It might be the holidays, but there’s still plenty of great live music this week – check out the list below:
Sunday, January 1, 8 PM
The Big Payback @ The Camel – $10 in advance/$12 day of show (order tickets HERE)
OK, so I get that the big party night is New Years Eve, not New Years Day. People are just so fascinated by the moment when years change–and it sure does make a great excuse for getting drunk and kissing random hot strangers, right? There’s plenty to do on the night of December 31, for sure; see later in the column for my recommendation. But there’s also something really essential about starting off your new year in the proper fashion. Those who really wish to do so in Richmond this year should really make their way down to The Camel and catch The Big Payback on the night of January 1.
Oh, I know–you’re already planning your hangover for that day. But you’ll have 20 hours inbetween the big countdown and the start time for this show. That’s time enough to sleep til noon, eat a big greasy breakfast while watching a parade on television, take a whole bunch of aspirin and a long shower, and still get dressed up in your finest threads and hit The Camel before The Big Payback take the stage. So really, I don’t want to hear any excuses!
Musically, there isn’t some wide variety on this bill–just an evening of champagne and soul from a hellaciously good James Brown tribute band. But what a band it is! With frontman Kelli Strawbridge leading the charge and summoning the Godfather Of Soul with every howl, split, and twirl, this crew of 8 or so musicians will make you feel like you’re back at the Apollo in 1972. You will have no excuse not to get funky. And of course, a Big Payback set is always the perfect inspiration to strut your stuff on the dance floor. I’m sure there are people out there who can stand still while watching a brilliant band deliver a smoking hot version of “Sex Machine” before their very eyes, but between you and me, I’m suspicious that those people have no soul. I know you’ve got soul–otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this. So start 2017 off right with The Big Payback at The Camel. Going back to work sore from dancing beats the hell out of staggering in with a hangover any day.
Wednesday, December 28, 8 PM
Lore, Extant Deth, Oozing Meat, Half Decent @ Strange Matter – $5
Last week I told you all about how Strange Matter, rather than take most of the end of December off, chose to do a service for the RVA scene and create a multi-day showcase of brand new heavy acts from this city and put them all on for you for $5 a night. The Strange Matter Locals Only showcase nights are truly a thing of beauty, but there had been nearly two dozen of them before that pre-Christmas multi-day Locals Only throwdown, and there will continue to be more in the days to come. This is just the first of many. But I don’t want my saying so to minimize how incredible this show will be! Boy is this yet another stacked bill full of outstanding local heaviness! I can’t wait!
Lore is the first and foremost band you need to know about. Their ripping black metal nastiness locks into the best aspects of the genre, with zero bullshit diluting their power. This trio is all about blast beats, tremolo picking, and gnarly screams–which is what I seek when I listen to black metal. Lore will put a smile on any headbanger’s face, that’s for sure. As for Extant Deth, this new trio formed from the ashes of Hash Cult is doing a great deal to distinguish themselves from what came before, writing powerful sludgy riffs and delivering them on Bass VI axes at incredibly high volume. Prepare to be bowled over. Oozing Meat brings together members of Fake Object and Suppression to create a noise/grind hybrid from electronic harshness and acoustic drums… plus a whole lotta screaming. CNP fans should definitely tune in–must be heard to be believed. Half Decent round out the bill with some eclectic yet powerful metal heaviness. The fact that you get a chance to dig deeper on all these awesome new acts from right here in Richmond makes this show’s admission price a total steal, so don’t blow it! Come out tonight and get ready to bang your head.
Thursday, December 29, 9 PM
Illiterate Light, The Wimps, Shagwuf, Wester Green @ The Camel – $5
Here’s another bill full of local and regional acts, and this one consists mainly of bands I’ve told you all about in the relatively recent past. But if I’m repeating myself here, there’s a good reason for that. I’m only telling you about bands you’ve heard about from me before because they are such a safe bet for an outstanding evening of rad music and awesome performances. Illiterate Light being your headliner certainly guarantees this. The Harrisonburg-based duo has been grabbing attention lately with their high-energy live performances, and recent EP Earthworm certainly showcases some powerful songwriting, excellent instrumental technique, and memorably strong vocal harmonies. This band is sure to bring a smile to your face, and you should definitely give them the opportunity to do so!
The other bands on this bill are just as likely to turn your random Thursday evening into one you’ll remember for a long time to come. The Wimps have a garage-informed power-pop sensibility that is generating a buzz around town–you owe it to yourself to come find out what the chatter is about. Meanwhile, Shagwuf, who also hail from the northwest quadrant of the state, brings together solo performers Sally Rose and Pete Stallings, along with a couple of talented friends, to bash out some glamorous yet grimy blues-rock stomp. These guys really get down with it live–it must be seen to be believed. And then you’ll wanna see it again. Don’t miss this opportunity. Wester Green rounds out the bill with some wistful, ambient pop music that is sure to make you feel some feels. It will be a glorious night. Make sure you’re part of it.
Friday, December 30, 9 PM
Malevich, Born Hollow, Ostraca, Samarra @ 25 Watt – $3-5 suggested donation
OK I know what you’re thinking. “Is this woman really trying to get me to go see one of her own band’s shows for the second time in less than a week?” You’re right, that is what I’m trying to get you to do–BUT! Trust me, it’s for your own good. For one thing, my band (Samarra) is on first, so you can just show up at 10 and miss our set completely if you really want to. But regardless of whether you catch us or not, you should definitely be in the house for every single other band on this bill. For one thing, the other local band playing this evening is the great and powerful Ostraca, about which I have been evangelizing for quite a while now. This loud, heavy trio will blow you away with their raging metallic hardcore. They will also chuckle at the fact that I still refuse to refer to them as screamo. But seriously, this band rips too hard to get saddled with such a silly genre name.
And y’all, for real, for serious, I am actually burying the lede on the most important reasons to catch this show–that being the two touring bands on this bill, both of whom come to us from the darkest parts of the American South with rage in their hearts and huge amps in the back of their van. Atlanta’s Malevich combines sludge and black metal with the sort of raw emotional thrash that often springs forth from central European countries–see the Throatruiner Records discography for more details. Meanwhile, as the state legislature engages in some sort of coup attempt, Born Hollow is taking a highly understandable vacation from their home state of North Carolina to bring us some nasty, powerful biker thrash. This band’s blend of raw angst and grimy hardcore is heavy enough to make the building implode, so one must hope that 25 Watt has kept up on their safety inspections. So yeah, as you can see, even if you hate my band, there are tons of reasons to bring you down to Shockoe Bottom this Friday night. Don’t miss out!
Saturday, December 31, 10 PM
Shackass Flats New Years Eve Party, feat. The Shack Band & Jackass Flats @ The Camel – $25 in advance/$30 day of show (order tickets HERE)
Listen, if your first move is to balk at the admission price of this event, believe me, I get it. I’m a broke-ass bb on my best weeks (and by the way, you can help out with that, just sayin), and I will probably just find a free New Years Eve dance party at which to ring in 2017. BUT! For all of you who have the scratch to get yourself into The Camel on the last night of the year, a huge treat awaits you, and you really shouldn’t miss out. The Shack Band and Jackass Flats have combined forces to throw one hell of a party, and not only will each band be playing a set of their own, they’ll be debuting a sort of musical Voltron incorporating both bands into a giant supergroup known as Shackass Flats. That’s enough to catch my interest right there!
The Shack Band is pretty interesting in their own right–this five-piece band could definitely be placed in the “jam band” category, and I’m not usually real stoked about any band of which that’s true. But these guys are good songwriters who keep things interesting with well thought-out lyrics and a propensity for less-than-predictable instrumentation. So yeah, as jam bands go, they’re on the more palatable end of things. Jackass Flats are a rootsy Americana crew who pull from old time Appalachian music as well as the classic Nashville sound of the mid-20th century. They’ve got a solid grasp on the best aspects of old-time country, and they’ll bring it all to you in fine fashion. When these two forces of musical nature combine into Shackass Flats–which they do, by the way, in order to pay tribute to the many musical greats who passed on to their reward in 2016–they’ll bring all of these redoubtable characteristics into one ensemble and give us a truly memorable way to close the door on what has been, by all accounts, a very tough year. Here’s to a brighter future, in music and life.
Sunday, January 1, 5 PM
Regulate, Dead & Dreaming, Lost Souls, Krust, Red Vision @ Strange Matter – $10
So I definitely stand by my opinion that you should start your new year off right by dancing to a James Brown tribute band. But if, like me, you’re the sort of person who never lets your edge grow dull, then chances are you won’t need any recovery time. Chances are by 5 PM on a day off work, you’ll be getting restless. Chances are you’d appreciate a bit of a musical appetizer–especially something completely different than the main course. And for that, I highly suggest that you relive your adolescence by heading down to Twisters… uh, I mean Strange Matter, getting into a line outside the door while it’s still light outside, and paying your ten-spot for an (early) evening of fierce, raging hardcore, thrown down in proper old-school fashion.
That could mean any of several things to those of you reading this, and I totally understand–it’s probably meant all of those things for me at one time or another. These days, though, bands like Regulate are a little less likely to point straight back at Negative Approach, instead bringing influences like Judge, Outspoken, and Madball to the table, and creating some sick, vaguely funky mosh riffs straight outta 1993 to get the pit moving. Along with VA locals Dead & Dreaming and Lost Souls, Regulate record for Edgewood Records, and all of these bands have a similar super-heavy 90s HC aesthetic. For example, Dead & Dreaming are the band for you if you miss the days when Hatebreed would wear Catharsis t-shirts onstage. Lost Souls get a bit more chaotic with it but are still here to get the pit raging. The bill will be rounded out by NJ thrashers Krust and VA’s own Red Vision, and the whole thing will be over by 9 PM or so. Can you take 3 hours of hitting the pit in proper fashion, then run over to the Camel and dance the night away to the funky sounds of James Brown? I’m throwing down the gauntlet! (If you actually accept this challenge, email me and let me know how it goes.)
Monday, January 2, 9 PM
Vagra, Asylum, Bato, RHDP @ Strange Matter – $7
In the space of two days, Strange Matter moves from classic American hardcore into the dark world of equally classic old-school Scandinavian crust. And the best part is that none of these bands hail from outside the borders of the USA. Vagra may sound Swedish as fuck when you listen to their records, but they actually will be commuting a relatively brief distance north from their hometown of Gainesville, Florida. Yes, it’s true–there are bands from that town that do not have beards and sing like the guy from Leatherface. Vagra appeal way more to fans of Anti-Cimex than Dillinger Four, but if you ask me, that’s a good thing. Their 2016 demo rips shit in quick and dirty fashion, as their set at Strange Matter next Monday will also surely do. Get ready.
Asylum fly the flag for a similar sort of sound here in RVA. Their feedback-laced UK hardcore is a bit more Doom than Anti-Cimex, but it’s not like there’s a tremendous amount of daylight between those two sounds anyway, so rest assured–fans of one will be a fan of both by the end of the night. This bill is rounded out by two Virginia Beach bands, headed up 64 to slay us all with D-beats and raw riffs. Bato has a bit more of an American old-school sound mixed into their UK core, while RHDP is definitely pulling from the heavy-guitar end of classic rock–via prime Burning Spirits hardcore from Japan, of course. If you’re the sort of person who files Ted Nugent records in your collection right next to The Shitlickers and just lets them fight it out, you’re sure to appreciate this fine evening of dirty hardcore in the classic European fashion.
Tuesday, January 3, 8 PM
The Nude Party, Saw Black, Doctor Collins, The Talkies @ Strange Matter – $8 (order tickets HERE)
Oh so hey, this is cool–another dispatch from that beach/surf-influenced indie sound that’s been bubbling up over the past couple years around here. I’d say “think Citrus City” but I don’t believe any of these bands have actually recorded for Manny’s fine label–at least, not yet. But if the sound of the Nude Party is any indication, I think this Boone NC band might get along pretty well with the Citrus City crew. Their keyboard-drenched garage-pop sound harks back to The Beach Boys and the Fleshtones at the same time, while bringing in some fine modern indie touches to let you know they didn’t just fall out of a time warp from 1966. 50 years later, there are still plenty of good reasons to dance and smile while a band like this is playing. Get down to Strange Matter on Tuesday and embrace all of them.
You’ll get to check out some fine local sounds as well, while you’re down there. Justin “Chainsaw” Black of Black Water Gold (who is slowly allowing everyone to forget that he has a real first name) will be doing some solo tuneage, which may or may not have the same dark Americana vibe as the work of his full band. We’ll just have to wait and see, won’t we? Meanwhile, Doctor Collins are a sort of post-Washed Out bedroom pop experiment that are sure to have slightly more of a live band feel when they’re performing as a live band, but can still be expected to get pretty weird with it. And finally, The Talkies will bring us another lovely helping of their shoegaze, alt-rock, and power pop sound mixture. Avoid those midweek midwinter blahs that too easily appear as the holidays fade away into just another cold, dreary work week. Come find a reason to smile at Strange Matter.
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]
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Words by Drew Necci