Tuesday, November 15, 7:30 PM
Shockoe Sessions Live! presents Classical Revolution RVA feat. Curt Sydnor, Radio B @ In Your Ear – $10 (order tickets HERE)
Where the Richmond music scene is concerned, there’s not much currently happening within it that has a more storied tradition than In Your Ear Studios. Co-founded by local music production veteran Carlos Chafin and Richmond music legend Robbin Thompson (who both sang for one of Bruce Springsteen’s early bands and wrote “Sweet Virginia Breeze,” now the Commonwealth’s state song), it has been around for over 30 years and has hosted a ton of famous musicians over the course of its history. The folks over at In Your Ear came up with the idea for Shockoe Sessions in the early days of the pandemic, when live streams were about the best we could hope for where live music was concerned. They kept doing it after shows started back up, though — and luckily for us all, it’s now possible to buy a ticket and be part of the live audience at these events.
And let me tell ya, any given Tuesday, it’s got a fair shot at being the best live musical thing happening anywhere in town. That’s not just because the weekly Shockoe Sessions happen on a relatively slow night (though, admittedly, they do); it’s also because the folks at Shockoe Sessions and In Your Ear have a great talent for picking up on the most interesting things happening in the local scene, and getting those artists into a pro-level studio to lay down a full set in front of multiple cameras. I’ve been keeping up on Shockoe Sessions for at least a year now, and every week it’s interesting to see what they have in store for us. This week, it’s a group that should absolutely be on your radar if you have been paying attention to the Richmond music scene for a while: Classical Revolution RVA.
Classical Revolution was started by classical musicians who hoped to connect the sort of music they made as part of their day jobs with the vibrant, street-level music scene within their various settings. Many of those involved in the RVA chapter are current or former Richmond Symphony players, but the music they present at their performances is anything but stuffy. This time around, they’ll be presenting some pieces from their featured composer, Curt Sydnor, who is a locally-based keyboardist with a wide-ranging stylistic palette. There will also be a small string ensemble, a rock n’ roll duet for flute and cello, and a collaboration with Richmond rap mainstay Radio B, who recently paired up with Classical Revolution RVA and producer NameBrand to put together a new original song on a three-hour deadline. Whether they’ll be doing that song or another new collaboration, this will surely be something to watch. And you can be there, right in the studio, to see it all go down. What could be cooler than that?
Wednesday, November 9, 7 PM
Contact, Discourage, 1103 @ Powers BMX – $7
As a longtime fan of hardcore, one of the most surprising recent phenomena within that genre of music has been the return of the early 90s sound I associate with record labels like New Age and Conversion. By 1996 or so, it seemed like no one cared much anymore for bands like Outspoken and Mean Season, and by the early-2000s, I felt like that entire sound had been permanently memory-holed. However, out of nowhere, a revival kicked off around five or so years ago, with bands like Ecostrike and Ekulu leading the charge. As a forty-something who dug those records the first time around, I’m certainly here for the revival, but I never would have predicted it could have had this kind of momentum.
Contact brings this early 90s sound to Richmond on their debut release, Before And Through And Beyond All Time. This show at Powers BMX is acting as their record release party, and they certainly deserve a celebration based on how awesome the new record sounds. Mixing a strong midtempo groove, heavy crunching guitars, and the same brilliant hit of melody that made Richmond’s own Four Walls Falling such a leading light in this genre the first time around, Contact are set to put their stamp on the hardcore scene in Richmond and beyond with this new release. You should definitely get in on the ground floor by going to this release party. Extra points for showing up in Krishna beads, New Balances, and size 40 Guess jeans (if those even exist outside vintage stores anymore).
Thursday, November 10, 7 PM
Eliza & The Delusionals, FLKL, Midnite Taxi @ Richmond Music Hall at Capital Ale House – $15 in advance, $18 day of show (order tickets HERE)
If you’ve been paying attention recently, you know mentioning that a band is from Australia is a way to get my attention. It apparently works regardless of genre, too: I love Stand Atlantic, Courtney Barnett, and The Chats equally. That said, Eliza & the Delusionals are pretty far from all of those artists; this Australian quartet are making lovely guitar-driven alternative rock that forsakes heavy distortion in favor of a focus on pop melodies and catchy choruses. There’s nothing wrong with that, though; “Just Exist,” the song that put this band on the radar of music fans down under, is a lovely and indelible piece of musical magic that harks back to quite a few alt-rock bands I loved in the early 2000s. The band apparently acknowledges that influence openly. They know what they’re doing, and the excellent songs that populate recent debut album Now And Then prove that with aplomb.
You won’t really know what I’m talking about, though, unless you make it out to Richmond Music Hall this Thursday night to see Eliza & the Delusionals live and in person. Australia isn’t exactly a quick trip from here, so I imagine this will be the only time they make it to the area in the near future. You won’t want to miss your chance to immerse yourself in these wonderful melodies and sway back and forth with a big smile on your face. Local jangle-folk-indie group FLKL and bouncy indie-pop ensemble Midnite Taxi will offer capable local support for this evening of alt-pop excellence.
Friday, November 11, 10 PM
Blemish, Oozing Meat, R.O.T.W.L.C.F.T.S.C.B.M.H. @ Bandito’s – $10
Things are getting heavy this Friday night at Bandito’s, and it all starts off with Blemish. To be clear, this isn’t the Canadian melodic punk band who released an LP on a Virginia label; this Blemish is a trio from New Jersey who deal out harsh, powerful death metal in fist-sized chunks. They show this sound off on their recent split with Bestial Tongues, which features songs like “PCP On My Deathbed” and “Buried In Asphalt.” Some death metal bands get too obsessed with being brutal and guttural, and start losing track of the riffs that have to be a core component for this sound to work. Thankfully, Blemish are not one of those bands, and they’re prepared to offer us all riffs aplenty when they hit Bandito’s in a couple of nights.
Blemish is just the beginning, though. Two harsh-as-fuck locals are all set to further increase the heaviness quotient, and the first of those is Oozing Meat, a fascinating collaboration between local noise veterans Eric Tomillon (Fake Object) on vocals and noise, and Jason Hodges (Suppression, Bermuda Triangles, too many others to mention) plays a distorted drum kit and contributes vocals of his own. The result is somewhere between the most lo-fi end of the grindcore spectrum and outright harsh noise, but it’s just musical enough to be a damn good time whether you’re super stoked on experimental noise or if you’re just a metal fan who digs high levels of distortion. And then there’s R.O.T.W.L.C.F.T.S.C.B.M.H. (search past show columns for the full version of the acronym), a two-piece that loves both super-fast grindcore mania and powerful mosh breakdowns. Fans of Crossed Out, Jenny Piccolo, and even relatively non-obscure bands like The Locust are sure to get a kick out of this one. Don’t miss it.
Saturday, November 12, 8 PM
Moving Targets @ Garden Grove Brewing – $???
Here’s something that totally threw me a loop when it came to my attention. “Moving Targets are coming through town?” I thought. “Since when are they back together?” You see, when I was younger, I was a huge fan of the Moving Targets, who came out of the same Boston scene that produced the Lemonheads and the Blake Babies, even if they never did achieve the same level of notoriety. I had their first three LPs, all of which came out before I graduated high school, and many years ago I used to drive around playing “Separate Hearts,” from my cassette copy of Brave Noise (1988) — the best melodic punk anthem Husker Du never wrote — over and over again. I’m amazed the tape didn’t wear out. Despite all this, though, I somehow completely missed that Moving Targets reformed in 2018. Indeed, they’ve put out two albums since they got back together — 2019’s Wires and 2020’s Humbucker — and until this show happened, I didn’t hear about either of them. An unforgivable oversight on my part; I hope you will all go easy on me.
Of course, I know what you’re all thinking: “Don’t be so hard on yourself, Drew. You know very well that not all bands who get back together are actually worth hearing.” And you’re right. In this case, though, I’m happy to report that Moving Targets’ two new albums (soon to be three — they’ve got another one coming in early 2023) are every bit as brilliant as the ones I’ve owned and loved for decades. The only original member left in the band these days is frontman Kenny Chambers, but his excellent songwriting, not to mention his brilliant singing and guitar playing, was the reason for the season with the original Moving Targets lineups of the late 80s, and the same is true now. I don’t know too much about this show; I’m not sure who is opening, if anyone. I don’t know how much it costs. But look, none of that is important when you compare it to the unexpected and delightful opportunity to see a band as brilliant and underrated as the Moving Targets tear the house down in a small club. Bring twenty bucks — if you end up with a whole bunch of change after paying the cover price, you can buy a Moving Targets album from the band, and that’s sure to be a rewarding decision.
Sunday, November 13, 5 PM
Afro-Zen Allstars, Qwanqwa @ Richmond Music Hall at Capital Ale House – $20 in advance, $25 day of show (order tickets HERE)
There’s always been an intriguing undercurrent running through the Richmond music scene, one that’s difficult to pin down or circumscribe. It mixes the mindset of punk with the expansionist mindset of postpunk and early alternative rock, then throws in a variety of more traditional genres, from jazz and folk music to a variety of vernacular sounds from around the world. The original local exponent of this approach was the Ululating Mummies, and over the years other groups, including Hotel X and Rattlemouth, have explored the limits and possibilities of this difficult to define yet always enjoyable style.
George M. Lowe was part of all the groups I mentioned in the last paragraph, and in 2014, he started Afro-Zen Allstars, his latest project intended to explore this ill-defined but always fertile musical territory. Coming together with members of his previous bands as well as folks from Bio Ritmo, No BS! Brass Band, and others, he and his Afro-Zen Allstars have focused on the sound of the Ethiopian club scene of the 1970s. They’ve mixed the sounds of this little-remembered African soul music movement in with long-running concerns like jazz and funk. The whole thing comes together and creates raw fuel for killer dance parties. Earlier this year, they documented that fact on their latest LP, The Buzz And The Bells, and now they’re going to turn Capital Ale House’s Richmond Music Hall into a wall-to-wall dance party. You owe it to yourself to make sure you’re there.
Monday, November 14, 6:30 PM
Blind Tiger, Terror Cell, Black Matter Device @ Garden Grove Brewing – $10
The frantic, chaotic take on hardcore dispensed by local up-and-comers Terror Cell and Black Matter Device is my favorite type of hardcore, so even before I looked into headliners Blind Tiger, I was predisposed to recommend this show. But since looking into Blind Tiger, I’ve found myself even more intrigued than I was before. Because you see, Blind Tiger are totally the same sort of nervous-energy-fueled maniacal hardcore band as the two locals are. The intriguing wrinkle they throw into the mix, though, is certainly not something I could ever have predicted. For you see, in addition to a lineup that includes guitar, bass, drums, and passionately screamed vocals, Blind Tiger also has a trumpet player.
If that sounds a little weird, trust me, it works a lot better than you’d expect. This sort of thing isn’t entirely unprecedented, either; I’ve definitely heard quite a few bands that have come out of the ska scene who ended up sounding like chaotic metal with the occasional horn-section breakdown — Folly and Flaming Tsunamis are great examples. If anything, Blind Tiger’s horn parts are even more smoothly into the rest of the music than the ska breakdowns on Folly records. It’s like peanut butter on a hamburger — sounds like a terrible idea. Then you try it, and it’s not only good but memorable in a positive way. That’s the sort of sound Blind Tiger achieve on their self-titled EP from last year. And I’m sure it’ll be not only fascinating to hear in a live environment, but impossible to stand still for. The fact that you’ll get sets from equally brilliant — and at least a bit less incongruous — local chaotic hardcore groups Terror Cell and Black Matter Device in the bargain only makes this show even more essential.
Tuesday, November 15, 7 PM
Courtney Marie Andrews, The Dead Tongues @ Richmond Music Hall at Capital Ale House – $17 in advance, $20 day of show (order tickets HERE)
Here’s a show that should be interesting for a variety of reasons. The first one is the most obvious one; Courtney Marie Andrews is currently on tour in support of her ninth solo album, Loose Future, which just came out about a month ago. On it, she displays not only killer songwriting chops and an intriguing sound that’s almost an even cross between mellow, introspective alternative rock and the sort of country music that’s just slightly too off-kilter for the modern Nashville mainstream, but probably keeps more true to the spirit of country than that world has anytime in the last 20 years. If you dig folks like Lucinda Williams, Kathleen Edwards, or the early work of Kacey Musgraves, you’re going to find a lot to like here — and you might find the same thing to be true even if your tastes run more toward Laura Marling or Frances Quinlan.
Here’s another reason to check this evening out: Courtney Marie Andrews was a touring member of Jimmy Eat World for two years, playing keyboards on their album Invented and then touring with them for a couple of years. While you won’t hear any overt Jimmy Eat World elements in Andrews’ current solo music, there’s no way an experience like that one wouldn’t have rubbed off on her at least a little bit. If nothing else, this should tell you that this woman’s every bit as talented as her reputation would have you believe. But whatever — the proof is ultimately in the pudding. And that’s why you should make it down to Richmond Music Hall this Tuesday night to check out Courtney Marie Andrews live and in person. You won’t get the full effect of this one unless you get right in the middle of it. No way to know, but to go. So go.
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]