Sunday, August 13, 8 PM
DRI, Sunlord, Cruelsifix, Enforced, 3:33 @ Strange Matter – $15 (order tickets HERE)
Trends in the world of metal come and go (and that’s true no matter what some “anti-trendy” metalhead might tell you). However, if the last 35 years are any indication, it appears that thrash is evergreen. Speedy drumming, chunky riffs, harsh vocals, and wailing solos never go out of style. Therefore it can be little surprise that OG thrash speed demons DRI are still going full speed ahead after 35 years. But what’s really great is how good they still are!After their seventh studio album, Full Speed Ahead, came out in 1995, DRI went quiet, at least on the studio front. But while they may not have released anything for over two decades, they stayed active, coming through RVA quite a few times over the past several years. Fortunately for us, they finally returned to the studio last year for a brand new EP. Entitled But Wait, There’s More!, this 5-song, 9-minute EP contains three new songs, as well as rerecordings of early classics “Mad Man” and “Couch Slouch.” The band has clearly not lost a step–if anything, they have more energy these days than they did during their mid-period (circa Thrash Zone & Definition), when they were prone towards longer, slower songs. It’s the speed we need, and DRI are still bringing it.
This is where you come in! See them bring it to Strange Matter this Sunday night and you will never regret it. Stagediving and headwalking like mad are definitely on the menu for this evening, as are several killer opening bands that’ll make it worth your time to show up promptly. NYC’s Sunlord have a bit of a dirtier feel to their thrash n’ roll–think mid-90s Entombed or classic Motorhead–and will get the denim vest crowd headbanging for sure. Locals Cruelsifix have generated quite a buzz over their nine or so months as a band, and not just because of their significant pedigree, either (though it can’t have hurt). New local crossover freaks Enforced and up-and-coming ragers 3:33 round out a bill full of thrash madness. You won’t feel a thing–not until the next day.
Wednesday, August 9, 7 PM
Big Baby, Big Quiet, Big Bliss, Serqet @ Sound Of Music – $7-10 donation
I won’t front–Big Baby originally caught my attention due to their connections with other local bands I really like. However, once I started listening to them, I had to admit that they had just as much to offer on their own behalf. Their lazily sweet indie-pop displays an undeniable charm, with the harmonized voices of Ali Mislowsky and Chris Smith showing a particular talent for getting under your skin. Now their awesomeness is being validated by a brand new EP, Sour Patch, just out from Egghunt Records, the label setting the pace in the local indie scene. Will Big Baby be the next Egghunt signee to make the jump to a huge label? If they don’t, it certainly won’t be because they aren’t good enough to.
They have a very apropos pairing on this bill, and not just because they are but one of three bands playing this night with the word “big” in their name. Big Quiet have been on my radar for a couple of years now, since releasing their outstanding “Maura & Dana” EP on the always-on-point Unblinking Ear Records. Two years later, they still haven’t followed that record up, but honestly it’s a good enough record to coast on for a while, so I can’t really blame them–plus this almost guarantees that they have some new jams to lay on us tonight at Sound Of Music. New York’s Big Bliss complete the trio of “big” bands, and bring more of an 80s postpunk feel to their underground-pop sound. It’s more upbeat than that might make you think, though–closer to House Of Love than The Chameleons, though both bands have left their mark, for sure. Recently-formed local postpunkers Serqet start the night off with some post-Siouxsie dramatics to make sure the atmosphere is properly established.
Thursday, August 10, 8 PM
Sweet Knives, Stake, Black Naked Wings, Billy Neptune @ Strange Matter – $10 (order tickets HERE)
Sweet Knives’s dual nature reflects the contrast inherent in their name. While this hard-charging rock n’ roll band certainly has an intense, upbeat feel, there’s some sadness under the surface. The band was formed by the surviving members of Lost Sounds, one of the many projects Jay Reatard played a key part in before his untimely death in 2010. Jay’s songwriting partner in Lost Sounds, Alicja Trout, never intended to do anything more with the band, but then while coordinating a posthumous collection of rarities, she found a whole pile of unreleased songs she’d demoed for the band. Not wanting these to rot away in a drawer, she brought the other surviving members of the band together again to give these songs a proper recording.
However, the band is not a reincarnation of Lost Sounds, by any means. As any of his fans know, Jay Reatard is irreplaceable, and the band chose to start over with a new name when they regrouped. Thus, we have Sweet Knives. The band released an EP of Alicja’s old songs last year, and apparently enjoyed putting it together enough to stick around even after those songs had been exhausted. The band’s dark, ripping rock n’ roll tunes are definitely reminiscent of their previous incarnation, but with a more conventional bass player taking the place of Jay’s keyboards in the original band, the still-present spookiness is more atmospheric than instrumental. Anyone who liked Lost Sounds before is sure to enjoy Sweet Knives, though, and since pretty much anyone I know with good taste was all about some Lost Sounds, Strange Matter should be packed for this revival of sorts. Chaz Tick’s drum machine-fueled new project, Stake, heads up a triple threat of local groups making this night awesome throughout.
Friday, August 11, 10 PM
Octavion X’s 30th Birthday Bash, feat. DJ Harrison, Dr. Millionaire, DJ Gringo @ Flora – $7
I can’t help but be a little nostalgic upon seeing this bill. A couple of years ago, as I was preparing to write a profile of Dr. Millionaire that later ran in RVA Mag’s print edition (and on the website too), I headed over to Flora–then known as Balliceaux–to see Dr. Millionaire and DJ Harrison share the stage. My First Million was just about to come out, and the two of them teamed up to deliver quite a few songs, both from that EP and from other projects. Dr. Millionaire’s mic control was absolute, and he needed no support from pre-recorded backing vocals or hype men. The two of them dominated the stage, and DJ Harrison’s opening instrumental DJ set was just as attention-grabbing, unpredictable, and entertaining as his excellent Jellowstone debut, Stashboxxx.
So what are these two excellent artists up to a couple of years on from that night? DJ Harrison has certainly stayed prolific, from his exploits in hip hop duo Tennison and jazz combo Butcher Brown to his plentiful production work for his Jellowstone label. Dr. Millionaire’s been a bit quieter, but though he’s never been a prolific MC, he always delivers the goods when he steps up to the mic. This night, the two of them come together once again to celebrate the 30th birthday of Slapdash majordomo Octavion X, which makes me feel like saying “Oh, he’s still just a young fella.” Really, y’all, I’m just old. But at Flora Friday night, this crew of hip hop talents are sure to make us all feel young again. Be sure to wear your dancing shoes.
Saturday, August 12, 8 PM
Bjork Risque, Kenneka Cook, Silver Twin, Sorority Boy @ The Camel – $6 in advance/$8 day of show (order tickets HERE)
This one’s a bit of an anomaly. Bjork Risque is a project hailing from Charlottesville and bringing together members of dance-prog-punk oddities Disco Risque with members of space-jam weirdos Two Ton Trapezoid and singer-songwriter Gina Sobel. The union of these three projects comes together to bring the songs of Bjork to life onstage in a unique manner–or so I’ve been told. Born on Halloween 2016, it must be assumed that this group was originally one of those Halloween cover bands that all sorts of people love to do each year. The fact that they’ve carried on past All Hallows Eve indicates some lingering spark of inspiration, but what sort of fireworks they’ll touch off at The Camel this Saturday night is something you’ll have to discover for yourself. Suffice it to say, there’ll almost certainly be some dramatic, growling yelps (that’s not a dis either–Bjork rules).
As for our openers, Kenneka Cook is a local soul singer with some powerful pipes and an unimpeachable reputation in the jazz and funk clubs around RVA. When she performs as a solo artist, the rich funk background sounds she gets from collaborators like The Flavor Project is replaced by minimal yet funky loops that are often based on yet more vocal tracks, along with catchy syncopated percussion. Sorority Boy, meanwhile, hails from Charlottesville, and while this two piece might get lumped into shoegaze, their hazy guitar-driven sound seems more linked to psychedelic groups like Mazzy Star or Rain Parade, at least to my ears. New local rock n’ rollers Silver Twin kick off the evening in fine fashion. Don’t miss any of this one.
Sunday, August 13, 5 PM
The Funeral Portrait, Marina City, Awake At Last, The Blue Sky Disaster, ROC KANDI, Graveside Breakfast @ The Canal Club – $10 in advance/$12 day of show (order tickets HERE)
The kids can certainly be into some crazy shit–I’ll be the last to ever deny it. That said, it is sometimes a lot of fun to get on the kids’ level. A decade ago, when I was still only 30 years old, I realized the genius inherent in the melodramatic drama-kid metallisms of My Chemical Romance. There’s an adrenaline shot provided by angst-ridden teenage music that just can’t come from anything else, and it’s a ton of fun. So I’m always looking for some new bands that’ll grab me that way. I happened upon The Funeral Portrait recently and immediately thought of My Chemical Romance upon seeing their eyeliner-and-hair-dye-festooned emo-boys-in-black-suits aesthetic. However, if all this band had to offer was My Chemical Romance knockoffs, I wouldn’t be telling you about them now.
No, what’s really great about The Funeral Portrait is the way they summarize, synthesize, and dramatise all of the musical evolutions to come out of the last fifteen years. The falsetto vocal melodies of Broadway duel with occasional Underoath-style screams, as progressive guitar melodies reminiscent of Chiodos leap directly into chunky moments that are straight-up Chelsea Grin. I dunno, it might all be a bit too sweet and glittery to constitute a proper diet, but as a once-in-a-while treat, this band is guaranteed to put a smile on at least MY face. But maybe I’m insane. Who knows? You should figure that out for yourself at The Canal Club this Sunday night. If nothing else, the teenage fashions sure to be on display are bound to give you some accessorizing ideas. And hey, if you’re worried that The Funeral Portrait won’t connect with you, keep in mind that there are five more bands on the bill with which to try your luck. Surely one of them will have your number the way this band has mine.
Monday, August 14, 8 PM
Growl, Cream Dream, Suzy, Nic & Wes @ Strange Matter – $5
Not to be that girl or anything, but I miss the good ol’ days, y’all. Back when I was still in high school but got regular access to my mom’s old station wagon–the one with the tape deck in it. I discovered as soon as I got those keys that the real sick jams for driving aimlessly on weekday afternoons after school let out were the noisy alt-rock groups that were all the rage at the time–Dinosaur Jr, Superchunk, Fudge (who none of you remember, but were from Richmond and deserve a rediscovery), that kind of stuff. Today’s indie pop makes me happy and produces a ton of rad tunes, but sometimes I miss the loud-guitar crunch that never shows up in the typical jangles of the modern bands.
That’s where Growl comes in. This Austin, TX band could easily get tagged as a retro throwback, but the way they managed to mix those dirty guitars from my favorite just-before-the-Nirvana-explosion alt-rock bands in with the kinds of unforgettable pop hooks Guided By Voices loved to throw around hits me on a deep level in a way that too few modern bands do. You middle-agers with similar memories should definitely stir yourselves from your couch for this one–and you young kids should also show up to hear how we used to do feedback back in the 90s. Trust me, it’ll rule. Three diverse projects from here in RVA will round out the bill–Cream Dream’s catchy, jangly indie-pop (which I assure you I do still love), the multi-layered beats of Suzy (formerly known as Sha Shakusky), and some bare-bones arrangements of Camp Howard songs from the band’s songwriters, Nic & Wes. The whole thing will rock you.
Tuesday, August 15, 8 PM
Bonus Roll, Sonny Falls, The Smirks, Mangoux @ The Camel – $5 (order tickets HERE)
Bonus Roll have been doing a lot on the local scene lately, but up til now, I haven’t had the pleasure. This band may or may not be anything like the bonus ball you get if you really kick ass at pinball, but one thing I can tell you from what I’m hearing on their Soundcloud is that they’re the sort of addition that improves any show. They’ve got a fun, wild approach to their brand of good-time rock n’ roll that skimps on the garage grit but makes up for it with energetic dance fervor. For them to end up headlining a gig like this at The Camel is entirely appropriate.
The fact that they’re sharing a stage with Sonny Falls also seems apt. This Chicago band have a reputation for a Springsteen-ish punky attack, which might prime you to expect another Gaslight Anthem. However, I hear a good bit of Weezer in their recent There’s No Magic Left In This World EP, and even a little bit of Surfer Blood. The point is, this band is sure to appeal to anyone who likes guitar-driven indie rock, and they’ve got plenty of energy with which to rev up a potentially sleepy Tuesday night. Seeing these guys and Bonus Roll on the same bill is a great opportunity to get some ya-ya’s out. And with reliably sassy garage-rock rebels The Smirks showing up too, you must know this shit is gonna rule. Bonus: brand new HeadlessMantis/Imaginary Sons spawn Mangoux will kick the evening off. There’ll be plenty of booties shaking in the house on this night.
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]