Friday, October 21, 9:30 PM
Worn In Red, Doll Baby, Dark Waters @ Fuzzy Cactus – $10
It’s been a long damn time, y’all. Worn In Red might not be a name everyone in the Richmond scene recognizes these days, but a decade ago, they were one of the best bands Central Virginia had to offer. Between 2006 and 2012, they released two excellent LPs and a variety of EPs and splits, all of which were powerful jolts of intense post-hardcore energy with a strong emotional undercurrent that showed through in the introspective lyrics and passionately delivered vocals. Their final LP, 2012’s Banshees, was released on Florida’s No Idea Records — pretty much the pinnacle for bands in that particular segment of the underground. A decade later, it still holds up as a top-quality slice of earnest, melodic post-hardcore.
It’s probably No Idea that we have to thank for Worn In Red’s return to live performance at Fuzzy Cactus this Friday night, eight years after they last played a show. The Fest, a long-running yearly gathering of the pop-punk, emo, and melodic hardcore/post-hardcore scenes that takes place every October in No Idea’s hometown of Gainesville, Florida, is what managed to draw Worn In Red out of retirement. They’ll be heading down to Florida to play the three-day gathering, which will be taking place next weekend. But first, they’re returning to action right here in their hometown, where everyone who loved what Worn In Red had to offer a decade ago will get a chance to relive the magic, even as those of you who missed out on them the first time finally get a chance to see this quartet bring the fire in a live environment.
You’re not going to want to miss out on the triumphant return of Worn In Red, but you’d be equally remiss if you missed the first show in two years by Doll Baby, the Richmond-based quartet led by talented singer-songwriter Julie Storey. After Julie went through a pretty frightening ordeal with a brain tumor back in 2021, she’s back to full health and ready to perform again; she’s even played solo once or twice in recent months, but this will be the first chance anyone’s had to catch a set from the full lineup of Doll Baby since back before the pandemic. Their moody, heartland take on indie rock isn’t the kind of thing you encounter very often, and it’s both brilliant and all the better for its unusual sound. If you don’t know, this is a great chance to get familiar. Dark Waters is opening this one, and we’ve already established that they’re awesome, so don’t miss a minute of this banger.
Wednesday, October 19, 7 PM
Twain, Henry Toland @ The Camel – $12 (order tickets HERE)
Not every show’s gotta be super-loud, you know? This mid-week performance at The Camel, for example. It’s headlined by Twain, the musical project of Mat Davidson, who once lived in Virginia but now makes his home in Austin, Texas. Noon, his brand new album, actually won’t even be out until Friday, but chances are if you show up at the show tonight, you’re going to get a strong dose of it in the form of Davidson’s set. This is his first double LP ever, and the 12 songs collected on it stretch out softly and smoothly, letting their mellow sound breathe as Davidson engages in lyrical explorations of the space between our spiritual desires for ourselves, and the difficult realities of our day to day.
I have a feeling anyone currently alive in 2022 will relate to the difficult feeling that comes from attempting to balance these two poles. What’s more, the fingerpicked acoustic guitars and high lonesome voice Davidson brings to all of these tunes is exactly what all of us need when we contemplate all of these difficulties. Twain will be joined on this date by Florida singer-songwriter Henry Toland, whose quiet take on indie-folk is equally reminiscent of Nick Drake at his most stripped-down moments and the earliest works of Iron And Wine. Anyone who can appreciate these points of reference will be sure to appreciate both of these acts and their subtle charms. Plus, it’ll be nice to leave the earplugs in the case for once.
Thursday, October 20, 7 PM
Carlos Truly, Adi GuerrerX, Jia @ Gallery 5 – $12 in advance, $15 day of show (order tickets HERE)
Are you into Ava Luna? I am! This Brooklyn band first came to my attention when they played Gallery 5’s tenth anniversary party back in 2015, right after they released their fourth album, Infinite House. (Can you believe I was writing this column even back then? I can’t either.) Ava Luna’s sound is a solid mix of electro-synth bounce and pure old-school funk, and on his first solo album under the name Carlos Truly, Ava Luna frontman Carlos Hernandez brings much the same feel. However, without a full backing band for his recently released solo debut, Not Mine, Carlos Truly keeps things much more minimal than Ava Luna traditionally did, constructing equally danceable tracks with a great deal more space in their arrangements. The increased atmospherics of this material if anything heighten the danceably hypnotic feel of what Hernandez/Truly is doing, and should definitely light Gallery 5 up when the minimalist synth-funk sound fills up a big room at full volume.
Carlos Truly isn’t the only reason you should come out to this show, though. Adi GuerrerX is also on the bill, and this Richmond-based solo performer is more than worth your time on their own behalf. With tracks like recent single “Queer Sci-Fi Fantasy” and the Benet collaboration “If Yu Like,” GuerrerX creates a darkly entrancing ambience that finds them straddling the line between low-light dancefloor bangers and transcendent ambient pop. GuerrerX apparently has two different albums in the works right now, so one would think that the singles that have dropped over the past couple of years are just a taste. Nonetheless, they’re very intriguing, and certainly whet the listener’s appetite for a full set. Luckily, that won’t be hard to come by. Classically trained soul-jazz-pop singer Jia opens things up on this fine Thursday evening. You don’t wanna be anywhere else.
Friday, October 21, 8 PM
Strawberry Moon, Destructo Disk, Ty Sorrell @ Cobra Cabana – $5
It’s good to see a whole bunch of Richmond indie bands starting to kick things up a notch as we exit the quarantine era and start trying to live in a post-COVID world. Strawberry Moon isn’t the only band doing this right now, but they are certainly one of the standouts. This year has seen them release a couple of excellent singles letting everyone know how far they’ve come since their 2018 EP, Dust Bath. From the powerful rock sound of “Control” to the poppier, more subdued “You, Me, and Mystery,” the previews they’ve given us of the forthcoming Habitual Creatures LP have definitely presented intriguing hints of what’s to come when the full-length finally drops.
Luckily for us, the wait is almost over! This Friday, Strawberry Moon will not only release Habitual Creatures into the world but commemorate that release with a celebratory live music event at the one and only Cobra Cabana. If you’ve been dying to hear the rest of the songs Strawberry Moon have in store for us on their new record, this is your chance! If you really just want a chance to rock out to “Control” being played loud and proud in front of your very eyes, this is also a great opportunity. What’s more, the event will also feature sets from energetic skate punks Destructo Disk and smooth-flowing rapper Ty Sorrell. Show up early and get yourself a Snake Plissken burger while you’re in the spot — you won’t regret it.
Saturday, October 22, 7:30 PM
Mackenzie Roark, Holy Roller, Tess Fisher @ Get Tight Lounge – $12 (order tickets HERE)
Speaking of fresh new albums from up-and-coming Richmond musicians in the process of taking things to the next level, here’s another one — in a completely different genre. Mackenzie Roark’s a singer-songwriter with a strong talent for straight-up country in a style that’s both traditional (in a way 2020’s Nashville totally isn’t) and modern (again, in a manner today’s Nashville isn’t). Roark’s proven her bona fides around town over the past few years — both with the Devil’s Coattails, in which she is one of two main vocalists, and with regular solo gigs letting everyone know just how good the songs she’s been writing over the past few years really are.
Personally, I’ve been really excited for the release of Rollin’ High, Feelin’ Low — which made it into the world earlier this month courtesy of local label Vocal Rest Records — since advance singles from the album started trickling out a few months ago. Any record that can go from the rollicking rebel anthem of “Highway I’ve Been On” (in which Roark declares, “I took a bus back to the city, all I had was seven-fitty, but it was just enough to get a steady good buzz on”) to the flawed declaration of love that is “Sweet Thing” (“I used to call you sweet thing — now I only call you when I’m sad,” Roark declares on the chorus, and who doesn’t know THAT feel?) within the first two songs is winning me over in a big way. I’m not sure if the whole city has caught on to Mackenzie Roark just yet, but this album is the perfect opportunity to figure out just how brilliant she is, and I think every one of you reading this should go to her record release show at Get Tight Lounge this Saturday night and experience Mackenzie Roark in all her glory. This is one artist who is ready for prime time.
Sunday, October 23, 7 PM
Melt-Banana, Ed Schrader’s Music Beat, Psychic Graveyard @ The Camel – $15 in advance. $20 day of show (order tickets HERE)
It feels like it’s only been a few years since I last saw Melt-Banana here in Richmond, but once I started counting back, I had the unfortunate realization that it’s been over a decade. No surprise, really — the last Melt-Banana album of new material was 2013’s Fetch, on which the Japanese noise/grind/punk ensemble had stripped down to a two-piece. This is their current configuration almost a decade later as well, and from videos that have leaked out on sites like YouTube in recent months, it appears that, rather than recruit new members, vocalist Yasuko Onuki and guitarist Ichiro Agata are on tour with just their amps and a drum machine. It’ll be a new frontier for the live sound Melt-Banana creates, but considering what a great job Melt-Banana have done of maintaining their frantic, speedy, unpredictable, and always catchy noise punk sound over the course of their 30-year career, I have absolute confidence in them maintaining their strong track record and blowing us all away, even if there are only two of them onstage.
Ed Schrader’s Music Beat is just as much of an underground mainstay as Melt-Banana, but they’re from a lot closer to home — Baltimore, rather than Tokyo — and have made it down 95 to play Richmond quite a few times over the years. They’ve proven their bona fides in these performances as well, as the unforgettable duo, featuring the titular Ed Schrader singing and playing drums while Devlin Rice plays bass, have shown that you can create amazing sounds with small lineups. Proof has once again been delivered on their latest album, Nightclub Daydreaming, in which the duo augment their harsh postpunk sound with a strong dose of jazzy melody that feels almost like Elvis Costello at some moments, while veering closer to Ian Curtis at others. All of it’s great, though, and Ed Schrader’s Music Beat will undoubtedly be just as great live from the Camel’s stage this Sunday night. Even the opener on this bill, Psychic Graveyard, have a lot to offer; featuring members of Arab On Radar, Chinese Stars, Some Girls, and more, this quartet will bring the dark, gothic noise rock you’ve come to expect from folks in this general corner of the underground. And it’s gonna rule. So will this whole show, come to think of it. Not that you’d expect any less.
Monday, October 24, 9 PM
Ritualz, Predation @ Fallout – $8 in advance, $12 at the door (order tickets HERE)
OK, now this is exciting. At least for me. I feel like everyone’s forgotten all about it now, but back a decade or so ago there was a big buzz in the electronic music world around “witch house,” a mysterious sound created by mostly anonymous musicians who used tough-to-decipher names for their projects (oOoOO, or †††, for example) and made spooky, occult-tinged electronic music that mixed bits of goth, industrial, hip hop, and UK garage into strange, hypnotic musical melanges. One artist who caught my attention at the time went by the strange moniker of †‡† and released fascinating early EPs like 2011’s Ghetto Ass Witch, long before anyone found out that the trio of unpronounceable glyphs was actually intended to signify the name Ritualz.
Once we found that out, and learned that this was the production moniker of Mexican musician JC Lobo, a lot of the mystery went away from what Ritualz were doing. But unlike some of the other buzzed-about “witch house” practitioners, Ritualz remained relevant, because the music they were making was legitimately intriguing, regardless of how many layers of mystery it was hidden behind. Particularly intriguing was Ritualz’ 2020 release Haxan, a full-length soundtrack for the classic silent film of the same name, recorded live and featuring synths, effects pedals, and sequencers working together to create a deep atmosphere of foreboding. Having been sidelined by the pandemic (as we all were for a while there), Ritualz has returned in 2022 with a new album called Radical Macabro, on which he investigates the more danceable end of the spooky goth spectrum and creates a scary yet fun sound that’s sure to work perfectly on the darkened dancefloor at Fallout this Monday night. Come out and find out why anyone with real taste ever cared about “witch house” in the first place — and why, years after that buzzy phrase passed its expiration date, Ritualz remains entirely relevant.
Tuesday, October 25, 6 PM
Lightweight, NC17, 40 Reps @ Garden Grove Brewing – Free!
We started this week talking about a Richmond band who came back together after a long time away in order to play the Fest next weekend in Gainesville, Florida. Now let’s talk about another band, who don’t hail from Virginia, who are also headed that way, and who are stopping off right here in RVA to bring us all a free show and lighten up our Tuesday night. I am speaking, of course, about Lightweight, the Sacramento-based quartet who released a killer LP called Spirits Down, full of catchy, fun pop-punk tuneage, a year before the pandemic hit. Fortunately, the quarantine era didn’t wipe these guys out, and they’ve returned to full-time action with two EPs so far in 2022. Both show off a more introspective approach, but without losing track of the energetic attack they always had, or the snarky wit they’ve traditionally displayed (see song titles like “Bummers, Drive-Ins, and Vibes” and “Whiskey Is Not A Jacket”).
So yeah, you can be sure that Lightweight will, contrary to their name, hit the Garden Grove stage hard Tuesday night, bringing a great sound and a ton of catchy tunes to us all. They’ll be joined by a couple of Richmond punk bands with a lot to offer in their own right. NC17 show off a strong melodic punk sensibility on their latest EP, Nasty Habits, which evokes the Ramones with its simultaneous embrace of girl-group harmonies and cranked-up three-chord anthems. They call themselves “bubblegum punk,” and I can absolutely see why. This set’s sure to be a blast. As for openers 40 Reps (more lifting than I could ever do in a single sitting, but that’s just me), I hear more of a strong rock sensibility here, especially in the vocals (though that might just be a Smoking Popes influence), but a strong grounding in punk rock melodies makes this band a pretty outstanding proposition as well. To sum up: three melodic punk bands bringing speedy, catchy tuneage to a free show on what is all too often a slow night in the live music scene. Honestly, how can you resist this one?
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]