Every year, a variety of things occur in Richmond that let everyone in the city know: spring has arrived once again. One of those things — one of the best ones, in fact — is the annual arrival of Friday Cheers on the upcoming calendar of events. Sadly, for the past couple of years, we haven’t been able to look forward to that Richmond springtime tradition in the same way. Two years ago, the pandemic had just begun, and Venture Richmond made the wise decision to cancel the concert series entirely. Last year, it was thankfully able to go on, but a variety of restrictions left everyone sitting in individual “pods,” unable to freely interact as music lovers so enjoy doing.
Thankfully, 2022 sees Friday Cheers return to Brown’s Island just as it was back in the halcyon pre-pandemic days. Indeed, things are basically back to normal, and everyone is excited. Especially with the absolutely stacked lineup Venture Richmond is bringing us this year! We’re so stoked about the lineup here at RVA Magazine that we’ll be offering a giveaway for two full season passes to this year’s slate of upcoming events. Awesome, right? You can learn all about that giveaway below… but first, let’s talk about exactly what’s in store for you on each of these fantastic evenings of outdoor musical fun at Brown’s Island.
Things kick off in a big way on Friday, May 6 with a headlining set from Japanese Breakfast. This Philadelphia-based band is led by Michelle Zauner, who attained literary fame last year with the release of her bestselling memoir, Crying In H Mart. Japanese Breakfast also made a big impression on the music world in 2021 with their third album, Jubilee, a gorgeous slice of indie pop that incorporates shoegaze textures and dance grooves for a multi-genre vibe that can’t fail to put a smile on your face. Lead single “Be Sweet” is the absolute jam. But don’t take my word for it — check it out for yourself:
Japanese Breakfast will be joined by talented Richmond singer-songwriter Abby Huston, and you should be paying attention during her set as well; based on her 2021 debut full-length, AH HA, there’s a lot to look forward to from this up-and-coming talent.
On Friday, May 13, Brown’s Island will be graced with the presence of Minneapolis guitarist Cory Wong, who comes to Richmond fully prepared to funk up this entire city. Wong’s had a lengthy career that has seen him work in multiple genres — jazz, funk, rock n’ roll, etc — and collaborate with many formidable musical talents, including funk superstars Vulfpeck and Late Show With Stephen Colbert bandleader Jon Batiste. Hear me now and remember me later: Wong’s speedy, catchy instrumental tunes are gonna get the whole island dancing. This evening will begin with a performance by Richmond’s own Pharaoh Sistare, a talented producer with an ear for vintage awesomeness and a talent for creating funk-soul grooves harking back to legends like Prince, James Brown, and Michael Jackson.
The series will take a week off after Wong’s performance, but returns in a very big way on Friday, May 27 with RVA Music Night, featuring none other than local legend Matthew E. White. From his history of incredible world-conquering American R&B/gospel/soul sounds to his work as co-founder and majordomo of Spacebomb Records and Studios, you might think that Matthew E. White needs no introduction to music-loving Richmonders. That said, we’ll allow “Electric,” from last year’s mindblowing K Bay, to stand as all the intro anyone might need:
OK, if you had any doubts about the sheer danceability of this Richmond-oriented bill, that song should be enough to put them to rest. That said, the melodic indie-folk Americana of The Last Real Circus is going to provide an intriguing change-up, and opener Benet has some youthful dance grooves driven by their incredible voice and informed by their pop-culture obsessions — all of it’s sure to sound amazing flowing across the sea of humanity at Brown’s Island.
Friday, June 3 finds Bombino arriving at Friday Cheers to bring the sound of the Sahara Desert to the James River. Bombino is Tuareg, hailing from Niger, and falls into the rich tradition of talented, inventive Tuareg guitarists. Once called “The World’s Best Guitarist” by Noisey magazine, Bombino first came to international attention when his band, Group Bombino, were recorded performing at a wedding and the performance was released on world music label Sublime Frequencies. Since then, he’s been the subject of a documentary, Agadez, The Music and The Rebellion, and received widespread acclaim for his 2018 LP, Deran. Here’s “Deran Deran Alkheir,” a great example of what that album has to offer:
The evening will also feature a performance from Pachyman, a Puerto Rican-born musician who makes 21st century dub reggae records with a very heavy vibe. If Lee “Scratch” Perry and King Tubby are your jam, you’ll definitely want to catch Pachyman’s set. It’s not often Richmond is visited by two different talented players from two different faraway regions of the world on the same night, so this is one you definitely don’t want to miss.
On Friday, June 10, Goth Babe comes to Brown’s Island. But don’t let the name fool you — this isn’t a band for kids with shiny black leather dresses and 20-hole Doc Martens. Goth Babe’s music has a breezy, sunshine feel that is more likely to appeal to fans of Mac DeMarco and MGMT than Sisters Of Mercy heads. Goth Babe fully lives the lifestyle; frontman-songwriter Griff Washburn lives in a mobile tiny house with his dog, and spends a lot of time out in nature. If that sounds cool to you, Goth Babe’s music will too. This show will also feature a set from Kenneka Cook, a talented Richmonder with an eclectic sound that pulls from soul, electronic dance music, pop, and indie, among many other genres. But then, you’re a Richmond music head; I’d be surprised if you didn’t already know that. I’m sure you also know that this is not a show to miss.
For the second-to-last Friday Cheers show of the season, on Friday, June 17, Cory Henry will bring his powerful brand of R&B/soul music to Brown’s Island. Having spent time in Snarky Puppy, Henry went solo about five years ago and has since worked with everyone from Kanye West to Frank Ocean. His latest album, Best Of Me, released in 2021, has a throwback vibe that is sure to remind listeners of Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye, while bringing some more unpredictable elements retained from his time in Snarky Puppy. This show will also feature an opening set from Virginia’s own Shormey, who has created plentiful vibes with her signature psychedelic bedroom soul sound. It’s gonna be a great time all around.
Our final evening of Friday Cheers gloriousness on Brown’s Island occurs on Friday, June 24, with a performance by 49 Winchester. A Virginia-based group, 49 Winchester come from Russell County, way out on the panhandle, in the heart of Appalachia. You can hear it in their sound, too; it’s the kind of thing people might call “alt-country” or “Americana,” but it doesn’t really deserve to be hemmed in by any sort of genre classification. What 49 Winchester really have to offer is an honest exploration of everyday life in the part of Virginia that’s far from the heavily trafficked interstates that dissect the Commonwealth. This live performance on Red Barn Radio should give you a pretty good idea of what’s in store for you at this final Friday Cheers show of 2022:
Richmond’s own Cassidy Snider & The Wranglers will be opening this one up, and it’s an appropriate pairing, considering how well Cassidy Snider is also able to find the heart of everyday people’s lives in her songwriting — even if she does come from right in the heart of all those intersecting highways. Rural, urban, or anywhere inbetween, music can always speak to the struggle of ordinary working people. Thank god for that.
You can get individual tickets for each and every one of these shows at this link. Tickets are $10 in advance, or you can walk up and get one for $15 at the door, assuming it hasn’t yet sold out. Now, if you’re saying to yourself, “This is such a great lineup, I just want to see all of it!” I sure don’t blame you. What’s more, you’re in luck: you can get a Season Pass for the entirety of the Friday Cheers 2022 lineup for only $60 by following this link.
Also, we promised you a ticket giveaway, didn’t we? We weren’t kidding!
Here’s how to win two full season passes to Friday Cheers 2022 from RVA Magazine. To win, enter using the form below, or follow this link. And keep in mind, liking and sharing our social media accounts and subscribing to our newsletter are all things you can do to earn bonus entries and increase your chances to win. So maybe do all that? Just sayin.
Whether you win season passes or not, Friday Cheers will be the place to be on Friday nights this spring, so make sure you get your tickets locked down ASAP. We’ll see you at Brown’s Island!
Top Photo by Dave Parrish, via Friday Cheers/Twitter