Friday, June 30, 8 PM
Forcefield Records X Anniversary Celebration Pt. 3, feat. Unholy Thoughts, Yautja, Chainshot, Helldream @ Strange Matter – $8 in advance/$10 day of show (order tickets HERE)
Forcefield Records continues to celebrate its decade in existence, and to do so with consistently awesome bills that deserve your attention, time, and money. So I feel compelled to point you towards the third 10-year anniversary bill they’ve curated for Strange Matter in the past few months or so, especially since it’s the most excellent one yet! Forcefield has pretty much been the first name in local heavy music for the entirety of the past decade. You might think that Relapse has the market cornered on Richmond metal these days, but when you look into the discographies of pretty much all the RVA metal bands with Relapse contracts, you’ll find a Forcefield release somewhere in their back catalog. That should tell you all you need to know.
This show is a bit more underground than a hypothetical bill spotlighting all the super-famous bands I’m talking about, but that’s no excuse to sleep on it! Unholy Thoughts are a local hardcore band who released a ripper of an LP, The Attic, on Forcefield several years ago. These days, they’ve reached that stage all veteran RVA hardcore bands seem to hit at some point, where they still sorta exist, but only play out once a year or so. That’s a really good reason for you to catch them at this show–after all, this is probably the only dose of their raging Black Flag/Negative Approach-style angry, downbeat USHC you’re gonna come across this calendar year.
Yautja aren’t local, being from Nashville, but they’re still part of the greater Mid-Atlantic heavy music community, and my god, they have got to be one of the best currently active bands of any genre east of the Mississippi at LEAST. Their two LPs, Songs Of Descent and Songs Of Lament, were both released by Forcefield and both absolutely destroy. This band’s technically precise, complex, and brutal as fuck music mingles Neurosis-style epic metal with grind destruction and the sort of hardcore brutality that’s been the trademark of Tennessee since His Hero Is Gone days. They’ll level you and you’ll love it. Don’t miss their set. Nuff said! Screaming Nashville punks Chainshot will make the trip up with Yautja, and Helldream, a collaboration between the brains behind Lugweight and R-Complex, will open this show by making its live debut. Expect Forcefield to further reinforce its track record of brilliant brutality at this one. It’s gonna rule.
Wednesday, June 28, 8 PM
Ships In the Night, Gardener, Womajich Dialysiez, Outer Heaven @ Strange Matter – $7
This is an intriguing show for a midweek change of pace. I may be inclined towards loud rock all the time (a tendency I’m sure readers have noticed), but a lot of other stuff catches my ear and delights my brain, so it can be nice to encounter an evening full of sounds such as these to give myself a break from all the goddamn loud guitars. To that end, Charlottesville’s Ships In The Night brings us an evening of pleasantly downbeat electronic pop, featuring plenty of gothic ambience. The group’s latest full length, Myriologues, is named after an obscure term for a spontaneously-sung funeral song, and it’s an apropos title for a collection of songs that both come from dark places and have a strangely uplifting feel. Sink into this one.
The local groups opening up for this not-exactly-distant headliner share not only an approximate geographical location but also a similar sort of approach, though sometimes to much different ends. Gardener is a project helmed by Dashiell Lewis featuring a variety of electronic sounds looped and sequenced in strange patterns, resulting in riveting musical experiments. Womajich Dialysiez is the sort of project in which you can’t even predict who will show up onstage, though you can be assured you’ll be hearing some excellent improvisation from some of the city’s best female and non-binary musicians. So really, you can’t go wrong! Outer Heaven, a brand new collaboration between solo ambient experimentalist Brandon Hurtado and Jonathan Scheer of Disc Image, will kick things off. You may actually not need earplugs for this one… and sometimes that’s nice, isn’t it?
Thursday, June 29, 9:30 PM
Scott Burton’s Kessel Quartet, CGI Jesus @ Vagabond – Free!
I don’t know if y’all ever read these columns and think “Drew’s picks get kinda predictable after a while,” but I definitely find myself thinking that. Sometimes the last thing I wanna do is load a column down with the sort of music I listen to all the damn time. So let’s keep going further out with the latest night of improvisational jazz from always-reliable RVA jazz guitarist Scott Burton. This time around, the veteran of Luray, Glows In The Dark, and quite a few other formidable local ensembles is joining up with a few other compatriots to feed the music of jazz guitar legend Barney Kessel through their own particular sensibilities. I admit I’m not that familiar with Kessel myself, but I feel like I’ve heard enough excellent work out of Burton to take the ride with him on this one regardless.
CGI Jesus is a project helmed by local bassist Kevin Eichenberger, who is also part of the Kessel Quartet on this evening. This group’s intense attack on some rather complex instrumental tunes leads me to think of something somewhere between bizarro jazz genius John Zorn and local math-jazz-metal faves Dumb Waiter. Ah, see, now we’re back on somewhat familiar ground. Not to mention the fact that I’d be completely unsurprised to see a band called CGI Jesus on a punk rock bill. Anyway, this band will keep you guessing with tempo shifts and a variety of moods being explored within each composition. It’s certainly not boring, predictable, or the “same old same old” though, and those are all things we try to avoid around here. So this Thursday night, I’m recommending you plug Vagabond into your GPS and hit up a new location for some engagingly unusual sounds. Thank me later.
Friday, June 30, 10:30 PM
Sports Bar, Piranha Rama @ Flora – Free!
Ah, this is always a nice treat–a local set from RVA power pop masters Sports Bar. These guys have been doing their thing here in Richmond for what feels like a decade or so now, though I may be overestimating slightly. Regardless, while neither bassist Kemper Blair nor the rest of his band seem too much in a hurry to get too much done too quickly, they never stop either, bringing us excellent melodic garage-punk tunes at the rate of a half-dozen every couple of years or so for quite a while now.
Recently, they released an actual honest-to-god 7 inch slab of vinyl, which seems less and less common amongst DIY bands who just can’t afford pressing plants, their escalating rates, and their nightmarish wait times anymore. In a time of cassettes being everywhere, there’s something really impressive about a band pressing up a vinyl EP, and though I’m sure someone somewhere is hurting in the pocketbook as a result, the fruits of their labor are undeniable. Come score a copy for yourself, and rock out to both new tunes like “Roll High Lie Well” and classics like “I Was Going To Shave My Beard, But I Took A Nap Instead” and “Big Mac Yeah,” which only seem to get better with age. I admit I don’t know too much about Piranha Rama, but it seems like they’ll appeal to people who dig Sports Bar, so you should probably show up in time for their set too! After all, it’s free, what are you worried about?
Saturday, July 1, 7 PM
Majjin Boo, Dave Watkins, Epiphany, Deer Eats Birds @ Gallery 5 – $7
Majjin Boo show up several times in this column’s archive over the past six months. Fact is, they’ve made appearances towards the bottom of a lot of bills I’ve written about during that time. Generally, I throw down half a sentence about them and move on. Truthfully, though, they deserve a great deal more than that. Every single time I listen to their demo on Bandcamp to refresh my memory of what they sound like, I find myself thinking “Oh shit, this band is REALLY GOOD.”
I doubt I’ve made that clear to my loyal readers before now, and for that, I apologize. But seriously, Majjin Boo are awesome! Energetic melodies driven by a complex math-rock approach with multiple guitar leads intertwining around your head in fascinating sonic latticework. And let me tell ya, the lovely vocals and jazzy, powerful drumming add a great deal to that already noteworthy conglomeration. For these guys to jump out front as a headlining band on a Saturday night at Gallery 5 seems eminently appropriate. If you haven’t picked up on what they’re about, get into it now before any more time is wasted! Dave Watkins should need less of an introduction, but this folk-indie/ambient-electronic guitar experimenter is worthy of just as much notice, so this is a double headliner sure to enliven your Saturday! Opening sets from prog-rock newcomers Epiphany and wailing soulful rockers Deer Eats Birds round out yet another excellent night at Gallery 5. Be there!
Sunday, July 2, 8 PM
Mr. Kitty, The Rain Within, Just Sex @ Fallout – $8 in advance/$12 at the door (order tickets HERE)
I don’t bring up Fallout in this column too much, because most of the time, Fallout is focused on members-only DJ dance nights rather than live music. However, when they bring the occasional live act to the stage and open their doors to the public for the occasion, it’s worth noting. Mr. Kitty, the name of which sounds like something I’d call one of the cats I live with if he was getting out of line, is a dark, gothic electronic project based around danceable rhythms and memorable melodies. There’s some definite techno influence here, but more from the spooky Euro end of things than Detroit house music or anything like that. Regardless, if you like dancing in darkened rooms with your hair falling into your face (and god knows I do), this will be a great evening for you.
The Rain Within provides some additional sweetener for the pot–if such a metaphor is even appropriate for a noirish evening like this one. The latest project of Andy Deane, who I remember as a metal frontman from my high school days in Charlottesville in the early 90s but the world knows better for his lengthy tenure fronting goth legends Bella Morte, The Rain Within has a heavy electronic sensibility that reminds me a good bit of Front 242 and KMFDM. Deane’s melodic crooning leavens the overall affect, but when the band’s big single is called “Murder,” you know the man’s metal past can’t be THAT far buried. Fellow Charlottesvillian Ethan Lipscomb, performing under the nom de stage Just Sex, opens this evening up. If you’ve got blacklight-reflective nail polish, I suggest you wear it for this one.
Monday, July 3, 8 PM
Rips, Nurse Beach, Fat Spirit, Spacemere @ Strange Matter – $6
OK yes I’ve listed this show’s lineup all sorts of mixed up, I admit it–Rips are apparently actually playing second of four bands. I did it for my own selfish reasons, which is to say, because I’m really excited to talk about Rips and I wanted this writeup to focus on them. If what I’m about to say sounds rad to you, you better show up early! But honestly, if Rips don’t sound amazing to you, I don’t even know how to approach that. This Brooklyn quartet generate the sort of guitar-driven power-pop racket that bands like The Strokes and Parquet Courts have seen great success lifting from The Velvet Underground, The Modern Lovers, and Television.
Rips is doing the lifting as well or better than those relatively-recent buzz-band sensations did–see their just-released self-titled debut for further evidence–and if you’re not down with that, maybe you just don’t like guitars. At which point, I gotta ask–is this column a hate-read for you? For those of you who read this column because you enjoy it, let me further recommend local headliners Fat Spirit, whose new LP, Nihilist Blues, is a goddamn stormer of indie-guitar awesomeness and puts paid any residual notions that this band couldn’t survive the departure of former co-frontperson Charlanne McCarthy. They used to rule, they still rule, they’ll always rule, get over it. And goddamn, come see them if you haven’t already! Nurse Beach, whose only online presence is a 7-year-old recording, might sound like pretty much anything by now. They’re playing between Rips and Fat Spirit, while guitar-slinging rockers Spacemere kick it off. Guitars! So sick.
Tuesday, July 4, 8 PM
Earthling, Vorator, Hoboknife, Loud Night @ Strange Matter – $7 (order tickets HERE)
Donald Trump wanted to make America great again, Hillary Clinton said it was already great, and my political punk friends loudly wondered whether it was ever great. All I can tell you for sure is that metal is fucking great! And so, we will end this column as it began, with a loud, brutal, powerful metal show being brought to you by local mainstays Forcefield Records. Forcefield is just about to release the second Earthling LP, Spinning In The Void, and even though said release won’t officially hit the streets until three days after this show, I have a funny feeling you’ll be able to grab an early copy at the merch table. I mean, I can’t guarantee that, but I’ve been to enough record-release shows in my time to have a pretty good idea of how they work.
You definitely want Spinning In The Void. I’ve had the chance to give it an advance listen (Hey kids, write about music! You won’t make much money, but you do get free records sometimes!), and it is every bit as powerful, incredible, and hugely fun as you might expect from a record on Forcefield. Specifically, Earthling mingles a dark sensibility, which seems equally drawn from Motorhead-ish metalcrust and true kvlt black metal legends like Darkthrone, with some incredible thrash power that comes straight from prime-era Slayer and Metallica. And ohhhhh what a combo it is. Get ready to bang your head and wave devil-horn gestures at the stage as Earthling’s Praveen Chhetri and Alan Fary rip off some ridiculously blazing solos. And you can expect some equally mind-blowing metal power from openers Vorator and Hoboknife. I can’t really tell you anything about Loud Night, but the name sure is promising. So hey, fuck the fireworks shows–get all the pyrotechnics you need from a stage full of blazing metal glory at Strange Matter this Tuesday night.
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