Be cool. Be brave. Listen. Orbital Music Park & Révéler Bring Unexpected Magic To Carytown


If Pee Wee Herman was roommates with Sherlock Holmes and an LSD-powered robot, Révéler / Orbital Music Park would be their dream home. You may not know the place but you’ve def seen it. It’s the black and gold spot in Carytown with giant skeletons outside. I took three guesses as to what I was looking at from my drivers-side window in typical Carytown afternoon traffic. Swinger club? Goth wedding venue? Occult bar?

There was a short line outside velvet ropes, and in that line was a very elegant older gentleman wearing a White Stripes-worthy white and red outfit – from his brogues to his fedora.There was a trendy tattoo’d and pierced hostess giving out wristbands and several blokes carrying large instrument bags. The door swung open and for a second and I could briefly see inside. I caught a glimpse of crystal chandeliers, a bar and stage lights. I made a note to figure this place out ASAP.

Orbital Music Park and Révéler Carytown 2023
Photo courtesy of Orbital Music Park & Révéler

I took myself up on that offer and went to check it out. Not unlike a mullet, Reveler has a business up front, party in the back situation, but more on the speakeasy up front, opium den for curious androids in the back tip. My first impression was that it didn’t seem like a place where you weren’t allowed to touch anything, in fact it seemed like it was daring you to. The bar looked like a nice spot where a crazy lonely writer could speak to ghosts. Except a place that looked this fun could not make Jack a dull boy. The dark alcoves lining the wall opposite a low, open stage seemed made for creating secrets in.

Then I walked past the bar into what seemed to be the set of a demented children’s show with groupings of particularly clever selfie backdrops, or battlestations – I couldn’t tell which. Then I noticed the musical instruments lying around. And nobody was telling me not to play them. I looked around and pounded out a dissonant chord on one of the two pianos facing each other in the middle of the room. Nobody looked at me funny. I found out then from one of the employees that there was a Goth Folk band from New York playing there that night.

I decided then I had to meet the weirdos that put this Voltron of perpendicular ideas together. This is my conversation with them:

Orbital Music Park and Révéler Carytown 2023
Photo courtesy of Orbital Music Park & Révéler

Let’s do this. Okay. If you could go around the table tell me your names, what your roles are here, what you bring to Orbital Music Park or Révéler.

Sarah: I’m Sarah Pete Peterson. I’m the Director of Sales and Marketing.

Tom: I am Tom Illmensee. Co Founder of Orbital Music Park and Assistant Chief Troublemaker.

Josh: Josh Czarda, co founder of Révéler

So which came first? Orbital Music Park or Révéler? And how do the two things mix together as a concept that exists in the same space?

Tom: They both started separately.

Orbital Music Park and Révéler Carytown 2023
Orbital Music Park and Révéler Carytown 2023
Photos courtesy of Orbital Music Park & Révéler

Okay, well, then I’m going to need two origin stories. Who wants to start? We’ll let you go with Révéler first.

Josh: Révéler started 18 months ago. I think during the pandemic, we wanted to shake up the idea of date night. Date nights tend to become cliche after a while. It’s the same bullshit you know, dinner and a movie, dinner during a movie, drinks and awkward dancing. If you want to do anything special, you have to go all out, really plan, and spend a lot of money. So we came up with the idea of introducing people back to experiences that would be unusual, that they haven’t had before. So we found this place. We built it out for probably four or five months. We did a lot of hands-on immersive theatrical stuff for the first, I think, year and it didn’t get a lot of traction. It was good, but it was just a little too weird.

Orbital Music Park and Révéler Carytown 2023
Photo courtesy of Orbital Music Park & Révéler

When you say hands on the theatrical stuff, what do you mean?

Josh: So we did a little scripted, interactive show with people where we had actors up front, they would explain a narrative for the evening, pass out champagne, like a speakeasy vibe. And then we’d send them off on assignments to basically create stuff – like tattoo a dead guy, do the sand art animation station – all types of stuff. Seemingly random and “out there” tasks that engaged them as a team that could create memories. That was interesting, and went fairly well. People either loved it or they hated it. So we just kept pivoting and pivoting and pivoting, and then we heard Orbital needed a home. And so we invited them in to start with some of their jam nights and just kind of captured lightning in a bottle.

So how did you meet? How did that happen?

Tom: The roots go pretty deep. Josh and Morgan have known each other forever. Morgan’s the other co-founder, who’s on a plane to France right now. They go way back because Josh and Bridget, Morgan’s spouse, had a chance to work together back in the day and that friendship just became the glue between – became the bridge.

Tom: Yeah. When Morgan and I were first contemplating this Orbital Music Park thing, one of the first people we sat with was Josh to get opinions about how to bring something like this to life.

Back to you Josh for a second. So, you’re doing this theatrical performance, date night sort of thing to give varied experiences back to you know, the typical couples’ evening out. Do you have a background in theater? Is that something that you do? How does theater come to the table? Were you an actor? How does your interest get stoked enough to actually open a business doing that?

Josh: Well, the origin story of RavenChase is a bit longer but I started RavenChase 18 plus years ago. Adventure races all around the world. It’s kind of like Amazing Race, Goonies, Da Vinci Code – scavenger hunt clue-following. We founded one of the first escape rooms in the United States here in Richmond in 2006. That was an epic failure after about a year. And then 10 years ago, we tried Escape Rooms again and it was wildly successful. So as the concept of Escape Rooms grew, the complexity of the type of event you could put on grew. We started something called Warehouse 29, which was a whole theatrical production where you’d get picked up in a black van from Legends Brewery, taken into a warehouse in the middle of nowhere, and saddled with an AI headset where you stepped into an artificial Edgar Allan Poe museum. And then it just went crazy from there. So I got a taste of it from that.

Orbital Music Park and Révéler Carytown 2023
Photo courtesy of Orbital Music Park & Révéler

We’re gonna come back to you Sarah, because I think you’d have the hardest job here. But I want to explain Orbital Music Park and its mission.

Tom: The short version is that Morgan and I have been making music together since 1990. He’s a drummer and I play guitar, among other things.

You killed it on keyboards the other day.

Tom: It was a lucky break. Mostly easy keys. Haha. We moved to Richmond together in 1991 in a punk rock band that was destined for despair. But-

What was that the name of it? Is that a no? No, you have to tell me the band name because our readers dig this shit.

Tom: We are we’re not even in the dustbin of Richmond history. We are dust bunnies across the room from the dustbin. Back in the 90s we were called Brainchillins. We didn’t last very long. Then we became Frog Legs [and then Bone Anchor], which did start to get some attention.

Dude. I remember Bone Anchor and Frogs Legs. Dustbin? Plenty of people remember those bands. C’mon. Yeah. I was 15, 16 years old running around going to the all-ages shows and stuff back then. You’re not forgotten here.

Tom: My favorite description of what Frog Legs was – I think it was in Style weekly, who said “it’s like a circus where all the acts come out at the same time”

That’s a really good review, actually.

Orbital Music Park and Révéler Carytown 2023
Photo courtesy of Orbital Music Park & Révéler

Tom: So Morgan and I. Our friendship is really forged in music. That was really built for our own catharsis and was never supposed to be a business – a way to make money. We just had things we needed to express and music was the conduit for that. And along the way, we found some people who appreciated that effort. Okay. And we found some problems that were very frustrating by being semi professional musicians for a while there. The first one is like how do you get better on your instrument? How do you improve? Well, you usually get better by playing with other people. But how do you find people to play with? Craigslist is a scam and like, not to knock anybody who’s tried to find people to play with on Craigslist, but when the posting is like “Wanted: drummer for a band” and you’re all, like what kind? People don’t know how to write ads.

It is my experience that most musicians are bad marketers.Yeah. Oh, I mean, like terrible.

Tom: But let’s say you find somebody to play with. Where are you going to play? Your house? Their basement? I don’t know. It’s sort of a shitty practice space environment here in Richmond. So that was one of the problems we faced too. We’ve played in a lot of dumpy rehearsal spaces. Some of them, most of them, improvised. The funniest place we played was the attic of a Methodist Church with no air conditioning.

That sounds comfortable.

Tom: And in August in Richmond, that room got 120 degrees. We still practice there until the amplifiers just shut off. Some point we’d hit, like a heat threshold, and all the gear malfunctioned. We’d be like, well, alright, guess we’re done. But those struggles are real.

And then lastly, we had an instinct about another problem that was worth solving. And that is there’s a population in Richmond, in any city, that identifies as Musicians. With a capital M. They’ve gone to music school, or they can read sheet music or they’ve made $1 doing it somewhere. Along the line, they identify as a Musician first – everything else second. That’s maybe 5% of the population of people who have an instrument or sing.

The other 95%? We call them music makers. And that group is huge. They don’t necessarily identify as Musicians per se, but they like to play. We found that there is a dire need for a sense of community among and between those people. Like where do we play together? How do we get better by playing with others? How do you meet other people to just vibe with? Well, Orbital was planned to help solve that problem by introducing people from every step on the musical ladder to each other in a place where picking up an instrument and collaborating is always available, comfortable and welcoming. Before coming to Reveler we were in a warehouse, where we built basically a movie set that looks a lot like the room we’re sitting in now here at Orbital.

Orbital Music Park and Révéler Carytown 2023
Photo courtesy of Orbital Music Park & Révéler

You mean, like a wicked Pee Wee’s Playhouse?

Tom: Yes, yeah. A weird lounge, like your grandparents basement on acid.

Josh: Or the grandparents on acid. Are we on the acid?

Sarah: The basements on acid

The basement itself?

Tom: Everybody’s on acid.

Yes, of course. That’s how my family reunions went all the time. I don’t know about you guys but we’d all be tripping balls.

Tom: There’d be a pinata filled with bees… Anyways, in this warehouse, we had two rehearsal rooms that were fully equipped. Each room had drums, bass, amp guitar stuff, keyboards, pianos, and PA systems for singing. The whole backline was there. The rooms were reasonably soundproof so we could have super heavy metal stuff like Terror Cell in there, or, you know, Classical Revolution RVA practicing String Quartet. They could play side by side and not bother each other.

It’d be cool if they played together.

Tom: We’re working on that. Yeah. So our model was to create that safe place for musical collaboration. And then we were doing kind of like living room concerts in the lounge. We had a couple of logistical problems in the warehouse. No air conditioning!

Seems to be a staple of your experience. This no AC thing.

Tom: We froze in the winter and sweltered in the summer. The bathrooms were so far away from our practice spot that we actually had like a scooter where you had to ride to the bathroom. We were also sharing the space with a local business, who was using the warehouse for its intended purpose. We were not using it for its intended purpose. When we had plans to expand and add another room or we wanted to upgrade our lounge in our venue space, we couldn’t do it. It was just there were electrical issues and plumbing issues and parking issues. And so we started shopping for another place to expand.

Josh and Tina helped us think about some options where they’ve had some successful businesses. And we explored that option until Josh gave us his invitation to come see the baby grand piano here, and to imagine what we could do on this stage. So we brought our Open Jams – which is not an open mic thing. At all. It’s more of a semi-curated experience that lets any player from super-beginner to super pro participate and have an experience with each other. What was fresh and exciting here at Reveler is that we have an audience who gets to witness the highs and lows of people on stage who may have never performed in front of an audience before, but are playing with seasoned pros. So there are some absolutely magical moments, just transcendent. You know where the band pulls something off that is completely unique and unreproducible.

I would imagine in those and under that scenario, where you have like a musician that comes through and is going to play with you on the stage and some of the other regulars that you have there, but they’re like ridiculously good. Yes. And it’s like oh my god, where the hell did you come from? Yes, please keep playing. Yeah. Do you want to name drop anybody in that scenario?

Tom: Anytime Victor Haskins comes in.

Josh: Yes. He’s got a couple of shows coming up here.

Tom: He’s just an extraordinary jazz musician, composer and educator. His main instrument is trumpet. And he also is making incredible sound sculptures with an electronic wind instrument. He plays with loopers so we, you know, we’ll have like, a quartet on the stage. You know, playing some jazz standard and stumbling through the changes and then Victor will get up and play along and suddenly the whole thing is elevated to this magical moment.

The collaboration here is really about bringing all of our strengths to the table. Josh and Tina and Sara know a lot about creating these immersive experiences and making the most out of a physical space to create love and wonder and foster curiosity and all those, you know, fun date night things you want to do. And we are – me and Morgan, are really steeped in the mechanics of making music and doing it collaboratively and in a way that includes everyone.

Orbital Music Park and Révéler Carytown 2023
Photo courtesy of Orbital Music Park & Révéler

That is something I noticed, when I was here with another musician. Soraya Silene, Ionna. I invited her to come with me Wednesday just to kind of see the place in action. Last time I was here it wasn’t when anything was really up on the stage. So I wanted to see what happened here when a show was in progress. What struck me first was that I’ve never seen an audience that diverse in Richmond ever. From Boomers to Gen Z’s, a crayola box of skin tones and ethnicities, hippies, hipsters, downtown people, county people – honestly it looked staged hahaha. So I’m seeing, you know, a Wednesday night that’s packed. Like literally every chair taken, people are lit, dancing like nobody’s watching. But with each other, Not like at some weird rave. But you had, like I said, diversity in age, sex, race, orientation – there was no other through line to describe the audience better than “all over the place”. In a very good way. Everything was represented there.

But this is where I kind of turn to you, Sarah. I don’t envy you trying to brand such a wacky fucking idea as this all is. They’re great ideas, don’t get me wrong. But damn, how do you manage to get that audience in a place where it takes 20 minutes to describe what the venue even is? Tell me how you take these ideas and turn it into something that resonates with people from all these different walks of life.

Sarah: First of all, I think this place is great. The magic that is the symbiosis between Révéler and Orbital are their primary rules. The rules that are spoken before the shows. We’ve started speaking the rules even at our regular concerts, not just at the jams because they really seem to resonate with our audience. It’s “Be cool. Be brave. Listen”. And I think that if we take those three fundamental rules into what we’re doing, it allows people to feel like they can express themselves and feel safe in the space. Reveler’s tagline is “Curiously curated experiences”. We are offering people something that they have not experienced before. There’s not a building on Earth you’re gonna walk into that’s going to give you an experience that’s the same as this one. So I think it’s, it’s that magic. It’s coming back to those foundational things. And it’s being open and inclusive in our advertising. You know, we’re not just booking teenybopper bands. We’re not just booking, you know, smooth jazz nights, we have a huge range of music, and our audience knows that they’re going to be able to trust us to come in and have an experience, a musical experience, and a hands-on experience. You know, come for one of our date nights and drink a bottle of champagne while putting your hands in some pottery and taking some selfies next to the robot.

Orbital Music Park and Révéler Carytown 2023
Photo courtesy of Orbital Music Park & Révéler

For the reader because, obviously this isn’t a video segment, you know, what the hell am I looking at over here? There’s a huge Wait / Don’t Wait sign that flashes and a pyramid with a digital eyeball roaming around the room. There’s a pottery class station? I don’t even know what the hell that is over there. What’s that? A crash test dummy dead guy? Then it’s a “learn tattooing” booth, right? Yeah. And then a stage with a baby grand piano and several banquettes and plush red leather couches. This place, in its parts, makes no sense – right? But together it makes a beautiful sense. It transcends the normal expectations of what a venue is. I feel really lucky that in Richmond, that we have this. Richmond is blossoming in a way that it’s becoming unpredictable. Richmond’s always been referred to as “Oh, it’s gonna be the next Austin. It’s like a little Portland. Always poised to be the next “somewhere else”. I’ve always said Richmond is the next Richmond. It’s not the next anything else. This place is indicative of Richmond having so much more to offer on its own terms, not an ape of a bigger city.

As I said earlier, I don’t envy your job and having to translate this concept space into a coherent message but I do envy the job of having the privilege of translating this place into something digestible to other people. And I think that if I do accomplish anything with this article at all, it’s to make sense out of the enigmatic presence you’ve all created here. But I’m not sure that that’s really what needs to happen. I really would love people to walk in here and have it not make sense at first. Why does it need a quick answer? It doesn’t.

Tom: What this place can represent is it’s a mirror of how complex and magical the mosaic of life can be. Things don’t match up. Things are not- the rugs are not placed at 90 degrees. Like life. It’s sort of like a playground for grownups. Yeah. And you know, sometimes the older you get, the more you need to play.

Josh: I think it’s like Maslow’s kind of hierarchy. We had all the fundamentals and then we brought OMP and OMP brought people a sense of safety, allowing them to do self expression freely, which starts climbing up that pyramid. Suddenly, in this magical place, that’s different than any bar in Richmond or in the United States right now. I’ve gone to most of the immersive theatrical things that exist, and I think that’s where our magic comes from.

Give Orbital Music Park a follow @orbitalmusicpark
Give Révéler Experiences a follow @revelerexperiences


Christian Detres

Christian Detres

Christian Detres has spent his career bouncing back and forth between Richmond VA and his hometown Brooklyn, NY. He came up making punk ‘zines in high school and soon parlayed that into writing music reviews for alt weeklies. He moved on to comedic commentary and fast lifestyle pieces for Chew on This and RVA magazines. He hit the gas when becoming VICE magazine’s travel Publisher and kept up his globetrotting at Nowhere magazine, Bushwick Notebook, BUST magazine and Gungho Guides. He’s been published in Teen Vogue, Harpers, and New York magazine to name drop casually - no biggie. He maintains a prime directive of making an audience laugh at high-concept hijinks while pondering our silly existence. He can be reached at

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