Friday, March 14, 10 PM
WRIR Spring Fund Drive Kickoff, feat. The Milkstains, The Trillions, Tungs, Dave Watkins @ Strange Matter – $5
Don’t get me wrong, great bands are indeed essential to a good music scene–but the glue that holds things together often comes from the institutions that help bands reach their audience. Last week in this space, we talked about the importance of Strange Matter, and this week is the perfect time to talk about the equal importance of WRIR.
Friday, March 14, 10 PM
WRIR Spring Fund Drive Kickoff, feat. The Milkstains, The Trillions, Tungs, Dave Watkins @ Strange Matter – $5
Don’t get me wrong, great bands are indeed essential to a good music scene–but the glue that holds things together often comes from the institutions that help bands reach their audience. Last week in this space, we talked about the importance of Strange Matter, and this week is the perfect time to talk about the equal importance of WRIR. For close to the past decade, WRIR has been an independent radio voice in a broadcast medium dominated, in RVA as it is in the rest of the country, by huge corporate conglomerates who foist the same 50 songs on us week after week and year after year regardless of the community. WRIR’s locally-focused shows and contributions from volunteers with individual viewpoints and passion for the music they play sets the station apart, and the evidence of this is the fact that many plugged-in Richmonders who love the local music community won’t listen to any other radio station.
But in order to keep going for another year and hit that ten-year milestone, WRIR needs listener donations, and that’s where this show comes in. Every year around this time, WRIR launches its Spring Fund Drive, where it gets the funding it needs to make it through the year by spending a week or so asking listeners to contribute. If you’d like to donate, go to WRIR’s website at wrir.org to learn more about how you can do so–and if you do so before the fund drive officially starts, you can get in FREE to this awesome Spring Fund Drive Kickoff show! Even if you don’t donate, admission is only $5, which is a great deal for what you’ll get out of it. If you’re paying attention to what’s going on in Richmond music, you should be at least somewhat familiar with all of the bands on the bill. But just in case you’ve been on a wilderness retreat for the last few years, and decided on your return to hit up RVA Mag’s website and see what Parker, Ian, Preston, and the gang are up to [the joke is that none of those guys work here anymore], let me take a paragraph and deliver all the info you will need to realize what a great show this is gonna be.
Headliners The Milkstains are the wildest surf-grunge trio this city’s seen in a long time. Mingling out-of-control garage punk with influences from roots rock, old-time country, and 70s arena rock, plus a healthy dose of onstage insanity, these boys are guaranteed to blow the roof off Strange Matter and knock your socks off in the bargain. Watch out for flying beer. The Trillions keep a much tighter rein on things, having constructed their power-pop sound around complex, tightly played guitar riffs and catchy songs that are structured like mathematical equations. But don’t worry, you won’t have to do homework to follow along with these guys–you’ll be too busy dancing. Tungs are a psychedelic punk trio with a tendency to switch instruments and play really loud. They just released their third LP, Not For Grandma, and they’ll be unleashing a whole pile of new songs on everyone when they hit the Strange Matter stage on Friday night. Opening up is Dave Watkins, an experimental musician with a variety of styles at his disposal. Will you get his Fahey-influenced solo acoustic songs or his ambient drone works–or will you get some combination or hybrid of the two? Show up at Strange Matter this Friday to find out, and party with all your favorite WRIR DJs!
Wednesday, March 12, 8 PM
Nora Jane Struthers & The Party Line @ Ashland Coffee And Tea – $15
Ashland may be far enough north from RVA that people in the local scene don’t really give it too much thought, but the truth is it’s only about a 20-minute drive up 95 North, and it’s really worth it to make the trip up there on occasion and check out what’s going on in the self-proclaimed “Center of the Universe.” Specifically for music fans, there’s Ashland Coffee And Tea, a nice little locally-run place to get hot drinks and sandwiches, which also has a decent-sized concert venue attached. They bring in a lot of country and roots music artists, sometimes drawing some surprisingly big names, and it’s always a fun place to catch a show. So if you’re down for a change of pace, putting an extra 20 miles or so on your car can be quite worth it.
Tonight’s a perfect night to check the place out if you haven’t been–or to make a trip back, if it’s been a while. Nora Jane Struthers has previously played with Bearfoot and The Bootleggers, and now leads a quintet known as The Party Line. The group has the traditional instrumentation of old-time country, incorporating banjo and fiddle, and sometimes even trading their drum kit in for washboard percussion. But with the energy and spirit of bluegrass and rockabilly thrown in, plus some excellent three-part harmonies on their catchy choruses, this group isn’t easily written off as any one genre. Struthers’ literary lyrics bring an unusual insight, and her unrivalled collection of vintage dresses adds a visual flair to the group’s performances that really should not be missed. So come out to Ashland and get as close to the feel of an old-time barn dance as is really possible in this day and age with Nora Jane Struthers & The Party Line. And keep an eye on Ashland Coffee And Tea–they’re quietly putting on some pretty great shows up there.
Thursday, March 13, 9:30 PM
White Laces, New Turks @ Balliceaux – $5
White Laces are making big moves lately, and we couldn’t be prouder to see it happening. After finishing their as-yet-untitled second album with Philadelphia producer Jeff Zeigler (Kurt Vile, Purling Hiss, Nothing) this RVA shoegaze crew booked a month-long tour supporting The War On Drugs on dates all over the US and Canada. They officially start the tour on Friday night in New York, but before they go, they’ll be playing one last local show for all their fans here in RVA. The show will mark the debut of their newest member, Dash Lewis of Curtains and Gardener, who joins White Laces to add electronic textures and perhaps play the occasional second guitar. With an entire LP of new material to draw from, as well as a new member to put his own stamp on things, we can expect plenty of new sounds from these guys on Thursday night, and it’ll be the last chance we get to see them for a while, so showing up is highly recommended.
What’s more, the New Turks are opening up, and this raging duo is an event in and of itself. Their debut CD, Hot Leather, which was released by prolific and highly regarded local label Bad Grrrl Records last November, rushes 7 songs past you in the space of about 13 minutes. With Ethan Gensurowsky roaring like David Yow from the Jesus Lizard while hammering out some distorted bass grooves over Louis Henninger’s driving percussion, and absolutely no guitars of the conventional six-string variety to be found anywhere, this band is a wall of low-end fury, and their live performances prove that it’s not just a sound, but an attitude. Make sure you show up at Balliceaux this Thursday in time to let these guys demolish your eardrums.
Friday, March 14, 7:30
MewithoutYou, Those Manic Seas @ The Canal Club – $15 in advance (order tickets HERE)
This should be a treat. MewithoutYou, who’ve built up quite a reputation in the post-hardcore scene over the past decade-plus, are headed to Richmond. Starting out with a reasonably conventional indie rock sound, this Philadelphia quintet have moved in less-than-predictable directions over the course of their five albums, now sporting a unique sound that is difficult to pigeonhole as any one genre. However, for those who enjoy hearing bands explore unusual ideas, MewithoutYou have retained a clear appeal, which is only accentuated by vocalist Aaron Weiss’s tendency towards literary expansiveness in his lyrics. Weiss’s inimitable voice delivers vocal parts and fearless exploration of spiritual themes–which, contrary to popular belief, goes far beyond standard Christian tropes to explore ideas taken from Judaism, Islam, and many other religions and philosophical schools–result in lyrics that reward repeated listenings and deeper analysis. You may not be able to parse his individual lines during a live performance as easily as you can at home in front of a lyric sheet, but the complex post-hardcore sound of the band as a whole, which has been known to integrate trumpet, accordion, and harp, should make for an amazing musical experience either way.
Those Manic Seas will be opening up, and this RVA band is a pretty amazing live experience on their own behalf. As we’ve discussed before, this is that local band you may have heard about with a robotic mannequin for a lead vocalist. It’s true–Those Manic Seas’ vocals are delivered by a statue with a video monitor for a head. But there’s plenty more to pay attention to where this band is concerned, from their upbeat, danceable indie-punk sound to their hyperactive live performances, in which all the human members of the band never fail to give their all and deliver every ounce of energy they’ve got. The whole thing may be pretty strange, but it’s always worth seeing, and with Those Manic Seas on the bill, this MewithoutYou show is one occasion when no one in the crowd should find themselves checking their watch and wondering how much longer until the headliners go on.
Saturday, March 15, 10 PM
The Vendors, Tail Light Rebellion, Alison Self @ Wonderland – $5
From small towns on the outskirts of the metropolitan area to the very heart of the city, country sounds are showing up all around the RVA area this week, and that should make all of you Americana fans very happy. This Wonderland show may not be quite as sonically harsh as some of the other stuff we’ve heard in their back room, but it’ll still have that wild dive-bar spirit you’ve come to expect from this home for rebel sounds right in the heart of Shockoe Bottom. With RVA’s own The Vendors delivering their heartstring-tugging honky-tonk sounds at the top of this bill, there’ll be plenty of tears in plenty of beers on this Saturday night. Frontman James West has tapped into a longstanding tradition, leading all the way back to Hank Sr. himself, and writes gorgeously sad songs about fighting, cheating, love, and death. With Slim Stanton’s pedal steel guitar adding a dose of pure Grand Ol’ Opry to the proceedings, this group is the equal–and frequently the superior–of anything you’ll hear on modern country radio.
Tail Light Rebellion has also blown into town to join in the fun. There are a whole bunch of instruments at work on this man’s music, and he brings in all sorts of old-time influences, from bluegrass and Cajun sounds to country and even hundred-year-old protest songs. You can expect Tail Light Rebellion to take things back to the roots of pretty much every form of American music, and while he’s at it, he’ll serenade you with tunes about lost love and battles with greedy landlords, among other eminently relatable topics. Starting this show off will be our favorite local ukulele slinger, Alison Self, who will be accompanied on this show by fiddle from George Geanuracos, and maybe some more backing instrumentation as well. Alison’s beautiful voice and lovely songs will start the evening off right–plus, she’ll be celebrating her birthday at this show, and it’s her last night in town before she heads off on a two-month tour. So come party with Alison and see a show crammed full of honky-tonk goodness down at Wonderland on a Saturday night!
Sunday, March 16, 7 PM
Dogs On Main Street CD Release Show, with Jonathan Vassar, Henry Upshur Coffin @ The Camel – $3 in advance/$5 at the door (order tickets HERE)
Dogs On Main Street, the solo project of Richmond balladeer Mac Rowe, has been little more than a rumor on the local scene for the past five years since its inception. These Dogs have never really sought out the spotlight all that aggressively, and when you listen to their music, you can kind of understand why. This is the music of outcasts and drifters, the hardscrabble folks on the outskirts of society who have to struggle every day just to get by. Rowe’s songs are 50% atmosphere, with the other 50% being occupied mostly by his mournful, evocative singing. While Rowe did relocate to NYC a year or two ago, thereby making it that much harder for RVA locals to pin him down, Dogs On Main Street have remained signed to local label Church Hill Records, and this Sunday, they’ll be releasing their long-awaited new full-length album, Reckoning. For the occasion, Rowe heads down to RVA once again, taking the stage at The Camel to present the newest Dogs On Main Street material to a collection of fans and friends. You should definitely be in that number; these days, things are tough all over, and we imagine anyone reading this can understand exactly what the struggles Rowe documents in his music are all about. And any artist who sells advance tickets to his show for $3 totally understands how hard it is to put your hands on a dollar these days.
Dogs On Main Street will be supported by another long-running RVA singer/songwriter–Jonathan Vassar. This man’s folk/country/rock n’ roll hybrid sound will pair perfectly with Dogs On Main Street, and considering Vassar just released not one but two albums last fall, anyone who hasn’t caught up with this guy in a while would do well to come down and see what he’s got in store for us. Henry Upshur Coffin opens up, and while we can’t find any info about him online, we can’t imagine anyone with the last name “Coffin” could possibly disappoint. So scrape up three bucks–dig for change in the couch if you must–and put it towards a ticket to this show. Your aching soul will thank you once its been soothed by the sounds of Dogs On Main Street.
Monday, March 17, 9 PM
The Body, Hex Machine, Everyone Dies In The End, Lugweight @ Strange Matter – $8
The Body are about as slow, heavy, and loud as you could ever want any band to be–they actually scored higher on Strange Matter’s decibel meter last time they were in town than Sunn O))) did, and that’s really saying something–but to lump this duo in with the rest of the doom metal scene that’s been so ascendant over the last couple of years would actually do them a great disservice. Building their sound around layers of samples, noise experimentation, and the striking use of a choir for backing vocals, this group are worlds beyond the slowed-down Sabbath riffs you can typically expect from bands who use such crawling tempos. As drummer Lee Buford explained to us years ago, while The Body may have some musical characteristics of doom metal, the hatred and frustration that fuels their music is more spiritually connected with black metal. Chip King’s high-pitched screams seem pretty black metal as well, and with The Body’s penchant for experimentation–which has recently landed them on cerebral indie label Thrill Jockey–added into the mix, you can expect some dense, layered, and impossible to categorize sounds from their performance at Strange Matter this Monday. One thing we know for sure, though–it’ll be loud. VERY loud.
This show will also feature local support from some similarly great, if not quite as eardrum-destroying. Hex Machine, the noise-rock project of local guitarist Trevor Thomas, proved its worth in the eyes of many with their Jesus Lizard/Barkmarket-channeling 2012 LP Fixator, and while we’re not really sure who is currently backing Trevor up on bass, drums, and possibly second guitar, the fact that he’s previously worked with such heavy hitters as Municipal Waste’s Dave Witte and Pan American’s Chris Gallo speaks well for his recruitment ability. Everyone Dies In the End is also a group to watch out for–this instrumental quartet brings together former members of Lord By Fire, My War, and Facade Burned Black to explore their tendencies towards epic heaviness in the style of Pelican or Godspeed You Black Emperor. And opening the whole thing up will be Lugweight, a mysterious noise/drone artist rising from the depths of RVA’s significant experimental music scene. On the whole, it promises to be a lot more entertaining than anything you could be doing on Monday night that might involve green beer.
Tuesday, March 18, 7:30 PM
The Listening Room No. 46, featuring Hypercolor, Twain @ The Firehouse Theatre – $5 suggested donation
The aforementioned Jonathan Vassar curates the latest edition of The Listening Room, a monthly event that has been taking place at The Firehouse Theatre on Broad Street for the past several years now. This series of events showcases a variety of quiet, cerebral local sounds, as befits the stage of what is typically a playhouse rather than a musical venue. The Greater Richmond Foundry, a local collaborative group with the goal of improving the Richmond indie music scene through information and activities, produces these monthly showcases, and their activities are a boon to the sorts of artists who might not exactly be able to set record levels on a decibel meter, but still have quite a bit of excellent music to offer.
This time around, the local artist being spotlighted as part of The Listening Room is Hypercolor. This group, led by Alexandra Spalding and Adrian Olsen, brings us a psychedelic sound that moves from rockin’ desert sounds to quiet acoustic atmospherics. We assume it’ll be more of the latter that we’ll be hearing at The Firehouse Theatre this Tuesday–but in truth, one never knows. Spalding and Olsen are also members of Avers, the local supergroup that’s quickly escalating in profile, so if you’ve caught that band but haven’t gone back to check out Hypercolor, now is your chance. They’ll be joined by Twain, who claim New York as home at the moment, but originate from Virginia and feature members of Low Anthem and Spirit Family Reunion. Twain’s hushed, introspective folk songs will also benefit from The Listening Room’s ambiance, so make sure you set your cellphone to vibrate before this show gets going. Listening closely will bring many rewards on Tuesday night–don’t miss out.
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