RVA Shows You Must See This Week: 7/16-7/22

by | Jul 16, 2014 | SHOW PICKS

Sunday, July 20, 7 PM
Jonathan Vassar, David Dondero, Russell Lacy, Mermaids. I Mean Whales. @ The Camel – $8

I don’t know how to categorize this show. Acoustic indie? Alt-folk? Americana? This is an important show for the local scene that it fits into, though, regardless of what word you use to describe that genre.

Sunday, July 20, 7 PM
Jonathan Vassar, David Dondero, Russell Lacy, Mermaids. I Mean Whales. @ The Camel – $8

I don’t know how to categorize this show. Acoustic indie? Alt-folk? Americana? This is an important show for the local scene that it fits into, though, regardless of what word you use to describe that genre. For one thing, this show celebrates the latest release from Jonathan Vassar, who has been one of the pillars of the local acoustic music community for over a decade now. Considering it’s only been a little over 6 months since he released not one but two full-length CDs, this is a pleasant surprise from the normally rather sedately-paced songwriter. But of course, his music retains that stately pace and elegaic feel, especially since Blue Hearts–the new EP in question, is pretty much a solo release. No Speckled Bird this time; other than pedal steel from Curtis Patton, Vassar’s the only musician on this EP. His set at this show will be solo too, and speaking from my own personal opinion, this is the way to see Vassar play. His songs may be slow and quiet, the sort of songs you can’t even whisper to the guy standing next to you during without being rude (hint hint, potential showgoers), but they have a hypnotic power that will enrapture you, until you’ve forgotten what you were gonna say anyway.

David Dondero is also on the bill, which makes this somewhat of an “old home week” situation. While Dondero is from Minnesota originally, he’s lived and played music all over the USA, and was a pretty regular visitor to RVA for a while back there in the early 2000s. He even did a split CD with Chris Terry on Perpetual Motion Machine Records back in 2003, but that’s not as Richmond-centric of a reference now as it was at the time, since both Terry and Perpetual Motion Machine owner Paul Hansbarger have since moved to other states. But let’s talk about David Dondero, shall we? People always talk about how Conor Oberst credits Dondero as a huge influence, and you may see that as a compliment or a reason to be wary, but let me assure you that Dondero’s far better than Oberst ever thought about being. He’s written a ton of great, heartfelt acoustic songs, most recently for his crowdfunded 2013 album This Guitar, and his stage presence will captivate you in much the same way Jonathan Vassar’s will.

Support on this bill will be supplied by Russell Lacy, aka “The Virginia Moonwalker,” who has fronted Grease Trigger and is currently a member of all-star local alt-country band Tarrant. Lacy’s an accomplished solo artist as well, and he’ll have a generous selection of his solo tunes for you Sunday night. Mermaids. I Mean Whales. starts things out, with From Fragile Seeds drummer Chris Gregory returning to his first instrument, guitar, and busting out some of his own compositions for you. Jonathan Vassar recently mentioned online that he last played with David Dondero in Richmond 12 years ago, and who knows when the two will share a local stage again. This show is going to be a special occasion, and it’d be a crime if you missed it.

Wednesday, July 16, 9 PM
Undergang, Trepanation, Astraes Pestis, Amp Death @ Strange Matter – $8

So if there’s one thing doing this show preview column for the past six months has taught me, it’s that Richmond’s reputation as of one of the best cities in the country for metal is 100% deserved. I find myself writing about at least one and usually two or more amazing metal shows happening in town every single week. In fact, there’s so much great metal from all over the world coming through this town on a weekly basis that it might be easy to get jaded. Let me encourage you all–do not do this! Thinking that every city is this cool or better is what results in the infamous “Richmond curse.” There’s a reason why everybody who moves away just comes back a year or two later, and the sheer amount of amazing music in this town is a big part of it.

So what amazing metal bands do Strange Matter have in store for you on this random Wednesday night? Oh, just Denmark death metallers Undergang, who have the kind of brutal, filthy, no-bullshit sound that seems to effortlessly thrive in Scandinavia. It’s more of a black metal aesthetic, really, but when applied to death metal the way Undergang apply it, it results in a growling, chugging, double-bass-saturated sound that preserves the best aspects of both death and black varieties of metal. You’re gonna love it. Undergang are joined by two great Seattle bands: Trepanation, who have the kind of pure old-school death metal sound you normally only run across when you throw on your battered cassette copy of Scream Bloody Gore; and Astraes Pestis, who are a little more groovy but otherwise crank out much the same sort of OSDM fury. It’s a night of raw power that will appeal to anyone who’s ever driven around with a shoebox full of early-90s Earache cassettes on the passenger side floorboard (guilty), and it’s all kicked off by Amp Death, about whom I know only that it features Eric Benson (Devil’s Hand) and Ian McColm (Nagual). But all is for the best in this best of all possible metal towns, so get stoked!

Thursday, July 17, 10 PM
Diamond Hairbrush, The Sheiks @ En Su Boca – $5

You know, it’s probably silly at this point to go “Oh shit, you guys, show at a taco place!” It’s not like this is the first time there’s been a show at En Su Boca–we’re all used to it by now, right? At the same time, I am obsessed with tacos, and the novelty of something like this happening at a place like this will never wear off for me. So hey, do what I’d do–show up early and order yourself some tacos! I recommend the carnitas.

Eventually music will start, so when your belly is full of delicious tacos, you can enjoy the sounds of locals Diamond Hairbrush and Memphis crew The Sheiks. Diamond Hairbrush are clearly basing their sound in the straightforward three-chord rockin’ sounds of old-school punk, but they add in plenty of glamorous touches that hearken back to the prime days of 80s metal, when dudes with loud guitars still looked really pretty on their album covers. The resulting melange kinda reminds me of The Damned circa Machine Gun Etiquette, or maybe even early Generation X–which are some pretty awesome references to evoke, I must say. Meanwhile, The Sheiks sound like you might expect a band from the home of Goner Records to sound–lo-fi garage-rockin’ tunes with catchy choruses and overdriven guitars plus a highly danceable backbeat. It might not be all that advisable to get up and dance right after eating several delicious tacos, but you’re not going to be able to help yourself, so just plan for it going in and you’ll be fine.

Friday, July 18, 7 PM
Tobacco, The Stargazer Lilies, Zackey Force Funk @ Gallery 5 – $12 (order tickets HERE)

This is going to be a weird show, as you should expect once you hear that Tobacco is the solo project from one of the members of Black Moth Super Rainbow. This bizarre electronic/indie crew from Pittsburgh is responsible for a lot of fascinating offshoots in addition to their own head-scratching group efforts, and Tobacco is just one of those. On his latest album, Ultima II Massage, the man named after Virginia’s one-time biggest cash crop (now ranked third, behind soybeans and corn–who knew?) makes odd electronic tunes that weave and lurch, barely holding together as coherent songs. But of course, that only adds to their staying power; Ultima II Massage is a gripping exploration into a world of psychedelic electro-noise, and it seems certain that Tobacco’s performance at Gallery 5 this Friday will involve further exploration.

Fellow Pennsylvania residents The Stargazer Lilies will join Tobacco on this trip, bringing with them a delightful dream-pop ambience as well as plentiful psychedelic haze of their own. Their debut album, We Are The Dreamers, was released last year on Graveface Records, who have also released works by Black Moth Super Rainbow. The album was curated (whatever that means in this context) by Tobacco, so you know this opening act has his stamp of approval. And they’ve also got plenty of shoegazing to do, so prepare for some serious blissout action during this set. Zackey Force Funk, who has previously worked with Tobacco in the hip-hop-from-outer-space duo Demon Queen, will begin the evening with a solo set, presumably consisting of his own outsider R&B/hip hop tunes. None of these performers really sound that much alike, but they all create dayglo waves of mind-altering psychedelia, so if that’s your thing, you’ll want to spend your Friday night at Gallery 5.

Saturday, July 19, 9 PM
Mutant Supremacy, Skullshitter, Blooddrunk Trolls, Captain Maximum @ Strange Matter – $7

Oh look, it’s another awesomely brutal local metal show! Who saw that coming? [raises hand] This time it’s a band from right here in the USA coming to shred your head with blazing brutal death metal. Brooklyn’s Mutant Supremacy, who impressed me with their 2010 debut, Infinite Suffering, are preparing to release their latest album, Reincarnate, next month. From what I’ve heard of it so far, it seems their talent for dark, aggressive death metal riffage has only grown in the years since their first album. Reincarnate is obviously something to look forward to, but why wait a month to hear it? Show up at Strange Matter this Saturday night and get your head torn off by hearing these songs live, in proper fashion. You’ll never regret it for a second.

Can you believe there’s a band out there in the world called Skullshitter? What, was Skullsplitter already taken? Or did they just want me to have the mental picture of some Viking warrior pooping into the decapitated heads of his victims? (If I’ve gotta think about it, you’ve all gotta think about it.) Whatever the reason for the name, it’s appropriate for the kind of lo-fi grindcore blur this band churns out. If blastbeats are your thing, you’ll want to play close attention during Skullshitter’s set. Blooddrunk Trolls have an even more awesome name than Skullshitter, and will be driving down from Charlottesville with some incredibly catchy yet still supremely brutal death metal for the RVA headbanging masses. Captain Maximum, who appear to be a local indie/alt-rock band and will be somewhat of a fish out of water on this bill if my understanding is correct, kick things off.

Sunday, July 20, 9 PM
RVA Noise Presents Death In Midsummer feat. H.B., Scant, Filth, Dromez, Corporate Park, Public Health, Fake Object, Coteries @ Strange Matter – $7

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: those noise kids are mysterious. The crew known as RVA Noise actually puts on a lot of gigs around town, and there seems to be a pretty strong harsh noise/power electronics/whatever you wanna call it scene bubbling up around RVA lately, but you don’t hear about it much in this column because these guys are usually throwing shows in basements, living rooms, and other venues of questionable legality, meaning I can’t write about them unless I wanna blow up their spot and maybe get the cops called. I’m no narc, so I’m glad to see these folks hitting up a legitimate venue for their latest extravaganza, so I can write about it with a clear conscience.

Death In Midsummer is an evening of more noise acts than you can shake a stick at (which is something my mom always used to say, and I have no idea what it means, but whatever, let’s move on). It’s centered around a collection of touring noise acts who are apparently headed north to perform at Buffalo’s Summer Scum Festival. Heading up the Texas contingent is Filth, who have nothing to do with the Bay Area gutter-punk band from 20 years ago, but probably have some fans in common with them. Filth have a somewhat ambient but incredibly loud and noisy thing going on, so expect to look like that guy from the legendary 80s Maxell ad during their set. Dromez will blow your hair back with harsh sonic blasts as well, while Corporate Park have a bit more of a beat-oriented electronic weirdness thing going on, and Public Health are all about some sick, spooky repetition.

The Texas crowd will be joined by an equal number of RVA noise artists, including H.B. (aka Heavy Breathing), which I believe is the noise side project of a local straight edge hardcore singer–but don’t quote me on that. RVA Noise co-captain Matt Boettke will be bringing his own brand of harsh noise to the table covered in effects pedals, under the name Scant. Fake Object and Coteries kick things off, and who knows what those two projects are about. Someone, but not me. At the end of the day, you can’t get caught up in the details where noise is concerned. I usually write about music in this column, but the artists on this bill will probably for the most part tell you that what they’re doing is not music at all. Maybe it’s even anti-music. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t listen to it, though. Go to Strange Matter this Sunday night and find out what all this craziness is about. Live the chaos!

Monday, July 21, 5 PM
Close Talker, Ma Jolie, Great Apes, Bare Thoughts @ Strange Matter – $6

Here at RVA Mag, we’ve had plenty of good things to say about Sundials over the years, but thinking back now, I realize we may have been somewhat neglectful in talking about Sundials drummer Cory Chubb’s other band. Close Talker sees Chubb stepping out from behind the kit to grab a guitar and tell us stories of his post-teenage angst. Their 2013 album, So Am I, released by Stay Sweet Records (aka the backbone of the local pop-punk scene), is full of singalong laments related to lost love, self-hatred, and consuming inadvisable amounts of booze. All straight edge preaching aside, we’ve all been there, right? Growing up sucks. Chubb and his bandmates have done an exquisite job of documenting that exact fact over the past few years, and if you still haven’t seen them sing about it up close and in person, you’re missing out. Show up at this show and fix that.

This show also features some great touring bands that happen to be from opposite sides of the country as well. From the East Coast, we’ve got Philadelphia’s Ma Jolie, who rage through their passionate pop-punk tunes with a fire that’s unusual and invigorating. From the West Coast, there’s San Francisco’s own Great Apes, who appear to be humans from all their promo pictures, but what do I know? These guys are carrying on the NorCal tradition of catchy, heartfelt, emotional pop punk, and Jawbreaker fans of all ages will be on cloud 9 during their set. You don’t see a Philly band and a San Fran band on the same bill very often, and when they’re both this good, that’s even more of a rare and amazing occasion. Bare Thoughts, an up-and-coming local band with an alt-rock/postpunk sound (or so I hear) will start the night off right.

Tuesday, July 22, 9 PM
Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires, Horsehead, Dwight Howard Johnson, Hail Blackbird @ Strange Matter – $8 (order tickets here: http://gloryfires.eventbrite.com/)

This show is going to be a blast! Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires are known for their Southern brand of revved-up rock n’ roll with tons of energy and intensity, and the fact that they promote themselves like an old-fashioned gospel revival meeting fits right in with the sort of raging throwback boogie jams they lay down on their new album, Dereconstructed, which was released by Sub Pop earlier this year. If, like me, you’re not afraid to admit that you have old beat-up LPs by The Faces and Humble Pie floating around in your record collection, this is the kind of show you all-too-rarely get to see and will probably appreciate more than you realize. Lee Bains III used to be in the Dexateens, which gives him the same sort of garage-rock pedigree that a lot of those 70s boogie-rockers had and means he’s two degrees of separation from the Drive-By Truckers, so that should tell you all you need to know.

Horsehead is also on this bill, and while I did have the good fortune to catch these local alt-country rockers at a house party over the July Fourth weekend, you may not have caught them in a while, and let me tell you right now–you need to fix that. I had forgotten how much these guys ruled until I saw them on a temporary stage in a backyard a couple weeks ago. Seeing them on a permanent stage inside Strange Matter will be a totally rad experience, I promise. Charlottesville’s Dwight Howard Johnson are doing more of an indie rock thing with their poppy yet overdriven tunes, but they’ll surely rock you nonetheless. Opening act Hail Blackbird is a new band from members of Lorem Ipsum, and they carry on that band’s rockin’ post-hardcore sound with aplomb. That’s a pretty stacked bill, on the whole. I’m into it.

Should I be posting about your show? Make sure I know it’s happening–email me: andrew@rvamag.com.

Marilyn Drew Necci

Marilyn Drew Necci

Former GayRVA editor-in-chief, RVA Magazine editor for print and web. Anxiety expert, proud trans woman, happily married.

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