Friday, April 20, 8 PM
420 at G5, feat. Battlemaster, Night Idea, Unmaker, Haircut @ Gallery 5 – $8
It’s always weird to live through a holiday you don’t celebrate, and hipster holidays like 420 are no different. That said, just as you don’t have to be a Christian to enjoy getting presents on December 25, you don’t have to be a dyed-in-the-wool marijuana connoisseur to scarf munchies and enjoy some loud music on April 20th. Rest assured, Gallery 5 will not be checking your bloodstream for THC at the door of this 420 celebration, which will bring you some rad local bands for a very economical price point, and offer you a “munchies table” in the bargain. Sounds like a great Friday night to me.
Battlemaster are your headliners on this bill, and these raging metal masters have been dishing out the triumphant, hyperspeed riffage for well over a decade now. Granted, they aren’t the most active band in the scene — it’s been three years since the release of their last LP, Battlehungry and Swordsworn — but then, what could be more fitting for a band headlining a 420 gig? There’s no rush, man, let’s just rage for now and then grab some eats. I gotta admit, y’all, there’s a lot about this 420 mindset that appeals to me.
Night Idea are a bit more active, dishing out their melodic, psychedelic take on math rock on four separate albums in the past seven years; the most recent being last fall’s Riverless. That said, regardless of their scientific approach to song structure, these guys at the end of the day are just some laid back dudes that want to hang. And you’ll be able to do just that as they serenade you with killer tunes that just might leave you scratching your head if you pay close attention. Local heavy-postpunk group Unmaker and raging hardcore punks Haircut round out a bill that’s a perfect celebration of the most stonerific day of the year. So get there on time; after all, the Cool Ranch Doritos aren’t gonna last.
Wednesday, April 18, 7 PM
The Aces, The Barons, Blush Face @ The Camel – $12 in advance/$15 at the door (order tickets HERE)
People talk a lot about the 90s being back these days, but I think we all need to admit that the 80s revival is a formidable aspect of our current musical culture as well. And not the sort of 80s revival we had a decade and a half ago; that was about fashion. This is about music, and where The Aces are concerned, it’s about good music. This four-woman group featuring two sisters might just remind you of fellow sister act Haim, but The Aces are no copycat; their debut album, When My Heart Felt Volcanic, has a grip of excellent melodies and catchy choruses to deliver to all of us, mixing chunky guitars with the same sort of synth swells that lended secret power to classic singles by 80s rockers like Rick Springfield and Corey Hart. I know, younger readers, you have no idea who those people are. Trust me.
Not that you even need to, because hearing the voices of The Aces will be enough to convince you that this band has a sound you need in your life. Their vocal harmonizing gives the already-incredible choruses of songs like “Stuck” and “Bad Love” an atomic-level power that’ll caress your eardrums and shatter your heart. It’s enough to make me long for days of the Saturday morning American Top 40 Countdown. Casey Kasem has passed on, Madonna is, um, not that good anymore, but The Aces are keeping the dream alive. They’re joined on this trip through RVA by Charlottesville’s own 80s-pop killers, The Barons, who mix musclecar references into their own version of guitar-driven, synth-inflected pop. Irrepressible local popsters Blush Face, who always bring a good time, will take the opening slot, and if that’s not a reason to arrive on time, I don’t know what is.
Thursday, April 19, 6 PM
Boston Manor, Free Throw, Homesafe, Hot Mulligan, Save Face @ Strange Matter – $15 (order tickets HERE)
As anyone who’s been paying attention to this column for the past few years will surely be aware, I’m a huge fan of emotionally-driven pop-punk. What’s more, I make no apologies for it, and I don’t think anyone else should either. Which is why I’m encouraging all of you who have even a shred of my love for the genre to hold your head high with pride and head out to Strange Matter Thursday night for this visit from Boston Manor. Despite what the name might lead you to think, this quintet hails from Blackpool, England, and if you listen closely to their 2016 full-length debut on Pure Noise Records, Be Nothing, you’ll hear tinges of that cross-the-pond lineage shining through.
In addition to the obvious emotional pop-punk touchstones, there are hints of underrated (at least here in the USA) UK groups like Funeral For A Friend and Idlewild on tracks like “Lead Feet” and “Broken Glass” — and I for one am certainly not complaining. In addition to this excellent UK headliner, this show also brings us a variety of other emo-pop bands from various locations west of the Atlantic and east of the Mississippi. Nashville’s Free Throw are a bit mellow and jangly, while Illinois group Homesafe has a lot of energy and crunch, bordering on melodic hardcore. Michigan’s Hot Mulligan have that way with witty song titles I’ve always loved (“All You Wanted by Michelle Branch,” “Pluto Was Never Really A Planet Either Even”), while New Jersey’s Save Face get all rock n’ rolly, bringing an almost-grunge influence to their melodic punk riffs. All of it’s rad, though. All of it is worth seeing. Don’t hide from it.
Friday, April 20, 8 PM
Bully, Shellshag, The Smirks @ Strange Matter – $12 (order tickets HERE)
Here’s some great news for anyone with good taste: Bully are hitting town once again. This Tennessee quartet have been lighting it up for close to five years now, with their highly energetic mix of melodic punk and post-grunge power-pop. Their first LP, Feels Like, grabbed a ton of attention for its striking songwriting chops and predilection for overdriven guitars and angst-ridden screams. Last year’s follow-up, Losing (perhaps the continuation of a sentence begun in the first album’s title?), hits even harder, cranking the angst up to 11 and giving frontwoman Alicia Bognanno plenty of opportunities to scream her head off.
Bully’s performance at Strange Matter Friday night will offer yet another opportunity, and it’d be a wise idea for all of us to station ourselves at ground zero of this impending explosion of rock n’ roll fury. If you’ve ever thought that Nirvana would have been an even better band if they were run by a woman, this is the band for you. Plus, they’ll be joined by minimalist garage-punk heroes Shellshag, who’ve been gracing Richmond with their presence regularly for years and have won over a lot of people in the process. If you don’t know, now you know. Local punk rock killers The Smirks open up with what is apparently their album release show. And look, I know I tell you quite often that you need to get to shows on time. But seriously, if you miss The Smirks’ LP release, you win the blue ribbon for blowing it.
Saturday, April 21, 8 PM
HeadlessMantis, Houdan The Mystic, Lucid Traveler, Mad Habit @ Gallery 5 – $5
This all-local Saturday night special is being brought to you by The Jamwich, a magazine covering regional music of what I’m guessing is the “jam” variety; and Progress Festival, a three-day fest taking place out in Dublin, a VA town somewhere outside of Radford. All of this will give you a definite idea of what this festival-preview night at Gallery 5 will have to offer, but you’d be foolish to write it off accordingly. Because honestly, while I’m no fan of “jam bands” as they are popularly conceived, all of the bands on this bill have quite a bit more to offer than warmed-over retreads of Phish or Disco Biscuits. And thank god for that.
HeadlessMantis is at the top of the bill, and this band has at least as much garage rock running through its swamp-monster veins as prog-psych. They’ll inspire a good deal more headbanging than goofy LSD twirl-dancing. Meanwhile, Houdan The Mystic has some pretty excellent math-rock chops, which they integrate into prog-rock melodies that might please the jam heads but are more likely to keep fans of mid-period King Crimson smiling. Lucid Traveler keep things funky with their instrumental tunes, and while they are probably closest of all these groups to being an actual jam band, they’ll keep the groove moving enough that you won’t want to hold it against them. And openers Mad Habit bring enough pop melodies to keep their psych sound engaging and fun. For a supposed show full of jam bands, this one is gonna be pretty darn unmissable.
Sunday, April 22, 9 PM
Desert Altar, Indighost, Lair @ Bandito’s – Free!
There was a time a few years ago when it seemed you couldn’t get through a week of live music here in Richmond without seeing at least two or three doom metal bands. Even if you were going to indie shows, it was pretty much everywhere. However, lately, it seems like the doom trend is starting to die. This may be bad news to any hipsters who were trying to get famous by wearing denim jackets and copping Fu Manchu riffs from 2001, but it’s good news for those who just want to enjoy good music without all the extra baggage. You’ll have a great opportunity to do so with some bands that might have missed the doom metal trend, but are still really excellent, this Sunday night at Bandito’s.
Indighost is the touring crew on this bill, and this Johnson City, TN crew seems to draw quite a bit of influence from their Appalachian background, as they mix spooky backwoods gloom with their doom-laden psychedelic melodies. Their 2017 album, Sphinx Rider, is the soundtrack for the best Hills Have Eyes-style rural-nowhere horror movie never actually made. At least we have the music, right? Local up-and-comers Desert Altar bring some witchy psych-doom sounds of their own to the bill, as brand new RVA heads Lair crush our heads with some mournfully beautiful sludge. Grab some nachos and settle in for some excellent bleakness.
Monday, April 23, 8 PM
Charmer, Ostraca, Au Revoir, Shy Low @ Strange Matter – $7
OK, before we go any farther can I just give a shoutout to this flyer? Is this really how those “flat-earthers” see the world? Holy hell, my brain is broken. But that’s OK, all will be well once again when this quartet of killer bands takes the stage at Strange Matter Monday night. Of course I’ve never made it a secret that I totally love Ostraca; one of the best bands to come out of Richmond anytime this decade, if you ask me. They only further proved it with the three killer releases they brought into the world last year, highlighted by their second LP, Last. If the idea of passionate, emotionally-driven metallic hardcore that draws equally from black metal, experimental noise, and raging thrash doesn’t appeal to you, then I think you need to come see Ostraca this Monday night and get your head right.
The great thing about this bill is that it not only features one of the best bands making music in this town right now but will also bring us three other groups with their own take on excellent heavyosity. New Jersey’s Au Revoir, the out-of-towners on this bill, bring some epic heavy instrumental jams along the lines of Pelican, or Earthless. Shy Low have been plying their own instrumental post-rock trade locally for a fair bit of time now, but 2017’s Burning Day EP showed us all that the group still have quite a few tricks up their sleeve. And of course, there’s Charmer, whose seemingly sweet name belies this group’s non-stop power-violence attack. On last year’s split EP with Amara, they dished out five songs in around four minutes, and they’ll be cranking ’em out at a similar rate of speed at Strange Matter. Don’t blink.
Tuesday, April 24, 7 PM
Hovvdy, Kenneka Cook, Addy @ Gallery 5 – $8 (order tickets HERE)
I’m still not sure I entirely approve of the whole “two v’s in place of a w” thing that’s been going around for a few years now. That said, I’ve heard a bunch of bands who went with this particular move, and I’ve liked them all. So for now, I’m willing to go with it in the case of Hovvdy. This duo was started by Austin drummers Will Taylor and Charlie Martin to explore their own interest in quiet, hypnotic sounds. Contrary to all the old jokes about drummers not having any musical ability, these two have created a gorgeous world of sound on their brand new album, Cranberry — which ironically features a significant amount of programmed beats. Give the drummer some!
Hovvdy will be joined on this show by Kenneka Cook, who should need no introduction for those who’ve been reading this column and this magazine lately. That said, I’ll offer a brief one: Cook is an amazing soul-funk-pop vocalist who creates incredible music in a variety of formats — sometimes on her own, with programmed loops backing up her vocals; sometimes with bands consisting of the best musicians Richmond has to offer. Which version of Cook’s live performance you’ll get at this show isn’t something I can tell you in advance, but I can tell you that either one is sure to blow you away and leave you begging for more. Addy will open things up with some bedroom-pop solo sounds that will transfer to the stage in unique and interesting ways. This whole bill is worth catching — don’t sleep on it.
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): [email protected] [and yeah, in case you’re wondering, more awesomeness from my cracked and bleeding fingertips is available at GayRVA — come say hey.]
And on April 23 at 7 PM, make sure to join VA music promoters Lucas Fritz (The Broadberry/The Camel), Mark Osborne (Strange Matter/Slimehole), and Jessica Gordon (RVA Shows/Trigger System), for a FACEBOOK LIVE interactive chat. The promoters will discuss the Richmond music scene, talk about their experiences booking bands, and ask you, the fan, what bands you want to see come to town. They’ll be asking some trivia questions to win tickets to upcoming shows and you can leave any questions you want them to answer in the comments section. Make sure to get in on the conversation this Monday!
Music Sponsored By Graduate Richmond