Saturday, January 14, 7 PM
Last Minute Fest II, feat. The Mitras, Mad Abbey, Pipesleeve, Overunderdog, Sifter, Stevie Ashe @ The Camel – $10 in advance, $12 day of show (Order tickets HERE)
It’s officially a new year, but I always take a little while to adjust. I don’t know about y’all, but I’ll still probably be writing the wrong year on things in March. One thing that does remind me that it is for-sure a new year, though, is when another anniversary comes around. For a bad example, the second anniversary of that whole stupid January 6 mess was a few days ago. And for a much better example, The Mitras are about to throw another Last Minute Fest, on the anniversary of the first one. And this time, while it is still coming together last-minute, it feels a lot more planned out — which surely means it’ll be even better than the first one!
Honestly, the first Last Minute Fest was the first thing that really made me notice The Mitras. A relatively new Richmond band at the time, they had to deal with the fact that two other bands had dropped off a show they’d booked at The Camel, and they were the only band left. Rather than wandering away with their tails between their legs, they just called every Richmond band they could think of, and ended up turning the evening into a nine-band event with less than two weeks notice. That kind of moxie was more than enough to get me to give the Mitras a second look. Since then, they’ve released several singles, all of which strengthen the initial impression that these guys are top-notch power-pop fiends with some great jangly guitar riffs and catchy choruses par excellence. They’re releasing yet another new single the day before this festival, which is called “Caroline.” It’s not out yet, but they sent it to me, and let me tell ya, it’s great. Another classic power-pop gem from this trio. You’re gonna love it.
So yeah, the Mitras are awesome. And this year’s Last Minute Fest is shaping up to be awesome too. I’ve got the full lineup above, and as of right now I don’t even know if they’ve revealed the last as-yet-unannounced band publicly, so this might constitute a bit of a spoiler. But what the hell — let’s run through em all right now, shall we? Mad Abbey are another rock n’ roll trio with a bit of a mid-00s UK flavor about their approach; they remind me of an American version of Maximo Park or the Arctic Monkeys. Pipesleeve are a bit funkier, and really defined their sound this past summer with their enjoyable Spacebomb Sessions EP. Overunderdog have a saucy soul feel to their rockin’ tunes, but with a slacker edge that reminds me a bit of that band Girls (you know, “Hellhole Ratrace”… those guys), and maybe even Pavement a little. Sifter have the toughest, most punk sound of anyone on this bill, and I’m not just saying that because they have an anti-cop song called “RPD” (though that does help). Singer-songwriter Stevie Ashe is unfamiliar to me, but it’s impossible to argue with the excellence of the tunes on his first EP, Sweet Rebel. And with all that in more in store for you at The Camel Saturday night, I don’t see how it’s really possible to argue against attending the second annual Last Minute Fest either. Just do it.
Wednesday, January 11, 7 PM
Moon Hooch, Balkan Bump @ The Broadberry – $20 in advance, $23 day of show (order tickets HERE)
I’m gonna admit to a bit of a knee-jerk prejudice; generally, when I see a group I’ve barely heard of headlining one of the bigger venues in town, I make an assumption: that’s a jam band. And I hate to say it, but I’m usually right. However, Moon Hooch threw me for a major loop, because even under the loosest definition of the term, you cannot realistically consider them any sort of jam band. The reason is as fundamental as their lineup: they’re an instrumental trio featuring two saxophones and a drummer. That’s truly unusual — in fact, the only other dual-sax trio I can think of is the experimental free jazz group Borbetomagus. Rest assured, on the off chance you’re familiar with Borbetomagus, Moon Hooch sound nothing like them.
Instead, they’re a fun-loving groove machine of a band, one that started out as buskers near NYC’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and has gone on to release five albums worth of danceable sax grooves. The most recent is 2021’s Super Cone Bros, the cover of which features Moon Hooch’s two saxophonists playing through saxes that turn into Mario Bros-style tunnels somewhere along the way. This entertaining image is a strong hint of what you’ll find inside; when their funky, energetic tunes aren’t an outright dance party, they remain a ton of goofy, bouncy fun. They may not pass the hat anymore, but these guys will still make you feel like you’re dancing on a New York street corner with several hundred of your favorite strangers. A full set from Moon Hooch is sure to be an outstanding time, and when they come to the Broadberry tonight, you are for sure gonna want to be there. Make it happen.
Thursday, January 12, 9 PM
Jeanines, The Smashing Times, Gnawing, Young Scum @ Fuzzy Cactus – $10 in advance, $12 at the door (order tickets HERE)
By now, you might expect wild rockin’ from any show at Fuzzy Cactus, but that’s not quite what you’ll get this Thursday night when New York duo Jeanines come into town. However, the entire time I’ve been involved in DIY music, there’s been a strong connection between the modern world of underground garage rock and the charming DIY pop scene known as “twee.” It only makes sense — after all, your average twee band draws a great deal of inspiration from 80s and 90s pioneers like Heavenly and Beat Happening, and both of those combos were pulling from classic rock n’ roll song structures and vibes. Jeanines, whose jangly guitars and high, melodic vocals definitely reflect a strong influence from not only Heavenly but other twee legends like The Softies and Black Tambourine, have that same classic rock n’ roll approach to their songs, and if they land more in a Spector-ish girl-group space than a Billy Childish-ish land of hot garage rockin’ — well, that’s still an outstanding place to be.
Jeanines’ 2022 album, Don’t Wait For A Sign, has scored a great deal of acclaim since it came out last spring, and I don’t mind telling you it made my list of the best albums of the year when I finally put one together the other night. Whether you’re intimately familiar with their catchy tunes or still have yet to discover the wondrousness that is Jeanines, you really should make this performance a part of your week. If you aren’t already won over by now, it’ll only be a matter of time. Plus, they’ll be joined by similarly jangly, twee, and catchy Baltimore combo The Smashing Times, whose recent LP, Bloom, has a lot to offer on its own behalf. Richmond indie-grunge rockers Gnawing will also be on the bill, just to make sure no one forgets about how much fun overdriven guitars are. The evening will be rounded out by our city’s favorite twee-pop export, the one and only Young Scum, who are always a ton of fun whenever they take the stage. Don’t miss a minute of this one.
Friday, January 13, 9 PM
Dumb Waiter, Zephyranthes, Opin @ The Camel – $10 in advance, $12 day of show (order tickets HERE)
It’s always been tough to nail down what veteran Richmond quartet Dumb Waiter are doing, exactly. Progressive instrumental metal? Jazz-damaged post-rock? Don Caballero-ish instrumental noise rock… but with a sax? You can call it a variety of things, all of which will take several words to elucidate, and none of them will fully encompass the breadth of this band’s creativity. It’s better to just enjoy their fascinating tunes as they come, and let other people worry about what the heck label they could most easily be filed under. This is particularly good advice for their latest album, Gauche Gists, a fun collection of songs named after a variety of experiences made awkward by where they happen to be taking place. “Acceptance Speech To An Empty Room,” “Experiencing Loss In A Grocery Store,” and “Joy In A Walk-In Freezer” are a few of the best examples the track list provides — though, I gotta say, I’ve at least experienced that last one myself. It was always such a relief to be sent for some new tubs late in a busy Saturday afternoon shift at Baskin-Robbins…
But I digress. The point here is that you can see Dumb Waiter headlining an excellent bill of unpredictably talented groups this Friday night at The Camel. And you should! No matter how many times you’ve seen these guys do their thing in the past, they always bring some new, previously unforeseen element to the table. Unlike a lot of other experiences you can have on a Friday night, a Dumb Waiter performance will never get boring. And as a bonus, you’ll get a set from wild-eyed North Carolina combo Zephyranthes, who haven’t released a new record since 2018 but are thankfully back in action and bringing their inimitable brand of noise-infused math rock to the Camel to educate us all. The evening will kick off with a set from Opin, who most recently graced us with the two-song, 35-minute experimental instrumental suite Hospital Street, but have certainly proved on past releases like 2020’s Media And Memory that they’re just as capable of creating gorgeous examples of layered, off-kilter electro-pop. See which version of the group we get when they get things started at The Camel this Friday night. Whichever it is, it’s sure to be grand.
Saturday, January 14, 8 PM
Butcher Brown with the Richmond Symphony @ Dominion Energy Center For The Performing Arts – $43-$85 (order tickets HERE)
In this city, the soul-jazz quintet known as Butcher Brown should need no introduction by now. That said, I’m gonna give them one anyway, because you never know who is reading this that just stepped off a plane from Montana and wants to have a memorable experience during their weekend in Richmond. If that’s you, let me tell you before we go on that you better order your ticket to this show quick, because when I checked last night, there were less than two-dozen left. You indecisive Richmonders, that warning goes for you too. OK, now let’s talk about what you’ve actually got in store if you make it down to the Symphony’s home turf at Dominion Energy Center this Saturday night.
First of all, Butcher Brown have been making waves in the Richmond scene for over a decade now, putting together instrumental jazz grooves with a decided hip hop flavor at their Jellowstone home studio. Their most recent album, Triple Trey, saw trumpeter Marcus Tenney unleashing his rapping alter ego, Tennishu, to create a wide-ranging project that is somewhere between jazzy hip hop and a tribute to the big band swing era. Around the same time, they put together a banger of a backing track for Michael Millions on the collaborative single “Black Man” — one of the best songs to come out of RVA hip hop in the past year. Now they’re switching gears, working with Spacebomb arranger extraordinaire Trey Pollard and others to make their music integrate fully into a larger symphonic context. What will come of this powerful collaboration? Since it’s never been seen before, you’re going to have to buy a ticket to find out for sure, but I can’t help but think of the power many classic Philadelphia soul albums of the 70s were able to attain by bringing in classical string sections and underpinning their soulful feel with orchestral gravity. Butcher Brown plus the Richmond Symphony is sure to result in something at least that cool. You aren’t gonna want to miss it.
Sunday, January 15, 9 PM
Sweat, Muck, Humanitarian Deficit @ Bandito’s – $8
It’s never a bad idea to keep track of the extended universe around Los Angeles label Vitriol Records, and especially what label head Justin Smith is up to. Having previously played guitar with intense, powerful hardcore group Dangers, as well as being heavily involved with long-running grindcore tribute to the action/horror cinema legends of the 80s and 90s, Graf Orlock, Smith’s bona fides are assured. His latest project, Sweat, isn’t all that much like either of his previous bands, but one thing they do have in common, as proven on Sweat’s 2022 LP, Gotta Give It Up, is top quality. To put it bluntly, Sweat is a fucking great band.
They’re certainly great at putting things bluntly themselves. With their powerful, straightforward take on hardcore punk, in which songs are sharp shocks that hit hard and wrap up quickly, only to be replaced by a new musical shock with just as much force, Sweat have a memorable velocity. If you’re looking for a band to wrap up your weekend with a strong jolt you’ll enjoy from beginning to quickly arriving end, their set at Bandito’s this Sunday night will be just what the doctor ordered. They’re joined on the bill by two excellent local acts. The first is Muck, a punk act with an evocative name and a mysterious online presence, whose angry punk enthusiasm can in no way be summed up by poorly-lit YouTube videos. As for Humanitarian Deficit, their raw, minimalist take on classic screamo riffage lands nearly in hardcore punk territory just by virtue of their out-of-control approach. This triple bill is sure to knock you on your ass, in the best kind of way possible.
Monday, January 16, 7 PM
Gooseberry, Marshall Family Values, Parsley, Baby Yaga @ The Camel – $10 in advance, $12 day of show (order tickets HERE)
It’s a Monday night, and once again, the city’s favorite standby is supplying the best live tuneage in town. The Camel comes through in the clutch on the nights early in the week when there isn’t generally that much to do, and it’s just one of the many reasons we love them so much. This time around, they’re hosting Gooseberry, a Brooklyn trio whose smooth, delicate take on danceable indie rock is sure to satisfy everyone who loves both Vampire Weekend and Hall and Oates. Their Broken Dance EP has soul vibes without wandering entirely out of the indie rock landscape, and while that sound is becoming more common in recent times, Gooseberry still manages to stand out with their confident take on that particular intersection of genres.
The local groups joining Gooseberry on this bill are in much the same vein, though each has their own take on things, meaning this show will still have a strong amount of variety. For example, Marshall Family Values play around in the world of instrumental funk grooves, retaining a rock n’ roll influence that sees them capture simultaneous Allman Brothers and Funkadelic vibes. As for Parsley, they’re more on that Black Keys/White Denim tip, with some great rockin’ riffs that nonetheless dip into some serious dance moods and vibes on their latest EP, Clean Break. And then there’s Baby Yaga, a fun-loving Carolinas band whose name, simultaneously evoking Baba Yaga, the witch of Eastern European folk legend, and Baby Yoda (whose name apparently turned out to be Grogu… I dunno, my only interaction with Star Wars is shelving themed Christmas ornaments for Hallmark), lets you know they don’t take things too seriously. As does the title of their latest EP: Same Shit, Different Dick. There’s nothing I can say that can possibly follow that up. Just go to this show already.
Tuesday, January 17, 7 PM
Bonginator, Crucial Rip, ROTWLCFTSCBMH, Love Gun @ The Camel – $10 (order tickets HERE)
Oh, death metal. Don’t ever change! Keep bringing us bands like Bonginator, whose brutal downtuned riffage, double-bass pummeling, guttural vocals, and subject matter focused on weed and gore is what everyone has come to know and love of American death metal in the 21st century. Thankfully, death metal bands like Bonginator aren’t super-intense and hyper-serious (like some of them get to be after a while — never to positive effect). Instead, they take inspiration from legends like Richmond’s own Cannabis Corpse, or even the previously mentioned Graf Orlock, creating an alternate-universe action-horror epic all their own with their latest EP, 2022’s The 1986 Doink City Massacre. If the title doesn’t tell you on its own already, it only takes one listen to realize what a blast of brutal, metallic fun this record — and this band — is.
Bonginator will find kindred spirits in the local bands on the bill, starting with Crucial Rip, who’ve been quiet for a few years now but will make a welcome return to action on this Tuesday evening. The riffs on their 2018 LP, The Object Of Infection, were plenty brutal — here’s hoping they’ve come up with some killer new ones over the past few years, with which to delight both longtime fans and those who’ve never encountered them before! As for ROTWLCFTSCBMH, it’s no secret that I get a huge kick out of this youthful grindcore ensemble, and I particularly enjoyed their all-too-brief contribution to last year’s split EP with ED-209. Whether or not they’ve got new tunes to break out for this gig, their sets are always a blast, and this one will not be an exception. Last but certainly not least is Virginia band Love Gun, who might be hard to find amid all the KISS references google is gonna give you when you look them up. However, persistence pays off, as their 2020 EP Kiss The Sky is a great slice of metallic hardcore filth that makes me think these guys have listened to a fair bit of Gehenna (the real one, the infamous one) in their time — always a positive sign. Get ready to start the pit for this one, y’all.
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]