Saturday, September 24, 8 PM
Steve Hackman’s Brahms V. Radiohead @ Dominion Energy Center For The Performing Arts – $15-$85 (order tickets HERE)
The host of one of the music podcasts I listen to swears he’ll get into jazz when he retires. My dad always used to talk about starting to play golf when he turned 50 (he’ll be 80 in six weeks, and never did buy a set of clubs, but still). As for me, I spent my late 20s immersing myself in jazz, and listened to almost nothing but mainstream pop for a four-year period in my mid-30s. The one musical genre I’m still both curious and uninformed about is classical music. I saw a few field-trip concerts at the Altria Theater as a kid (when it was still the Mosque — I was a kid a long damn time ago), and have enjoyed stuff like Mussourgsky’s “Night On Bald Mountain” and Beethoven’s ninth symphony when I’ve heard it. But in all reality, I know pretty much nothing.
Now, Radiohead — I know a lot about them. I got into them right when “Creep” came out. I was 17 and vibed uncomfortably well with a hit single containing the line “You’re so fucking special — I wish I were special.” Despite what revisionists will tell you today, Pablo Honey was great. The Bends was even better. And for me, OK Computer was the peak of their powers. I’ve liked most of what Radiohead have done since, but it’s felt headier, more like an intellectual exercise. The last Radiohead album that hit me right in the feels was OK Computer. I still know it like the back of my hand.
I do not know Brahms’ First Symphony. Probably haven’t ever heard it in unaltered form (though I can’t rule out those childhood field trips — like I said, it was a long time ago). But I do know it’s the Brahms symphony that conductor Steve Hackman has merged into Radiohead’s OK Computer album for his latest long-form classical/modern interpolation, Brahms V. Radiohead. The resulting work is over an hour long, and finds a massive symphony orchestra, with Hackman conducting, shifting and merging movements from the Brahms symphony with songs from the Radiohead album. Vocalists Andrew Lipke, Will Post, and Kerén Tayár (that’s them in the photo with Hackman up top) recreate Thom Yorke’s vocals, and the orchestra does things like move organically from the introduction of Brahms’ first movement seamlessly into “Paranoid Android,” followed by “Climbing Up The Walls,” and shifting directly into the first movement recapitulation, which then suddenly becomes “Karma Police.” It’s a breathtaking listening experience, and whether you’re a longtime Radiohead fan, someone who loves to see modern twists on classical music from centuries past, or just an overwhelmingly curious musical omnivore, this is really something that you should experience. Maybe it’ll even help me finally get into classical music. Stranger things have happened.
Wednesday, September 21, 6:30 PM
Mike Campbell & The Dirty Knobs, Alvin Youngblood Hart @ The National – $32 (order tickets HERE)
If you recognize the name of the guy leading the headlining band on this bill, I’m gonna guess that you’re a pretty big Tom Petty fan. For the rest of you, let me end any confusion right now by saying that Mike Campbell was Petty’s longtime lead guitarist, not just in the Heartbreakers but in Petty’s pre-fame band, Mudcrutch, and on Petty’s few solo outings. And of course, a guy doesn’t escape a four-decade-plus association with a creative genius like Petty without a good bit of that genius rubbing off on him. You can hear that when you check out Mike Campbell & The Dirty Knobs, a band with the same sort of rollicking, no-frills rock n’ roll sensibility that underpins Tom Petty’s best work.
That said, there is a bit of daylight between the work Campbell did with Petty and the sound of The Dirty Knobs, a band Campbell’s actually been leading since 2010. It’s a bit rawer and rougher than Petty’s most famous stuff, bearing a much closer resemblance to the first few Heartbreakers albums than any of the more polished 80s and 90s hits. It’s also got a strong folk and country vein running through it, giving it a true down-home feel. But let’s be real — if you love and miss Tom Petty, you’re hardly going to be thrown off by any moment of External Combustion, the recently released second LP by Mike Campbell & The Dirty Knobs. Material from that one, and their 2020 debut, Wreckless Abandon, is sure to dominate the set list for the evening. If what you really want to hear is Tom Petty songs you already know, you should probably wait for the next Full Moon Fever gig. But if what you really miss is the constant flow of excellent new music from the Petty camp, Campbell and co. have picked up that torch and are carrying it better than anyone else on today’s rock scene. Petty fans, go see this show — you won’t be sorry.
Thursday, September 22, 6 PM
Four Year Strong, Microwave, Save Face, Flight Club @ The Canal Club – $25 (order tickets HERE)
Back in 2010, I spent a lot of time on tumblr. The bookstore where I’d worked for 10 years had gone out of business the previous fall, RVA Mag hadn’t hired me yet, and I was working crappy part-time jobs and making ends meet with partial unemployment payouts. I had a lot of time on my hands, and I spent most of it listening to Lady Gaga and 2NE1 while I did daily deep dives into the many obscure corners of early social media. It was this era that taught me everything I know about K-pop, introduced me to the wider world of music criticism, and uh… probably played a huge role in me figuring out I was trans, but that’s another story. Anyway, another thing it brought to my attention was a microgenre known as easycore. A fruitful if short-lived moment in the world of underground punk, easycore was what happened when bands like Fall Out Boy and Taking Back Sunday helped the worlds of pop-punk and melodic hardcore become aware of one another, and start mixing together. The result was a coterie of energetic young bands who mixed pop-punk song structures and emo melodies with chugging breakdowns and shouting gang-vocal singalongs. A lot of bands I loved, including Set Your Goals, Fireworks, Broadway, and The Wonder Years, came out of that era. But for my money, the best band of the entire easycore era was Four Year Strong.
Enemy Of The World was the album Four Year Strong put out at the height of that era, full of chunky guitars, melodic choruses, and driving anthems you absolutely could not sit still for. They’ve released several albums since then, some better than others, but Enemy Of The World still probably stands as the peak of their career, and is certainly the one that had the biggest impact on the world at large. The fact that they’re coming to Richmond’s Canal Club this Thursday night on a tour celebrating that landmark LP, during which they’ll play the album in their entirety, means this is the perfect occasion to see Four Year Strong — whether you’re a newcomer just curious to see how good easycore could be, or, like me, a seasoned fan who wants to relive the career peak of a band that had a huge impact on you. I’ll admit, it does feel a little weird to see a nostalgic celebration for an album that came out when I was 34, but this is just reality — we all get old. And grey streaks in your hair or beard are no reason you can’t still dance your ass off to a band and album that helped get you here in the first place. I, for one, can’t wait.
Friday, September 23, 9 PM
Gel, Torment, Richmond Vampire, Armagideon Time @ The Camel – $10 (order tickets HERE)
Gel is coming to town this Friday night, and every hardcore kid in Richmond is stoked. The New Jersey-based hardcore quintet have made a ton of waves since they released their first EP back in 2019. Their speedy tempos, short sharp song structures, furious vocals drenched in reverb, and blown-out guitar sound bring hardcore back to its raw punk roots, while still retaining plenty of the sort of pit-starting toughness that makes hardcore what it is — angry music for expressing difficult, violent emotion. There’s a lot of that sort of thing in Gel’s sound, which is probably why this band has connected with people from all sides of the extended punk spectrum; I even heard Against Me’s Laura Jane Grace praise their 2021 EP, Violent Closure, on a podcast not too long ago.
So yeah, if you’re into hardcore, punk, or heavy music in general, Gel’s sure to have something that’ll make you happy. And with a propensity for records that last less than 10 minutes and live sets that only last a few minutes more than that, they’re probably gonna leave you wanting more. Fortunately for you, there’s an excellent slate of local support on this bill to fulfill your need for hardcore action. Torment veer back and forth on their self-titled 2019 EP between crushing heaviness and frantic speed, but the common thread throughout is rage. Richmond Vampire are old-school hardcore at its rawest, most primitive, and most vicious. Protect your neck when they’re on stage. And of course, the metallic brutality of Armagideon Time is well established. Show up on time, and stay until the last note’s been played — every second of this show will rule.
Saturday, September 24, 9 PM
Pedals On Our Pirate Ships, Dark Waters, Riot Queen @ Wonderland – $10
It’s kind of a cliche that punk bands don’t last that long. For that reason, it’s always nice to see a band still around that you could have gone to see at a local show fifteen years ago just as easily as you can see them today. For the young kids, Pedals On Our Pirate Ships is a window into the past — a time when bike punks and pretending we were pirates was all the rage, as you can see from their name. It was also a time when acoustic folk-punk was really big, and you can hear that sound on Pedals’ earlier recordings. Now, though, they’ve got a much more straightforward electric punk sound than they did back in the late 00s, when they practiced in my basement in Scott’s Addition (back before anyone had ever heard of that neighborhood). One thing that has stayed consistent with Pedals, though, is bandleader Matt Seymour’s ability to write catchy punk tunes with sardonic lyrics about the vagaries of the human condition. Get Stoked, a brief but highly enjoyable EP released last year, shows that after 15 years of evolution, Pedals are still an excellent punk band that people should absolutely be listening to. That’s a hell of an achievement.
Dark Waters are joining them on this trip down to Shockoe Bottom, and I haven’t really heard anyone besides me talking about this band yet, which if you ask me is a goddamn crime. Their 2021 EP, Dreams In Bottle Rockets, is one of those records that I’m pissed I didn’t discover until it had been out for a few months, because I missed my chance to put it on my 2021 records of the year. This quartet’s ability to shift on a dime from raging metallic hardcore to heavy yet melodic choruses full of powerful emotion keeps me coming back to this EP over and over lately. And the only thing better than playing this record five times in a row is getting to see them play these songs live. Don’t miss out on that opportunity. Get to the show on time, too, because the Motorhead-ish biker-metal-punk stylings of Riot Queen are what you’ll get for openers. And that’s certainly going to be a great way to kick off this excellent evening.
Sunday, September 25, 7 PM
Bitch, Katie Cash, (Eli)zabeth Owens @ Richmond Music Hall at Capital Ale House – $15 (order tickets HERE)
If you’re a metal kid of a certain vintage, you might just look at the name of the headliner on this Sunday night Richmond Music Hall bill and think Richmond’s getting a performance by the notorious early 80s Metal Blade artist. However, that’s not the case, and I’ll go ahead and tell you that, as much as I love those early Metal Massacre comps, I’m glad it’s not THAT Bitch coming to Richmond. Because the musician known as Bitch, who first gained fame as half of the late-90s queercore duo Bitch And Animal, has something way more interesting and unusual to offer us. To be specific, I’m referring to Bitchcraft, a sharp, cerebral pop album released earlier this year by the legendary Kill Rock Stars label.
A classically trained violinist, Bitch decided to return to her first instrument when composing the songs on her latest album, her first in at least a decade and her first for Kill Rock Stars since 2006’s Make This Break This. She first began coming up with the songs during a long retreat to a cabin in the woods. Then she moved to LA and met up with producers Annie Preven and God-Des, who helped her come up with the finished product. The resulting album is certainly pop music, but not the kind of thing you’d ever hear on the radio. It’s got moments of high emotion that seem to pull at least slightly from country ballads, but at other times, its highwire indie experimentation feels closer to Florence And The Machine’s stock in trade. One thing’s for sure: Bitch’s performance at Richmond Music Hall this Sunday night will move through a variety of moods, both musical and emotional. All of it will be evocative, fascinating, and unlike anything else you’re going to hear this year. Make sure you’re there for it.
Monday, September 26, 7:30 PM
Tha Retail Simps, Shawnis & The Shimmers, Ett Eko @ Get Tight Lounge – $10
It’s hard to believe that the earliest days of punk rock are half a century in the past by now. And yet, it’s true — The Sonics’ earliest singles came out in 1965. The MC5 were over by 1973. And Rocket From The Tombs broke up before The Sex Pistols even got together. Nonetheless, that early North American brand of punk rock still survives in some circles, in which people find value in combining the atonal artistic experimentations of the Velvet Underground and the hectic blasts of the mid-60s free jazz movement with the wildest moments of early rock n’ roll and the primitive glory of the garage rock explosion. Tha Retail Simps can trace their roots to those exact influences, and the maniacal sound they produce when they unleash those elements onto the world of 2022 constitutes a rare treat.
Made up of Canadian musicians who hail from a variety of underground ensembles even I mostly haven’t heard of, Tha Retail Simps let loose with some prime 1974-style punk earlier this year on their debut LP (from Total Punk Records, natch), Reverberant Scratch: Nine Shots In The Dark. Incorporating blaring 60s-style Farfisa organs, skronking sax straight off side two of Fun House, and swinging song structures that owe more to gritty Southern soul than you might expect, Tha Retail Simps cranked out a work of primitive genius. You can expect to see that same sort of brilliance unleashed onstage at the Get Tight Lounge (a half-century throwback of a venue name if I’ve ever heard one) this Monday night. With able assistance from Shawnis & The Shimmers, the best old-school garage punk band this city has to offer these days, as well as a set from postpunk newcomers Ett Eko, this is sure to be an evening full of awesomeness, one that might even make you feel like you’re seeing the Electric Eels in 1976. Get with it.
Tuesday, September 27, 8 PM
Pink Turns Blue, True Body @ The Camel – $15 in advance, $18 day of show (order tickets HERE)
Goth royalty is among us this Tuesday night. Pink Turns Blue, who got their start in Cologne, Germany back in the 80s, when it was still part of the western half of that then-partitioned country. While Pink Turns Blue were informed by the first waves of punk and hardcore from the US and UK, their synth-focused sound put them squarely into the first clutch of bands that evolved into the darkwave genre. Their moody, downcast sound is showcased to magnificent effect on their debut album, 1987’s If Two Worlds Kiss, which manages to replicate Joy Division’s memorable combo of punk energy and bleak mood, even as it points forward in the direction of groups like Dead Can Dance or This Mortal Coil.
Pink Turns Blue came to an end in the mid-90s, but reformed a decade later, and have been releasing albums that carry forward their classic aesthetic ever since, most recently on last year’s Tainted. What’s probably brought them the most attention over the past few years, though, is the 2019 reissue by Dais Records of their first two LPs, If Two Worlds Kiss and Meta. It’s these two classic LPs that established the band’s reputation, and they’ll no doubt be showcased significantly when they perform at The Camel on Tuesday night. Virginia’s own True Body will provide a delicious dose of their own gothic postpunk sound to get the evening started, and then we’ll all immerse ourselves in the dark delightful world of Pink Turns Blue. Get ready.
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]a.com