Richmond punk rock/power-pop trio Washers are performing live for the very last time tomorrow night at Gallery 5. Even as they call it quits, though, they’ll be celebrating the release of their new album, Be Careful. And you’re gonna want to get in on that.
The pandemic has taken a lot of great music from us over the past year and a half. Mostly I mean all the bands we could’ve seen live if clubs hadn’t had to shut down for over a year, but another very important element of the loss the music world has experienced is all the bands that have come to the conclusion, for one reason or another, that they needed to call it quits.
One Richmond band like this is Washers, the trio of Stuart Holt, Joel Alford, and Brad Perry. These guys were already known around town for their work in bands like Sports Bar, Worn In Red, and Pity Party, and the music they made as Washers built on the punk rock/power pop pedigree they’d established in those other bands. Sadly, while we were all hiding in our houses from the pandemic, Washers came to an end.
“The pandemic as well as some big life changes a few of us experienced made everyone reflect on our priorities,” said drummer Brad Perry of the breakup. “We’re all still friends, but it had just kind of run its course.”
Luckily for everyone in Richmond, we will still get one last chance to experience Washers in a live setting — at Gallery 5 tomorrow night. Perry is excited to give it one final go. “We’re all proud of the music we made together, and we had a lot of fun doing it,” he said. “So we’re excited to have one last hurrah with two bands we love at Gallery 5 (which was also the site of our first show in 2016!).”
In addition to one last live performance, Washers has a real treat on offer for fans old and new — the release of their second (and, sadly, final) album, Be Careful. This nine-song collection is full of fun, catchy tunes with surprisingly substantive lyrical themes. Synth-tinged opener “(Hanging Out With) Brad” is just a fun song about chilling with friends, but the chorus hook is hard not to chant along with and draw some possibly unintentional resonance from. “I don’t read much, I just watch stuff,” the band chants.
Then there’s mid-album mid-tempo banger “Building A Brand,” a song that views the ubiquitous social climbing of every wannabe social-media “influencer” with undisguised disdain. “Take another photograph, for the 13th time — the light just wasn’t right,” sings Stuart Holt. “Building up my brand real nice for 10,000 strangers with faces glowing bright.” This over a chunky riff that pops like the catchiest Cars tunes even as it hits like the heaviest Pixies riffs, but with an undeniable undercurrent of hardcore chug.
The album offers plenty of other fun moments, from the bouncy upbeat pop of “Blocking The Box” to the rendering of caged-up frustration as driving hooks on album closer “Gone,” which closes the album with a singalong chorus you’ll be humming for the rest of the day. The lyrics to this one could symbolize a lot of reasons why a person might want to get out of a situation, from despair of a bad relationship to frustration with a crappy job, but after a year and a half of COVID precautions, it might be as simple as wanting to back to the places we used to go without fear.
That same theme, of frustration with the many restrictions we’ve dealt with since last spring, comes through in the album’s title. According to Perry, that’s a definite factor. “We settled on the name, Be Careful, right as things felt like they might be starting to open up again after vaccinations were happening. But we probably all felt like it couldn’t be that simple – the pandemic wasn’t going to be “done” just like that,” he said. “Safe to say everyone wanted to feel relief, and we thought we all wanted to rekindle that love of playing loud music with friends. But nothing is the same as it was before. All of us are putting more care into every decision we make. So maybe that’s why the name struck a chord.”
Unfortunately, the album is only available digitally at this point, and Perry doesn’t think that’s likely to change. “Pressing anything on vinyl is crazy expensive and takes forever these days, so we aren’t doing that. But we all came up playing record release shows, so even though there’s no physical record, it still just feels natural to do a show where we play a bunch of these songs,” he explained. “Some of them will sound familiar to folks who came to see us pre-pandemic, but there are at least a few that we haven’t played live before.”
So this Saturday night banger will be a treat in a lot of ways, but you don’t have to sacrifice your own ability to “be careful” in order to come. Proof of vaccination will be required for entry, and the big fire station doors will be open to allow air to circulate and keep everyone breathing as much fresh air as possible. In addition to a headlining set from Washers, attendees will get to see fellow Richmond locals Big No and Teen Death. Plus, all proceeds from Washers merch sales will go toward Doll Baby frontwoman Julie Storey and her ability to pay medical bills she incurred while fighting brain cancer. So buy a t-shirt — it’s for a good cause! (You can also donate directly to Julie at her GoFundMe.)
Washers’ record release/final show is taking place on Saturday, October 2 at Gallery 5 (200 W. Marshall St). Admission is $7 in advance, $10 at the door, with tickets available via Eventbrite. And to get yourself psyched for their final performance, you can stream Washers’ Be Careful right now over at Spotify and Apple Music, or buy your very own download of it at Bandcamp. Let’s go!
Top Photo by Steve Crandall, via Washers/Facebook