Strange Matter Presents The First Annual Orientation Festival

by | Sep 4, 2010 | MUSIC

Strange Matter’s Eric Smith feels uncomfortable with the relative obscurity of today’s Richmond punk scene. “It’s tough to find out about shows these days,” he says. “When I was growing up in Richmond in the mid-90s, there were places for teenaged kids who knew nothing about the local scene to go and learn about it.” He cites shows held in the basement of St. Edward’s Catholic School, on Huguenot Road in Chesterfield, as well as all-ages matinee shows at Twisters, as formative experiences. “Those shows were there when I needed them,” he explains.

“But then it occurred to me,” he continues. “What would it have been like if I was born 10 years later?” He explained that, while the internet has been a helpful tool for organizing the scene, it’s also a double-edged sword for anyone attempting to book do-it-yourself punk and hardcore shows. At the same time that anyone can promote a house show online and get that information to a wide variety of potentially interested music fans, they also take the risk that landlords and cops will discover that info and do far more damaging things with it. That’s a big risk to take when you live in the place where you’re putting on shows. No one likes being evicted. No one likes risking arrest. Paradoxically, the easy flow of information over the internet has driven the day to day workings of the scene more deeply underground. People send out bulletins over Facebook or Myspace, but you often find the phrase “ask a punk” standing in for concrete information about venues. And if you’re too new to the scene to know any other punks, you’re left out in the cold.


Strange Matter’s Eric Smith feels uncomfortable with the relative obscurity of today’s Richmond punk scene. “It’s tough to find out about shows these days,” he says. “When I was growing up in Richmond in the mid-90s, there were places for teenaged kids who knew nothing about the local scene to go and learn about it.” He cites shows held in the basement of St. Edward’s Catholic School, on Huguenot Road in Chesterfield, as well as all-ages matinee shows at Twisters, as formative experiences. “Those shows were there when I needed them,” he explains.

“But then it occurred to me,” he continues. “What would it have been like if I was born 10 years later?” He explained that, while the internet has been a helpful tool for organizing the scene, it’s also a double-edged sword for anyone attempting to book do-it-yourself punk and hardcore shows. At the same time that anyone can promote a house show online and get that information to a wide variety of potentially interested music fans, they also take the risk that landlords and cops will discover that info and do far more damaging things with it. That’s a big risk to take when you live in the place where you’re putting on shows. No one likes being evicted. No one likes risking arrest. Paradoxically, the easy flow of information over the internet has driven the day to day workings of the scene more deeply underground. People send out bulletins over Facebook or Myspace, but you often find the phrase “ask a punk” standing in for concrete information about venues. And if you’re too new to the scene to know any other punks, you’re left out in the cold.


Hold Tight!

It’s this unfortunate circumstance that Smith and the rest of Strange Matter are seeking to repair with the first annual Orientation Festival. “VCU students make up something like 15% of the population of Richmond,” Smith says. “At least a decent amount of those students are going to be people interested in underground music. If Strange Matter can provide an avenue into the existing Richmond scene for new freshmen who’ve just arrived in town and don’t know anybody who is ‘in the loop’ yet, then we want to do that.” For that reason, on Sunday, September 5, Strange Matter will present an all-ages matinee show, beginning at 5 PM and with the extremely affordable admission price of $2. The cheap admission and locally-based nature of the bands on the bill were inspired by a yearly tradition at Twisters, the club that, a decade ago, occupied the building where Strange Matter now operates. “Twisters had an end-of-school show at the beginning of every summer,” Smith explains. “Six local bands, a dollar to get in. They were great. When one of my bands played the 1999 show, it was like a dream come true for me.” It’s the spirit of that onetime tradition that Smith and Strange Matter seek to revive with Orientation.


Inter Arma

The show will feature five diverse but equally independent Richmond-based underground punk/hardcore bands. Street Pizza play the fast, blurry hardcore style known as power-violence with chaotic vigor and a fun, humorous approach. Dry Spell, who feature members of Army Of Fun and Swamp Thing, are a snotty, anti-social punk n’ roll group. Hold Tight! are an excellent example of the anthem-driven melodic punk style played by sorely missed New Jersey bands like Latterman and The Ergs. Flechette operate in the same territory occupied by bands like Sleepy Time Trio and Fugazi, cranking out driving, wire-tight emotional hardcore with intense, screamed vocals. Finally, Inter Arma bring their complex creativity to a wide variety of metal-based styles, moving through a plethora of different sounds and ideas in each one of their songs.

The Orientation Festival isn’t just about bands, though. Smith intends the evening to be an introduction to the entire Richmond underground community, and with that in mind, he’s enlisted the participation of local record labels Rorschach and Forcefield, who will be giving away free copies of CDs they’ve released. Also involved are the record store Vinyl Conflict (324 S. Pine St.), and local boutiques B Sides (2925 W. Cary St.) and Rumors (404 N. Harrison St). All of these businesses have provided gift certificates that will be given away in a raffle during the show. “This community is a living, breathing thing,” Smith says. “I find it more exciting and irresistible with every passing year.” His sincere evangelism for the Richmond scene is infectious, and he hopes his enthusiasm will spread beyond the usual boundaries that the scene often fails to transcend. With Orientation, he and the staff at Strange Matter are reaching out to possible new members of the scene, attempting bring them into the fold on a permanent basis. It’s a worthy goal, and one can’t help but hope he will succeed.

The First Annual Orientation Festival will take place on Sunday, September 5 at Strange Matter (929 W. Grace St.), beginning at 5 PM. Admission is $2.

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.




more in music

SOUND CHECK! Faye Webster, Los Gaiteros De San Jacinto and Dogwood

I am super excited for this week of shows, there are some shows that I will be singing along to every word and some where I will be carving new memories of unfamiliar groups. It is an ideal combo of pioneers who slashed their way through the music world, and the...

Scenes from ‘The Garage’ Open House

The energy from The Garage open house, held a few weeks ago. Nestled on the edge of Scott's Addition, this community hub thrives as a creative space for performance and production. Captured moments by Mike Avey showcase the dynamic atmosphere and artistic spirit.

Sound Check: Fighting Gravity, DIIV, Oddisee, and Upchuck

It is a fantastic week to get lost in music. The docket for this week is looking like nothing but refreshing and fulfilling tunes, absolutely what I need to combat the mood this ungodly and violent heat has presented to our pacifist city. With this lineup there is a...

Chandler, Los Malcriados, & Flight Club: Sound Check

Hello RVA! This weekend the city is going to be popped and packing with some big bills with bigger acts. It is prime time to see the incredibly diverse talent the city is currently providing, along with some exciting out of town acts thrown into the mix. My name is...

Topics: