VA Shows You Must See This Week: December 26 – January 1

by | Dec 26, 2018 | MUSIC

Friday, December 28, 7 PM
The Grand Finale, feat. Illa Styles, Kyle The Ghost, Big B, Yung Sums, June Elizabeth, Tyrone Leake Jr, Coffee Black @ Gallery 5 – $7 in advance/$10 at the door (order tickets HERE)
If you’re anything like me, your first thought upon seeing that they’ve titled this Gallery 5 hip hop show “The Grand Finale” is, “Oh god, please tell me they’re not going away too.” Thankfully, as far as I can tell, there’s no cause for alarm — if this show is the grand finale to anything, it’s 2018, not Gallery 5. And at the end of a year that saw AGM’s ruling triumvirate (Nickelus F, Radio B, Michael Millions) dominate the hip hop game here in Richmond, this excellent showcase is here to let all of us know that RVA’s hip hop scene has a lot more than that going on.

There’s a wide variety of sounds from all around the city and state on this lineup, but you can’t be blamed if Illa Styles’ name is the one that jumps out at you. He’s not necessarily at the top of the bill, but his 2018 EP theBalance makes clear exactly why all of us should be listening to him. It’s a masterful slice of life from a veteran MC who gives us gritty, focused lyrical flow overtop of incredible multilayered beats that make the rhymes hit that much harder. It’s the most assured statement yet from a man who’s recording career goes back most of a decade and is already full of strong and powerful statements.

Another strong artist on this bill is Kyle The Ghost, who comes heading up the freeway from Newport News to team up with Richmond rapper Big B (and no, that’s not the reggae-rap guy from the West Coast). The two of them recently laid down an excellent collaborative track over a Haze Banks beat called “Passion,” which showcases both of their lyrical talents and can’t-miss flow. Between Big B’s 81 Dreaming and Kyle The Ghost’s Rebirth, both of them have also released solo projects this year that show they are more than capable of standing on their own. And then there’s also Yung Sums, who’s been making a name for himself around town as a battle rapper but also showed himself to have studio skills aplenty on his recently-released album Black Friday. There are quite a few more artists on this bill too, and if you want to have an amazing last weekend of 2018, seeing all of them send the year out on a high note is an unbeatable way to do it.

Wednesday, December 26, 8 PM
Mitchell Evan, Tyler Meacham, Pistol Sister, Rebekah Rafferty and The Wakes @ The Camel – $7 (order tickets HERE)
The Christmas holiday is officially over (sorta… though really, this is only day two of the “12 days of Christmas” you’ve been hearing about all your life), but we all know that the whole week between Christmas and New Years is kind of a rabbit hole everybody falls down. We won’t really be out of it until the New Year celebrations are over and the kids are back in school, so for now, just enjoy the ride and relax. Mitchell Evan is at the Camel tonight to help you do so, bringing you the debut of his latest solo album, Nostalgia. And this laid-back songwriter has the perfect sort of music to keep you in the right mood for this lost holiday week.

Nostalgia isn’t out yet, so none of us will hear it in all its glory until tonight at the Camel, but Mitchell Evan has released two singles from it thus far, and both give reason aplenty to expect this to be an excellent album. “Las Cruces,” which brings us the title lyric of sorts — “It’s a hell of a drug, nostalgia” (and ain’t that the truth) — has a melancholy alt-country sound that gets under your skin in the best possible way, while “Timpani Hits” has a more orchestral feel that might just have you thinking of Damien Rice. Both of these tunes are beautiful, and there’s plenty more where that came from, so come down to the Camel tonight and get the first taste of Nostalgia. Opening sets from local pop starlet Tyler Meacham and the MacKenzie Roark-led group Pistol Sister, plus an “after-party set” by Rebekah Rafferty and the Wakes, sweeten this pot considerably. Dip into it.

Thursday, December 27, 8 PM
The Vegabonds, Kendall Street Company, The Dirty Grass Players @ The Broadberry – $12 in advance/$15 day of show (order tickets HERE)
“Southern rock” probably evokes a certain mental image in all of our minds, one derived from childhoods hearing Lynyrd Skynyrd and Molly Hatchet songs on the car radio while driving around in the tiny backseats of our dads’ pickup trucks. OK, so maybe that’s only some of us, but it’s OK, because Southern rock has grown and changed since those days, and in this post-millennial post-Drive By Truckers era, things are quite a bit different. The Vegabonds are a prime example, with their mixture of guitar crunch, church-y organ hums, driving tempos, and high-lonesome vocal hooks adding up to something that’s sure to appeal to fans from all over the good ol’ US of A and beyond.

Right now we’re talking about Richmond, though, and this town is pretty close to Nashville in a geographical sense, so chances are there are quite a few of us more than ready to embrace the down-home heaviness of The Vegabonds, who are about to release their fifth album, simply entitled V, once the year turns. Get a sneak preview of that record tomorrow night at the Broadberry, and catch a set from VA’s own Kendall Street Company in the bargain. This group mingles Americana sounds with the sort of granola jams all y’all who mark the LOCKN Festival dates on your calendar the second they’re announced each year are gonna flip for. With Baltimore bluegrass pickers The Dirty Grass Players opening up, this is gonna be a night to remember.

Friday, December 28, 8 PM
Plastic Nancy, Big Fundamental @ Garden Grove Brewing – Free?
This Friday night, get some psychedelic grooves into your soul over at Garden Grove Brewing. This free show will apparently feature two sets each from Richmond groups Plastic Nancy and Big Fundamental, and considering that the show gives all the appearance of being free, this sounds like quite a bargain, if you ask me. Plastic Nancy have a pretty noisy, almost punk take on the whole hazy psych sound as displayed on a recently released single that apparently heralds a whole LP of this fuzzy, buzzy stuff. Sounds like a party.

Big Fundamental are more laid-back and rollicking on their Basement Demos, released earlier this year, but things definitely stay loud and distorted throughout. It’s clear that both of these groups will twist your head right around, and you’ll love every minute of it — especially in the pleasant surroundings Garden Grove always provides. Where pre-New Years’ weekend treats are concerned, this one is a home run.

Saturday, December 29, 8 PM
Thorp Jenson, JR Wolf @ The Camel – $7 (order tickets HERE)
If it’s gonna be that kind of week, we may as well lean into it, right? That’s what local Americana singer-songwriter Thorp Jenson and the duo of scene mainstays Angelica Garcia and Russell Lacy, collectively known as JR Wolf, will be doing at the Camel this Saturday night, and you can’t go wrong by joining them. What will specifically be going on is Thorp and his band pulling together a tribute to the Grateful Dead at the dawn of the 70s, that era which produced classic studio albums Workingman’s Dead and American Beauty as well as classic live albums Europe 72 and the Skull And Roses record (which, yes, is officially self-titled).

For a band that made a half-century’s worth of reputation on their head-expanding psychedelic epics, this was a time at which they were focusing pretty strongly on folk and country influences, bringing their more free-flowing tendencies to bear on classic American tunes complete with polished vocal harmonies — and that’s probably the perfect material for Thorp Jenson to focus on with this tribute set, as it largely mirrors his own focus as a songwriter. Whether you’re a Thorp-head or a Deadhead, this one is sure to please you. And while we can’t tell you much about what it sounds like when Angelica Garcia and Russell Lacy combine powers like the Wonder Twins to form JR Wolf, we’re sure based on their mutually powerful track records that you’re going to find the results intriguing and delightful. Come chill.

Sunday, December 30, 10 PM
Hallelujah, Deathbirds Surf Club, Delicate Whip @ Bandito’s – Free!
It seemed unlikely that we could get through this whole week without some ugly punk noise, and now it’s become a certainty that we can’t. Oh, but who would want to? Especially when we have the opportunity to spend a Sunday night in the company of these killer Richmond outfits for the low, low price of zero dollars! Hallelujah, who made quite an impression on the RVA noise-rock scene in the early years of the 21st century with their harsh interjections of sound, have been back in action as a trio for a while now, and showed on last year’s self-titled full-length that they’ve still got the goods. Get ready to have your hair blown back — if you’ve got any left.

Deathbirds Surf Club have been an intriguing proposition from the word go, bringing a straightforward 60s-retro surf sound to the modern RVA punk scene in the same way that the Fresh-O-Matics did 20 years ago. However, instead of evoking the hard-charging guitar heroics of Dick Dale, the Deathbirds go for lovelorn sincerity with a strummy pop sound that’s on the fresh-faced Beach Boys end of things — with some Wavves-type modern indie damage thrown in to spice things up. It’s a unique proposition, for sure, and one that’s always worth catching. The moody sludge of local newcomers Delicate Whip kicks the whole thing off in fine fashion, and if you’ve invested wisely, you’ll have a big plate of tacos in front of you before they start.

Monday, December 31, 8 PM
Piranha Rama, Chance Fischer, Dr. Millionaire, Ghost Piss, Dazeases @ Gallery 5 – $10 in advance/$15 at the door (order tickets HERE)
It’s probably not too early to ask… what are you doing New Years Eve? Some would say you’re best off ordering a pizza, staying in, and going to bed early. We certainly don’t recommend spending your afternoon driving up to NYC to stand in the freezing cold in Times Square, but despite the cynics, there are still good times to be had on New Years Eve here in RVA. And if some great local music in a variety of sounds and styles is your thing, Gallery 5 is definitely the place to be. Not only will there be champagne toasts and a photobooth (as well as “glitter” and “tears,” if the facebook event page is to be believed — and chances are it’s correct), there will be an amazing variety of excellent musical performers, all of whom at least originate here in our own river city.

You know what’s up with Piranha Rama by now, right? This conglomeration of Richmond musical all-stars has been plying their trade around town for the past year in fine fashion, bringing us a unique and lushly instrumented take on lounge-inflected retro-surf indie pop. Or something like that. Their self-titled LP is a real treat, and if you haven’t tasted it yet, this will be a great opportunity for you to make 2019 a better year than 2018 by getting familiar. That’s not even to mention the outstanding double-dose of RVA hip hop we’ll get on this bill from a couple of Richmond’s champion rhymers, Chance Fischer and Dr. Millionaire. Both of them are set to slay, so be prepared. And then there’s the double-dose of ambient electronic unease from moody divas Ghost Piss and Dazeases. Really, what more can you ask for? I mean, yes, you can ask for a really outstanding 2019, but that’s kinda beyond the capacity of a live music preview column, so this excellent show will have to do.

Bonus Hampton Roads Picks:

Thursday, December 27, 7 PM
Ancient Torture Techniques, Amara, MSD, Nervous System, Berkowitz @ Charlie’s American Cafe – $5
One totally lovely element of the Hampton Roads musical scene’s 2018 has been the return to full-time action of Ancient Torture Techniques, a power-violence ensemble best known on these RVA streets for their decade-ago split with bygone locals Street Pizza. They’re back, and while they still don’t have a Bandcamp page, they do have a quiver full of Spazz-meets-Slayer blastbeat-fueled mayhem to deal out on us all. You can show your gratitude with headbangs.

They’re joined on this bill by a smorgasbord of heavy grinders representing the current crop of this sort of high-speed devastation in the commonwealth. Newport News shredders Amara have a wall of harsh fuzz noise for you, pushing all the needles into the red with their grinding metallic riffage. Richmond’s MSD (no clue what it stands for, put your best guesses in the comments) go for a more straight-up death metal approach, while Norfolk’s Nervous System find the line where grindcore meets hardcore and hit it for all it’s worth. And of course, Berkowitz represents with some lo-end death-grind to kick it all off. Be prepared to thrash.

Monday, December 31, 7 PM
GWAR, Against The Grain, Stonecutters @ The NorVA – $20.50 in advance/$23 at the door (order tickets HERE)
New Years Eve in the Norfolk area is looking quite a bit like a lot of Richmond metalheads’ dream of a brutal year-ending party here at home. That’s because GWAR is taking over the NorVA for New Years Eve, and if you don’t love the idea of ending 2018 soaked in (fake) blood, I don’t know what to even tell you. It’s a bummer this isn’t happening closer to home, we agree — but hey, GWAR were just here at The National in November. So rather than pointing fingers at the NorVA for poaching our favorite alien overlords, let’s all just order our tickets now, gas up the Jeep, and leave early to beat the tunnel traffic, shall we?

GWAR’s turn toward a more KISS/Nugent-style vibe on most recent LP The Blood Of Gods will make their furor even more apropos for a night of celebration, and also means they’ll be able to match up perfectly with Detroit’s Against the Grain, whose triumphant throwback-thrash approach is your ticket to nonstop headbangs. Kentuckians Stonecutters kick things off with some more powerful 80s thrash stomp, as exemplified on their brand new LP, Carved In Time. Overall, this is a night of absolutely stupendous metal in the offing, so take this opportunity to send 2018 out with a (head)bang! But seriously — pick a DD ahead of time, we don’t want y’all wrecking into the bay on your way back to town.


Top Photo by Alyk Visions

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): [and yeah, there’s plenty more of my writing to read over at GayRVA — come say hey.]

Music Sponsored By Graduate Richmond

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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