on which they just may be making a bid for the citizenship of AI… or maybe I just read too much science fiction. Pittsburgh’s Necromancing The Stone should ring a bell with locals who remember guitarist James Malone from VA legends Arsis; they also feature members of Black Dahlia Murder and Brimstone Coven, for those keeping score. This band is the most progressive of the three on this tour, and tend towards clean vocals most often; they’ll appeal to the lovers of Cynic and Dream Theater out there, but still have riffage enough to keep the dyed-in-the-wool headbangers happy. Local support is provided by scene stalwarts US Bastards and Gritter, making this a night of sick thrash from top to bottom.
Friday, December 2, 9 PM
The Final First Friday Performance by The Southern Belles @ The Camel – $10 in advance/$12 day of show (order tickets HERE)
This is the end of an era. Residency shows by local bands may not grab one’s attention so much on a week-to-week basis, and I admit I don’t generally focus on such things in my column. But after a couple of solid years in which everyone could count on catching The Southern Belles at The Camel on First Friday every single month, it is definitely on your radar. Seeing this monthly ritual come to an end definitely grabs my attention. And hey, the Down To Nothing show at The Broadberry’s sold out anyway, so why not go with something completely different? It’s sure to be fun!
There aren’t any other bands on the bill this night, but that’s OK, because the Southern Belles are going to give you all the music you could ever want and then some. This rollicking Southern-rock/jam band has plenty of soul, classic rock flair, and Dead-style folk roots at work within their music, and they’ll be able to dip into all these aspects of their sound over the course of two full sets. What’s more, they’ll be bringing in all sorts of guests. Original rhythm section Raphael Katchinoff (now of The Congress and The Milkstains) and Zach Hudgins (now of Red Light Rodeo) will be on hand to sit in with the band, as will Jackass Flats slide guitarist Stephen Kuester, Andrew Rapisarda of Mekong Xpress & the Get Fresh Horns, local renaissance man Ben Butterworth, and …possibly more?!? You won’t know what’s truly going down unless you show up, and it’s guaranteed to be a fun night packed with music and frivolity, so what are you waiting for?
Saturday, December 3, 8 PM
AGM presents Flag On The Moon 3, feat. Nickelus F, Radio B, Michael Millions, Namebrand, Ohbliv, Noah O, Easalio, Fly Anakin & Koncept Jackson, Segga Spiccoli, J Bizz, Ed Da Realist, J Slim @ The Broadberry – $10 in advance/$13 day of show (order tickets HERE)
I know there are tons of hip hop fans in this town, but I sometimes wonder how aware those fans are of the constantly-percolating hip hop scene right here in RVA. Personally, I think our local hip hop scene rivals the strength of our local punk and metal scenes–which, coming from me, is high praise indeed. There’s no way one show, even one with 13 different performers on the bill, can spotlight every aspect of what’s happening right now in RVA hip hop (for that, you’ll probably need to catch Epic Fest when it goes down again next spring). But for a one-night crash course, you can’t do much better than to head down to the Broadberry this Saturday night for Flag On The Moon 3.
AGM is the name given to the combined efforts of Nickelus F, Radio B, Michael Millions, and Namebrand, four artists whose work leads the city in its brilliance, innovation, and consistency. Whether this show will feature the four performing separately, together, or some combination of both (I’m hoping for this last option), you can certainly expect incredible lyricism, redoubtable production, and booty-shaking jams for days from all four of your headliners (see their respective releases Triflin, Whole Foods, Beautiful, and Praydreams for further proof). And oh my god, SO many incredible artists filling out this bill, I can’t even begin to cover them all with any depth. But let me say that Ohbliv’s beats are always classic, Fly Anakin & Koncept Jackson have skills and flow that are nigh unrivaled, Segga Spiccoli stays on his grind and keeps his work solid as hell, and Noah O has proved himself as a veteran with staying power, from “I Got It” to Monument Avenue and beyond. All this and so much more is waiting for you at the Broadberry this Saturday night–plus The Cheats Movement hosting! Always a plus. So put your Kevin Gates mixtape or your Czarface CD on pause for a little while and come get familiar. You’ll be glad you did.
Sunday, December 4, 8 PM
Mothers, Night Idea, Blush Face @ Strange Matter – $8 in advance/$10 day of show (order tickets HERE)
Intriguing manipulations of instrumentation will be the order of the day on Sunday night at Strange Matter when Mothers come to town. This band, formed around the creative output of artist Kristine Leschper, brings together slightly off-kilter indie pop influences with tangled post-rock complications to create a dark, complex, and completely beguiling sound that isn’t easy to categorize or define. And while such situations tend to make the job of a critic slightly tougher, I must admit I’d rather to struggle to pin down as excellent a band as this than to know exactly what to say after 5 seconds of listening to them. Don’t you want to be challenged? Mothers will challenge you, while simultaneously delighting you. Sounds pretty much perfect to me.
Night Idea are basically the perfect RVA band to act as counterpoint to Mothers’ subtly catchy experimentation. Night Idea’s foundation in the complexity and musical progressiveness of math-rock both counters and accents their undeniable facility with memorable melodies. Instrumental prowess only further underscores the high quality of this band’s tuneage–and if you enjoy them, you’re sure to enjoy Mothers (and vice versa). Opening the show will be Blush Face, a new full-band effort from local solo artist Allie Smith, who is now joined by Chris Carreon and Drew Barnocky (names any follower of RVA music should recognize) to create a lovely indie-pop trio with a scrappy, fun vibe and some really great songs.
Monday, December 5, 8 PM
The Districts, Eric Slick, Tangiers, Gold Connections @ Strange Matter – #13 in advance/$15 day of show (order tickets HERE)
Hey hey, it’s a low-key Fat Possum showcase at Strange Matter Monday night, and that’s just fine with me! Back when I first heard the Fat Possum name around, that label was mostly home to old first-generation blues men who’d lived long enough to experience a revival in interest and fortune. RL Burnside and T-Model Ford were among many who put out some excellent Fat Possum records in their twilight years. These days, though, Fat Possum has followed more in the footsteps of most famous alums The Black Keys, moving away from straight-up blues but sticking with heartfelt, down-to-earth rock n’ roll created by all generations. If you’re recoiling from the mention of the Black Keys because you only know their most famous mainstream work, hey, I get it, but The Districts are more in the vein of their early dirty-blues stuff, only with a big helping of Southern soul and grit thrown in. There’s even a little bit of Highway 61-era Dylan showing through, and that’s always a good hook with which to reel me in. Let the Districts hook you too.
I mentioned other Fat Possum bands on this bill as well, and I’m thinking mainly of Gold Connections here, a Charlottesville band with some Southern roots and jangly soul weaved throughout their rock n’ roll sound. However, this band will actually be performing before the other two touring bands, so I probably shouldn’t be getting ahead of myself. Instead, we need to talk about Eric Slick, the Philadelphia solo artist who also plays in jammers Dr. Dog and punk trio Lithuania. What Eric’s solo sounds will have in store for us is a bit up in the air, but the lo-fi punk brilliance found on his bandcamp these days is a lot of fun, so hopefully it’s something like that? I’m sure it’ll be cool regardless. Tangiers also hail from Philly and also have a bit of a lo-fi garage psych punk vibe going on. Really, if you dig the rest of these bands, you’ll dig them too. Overall, this night will be solid as a rock. You should really be a part of it.
Tuesday, December 6, 8 PM
Bombadil, Goodnight Texas @ The Camel – $10 in advance/$12 day of show (order tickets HERE)
Anytime I see a band with a name that references a Lord Of The Rings character (they cut him out of the movies, ya poser), I know I’m in for some serious psychedelia. Sure enough, that’s what I’m getting from the Bombadil sounds I’ve dug into. The Beatles, Of Montreal, Syd Barrett, Soft Bulletin-era Flaming Lips… it’s all here. And it sounds tasty as hell. Meanwhile, Goodnight Texas are a cross-country collaboration between two songwriters with an evident penchant for rootsy Americana and good old fashioned garage rock. The landing spot is somewhere between alt-country, old-time folk, and the grittier edges of the earliest rock n’ roll sounds. The combination of these two bands will make for an evening of great music from bands who don’t make it to RVA too often. Don’t miss them while they’re here, y’all–you just might regret it.
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