Friday, July 1, 5 PM
Bio Ritmo, The Sweet Potatoes @ Gallery 5 – Free!
Summer is officially here, folks, and with the temperatures and the humidity on the rise, the time is perfect for some hot music. Bio Ritmo’s been serving up that exact sort of thing here in Richmond for over 30 years now, and hearing their salsa music right now feels almost as good as eating salsa on chips tastes. They haven’t been as musically active in recent years as huge fans might want them to be; other than an anniversary-commemorating vinyl reissue of their 1996 Merge Records single “Piraguero,” they haven’t released anything since 2014’s Puerta Del Sur. Luckily for us all, they stay busy in other ways — one of which will offer us all the chance to see Bio Ritmo this Friday night — for free, no less!
There will be plenty of music happening at this event at Gallery 5, but the music isn’t the most important part. This month’s show at Gallery 5 was created in partnership with Bio Ritmo and The Valentine, and celebrates Richmond’s rich legacy of immigrant communities over the centuries of the city’s existence. In addition to art created by immigrant artists from the Richmond region, Gallery 5 will also be displaying a selection of historical images from the Valentine’s collection, documenting immigrant communities throughout Richmond’s history. You can show up anytime after 5 pm to see all that stuff, and to take advantage of happy hour at the Gallery 5 bar. You know, if that’s your kind of thing.
The most exciting part of the evening, though, will begin at 8 pm, as Gallery 5’s First Friday house band, The Sweet Potatoes, takes the stage for a warm-up set of their old-time jazz sound. Then we get a full set by Bio Ritmo, whose salsa music is sure to keep your feet moving, your booty shaking, and a smile plastered across your face. Thirty years of Richmond crowds will tell you that this band knows how to put on a great show, but if you don’t know just yet, there couldn’t be a better time for you to learn for yourself. After all, there’s awesome art and fascinating history on display, the kind of thing you won’t hear about in school. And above all, admission is free, so even if gas prices got you broke as hell, you can still come have a party with Bio Ritmo. Considering the way this summer’s going thus far, it seems like we’re gonna need to party whenever we can.
Wednesday, June 29, 7 PM
Destructo Disk, Overunderdog, Plastic Pyramid, Dysphonia @ Cobra Cabana – Donations requested
As of last Friday, abortion is now illegal in over half the country. Thankfully, it isn’t in Virginia yet, despite the best efforts of our Republican governor, but that’s no reason for anyone to get complacent, or to ignore the fact that very real financial barricades exist in order for lower-income people (those most at risk for unwanted pregnancies) to access abortion. Therefore, it’s very timely that this Destructo Disk throwdown at Cobra Cabana is a benefit for Richmond Reproductive Freedom Project. Reproductive rights are under threat, y’all, and if the money you pay to get into whatever random punk rock show you’re going to this week can help fight against that threat, so much the better.
I don’t want to imply that this is just some random mid-week punk rock show, though. Destructo Disk is one of the more intriguing punk bands to come out of the Richmond punk scene in a while, and they certainly deserve your attention if you haven’t checked them out yet. Only a month or two ago, they released their latest LP, Bad Gravity, which Bandcamp bills as a “liminal space punk rock opera,” and really does seem to follow the ongoing story of a punk band trying to find a way to survive in some sort of dystopian future world… or something like that. What’s beyond debate is that these songs are all super catchy and a ton of fun to sing along with. So yeah, if punk rock’s your bag, head out to Cobra Cabana tonight to catch Destructo Disk. And dig deep when they pass the donation jar — it really is important.
Thursday, June 30, 8 PM
Blkvapor, Asylum 213, Fake Bodies, Listless @ Powers BMX Shop – Donations requested
Here’s another show happening out on Williamsburg Road at a local bike shop that has suddenly started presenting a good many great live music events. If you’re not paying attention to what’s going on over at Powers BMX, you should start, and this show is a great opportunity to do so. Baltimore’s Blkvapor is coming to town, presenting an intriguing, somewhat introspective sound that nonetheless knows how to get properly noisy when the time is right. They bill themselves as “queer punk and noise rock,” and those elements are certainly there on their debut EP, Vaporising, but on tracks like “Doomscroll,” they show off a real melodic sense that adds additional layers to the furious noise displayed on tracks like “Fuck You (Transphobia).”
So yeah, Blkvapor are going to be the kind of difficult-to-categorize listening experience that doesn’t come along too often. I for one am always looking for musicians like this, because if nothing else, they’re not bringing us just another dose of the same old thing. What Blkvapor has on offer is significantly better than that, in fact, and they’re joined on this bill by several local bands, all of whom have their own styles to provide to the overall mix. Asylum 213’s 2021 album, Not Homeless/Just Hopeless, dips into everything from shoegaze distortion to indie melody to chaotic metalcore, which is sure to make their live show unpredictable in the most delightful of ways. Northern Virginia’s Fake Bodies bring a strong dose of snotty, melodic punk to the table, as delightfully displayed on their new album, Stop Shaking. Meanwhile, Richmond “revenge-core” band Listless rounds out the bill with what is sure to be the heaviest set of the evening, bringing down the hammer with a powerful sound that should appeal to anyone who loves banging their head. Not a bad night at the local BMX shop, all told.
Friday, July 1, 8 PM
Sequela, Asylum 213, Melk, Open Wake @ Garden Grove Brewing – Free!
I don’t know too much about Sequela, the band headlining this bill at Garden Grove on Friday night. But I must admit, I find them very intriguing. For one thing, they’re from Portland, Maine — the only other musician from up that way I can think of is Dr. Millionaire. For another, they’re an eight-piece band, and in addition to three guitars, the instrumentation on their new single, “Mourning Routine,” includes two cellos, an upright bass, a lap steel guitar, and a singing saw. The result takes the multi-layered nature of the indie-shoegaze sound to a whole new level, incorporating the grandeur of classical symphonies and the bombastic epics of post-rock auteurs like Sigur Ros into a sound fundamentally grounded in Dinosaur Jr/My Bloody Valentine-style fuzz guitar alt-rock.
That’s basically all I know; they’ve only released a few songs so far in their career. However, if you ask me, “Mourning Routine” is enough on its own to make this band worth going to see. This is especially true in light of the fact that Garden Grove doesn’t charge at the door for their shows, and in light of the fact that Sequela has a few really good local groups to share the bill with. I mentioned Asylum 213 two short paragraphs ago, so you should remember them by now. Melk is a new trio in town, who seem to be exploring that same confluence of melody and heaviness that was so fruitful for Hum over the years. Open Wake round out the bill with some upbeat rock n’ roll sounds. This one’s gonna be fun, y’all.
Saturday, July 2, 8 PM
Rebekah Rafferty And the Wakes, Weekend Plans, Yeni Nostalji @ The Camel – $10 in advance, $12 day of show (order tickets HERE)
Oh goodness, a ticketed show! I had almost forgotten about those. But as much as I might love to live in the world of benefit shows and donation jars, seeing the best music you can see on a particular night does sometimes require breaking out the debit card and entering your info into a website. It’s OK — the results you’ll achieve as a result are always rewarding. In this case, particularly so, as Rebekah Rafferty and the Wakes, a mainstay on Richmond’s underground rock scene for years now, really do have something to celebrate at the Camel this Saturday night. Specifically, their debut album, Two Of Swords, which they’ve been working on for years now, will finally enter the world, and this is The Wakes’ opportunity to celebrate.
Now, you might think that, as a prominent (or at least verbose) local music journalist, I get all the inside info about all the things Richmond bands are up to. Sometimes I do! Not in this case, though. So I don’t know what songs from The Wakes’ set will appear on the album; I can’t tell you whether the lovely singles they’ve been releasing over the past couple of years, like the melancholy, melodic “It’ll Be Fine” or the moody, understated “Witches,” will make the final album. But I can tell you that those songs more than proved Rafferty and The Wakes’ bona fides, proving that Rafferty’s songcraft is above reproach and her musicians are incredibly talented. Considering how hard they’ve worked on their imminent debut LP, one can’t help but imagine all of those qualities will come to delightful fruition on Two Of Swords. It certainly stands to reason. It also seems highly likely that this show will be an excellent display of a talented local group at the peak of their powers. By now, you should know what to do.
Sunday, July 3, 7 PM
Baby Bugs, Monsoon, Koi @ The Camel – $7 (order tickets HERE)
Based on all the available evidence I’ve been able to obtain by closely following the local music scene over the past year, it seems like Richmonders Baby Bugs are just getting started in their musical journey. They’ve only released two singles since upgrading from the solo project of a young non-binary songwriter named Bowie to a four-piece band backing Bowie’s catchy yet snarky compositions with metallic punk muscle. They play locally on a regular basis, but have really just started to tour. So why, I wondered to myself, is it that every time I google Baby Bugs, I find stan accounts, google suggesting questions about how old their singer is, and other things I more often associate with outright celebrities. It puzzled me for a while, but this week, I thought of checking for Baby Bugs on Tiktok. Sure enough, they have over 100,000 followers on there; their videos have been seen nearly three-quarters of a million times. So yeah, this little Richmond band has a huge following in a part of the internet that forty-somethings like me often forget about. And kudos to them for that! I sometimes wonder how bands are going to find ways to become successful in this modern streaming era where discovery of new music seems entirely controlled by massive corporations. For at least some musicians, it seems that social media provides a viable tool.
So hey, want to know what all the zoomers on Tiktok are listening to? You could do a lot worse than going to The Camel this Sunday night and checking out Baby Bugs. As a full band, they only have two singles out, but both “Cannibal Girlfriend” and “Autotheist” have a lot to recommend them, from their intriguingly gothic lyrics to their heavy punk sound and catchy riffage. I can’t help but think of Toward Space back when the members were still in high school and David was still playing drums with foot pedals, but instead of being way into No Bunny and Jay Reatard, Baby Bugs are more influenced by The Misfits and Be Your Own Pet. I, for one, am way into it. Even if I don’t have a Tiktok account.
Tuesday, July 5, 7 PM
Supercrush, Gnawing, Strawberry Moon, Catie Lausten @ Gallery 5 – $10 (order tickets HERE)
Now let’s move from the cutting edge of zoomer virality to a 90s throwback sound sure to get all the older millennials and young Gen X-ers (aka myself and my peer group) excited. Supercrush may come from an entirely different sensibility than Baby Bugs, but these two bands have more in common than you might expect: both place value on catchy riffs and strong choruses, both use killer distortion but know how to push the melody to the fore when the time is right, and both base their sound around that old standby, the electric guitar. So hey, all you zoomers being glad I finally repped a band you could relate to, maybe y’all should check out Supercrush at Gallery 5 on Tuesday too.
On their new EP, Melody Maker, Supercrush dip into a deep well of lush pop goodness, even as they keep the fuzzboxes cranked. Tunes like “Perfect Smile” and “Helium High” simultaneously evoke the buzz-bin days of Teenage Fanclub, Velvet Crush, and first-LP Weezer, even as they also are sure to tickle the fancy of those bedroom-pop nerds who loved what The Eels or The Apples In Stereo were up to back in those halcyon years before 9/11 and the George W. Bush presidency ruined everything. If Supercrush get some volume going on record, they’re sure to be even louder in person at Gallery 5, in a manner that’s likely to evoke smiles and swaying from a blissed-out audience. Local guitar heroes Gnawing and Strawberry Moon will add to the firepower this bill has to offer, and talented singer-songwriter Catie Lausten will get this all started off right. So hey, spend your post-Fourth-of-July Tuesday at Gallery 5. You won’t regret it.
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): [email protected]