The Virginia Metal Alliance

by | Jul 23, 2009 | MUSIC

Is genre-dedicated promotion necessary?  Certainly, promoters tend to stick to one genre or another.  You’ll not find a hip-hop promoter pushing a hardcore show, and electronica /rave promoters don’t push jazz.  But is the Virginia Metal Alliance really a promoter? 


Is genre-dedicated promotion necessary?  Certainly, promoters tend to stick to one genre or another.  You’ll not find a hip-hop promoter pushing a hardcore show, and electronica /rave promoters don’t push jazz.  But is the Virginia Metal Alliance really a promoter? 

I’m not sure.  It seems that an alliance is more than a promotions agent.  Nik is a dedicated metal fan, and his goal isn’t just to get shows booked.  His drive is for a fluid metal scene that supports itself, and certainly heavy metal needs it.  Small venues are often unreceptive to heavy metal.  I know this personally after working with a very capable local promoter, attempting to bring metal shows into a now-defunct venue that usually only partook in hip-hop & top 40 nights.  We were told that they’d love to do metal shows… so long as none of the bands did any screaming, and a dress code could be enforced.  They eventually said that we could book bands that were half screaming, half singing, but we’d also have to pay for extra security, of course, as metal fans are just so violent that the security risk is elevated.  No moshing or crowd surfing, either.  As if the conversation was going anywhere, I left the discussion table when the venue got around to asking us to supplement their insurance payments. 

Perhaps if Nik had been at the table, things would have been different.  Here is a promoter who is sick of the “pay-to-play” mentality common among booking agents and promoters.  Nik does booking and promotions, along with Jo and Eric.  They are rounded out by Trish, who in addition to promotions does design and graphics.  Together, they are the Virginia Metal Alliance.  Their goal is to promote VA’s metal, and to bring more emerging and established acts to VA.   
It’s easy to say here that Richmond doesn’t need it.  Richmond is a beacon of metal, after all!  Metal bands practically play bar mitzvahs in RVA.  Lamb of God, Municipal Waste, Darkest Hour and other national touring acts are from here.  You can catch a metal show almost any night of the week.  And this is one of the things that make quality, dedicated promoters so much more essential.  In a city as saturated with good, heavy music as Richmond, booking a show should be easy, right?  Wrong. 

Approaching a venue to book a show- especially early in a band’s career- can be like trying to sell sand to the Saudis.  Consider that most young bands might have only a terrible quality recording of themselves made in a garage- if they have anything at all.  It can be pretty tough to convince a club owner (or even a booking agent) to come to your practice space and check out your sound. 

These are the problems that the Virginia Metal Alliance seeks to solve.  They started as the Richmond Music Union, but as metal fans, decided to become the Richmond Metal Alliance.  Realizing that the metal scene was much larger than just Richmond, they evolved into their current title. But what is metal? 

I’ve been an enthusiast and musician within the genre for over a decade, and despite being a big fan of metal, I am by no means an expert.  I miss a lot of great bands, and I’m constantly discovering ones I’ve overlooked for years.   Of the few bands I’ve been in, none have ever had a booking agent, and the shows I played were either bills booked by the venue or ourselves. I’ve been squeezed into overbooked lineups, and thrown on stage as the only attraction.  The incongruence can be extremely frustrating, especially as a band without a substantial following.  Larger acts can be hard to book and play with if you can’t draw a good crowd on your own yet.  There is such disparity of taste within the genre, from musicians and fans alike, that metal shows often devolve into discussions on which band was more metal, or more brutal.  One person’s definition of heavy music can differ greatly from another’s, making a good crowd that likes all acts on a bill a hard thing to find.   

Nik offers this: “Metal for me, always involves killer guitars and thunderous drums, but it is more of an attitude.  I really hate that elitist concept that metal only has one look and one sound.  Bands like Construkt are the epitome of a metal band that has a different face and a different sound.” 

Within this working definition, they make no judgments as to who they book.  A lot of the bands they promote may qualify as punk or hardcore by a metal purist, however, purity is not their goal.  Shows are.  VA Beach, Charlottesville, and RVA have the biggest scenes currently, however NoVA and SW VA are also in the mix.  They’ll book shows anywhere that metal can be booked, however The Element Club, Alley Katz, and the Pit in North Carolina are among the few places that are notably metal-friendly. 

Promoting shows isn’t easy, but the VMA reports that despite some bumps in the road, it hasn’t been too arduous of a task.  They’ve also made some great friends along the way; some bands (mostly VA) that Nik suggests:
 
Construkt www.myspace.com/construkttheband
 
Arsis www.myspace.com/arsis
 
CabRideHome www.myspace.com/cabridehome
 
Brutaliion www.myspace.com/brutallionthrashmetal
 
Krass Judgement  www.myspace.com/krassjudgement
 
Syndicate www.myspace.com/syndicatemetal
 
Mensrea  www.myspace.com/mensrea
 
Bleed  www.myspace.com/bleednow
 
Unknown  www.myspace.com/unknownkicksass
 
Seraph www.myspace.com/seraphrva
 
and the list goes on…..

RVA Staff

RVA Staff

RVA culture rag since 2005. #RVA




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