Saturday, October 29, 7 PM
Spooky Cool, Deli Kings, Opin, Colpa Mia @ The Camel – $7 (order tickets HERE)
Halloween is only a few days away, and there can be no better time for spooky things. In this case, though, we’re not talking about scary monsters and creepy costumes — we’re talking about Spooky Cool, the Richmond-based indie group with, at most, a slight tendency toward mysteriousness. They’re gearing up to release a brand new album, Existential Pie, this week, and this show at The Camel on Saturday night will act as a record release party. Actual pie may or may not be involved, but the tunes are certainly going to be great, and that’s what we all really show up for, right?
While I’m in no position to give you a rundown on the full contents of Existential Pie, and in fact can’t even tell you whether there will be rhubarb in it (OK, sorry, that joke is terrible), I have heard a few of the songs Spooky Cool’s been dishing out one at a time over the past few months, and I gotta tell ya, if they’re any indication of the quality of the album as a whole, we’re in for a major treat that has a real possibility for making a lot of Richmond-centric top-10-of-the-year lists in a couple months. Mixing frontman Zac Hryciak’s long-established songwriting talents, the intriguing leads of axe-slinger Zavi Harman, and the secret weapon that is second vocalist Paula Lavalle, the four songs from Existential Pie that I’ve heard are the most delectable appetizer for what’s to come. If you ask me, “End Of Rage,” on which Paula takes lead vocals, might be the best thing Spooky Cool has done thus far — and if you know this band, you know that’s really saying something.
This show has more in store than just a celebratory set from Spooky Cool, though. Deli Kings are also on the bill, and these guys have been making waves around the city for a few years now, with their goodtime approach to toe-tapping garage-infused rock n’ roll. Recent singles “Simma” and “Foolin’ (In July)” are particularly memorable examples of their stock in trade: fun, catchy tuneage in abundance. Meanwhile, Richmond’s Opin is a band who don’t seem to poke their heads above water all that often. And yet, when they do grace us with their presence, they always have a lot to offer — specifically, a cool electro-indie sound that is often understated but retains a strong postpunk undercurrent, reminding us all that this band evolved out of the ashes of the excellent White Laces. Colpa Mia round out the bill with some charming melodies, as displayed on their recently released EP, Honey. Indeed, your ears might feel coated in honey by the end of this lovely evening of Richmond-based music. Only in the best possible, least sticky way, of course.
Wednesday, October 26, 6 PM
Leyla McCalla @ Gallery 5 – Free! (Pre-register HERE)
OK so, first and foremost, I should mention that this event is not a live music performance in a conventional sense. Instead, it’s a free music workshop, presented by the University of Richmond and featuring Haitian-American musician Leyla McCalla. I’m not sure how much of it will consist of performed music, and what else might go on over the two hours during which this workshop takes place. Nonetheless, in my humble opinion, it is the most interesting music-related live event taking place in Richmond tonight, and I think you should all go along and check it out. You’re sure to learn a lot from it.
Leyla McCalla, who will lead this workshop, is a musician who plays cello, banjo, and guitar, as well as singing. She was in the legendary old-time string band Carolina Chocolate Drops for a while, but left about a decade ago to focus on her solo career. Since then, she’s released one album with the collaborative folk group Our Native Daughters, and four solo albums. Her most recent is Breaking The Thermometer, an album made in collaboration with Duke University and based around the history of Radio Haiti. Radio Haiti was an independent radio station that challenged corrupt powers that be in Haiti, and gave the Creole peoples of Haiti much-needed media representation in a country dominated by French-speaking powers that be, and the album is laced with archival recordings of the station, courtesy of Duke University’s Radio Haiti archives. This sort of powerful artistic creation, which is not only a haunting, beautiful listen but one that seeks to reveal hidden history and shine a light on an oppressed people and their fight for freedom, shows what McCalla has to offer as a musician and activist. It’s exactly the sort of thing that points out why a workshop led by McCalla has a lot to teach us all. Even more than the possibility of hearing some of her excellent music, this is the reason you should show up at Gallery 5 tonight. Don’t miss it.
Thursday, October 27, 6 PM
Marilyn, CAS, Martial’s Law, Pinot @ Richmond Music Hall at Capital Ale House – $10 in advance, $13 day of show (order tickets HERE)
For obvious reasons, I enjoy it whenever I see the name Marilyn at the top of a cool new project. But this Thursday night show is not about me. Nor is it about the Boy George-affiliated drag performer who had a few UK hits in the 80s under the name Marilyn (and dated Gavin Rossdale back before Gwen, apparently). It’s not even about the legendary Marilyn Monroe! This show is all about Marilyn Pham, who has written a couple of articles for RVA Mag in the past but more importantly makes music under her first name: Marilyn. She’s got a new LP out, Luxury, and she’s celebrating its release this Thursday night with a huge musical party at Richmond Music Hall. You really should make sure you’re there.
Like a lot of younger musicians who grew up in the streaming era, Marilyn doesn’t really distinguish between different subgenres of the pop music world on her debut LP, mixing moody, R&B-inflected ballads, indie-soul slow burners, and even an outright rocker, “Sugar,” on which she collaborates with young power trio Carol Crumbs. If Luxury’s any indication, Marilyn is equally skilled at any pop music format she chooses to turn her attention to, and hearing her sound like Lady Gaga one minute and Olivia Rodrigo the next certainly makes for an engaging listen. She’ll bring all of that to the stage for her set this Thursday night, and with occasional collaborator Pinot also appearing on the bill, chances are we’ll see her engage in some live collabs during this set as well. You won’t know unless you show up, though — so I recommend you do just that.
Friday, October 28, 7 PM
Michael Hawkins & the Brotherhood @ Gallery 5 – Free!
This Friday night is jazz night at Gallery 5, and as a jazz fan who never quite sees enough jazz going on around this city, I’m always glad to see a new space for jazz opening up in the city on a regular basis. This Friday night, bassist Michael Hawkins and his quartet, the Brotherhood, will be bringing their excellent sound to Gallery 5 and enlivening our entire weekends with their intense bop stylings. Having completed a self-titled debut album recently, for which those in the know are eagerly waiting, the quartet of Michael Hawkins (bass), W. Weldon Hill (piano), James “Saxsmo” Gates (saxophone), and Billy Williams (drums) are set to keep Gallery 5 humming all night.
Michael Hawkins isn’t just some random local jazz player, though — he has quite an impressive resume, having worked with nationally respected players like Cyrus Chestnut as well as local heroes like Victor Haskins. They tell me he’s also a big go-go fan with a strong knowledge of the genre. However, I don’t hear as much of that in his music — more indicative is the fact that he’s done an entire project in which he plays tunes from John Coltrane’s catalog. If you’re as much a fan of Coltrane as I am, you know the man has good taste. He and all of his fellow players are extremely talented as well, so if jazz is your thing, you’re certainly going to want to come check this set out. It’ll get your weekend started on just the right note.
Saturday, October 29, 7 PM
Richmond Symphony Plays the Music of Danny Elfman from the films of Tim Burton @ Altria Theater – $68 (order tickets HERE)
Halloween weekend is well known for providing punk and metal fans the opportunity to see local bands play sets in the guise of all their favorite bands from years past. But how often do you see classical musicians getting into the act? It’s not quite the same thing, but this Halloween will nonetheless bring an absolute treat for fans of spooky films and spine-tingling scores, as the Richmond Symphony tackles a wide-ranging program of tunes composed by Danny Elfman for the films of Tim Burton. Elfman was originally known as the leader of theatrical 80s New Wave troupe Oingo Boingo, but gained solo fame later in the 80s as a prolific composer of film scores. He got his first opportunity in this arena when director Tim Burton asked him to score Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure in 1985, and when that collaboration was a success, Elfman became Burton’s go-to guy to add music to his films.
At this point, Danny Elfman and Tim Burton have worked together on over a dozen films, and the Richmond Symphony’s performance on Saturday night will incorporate music from a variety of them — everything from Batman to Beetlejuice and from Edward Scissorhands to The Nightmare Before Christmas. All of it’s going to get rolled out as part of a multi-hour program the Richmond Symphony will present, performing Elfman’s scores live as scenes from the movies in question are shown on the big screen up above. The Altria has always been an amazing theater in which to see any sort of musical spectacle, and bringing film — especially Burton’s many Halloween-appropriate films — to its old-school ambience is sure to enliven everyone’s holiday weekend. It’s not a cheap ticket by any means, but really awesome things are worth shelling out for. If you have the scratch, make your Halloween weekend one to remember, and head over to the Altria Theater to see the Richmond Symphony put its own spin on the classic goth-holiday tribute show.
Sunday, October 30, 6 PM
GWAR, Nekrogoblikon, Crobot @ The National – $27 (order tickets HERE)
OK, let’s cut all the other foolishness and get down to brass tacks. What better way could there be for you to wrap up your Halloween weekend than with a blood-soaked slaughterfest courtesy of GWAR? Richmond’s longest-running musical institution has survived all sorts of slings and arrows over the past three decades-plus, and they remain bloody but unbowed. Very bloody, in fact, as you will be if you make your way to The National this Sunday night to catch GWAR live and uncut — as has always been the best way to experience our mighty guitar-slinging alien warlords.
After five years without a new album, GWAR released a new full-length this summer, and The New Dark Ages shows that, even after 35 years, GWAR remains as irreverently excellent as ever. Their music has once again evolved; Blothar The Beserker’s vocals definitely have more of a wailing thrash-metal approach than Oderus’s angry bark ever communicated, and the band has risen to the occasion by giving us an album full of metal epics that get downright triumphant at times. Songs like “Mother Fucking Liar” show that they’re still not pulling any punches, and the callouts of the Catholic Church and QAnon idiots on “Blood Libel” prove that there’s still no topic too controversial for GWAR to take on. But let’s talk about what really matters to this band and their many rabid fans: the blood, guts, and gore that make up the most memorable aspect of every GWAR show. The riffs and tunes remain as great as they ever were, but no GWAR show will be complete without a gushing rain of multi-colored blood splattering down on us all and soaking our fright wigs and Halloween costumes. Don’t worry, GWAR’s not gonna leave you hanging — there’ll be blood, and plenty of it, at The National this Sunday night. Don’t be scared — bathe in it. Let it baptize you into the cult of GWAR. Once you’re in, you’ll be down for life.
Monday, October 31, 6 PM
Shadow Of Intent, Enterprise Earth, Inferi, Wormhole, Deathless @ The Canal Club – $18.50 in advance, $22 day of show (order tickets HERE)
This year Halloween does NOT fall on a weekend, so no Geto Boys references for me. And you might worry that this would also mean no cool Halloween night live music for you — after all, if there’s one thing that holds true, especially in the post-pandemic era, it’s that quality live music at the beginning of the week is hard to find. There’s no reason for panic this holiday Monday, though, loyal readers — fortunately for us all, Connecticut metal ragers Shadow Of Intent are coming to town for a Halloween night extravaganza that promises plentiful opportunity for All Hallow’s Eve headbanging.
Shadow Of Intent are a veteran metal group who mix the rumbling low end and crushing breakdowns of deathcore with the keyboard atmospheres and orchestral flourishes of the most epic symphonic black metal. If you’ve ever thought about the idea that Suicide Silence might be even better if they had a bigger influence from Cradle Of Filth, you really should be listening to Shadow Of Intent. Their latest LP, Elegy, manages to both be heavy and brutal as fuck, and full of melodies that add depth to the powerful breakdowns without ever compromising the sheer power of the music. Shadow Of Intent have major nerdery in their background — they were originally a Halo-themed band, believe it or not — so these guys are sure to know how to get in the Halloween spirit, even as they are steamrolling you flat with unceasing deathcore intensity. Getting crushed by Shadow Of Intent is the perfect way to spend your October 31. Don’t miss out.
Tuesday, November 1, 7 PM
Matt Heckler, Woody Woodworth @ The Camel – $15 (order tickets HERE)
What a difference a day makes! All of October can feel at times like it’s building up to Halloween, but then the sun rises over the city on November 1, and as you step over smashed-up pumpkins, you can’t deny that a new time of year has become. This is the time for leaves falling from the trees, for chill invading the air, for the sun setting earlier and the year turning toward its inevitable end. Long ago, before electric light, internal combustion, and the aquarium glow of our televisions and cell phones ruled our lives, these sorts of changes had a much greater effect on our day to day lives. And while musician Matt Heckler may live in the modern world just like the rest of us, he remains in closer touch with the music of those days, playing acoustic instruments and singing songs that connect those of us living in the alienated post-modern 21st century world with the roots of our modern civilization.
Heckler’s latest release is This Town Is Killin’ Me, and while that title sentiment is universal in all eras, the first song on the album is “Antietam 1862,” the lament of a Virginia soldier who attempts to desert the Confederate Army. Heckler accompanies his strong, melancholy vocals with banjo, violin, and other traditional instruments, and his music evokes the songs of working communities all over the world. Of course, there’s a strong dose of Appalachia in his sound — as you’d expect from a son of the Carolinas — but there are also elements drawn from old Irish ballads, Eastern European folk tunes, and a variety of other folk music cultures. The result is gripping and memorable, and will be powerful enough to mesmerize a bar full of people, even on a Tuesday night. You can find this out for yourself by going to see Matt Heckler this Tuesday night at the Camel. And listen, you really should. This man is the real deal.
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]