Friday, August 25, 8 PM
Sheer Mag, Haram, Birth (Defects), Christi @ Strange Matter – $12 (order tickets HERE)
Sheer Mag’s ascent over the past couple of years has been truly impressive. This Philadelphia garage-punk band burst onto the scene with their first EP three years ago, and managed to turn a whole lot of heads with only a few songs. In the intervening years, their two followup EPs, Sheer Mag II and Sheer Mag III, only further advanced their world-dominating awesomeness, to the point that it seemed everyone who even cared a little bit about punk rock knew how great they were. And they didn’t even have an album out yet!
Well, that at least has finally changed. The release of Need To Feel Your Love last month fulfills all the promise showcased on those excellent first three EPs, mixing the kind of chunky garage/power-pop snarl the band has always had on hand with an increased pop sensibility that moves in an almost-disco direction on the title track. Frontwoman Tina Halladay brings that same switchblade swagger to her vocals that you can find all over prime Shangri-Las and Runaways material, and if you get down with those bands, you need Sheer Mag in your life just as badly as all the Downtown Boys and Speedy Ortiz fans do.
And let me tell ya, Sheer Mag are far from the only reason to be at this show. NYC’s Haram are drawing attention both for their highly energetic UK peace-punk inspired rage and for their highly political content–the band’s Arabic lyrics have apparently even attracted the notice of the US Joint Terrorism Task Force, which is not exactly a progressive move on our government’s part (and is anyone surprised?). Baltimore’s Birth (Defects) are an undoubtedly weird metallic postpunk band with a riveting sound that’s impossible to ignore. And of course, local garage-pop favorites Christi will be kicking this show off with what will sadly be their last live performance ever. If you miss this one, you’ll be kicking yourself for a long time.
Wednesday, August 23, 7:30 PM
Woolbright, The Weak Days, Decide By Friday, Julie Storey @ The Comm Room – $6
I love it when I discover some excellent new emo band I’ve never heard before, and the reason I discovered them is because, hey, they’re playing here! That’s the story with Woolbright, who you can catch tonight at The Comm Room. This Floridian quartet just recently released a full-length entitled Busybody Lazybones on Whelmed Records (I dig that label name), and let me tell ya, it’s excellent. There’s some real energy to this band’s melodic riffage, but the slower moments bring out the melancholy resonance of their music in a really satisfying way. I admit, I’m very excited about it. And it’ll be exciting to see them tonight!
Meanwhile, it’ll be TIGHT to see the Weak Days. The excellent local duo just released a 12 inch EP entitled Tight, the lyrics to which must use that term at least a dozen times. But don’t let this silly little tidbit fool you–The Weak Days are an excellent band with some incredible songwriting chops that get shown off to outstanding effect on their latest release. Even if you knew who they were and what they were up to before, nothing will prepare you for how significant a step forward their newest material is. You have to see it for yourself. Do so tonight. Opening sets from local post-hardcore crew Decide By Friday and Doll Baby frontwoman Julie Storey, who’s starting this show on a more intimate level with a solo set, only sweeten the pot.
Thursday, August 24, 8 PM
Barbarian, Peucharist, Vile Desecration, Disintegration, DJ Die Hard @ Strange Matter – $10 (order tickets HERE)
I write about thrash metal in this column a lot, and there’s a really good reason for that: it never lets you down. At least once or twice a month, some raging thrash crew rolls through Strange Matter and levels the place in the most glorious way possible, and it never fails to completely rule. So hey, why stop a good thing now? Let’s keep it rolling with Barbarian, who come all the way from Italy with some raw thrash of the sort that always makes me think of bikers with beards and dirty jean vests. Stripped-down, straight ahead riffs accompany guttural vocals and rumbling drums full of double-bass thunder as all of it rides a Harley straight down your ear canal and right into the pleasure centers of your brain. At which point, if you’re anything like me, you proceed to headbang with joy for a significant length of time. And all of you are just like me, right? Right? Don’t answer that.
Anyway, the point is that you need to come down to Strange Matter Thursday night and rock out with Barbarian. But there are plenty of other reasons to come down and rock out too, which are provided by a slew of openers with some powerful riffs of their own. Vermont’s Peucharist have a name that vaguely reminds me of Andres Serrano’s notorious “Piss Christ” painting, and with song titles like “Vomit Right In God’s Face” and “Religion of Piss,” I’m pretty sure that the same vaguely gross sacreligiousness is exactly what this band is going for.* As for Nashville’s Vile Desecration, they pull from the sort of lo-fi terror evoked by the earliest days of death and black metal to create an atmosphere of menacing murk. Both of these bands will rage your face off, as will local openers Disintegration, whose name always makes me think of the Cure but who’s music is much closer to that of Repulsion. Makes sense.
*–I know, I know, sacrilege was NOT what Serrano was going for–quite the opposite, in fact–and the painting has been widely misinterpreted. I can’t deny the images it evokes in my mind, though–and I can’t imagine I’m alone in that, either.
Friday, August 25, 8 PM
Don Babylon, The Lounge Act, Black Mold Jesus, 3 Legged Dog @ The Camel – $5
This is apparently the last show Don Babylon will play as a local band, and I must admit that whenever I hear this sort of thing, I always worry. After all, this isn’t the 80s anymore. Moving out to LA to “make it big” isn’t nearly as sure a thing as it once was, and even back in the day it wasn’t all that guaranteed (ask Johnny Hott how it worked out for House Of Freaks, for example). Hopefully Don Babylon are just moving to Iowa to get master’s degrees or something. Regardless, they will be a big loss for the RVA alt-rock community, and they demonstrate that fact with aplomb on debut album Babe, co-released earlier this year by Trrrash Records. They’re leaving town initially to head out on tour in support of Babe, and I’m sure their high-energy rock show will win over plenty of new fans in new towns. Don’t forget us back here in Richmond, guys!
Don Babylon will be joined this night by out-of-towners The Lounge Act, who hail from New York and aren’t really a lounge act at all. They don’t sound all that inspired by the Nirvana song of the same name either, really, but these days you kind of have to figure Nirvana’s in every rock musician’s blood on some level, don’t you? Anyway, The Lounge Act should appeal to those who love Don Babylon in this town. Though they have a bit more mellow of an approach, they still have plenty of killer melodies, and know how to bring the rock when the time comes. The evening will begin with sets from Black Mold Jesus and 3-Legged Dog, a couple of the most evocatively named bands on the Richmond scene right now. Will their music live up to the mental pictures their names conjure up? Only one way to find out.
Saturday, August 26, 8 PM
Minor Poet, Spooky Cool, Sammi Lanzetta, Blush Face @ Strange Matter – $8 in advance/$10 day of show (order tickets HERE)
Minor Poet is certainly the band of the moment in the local indie scene, and with their debut album, And How!, coming out this Friday on local prime mover Egghunt Records, it seems their promise has been detected and understood by even the highest power players at work in our little scene. So will Minor Poet transcend our mid-size city, get that Egghunt rub, and wind up on Matador alongside Lucy Dacus? Only time will tell, but one thing’s for sure based on the few advance tracks that have trickled out from And How!–they’ve got the performing and songwriting talent to do it. So you’re certainly well advised to come see for yourself if you haven’t already.
This show comes a day after And How! is publicly revealed to the world, and constitutes the official album release celebration. It’s your first chance to pick up a 12 inch vinyl copy of this album for your very own, and I can’t help but advise that you take it, because it seems like this band is only headed upward from here. They’re joined on this bill by a few other local superstars who seem headed straight up from here as well. The rather mysterious Spooky Cool (are you guys ever gonna release anything besides youtube videos? Asking for a friend) have an engaging sound mixing indie rock mysticism with rock n’ roll riffage to engaging effect. Sammi Lanzetta’s become quite the force to be reckoned with as a solo act, with her outstanding songcraft and excellent voice drawing a lot of attention, and for good reason. Blush Face is kicking the night off, but this band has come out of nowhere over the past six months to turn everyone’s heads–show up find out why!
Sunday, August 27, 7 PM
War On Women, Doll Baby, Bad Magic, Roy Batty @ The Camel – $12 (order tickets HERE)
It’s always good news to hear that War On Women are coming to town. This Baltimore band, which bills itself as “co-ed feminist hardcore punk,” formed in order to address a hostile political climate in the wake of the 2010 Congressional midterm elections. They took their name from a phrase used by female members of Congress to refer to a bevy of proposed legislation from Republican members of Congress that took aim at women’s rights issues from workplace discrimination to abortion and rape. With these circumstances surrounding their formation, it’s no surprise that War On Women has spent their six-years-and-counting as a band focusing on feminist issues, and delivering them to listeners with a powerful force impossible to tune out.
The band released their self-titled debut LP in 2015 on Bridge Nine, and have done a lot of touring since it came out. This is definitely not their first time coming to Richmond, but any War On Women set is essential for people who care about both women’s issues and sick riffs. I definitely fall into that category, and if you don’t, I’m side-eyeing you pretty hard right now. But hey, even if you’re unfamiliar with War On Women, the terrific trio of openers should absolutely be enough to get you out to The Camel this Sunday night. Doll Baby bring the passionately delivered emotionally-driven tunes, Bad Magic brings the melancholy depth and lyrical brilliance, and Roy Batty brings the return of Hot Dolphin frontwoman Lindsey Spurrier to the stage. Yeah, exactly. You need to be there.
Monday, August 28, 8 PM
The Concussion Theory, The Blue Sky Disaster, Suburban Samurai, We Call This Courage @ The Camel – $5
I must admit, as a 90s lady with some pretty predictable teenage musical loves, I find myself tuning more often into the emo sounds that trace their roots back to the same time to which I trace my own. That said, it doesn’t mean I don’t love the newer version of the genre that younger bands tend to tap into–after all, I had my days of listening to way too much Taking Back Sunday too. So I was 30 at the time, so what? This night of emotionally-driven melodic post-hardcore bands, coming to The Camel to brighten up your Monday night, should actually show up that generational divide for the false dichotomy it truly is, as the bands on this bill split the difference between the two eras with aplomb. Which is to say that 20 year old emo kids can stand alongside 40 year old emo adults at this one without anybody feeling too awkward.
The Concussion Theory has been working away at the fringes of the RVA scene for a few years now, and while they haven’t been able to transcend their underrated status, it’s not because they don’t have killer tunes. Their contemplative, mid-paced emotional sound full of complex guitar leads and heartfelt vocals will certainly win over anyone who hears it, so it’s really time for more people to start paying attention. The Blue Sky Disaster are a newer arrival with a stronger post-hardcore edge, complete with screamed rather than sang vocals, but they still tug at one’s heartstrings. Vermont’s Suburban Samurai may be third on the bill, but they are easily the equal of the two local bands overtop of them, with their speedier beats and higher-energy riffage bringing in that mid-2000s post-Fall Out Boy vibe–always nice to hear. Local openers We Call This Courage are in somewhat the same vein, with if anything a slightly stronger hardcore influence. Covering the whole emo spectrum in under four hours–not bad.
Tuesday, August 29, 8 PM
The Shivas, Grass Panther, Towards Space @ Strange Matter – $8 in advance/$10 day of show (order tickets HERE)
Surf music might seem like a pretty one-dimensional genre for someone to mess around with over 50 years after it first appeared. However, if you think The Ventures and The Beach Boys said all there was to say with this sound, you really need to check out The Shivas. Mixing surf-guitar vibes with some tasty early 60s multipart vocal melodies, this old-school rock n’ roll band from Portland, Oregon will open your ears once more to the power of a shivering reverb unit and a humming Farfisa. I’d go so far as to predict they’ll get you shaking your booty too, so be sure to wear your dancing shoes to this one.
The two locals on this bill aren’t too far removed from what The Shivas are doing, but that’s not to say that either of them has any connection to surf music, per se. Grass Panther is instead drawing from the psychedelic rock of the late 60s, mixing that old familiar buzz and hum with strong vocals from Michael Harl (Canary Oh Canary/Manzara) on an intense solo trip. Toward Space are remarkable not only for their quite youthful age but also for their adept channeling of modern garage rock auteurs like Ty Segall and the late, great Jay Reatard. This show is ultimately all about the rock n’ roll, and since most of us are too, it should be an excellent evening all around.
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] [the rvamag address isn’t working for some reason, I’m looking into it!]