Friday, March 31, 8 PM
Environmental Defense Fund Benefit, feat. Prisoner, ASM, Coteries, With Sympathy, R-Complex @ Strange Matter – $5
What is it about the ties between environmentalism and really dark heavy hardcore? Gehenna, Tragedy, Creation Is Crucifixion and so many more over the years have seen human technological progress as a destructive force defeating life on this planet. Now comes Prisoner, a dark, heavy crust-core act with roots in similar soil as those of all the previously mentioned bands. They also draw from UK greats like Amebix and more recent ragers like Dead In The Dirt, bringing all of these sounds together into a blackened sonic monolith for their debut LP, Beyond The Infinite.
That LP comes out next Tuesday, and this show, a benefit for the Environmental Defense Fund, will celebrate the arrival of that debut LP on local label Forcefield Records. While it’s difficult to make out Prisoner’s lyrics, screamed and roared as they are by vocalist Justin Hast, the choice of beneficiary for this show certainly indicates a similar pessimism about the fate of the environment as Prisoner’s many musical predecessors held. This is fitting in a time when any advances in halting environmentally-devastating oil pipelines were derailed by the depressing outcome of a single election, so if you’re also having trouble finding reasons to keep hope alive in our current atmosphere, spending Friday night headbanging to some serious hardcore brutality from Prisoner will if nothing else provide some much-needed emotional solace. And you may even be able to score an advance copy of the new LP, so you can blast it while staring in horror at the news on your computer screen over the next few years.
This sure is an uplifting blurb, isn’t it? Politically speaking, there’s not much to smile about right now, it is true. However, the lineup on this Friday night noise fest should brighten up your disposition at least a little bit. Scorching lo-fi black metal noise group ASM (aka Anti-Christ Siege Machine) and dark industrial head-pounders With Sympathy add to the dark mood with their particular methods of attack. Meanwhile, noisemongers Coteries and R-Complex (a side project of Prisoner guitarist Pete Rosza) will burn the landscape with pure unmitigated harshness–in the most inspiring of ways, of course. You may not be stoked for what’s to come beyond this Friday night, but you will at least gain temporary respite from your concerns at Strange Matter. Bathe your soul in relieving darkness.
Wednesday, March 29, 8 PM
Laura Stevenson, Bad Magic, Sammi Lanzetta & Friends @ Strange Matter – $10 (order tickets HERE)
Laura Stevenson is super cool. She’s been on the cultural radar for about a decade now, first grabbing my attention when she broke out from the always conceptually interesting collective Bomb The Music Industry with her own group, The Cans. Her tendency in her solo work to combine powerfully open and straightforward lyrics with catchy, folk-influenced power-pop riffage made for some great work on LPs like Sit, Resist and 2013’s Wheel–the first in which she was simply billed as Laura Stevenson, no Cans needed. Her most recent LP, Cocksure, is probably her best yet, and I attribute a lot of that to her decision to crank up the guitars and dive into a 90s alt-rock influenced sound that retains some of the folky influences of her earlier work but tends to emphasize the harder edges. It ends up reminding me of Juliana Hatfield’s best early 90s solo stuff, only with Stevenson’s stronger voice in place of Hatfield’s reedier (but still very charming) singing.
All of this is to say that now might be the best time yet to catch Stevenson in a live environment, and you should certainly do so tonight at Strange Matter. With local alt-country/indie-rock hybrid trio Bad Magic on the bill as well, and an opening set from former Venus Guytrap leader Sammi Lanzetta–who, it must be mentioned, has the voice of an angel and the cutting lyrics of a world-class wordsmith–this show will be packed full of great sounds from great people. What are you waiting for? Now’s the time.
Thursday, March 30, 6 PM
Four Year Strong, Can’t Swim, Sleep On It, Light Years, Fight Club @ The Canal Club – $15 in advance/$18 day of show (order tickets HERE)
The late 00s were a time in which the sound known as “easycore” ruled the roost, combining palm-muted chugs and speedy beats with sugary melodic hooks and heartfelt singing about emotional issues and attempts to stay positive in spite of life bringing you down. Four Year Strong were one of the leading lights of this whole era, and while I was always a bit more into 2010 followup Enemy Of The World, I fully recognize the classic status of 2007’s Rise Or Die Trying. That said, I can tell you youngsters out there reading this one thing right now–ten years seems like a much more recent past when you’re 40 than it did when you were 30.
I’m sure it’s merely my advanced age that finds me feeling a little strange about Four Year Strong having already reached a point where they can do 10-year anniversary tours celebrating their groundbreaking early LPs, but regardless of how I feel about it, here we are. The band will be hitting the Canal Club stage Thursday night to crank out that entire LP in sequence, and I’m sure a room full of 25-to-29-year -olds will get a huge kick out of singing along to every word. There’s no reason for nostalgic fans to make up the entirety of the audience at this show, though–Four Year Strong proved themselves to be just as excellent as ever with their 2015 self-titled LP, and there’s still plenty of time for the uninitiated to find out what makes this Massachusetts quartet such an excellent, energizing listen. Get out there and dance with the kids–you’ll be glad you did.
Friday, March 31, 9 PM
Horsehead, Landon Elliott & The Goods, Paulo Franco @ The Camel – $8 (order tickets HERE)
The RVA scene can definitely get a bit balkanized at times, and it can be easy for people who are particularly tuned in to one area or another to miss out on some of the mainstays from one or two genres over. I say this because, while I know for a fact that local alt-country quartet Horsehead has a dedicated following, it can sometimes feel like the majority of the local music community has no idea who the fuck they are. That’s a small tragedy of sorts, and I’ve been victim of it myself at times, though I count myself thoroughly among the initiated since catching a powerful set from the group at a backyard party a couple of Fourth Of Julys ago. If you dig The Drive-By Truckers, Lucero, or Wilco’s more straight-up rockin’ moments, you’re missing out in a big way if you haven’t checked out this band.
Their next gig at The Camel is a perfect jumping-on point, because after all, no time like the present, right? It doesn’t hurt that Landon Elliott and his backing band, The Goods, will be joining the Horsehead boys on this particular bill. Elliott and The Goods recently released a powerful new EP, The Wildflowers EP, on which this quartet rocks like Buffalo Tom while basing their choruses around the plaintive melodic hooks of the best Bruce Springsteen tunes. See them prove it live, and you just might be surprised to walk away from this show with not one but two new favorite local bands. Local singer-songwriter Paulo Franco will open up the show with some fine country-style sounds to get you in the mood. Get ready.
Saturday, April 1, 8 PM
Imaginary Sons, Manatree, Leach @ The Camel – $5 in advance/$7 day of show (order tickets HERE)
I must admit, it’s hard to take all the publicity material trumpeting the fact that this is the last Imaginary Sons show seriously. After all, this show is happening on April Fools Day, and this trio, especially leader Tommy Crisafulli, are notorious jokesters. I figure it’s best not to take chances with a local group that puts out this rock-solid a sound, though. If it’s really true that there’ll only be one last chance to see them make it happen live, we all better jump on it.
Their 2016 sophomore (and I guess last) LP, Don’t Impress Me, showed the group mixing some Beatlesque tendencies into their Cheap Trick-damaged power pop, and it was all for the best. Less than a year later, the band seems poised to go out on top, and you can rest assured that they’ll pull out all the stops to make their final live performance one you’ll never forget. Manatree, a talented alt-rock/indie/emo band who are basically headliners in their own right, will be occupying the mid-card on this bill, so that’s a nice bonus for sure. Plus you’ll get a chance to find out all about brand new local rock n’ roll band Leach, featuring onetime Imaginary Son Mike Cruz in the frontman position. This is not a funeral but a celebration, folks, so come ready to rock–I assure you the Sons will.
Sunday, April 2, 8 PM
From Fragile Seeds, Cold Beaches, YIKES @ The Camel – $5 (order tickets HERE)
I’ve been a fan of From Fragile Seeds for years now, and sometimes I feel like I’m still waiting for the rest of the city to get on the train. It may be due to founding members Andrew Inge and Chris Gregory’s difficulties keeping a steady lineup together long enough to play live very often, or it may be the way this band seems to straddle the lines between multiple genres–gorgeously epic post-rock, emotionally-driven post-hardcore, melodically intricate alternative rock, and more. But if you ask me, the very difficulty inherent in attempts to pin this band down to a particular category is one of their primary strengths. Forget sticking to one genre–From Fragile Seeds are too busy writing beautiful, memorable songs.
They’re proving this once again with the release of their latest LP, A Place To Be Still; this show is a celebration of that album’s release, and the capper to a 10-day tour of the East Coast in support of it. This album’s 8 songs flow together in gorgeous harmony, progressing slowly through the album’s duration towards a soaring crescendo of a conclusion, and the band will recreate this musical arc during their live performance at The Camel this Sunday night. Your attention will be richly rewarded. Openers include jangle-pop gorgeousness from Cold Beaches and some uptempo emo-punk riffage from local newcomers YIKES. It’s gonna be sweet, y’all.
Monday, April 3, 8 PM
JoJo, Keisha Renee @ The National – $20 in advance/$22.50 day of show (order tickets HERE)
Y’all all know who JoJo is, right? “Leave (Get Out)”? “Too Little Too Late”? That awesome cover/response to Drake’s “Marvin’s Room”? All that was a while ago, and those of you who remember her as a teen singing sensation may or may not be surprised to hear that JoJo is 25 now, and very much a grown woman. Mad Love, her 2016 third album, was her first in a decade, and marked her liberation from a hellish label struggle that kept her from releasing new material (officially, at least–there were a few mixtapes here and there during that time) for nearly that entire 10 years.
She celebrated her return with catchy singles like “Fuck Apologies” and “FAB,” both of which rule almost in spite of their nigh-obligatory rap guest verses. Tracks like the slow-burning “I Can Only” and the jazzy title track show some versatility in JoJo’s new adult approach, but what’s really great about the sounds of her new material is that it finds her having handled the transition into adulthood well. Don’t go to this show if you want teenybopper dance anthems (though if that is what you want, I’m surprised you even bother to read this column); instead, expect a solid fusion of electro-pop and R&B from a self-assured woman well into her 20s and still capable of singing her ass off. And actually, I would think she’ll do “Leave (Get Out)” at some point, and y’all can all relive 8th grade with your lighters in the air. But that’s hardly the only reason to come out for this one.
Tuesday, April 4, 7 PM
Fleabite, Doll Baby, Sammi Lanzetta @ 25 Watt – $5
That was a fun detour, but now let’s get back to some more familiar territory. By that, I mean a punk rock show at 25 Watt. Fleabite are a rad crew of rockers hailing from Philadelphia. And when I say rockers, I do mean rockers–the main riff from “What’s Up,” which opens their 2015 EP TTYL, is strongly reminiscent of T. Rex’s “Get It On (Bang A Gong).” That super-solid callback sets the tone for a record full of guitar distortion and riffs that sound classic from moment one, even though they’re all fully new and original. Think Sheer Mag or Ex Hex if you want a solid comparison, though Fleabite’s got a bit more of a Trans Am-rockin’ 70s-retro sound than Sheer Mag’s transistor-overload early-60s vibe or Ex Hex’s Shangri-Las/Runaways recapture.
If you like to rock, you won’t only be at home with the sounds of the headliners. After all, Doll Baby’s heartfelt approach to their passionate tunes helps bring out the heavier side of some sincere, deeply felt emotions, and that’s what all the best rock n’ roll’s about, right? With Sammi Lanzetta opening things up by unleashing her powerful voice over some catchy riffs for the second time this column, this show is tantamount to a punk n’ roll utopia. And with feminist punk collective Elbow Room making the whole shindig happen, you know the voices and concerns of women will be front and center, making sure none of the depressing “bro” influence that sometimes comes along with powerful guitars shows up to ruin our good time. They apparently even convinced 25 Watt to go smoke-free for the evening, so the last reason you had to skip out on this one just went out the window. Get stoked!
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