Monday, March 20, 7 PM
Nails, Toxic Holocaust, Bracewar, Gatecreeper, Left Cross @ The Broadberry – $16 in advance/$18 day of show (order tickets HERE)
There’s a thin line between punk and metal, and it seems to get thinner every single day. With punk bands getting more and more metal, while metal bands get more and more punk, I often find myself wondering which side of the line particular bands belong on. On my best days, though, I recognize that it doesn’t matter. What DOES matter is how good a band is, how excited I get while I listen to them, how much headbanging and fist-pumping I want to do when I’m blasting their albums in my car or wherever. I really have no idea at this point whether Nails count as punk or as metal, but listening to them makes me wanna forget all my nerding out about genre classification and go off. That’s what’s really important here.
I’m still not too sure about Nails calling their most recent album You Will Never Be One Of Us; the tendency of heavy bands to err in the direction of an almost Randian form of antisocial nihilism has never been one of the genre’s better qualities. The fact that the album improves on an already rock-solid formula and pushes Nails to the next level is pretty much inarguable, though, so it’s hard to worry too much about an album title under those circumstances. Nails totally destroy on record, and with their recent addition of a touring second guitarist, they’ve beefed up their live sound and made it even heavier than it is on record. Get ready to get steamrolled by a wall of hyperspeed noise when this band takes the stage at the Broadberry on Monday night. Don’t worry too much about the words; I promise they’ll all sound like growls anyway.
So many other awesome bands are playing this show too, by the way. Toxic Holocaust probably deserve a fawning paragraph all their own, considering how long they’ve been cranking out raging thrash metal punk owing equal debts to Motorhead and Animosity-era Corrosion Of Conformity. It’s been a few years since their last full-length ripper, Chemistry Of Consciousness, dropped, but with the band back in action and touring once again, we can all grab our share of their brand of sonic destruction live and in the flesh! Up and coming Arizona thrashers Gatecreeper also share the bill, along with local stalwart fastcore veterans Bracewar and openers Left Cross, just the latest of many RVA bands to blur the line between metal and punk yet again. Watch for flying fists–this one’s gonna get hectic.
Wednesday, March 15, 8 PM
The Sadie Hawkins Dance, feat. Onomatopoeia, The Cyreniacs, The Smirks, The Talkies @ The Camel – $5 for singles, $8 for couples (order tickets HERE)
Back when I was a teenager, my high school’s drama club put on a production of Li’l Abner, a play based on a 75-year-old comic strip. Therefore, I actually know who Sadie Hawkins is. Rather than going into some boring explanation though, I’ll just tell you that Sadie Hawkins Dances are events named after a character in said 75-year-0ld comic strip, in which the women invite the men, rather than the other way around. All a bit archaic and heteronormative when you look at it closely, but as a cute reminder of more innocent times, it makes for a good name for this midweek show, mostly featuring female-fronted bands from right here in RVA. I guess the conceit is that these women are inviting you to come dance to their music, rather than just being another audience member while some boy is onstage strutting his stuff. I can get behind that.
Ironically, the headlining band on this bill, Onomatopoeia, is driven mainly by the creative efforts of one Owen Martin, who puts together some pretty great pop songs, then drowns them in found sounds and ambient weirdness. The result is multilayered and intriguing, while always maintaining a fundamental catchiness. “Fundamental catchiness” is kinda the name of the game for this whole show though, really. The Cyreniacs (also at least mostly if not all male… the conceit of this show is slowly breaking down under closer examination) have a sort of 50s rock n’ roll retro balladeer thing going on, which is sure to turn on the charm. The Smirks (who really are female-fronted) are fueled by frustration and use their repressed teen energy as fuel for some pretty great garage punk. And finally, The Talkies, who recently inspired my friend and colleague Doug Nunnally to text me at 12:30 in the morning about how they’re “the best band in Richmond, hands down,” pull together some fine shoegaze alt-pop sounds that really is something to write home about. So ladies, ask a man (or another lady, or someone who doesn’t fit into either one of those categories) to accompany you to the Camel tonight–and bring your dancing shoes. It’s a fine evening to cut a rug.
Thursday, March 16, 7 PM
Kevin Morby, Waxahatchee, Mary Lattimore @ Capital Ale House – $18 in advance/$20 day of show (order tickets HERE)
Kevin Morby has a strong track record, having played bass in stoned indie combo Woods and collaborated with head Vivian Girl Cassie Ramone in The Babies. These days, though, he’s a solo act, and Singing Saw, his third album as a solo act, received the highly sought-after Best New Music designation from Pitchfork last year. That album has some qualities left intact from his earlier work in the hazy worlds of indie folk and melodic postpunk. What stands out more, though, is a singer-songwriter vibe that is part Leonard Cohen and part Dan Bejar (Destroyer/New Pornographers). Expect weirdness, but don’t expect things to be raw or bare bones–indeed, Morby is exploring lushness these days, with some wild and wonderful results.
Meanwhile, Waxahatchee sees Katie Crutchfield continuing even further on her rich emotional explorations into the depths of the soul. Having started as an acoustic solo act from a woman who made her name fronting punk bands, Waxahatchee grew into a band on its own behalf with 2015 third album Ivy Tripp. However, on this tour, Crutchfield is playing solo shows again, and that should thrill the many fans who enjoyed the deeply personal glimpses her unadorned early material provided. It must be this solo turn, and indeed, the solo nature of all three acts on this bill, including opener Mary Lattimore, that makes the unusual choice of venue workable. Capital Ale House is not exactly the first place you’d expect to see a punk rock show. Ideally though, this relatively low-volume event will bridge the gap between the heart-on-sleeve emo kids and the craft beer-quaffing Capital Ale veterans. Only one way to know for sure…
Friday, March 17, 5:30 PM
Antiphons, Dollys, Illiterate Light @ Hardywood – Free!
It’s only been a month or so since Antiphons dropped their debut full-length, Groan, on Citrus City Records, and already it’s made a big impression on the RVA scene. Citrus City’s Manny Lemus confirmed to me in a recent interview that the Groan cassette has been one of their fastest sellers ever, and based on conversations with fellow local music heads, I can tell you that I’m definitely not the only one with this album in heavy recent rotation. Evidently, the fine folks at Good Day RVA know a good thing when they see it, because they recently tapped Antiphons for the latest in their eponymous video series. As with many of the excellent previous entries, this video will premiere as part of a free musical event at Hardywood this Friday evening. Sure sounds like a great way to kick off the weekend to me.
Fear not, this evening will not focus solely on pre-recorded Antiphons tunes. Brian Dove and company will take the stage and perform a set live and in the flesh, so you can lose yourself singing along to “Human Bruise,” “Jon + Kelly,” and the other amazing songs you’ve spent the past few weeks burning into your brain. New Brunswick indie-poppers Dolly are also on the bill, and should appeal to anyone who enjoys bright, summery pop hooks. When I listen to them, I find myself simultaneously thinking of Letters To Cleo, The Candy Hearts, and Liz Phair, but their sound is more like the midpoint of that particular triangle than any one of those three artists. I don’t know, maybe I’m not getting this across. You should find out for yourself; after all, a band this good will not make you regret it. With Harrisonburg duo Illiterate Light opening up, this show is an incredible deal at any price, let alone free. Don’t worry with any show where anyone will care what color shirt you’re wearing; come chill at Hardywood instead.
Saturday, March 18, 9 PM
Saw Black, David Shultz @ The Savory Grain – Free!
It’s been interesting to watch the evolution Saw Black has undergone over the past few years. I remember when he was still going by his given first name (it’s Justin; should I be telling people that?) and working with his brother Parker on a band called Black Brothers. Soon he was “Chainsaw” and the band was Black Water Gold. Then he was just plain Saw Black, and Parker was off somewhere fronting a (pretty fucking good, I must say) hardcore band. These days, Saw Black is not only a person but a band named after its frontman. And on his/their new album, Azalea Days, they demonstrate the sort of significant artistic growth that also marked each of their previous evolutionary steps.
Indeed, it is my humble opinion that Azalea Days does an excellent job of conjuring up prime early-70s Neil Young, mingling the strangely smooth sounds of Harvest with the deeper, more anxious vibes of Tonight’s The Night or On The Beach. Anyone who was around for my days of being deeply obsessed with the works of Mr. Young (which is none of you, because that was like 13 years ago when you were all 9 or whatever) knows that this is a high compliment in my world, one I don’t bestow lightly. So yeah, it might be weird to head over to the rather bourgeois confines of The Savory Grain on a Saturday night to see an acoustic musician premiere his latest musical effort, but I can assure you that the music will make any residual environmental awkwardness more than worth it. Plus, you’ll get to see David Shultz, formerly of the skate-core band Witness (that references goes back even more than 13 years), demonstrate his latest musical incarnation, complete with a stand-up bass player. The vibes should be deep with this one. Don’t miss out.
Sunday, March 19, 5 PM
Like Moths To Flames, Sworn In, My Enemies & I, Cover Your Tracks, BackWordz, East Dear Park, RVNT @ The Canal Club – $14 in advance/$16 day of show (order tickets HERE)
Hi, my name is Drew, I’m 41 years old, and I am now and always will be a nerdy Hot Topic metalcore kid. Ahahahahaa woooo!!! Um… sorry. Heh heh. Anyway, let’s talk about the show happening at The Canal Club Sunday night, and why the heck you should go to it and rub shoulders with teenagers who rock unironic swoop haircuts and paint their fingernails black. These kids know what’s up, y’all–Like Moths To Flames bring together members of Emarosa, TerraFirma, and City Lights, among others, and the resulting combo displays elements of metalcore brutality, easycore energy, and emo passion, all rolled up into the sort of musical catnip that goes straight to the brain stem and makes you wanna rock out. Granted, you don’t wanna admit to your friends that you actually dig this kind of goofy stuff, but you really don’t have to worry–none of your friends will be caught dead anywhere near this show. You’ll be able to rage in peace.
And Like Moths To Flames are only one of the many reasons to rage on this bill. Honestly, I care way more about the fact that Sworn In is playing. This brutal metalcore band has gotten more excessive and over-the-top in pretty much every way since their first LP, The Death Card, back in 2013. I for one think it’s great, especially with the way most of the members are looking at least a little bit gender-fluid in the video for 2016 single “Endless Grey.” Tyler Dennen should really give me some makeup tips. And then teach me to do that “bleah” thing he does right before the breakdowns. God, I love that. I don’t know how much I love the fact that so many of these Canal Club/Aspire Presents shows are loaded down with over half a dozen bands, but maybe that’s just because, no matter how much I act like a 14-year-old girl at times, I am a middle-aged lady, and I need to get my beauty rest. Whether you show up early or just roll in in time for the headliners, though, The Canal Club will be a safe space on Sunday night for total metalcore geekery.
Monday, March 20, 8 PM
Mykki Blanco, Cakes Da Killa, Trap Cry, ANIMAL DJs @ Strange Matter – $15 in advance/$18 day of show (order tickets HERE)
For a subgenre that a lot of people don’t seem to even realize exists, queer hip hop has a whole lot going on. A lot of people probably know about the related sissy bounce movement out of New Orleans (think Big Freedia), but this is really a whole different thing, with a much greater emphasis on lyrical skills. Trans-femme California rapper Mykki Blanco has been at the forefront of this entire scene for years now, grabbing attention during the first part of this decade with EPs like Betty Rubble: The Initiation and mixtapes like Gay Dog Food. Blanco (who has used shifting pronouns in the past, but is currently using “he/him”) took things to the next level with the release of his debut full-length, Mykki, in 2016, and singles like the startling, dramatic “High School Never Ends” showed new layers to his excellently dynamic sound. His live show has had a formidable reputation for years now, and if you haven’t caught him in any of his buzzworthy previous RVA appearances, now’s the time to get on board.
Cakes Da Killa is another up-and-coming artist in the world of queer hip hop, one who has had a buzz for a few years now. His debut full-length, Hedonism, dropped last fall and featured amazing lyrical styles over some fine electronic-infused beats. Lead single “New Phone (Who Dis)” is a memorably catchy tune full of sick burns and shifting tempos, complete with a fascinating midsong screwed remix. This is another artist with which we all need to get familiar. Local opener Trap Cry apparently hails from both RVA and Atlanta, and will be playing his first ever live show on this night, which should be interesting if nothing else. The fine folks at ANIMAL, who are pretty much the leading lights in queer electronic music here in Richmond, will kick the evening off with some sick sounds for dance sensations. Get ready to move.
Tuesday, March 21, 9 PM
Bestial Mouths, With Sympathy, This Hollow Machine, DJ Rat Bastard @ Fallout – $9 in advance/$14 day of show (order tickets HERE)
It’s relatively rare to see live music performed at Shockoe Bottom’s favorite members-only goth/fetish bar, Fallout, these days, but the occasions on which it happens are always noteworthy. Taking its role as the leading source of live industrial music within the RVA city limits seriously, this week Fallout is bringing us a highly-anticipated performance from LA industrial group Bestial Mouths, whose striking melodic vocal delivery contrasts perfectly with their hard-hitting programmed instrumentation. For those who seek the glorious alternate universe in which Siouxsie Sioux sings for Front 242, Bestial Mouths is sure to hit some deep, pleasurable nerves.
The local openers on this bill are also sure to get some steeltoes stomping in enjoyment. With Sympathy may hark back to that surprisingly gothic first Ministry album with their sound, but this duo’s hard-hitting programmed beats and harsh electronic noises are much closer to that Chicago crew’s late 80s prime (just before they went full-on metal). Charlottesville’s This Hollow Machine has a more techno-based pulse but still generates some harsh staccato rhythms in their approach. The whole evening is a treat for those who like their beats harsh and their music bleak. Put on some black eyeliner and wear your sunglasses at night for this one–the darkness within the club can only attempt to approach the darkness in your soul.
Email me if you’ve got any tips for me about upcoming shows (that take place after the week this column covers–this week’s column has obviously already been written): firstname.lastname@example.org
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