Friday, August 3, 4 PM
Spooky Cool, Haybaby, Piranha Rama, Castle Of Genre @ Hardywood – Free!
It’s been a long time coming. Spooky Cool, the band formed from the ashes of psychedelic indie-folk group Zac Hryciak & the Jungle Beat, have been a steady presence on the local scene for a good three years now. And throughout that time, they have maintained a policy of mysteriousness, keeping social media to a minimum and staying entirely out of the studio. For the first year or so they were around, if you wanted to hear them, you had to go see them. For a while after that, live videos from Good Day RVA and other random YouTube uploaders with iPhones were all you could see.
But now, finally, three years into their career, Spooky Cool have taken a step into widespread availability with the impending release of their first EP, Every Thing Ever. The five-song cassette is coming this Friday from Citrus City Records, and along with it is coming a free celebration of its release at Hardywood. Whether you’ve been following this band for six months, two years, or since their first show, it’s sure to be a relief to finally have Spooky Cool tunes you can listen to somewhere other than live venues. And it’ll be even cooler to see them play all these songs live this Friday night, knowing that when you get home, you can listen once again to the songs they’ve gotten stuck in your head.
The free show Friday afternoon is also a celebration of a new brew release at Hardywood, so it’ll kick off at 4 PM to give those of you off work by then a chance to enjoy the tasty beverages. Music won’t start til 6, though, so you’ll have time to drive over after work and still catch it all. In addition to the headlining set by Spooky Cool — and the opportunity to purchase their new EP — this event also offers for your listening pleasure a set by RVA-via-Brooklyn indie-poppers Haybaby, who keep things off-kilter and unpredictable but never fail to deliver the melodic goods. Piranha Rama will be on the scene too, and if you missed their own recent record release show, this event will offer you the chance to catch up with these indie-garage-psych heads as well. Castle Of Genre will open up with their own unusual brand of synth-inflected indie melodies. Hurry over from work, you don’t want to miss a minute of this one.
Wednesday, August 1, 8 PM
Rata Negra, Haircut, Serqet, Sensual World @ Strange Matter – $10 (order tickets HERE)
Not to turn into Raymond Carver or anything, but we need to start this one out by discussing What We Talk About When We Talk About Melodic Punk. See, there are some of you who will thing such a genre tag indicates universally terrible music. Some of you will think I’m saying that Rata Negra sounds like NOFX or something. Some of you are in both of those groups of people. But I strongly encourage you, before you head out to Strange Matter tonight, to throw away all your preconceptions. Rata Negra is something else completely.
This Spanish band’s sound is driven by uptempo rhythms, bouncy basslines, melodic guitar leads, and catchy vocal choruses. But they have a dark undercurrent to their sound that draws from early dark punk groups like The Bats or The Wipers, even as they’re also bringing in a European flair that makes me think of Gorilla Angreb. They definitely don’t have a shred of 90s skate punk to offer — and that’s definitely a good thing. Rata Negra will be joined on this bill by a trio of local killers that’s led off by raging hardcore punkers Haircut, whose EP last winter certainly fired up the Christmas season (and will heat up this rather chilly and damp summer, too). Melodic peace-punks Serqet will get things started along with Sensual World, the latest project from the always-talented Julie Karr. You need this show in your life.
Thursday, August 2, 8 PM
Sons Of Bill, Wrinkle Neck Mules, Carl Anderson @ The Broadberry – $18 (order tickets HERE)
I haven’t been all that aware of Sons Of Bill, the band made up of brothers Sam, Abe, and James Wilson, plus a rhythm section, and I feel kinda bad about it. Not only are they from Charlottesville, they’ve released five albums over the past decade or so, and done a bunch of touring in Europe. How have I missed out on this band? Well, better late than never, I suppose. Their fifth album, Oh God Ma’am, just came out at the end of June, and it’s a good spot to jump on the Sons Of Bill bandwagon — so what are we waiting for? Let’s do it!
On their latest album, Sons Of Bill walk a fine line between multiple genres. At times, they seem to follow in the footsteps of alt-country pioneers like Wilco and Son Volt; at other times, their dark, new-wave vibes land somewhere between the spooky synth-pop of early Echo and the Bunnymen and the lush desolation of Red House Painters circa “Mistress.” All of it is subdued, but the emotional overtones that wash over you from the Wilson brothers’ heartfelt vocals and the layers of ringing guitars and reverberating piano leave an impact, for sure. While Sons Of Bill have a subtle initial effect, they will be impossible to ignore in a full-volume live environment. Let them draw you in.
Friday, August 3, 9 PM
Noisem, Secret Cutter, Cruelsifix @ Wonderland – $15
At long last, Baltimore thrashers Noisem return to RVA. These kids aren’t as young as they once were, and it’s been three years since they released any significant new material. However, they’re still at it, loud and heavy as ever, and they’ve just inked a deal with Relapse that promises to deliver their long-awaited third album sometime in the near future. Before they head into the studio, though, they’ve been hitting the road to sharpen up their chops and get ready to lay down some killer riffage. They’re sure to have plenty of ripping speedy thrash with which to tear shit up in Shockoe Bottom this Friday night, and if you like to headbang, you won’t want to miss this one.
From Sick/Tired to Amygdala, this year has seen Noisem joined on tour by a variety of bands with appeal beyond the world of straight-up thrash, and this Wonderland show is no exception. PA’s Secret Cutter, who recently refined their unique grind-sludge-noise hybrid on brand new LP Quantum Eraser, will be blowing into town in the company of Noisem, and you headbangers won’t want to miss their brutal, powerful brand of heaviness. It’ll twist your head around — as will openers Cruelsifix, who bring us a new take on a classic sound, updating classic Florida death metal for a new millennium. This one will rock you so hard, you’ll be glad for the relative brevity of a three-band bill, just to give your neck a break.
Saturday, August 4, 4 PM
Sundials, Yeehaw Junction, Jake Mayday @ Strange Matter – $8-10 (donations to RRFP)
Sundials are spread pretty thin these days. The emotionally-driven pop-punk quartet from RVA have been steadily spreading further afield over the past couple of years — Harris moved to Boston, then Chris moved to Philadelphia. Now, it seems, Carl will be leaving for the UK, leaving only one member still based here in Richmond. It’s been several years since Sundials released their last EP, Kick, back in 2014, and for most of that time, they’ve been a rare presence on the live scene around Richmond. Now, for obvious reasons, Sundials live performances are only going to get fewer and farther between.
All of which is makes it essential that you make it out to Strange Matter this Saturday afternoon to catch Sundials at the top of a matinee bill. You’re not gonna see them again anytime soon. You’ll also want to welcome a new presence on the local scene — Yeehaw Junction, a synth-driven pop band with a punky bounce and sincere, heartfelt lyrics, who recently arrived here from New England and have sounds that are sure to charm you. And of course, Jake Mayday, a longtime friend of Sundials and the Richmond scene — and probably pretty much everybody who’s ever met him, he’s a total sweetheart — will kick off the show with a set of sincere acoustic tunes that will make you smile. Who knows when we’ll see Sundials together on the same stage again — show up at Strange Matter this Saturday evening and give them a proper sendoff.
Sunday, August 5, 8 PM
Birds In Row, Portrayal Of Guilt, Sonnets, .gif From God, Lunger @ Strange Matter – $12 (order tickets HERE)
Oh wow, this is exciting. I’ve been a follower of French label Throatruiner Records for most of a decade now — their commitment to harsh, metallic hardcore at a time when such sounds were losing favor with mainstream HC and metalcore audiences made every new release on their label worth a listen. It was Throatruiner who brought fellow Frenchmen Birds In Row to my attention several years ago, and it was Throatruiner who really prepared me for what I was in for when Birds In Row finally released their second full-length, We Already Lost The World, on Deathwish earlier this year. The passionate screams, dynamic song structures, noisy guitars, and intense delivery of important messages on songs like “Love Is Political” and “Remember Us Better Than We Are” all embody the best qualities of what I’ve come to expect from Throatruiner. And on an American label? Perfect.
Best of all, Birds In Row are coming to Richmond this Sunday night to bring their dramatic, chaotic, and incredibly intense sound to Strange Matter. They’re sure to level the place and everyone in it — and what’s even cooler is that they’ll be bringing Texas killers Portrayal Of Guilt with them. This band’s still only got four songs (and a Christian Death cover) out, but they’ve made a big impact in a brief time with a small amount of music, purely through the forceful power of their live performances. Mixing aspects of chaotic, grinding hardcore with the metallic, emotionally-driven sound that has come to represent the 21st century underground “screamo” scene results in nothing but awesomeness when these guys hit the stage. And these heavy hitters will be joined on this bill by a variety of other excellent groups, including Salt Lake City’s Sonnets and local ragers .gif From God and Lunger. Seriously, y’all, don’t sleep on this one.
Monday, August 6, 7 PM
Lunar Vacation, Hill Walkers, Death Palette, Nic Perea @ Gallery 5 – $6
It may have been raining a whole lot here in Richmond over the past little while, but lest we forget, it is still summer, and therefore the perfect time for a Lunar Vacation. No, not a trip to the moon (though I suppose that would be pretty cool) — an excellent indie-pop band from down Atlanta way who have a ton of summery melodies with which to chase the rainy day blues away. Their brand new EP, Artificial Flavors, is loaded with the brand of shiny tunes this band have, only two EPs in, gained a reputation for, and they’re sure to bring a smile to your face with their expert mingling of electronic synth soundscapes, bouncing basslines, and Grace Repasky’s memorable vocal flourishes.
Lunar Vacation are exactly the tonic you need for yet another Monday back at stupid ol’ work (especially since this weekend is forecasted to be cloudy and rainy, just like this week). And they’ll be joined by some pretty great local talents as well. Hill Walkers are foremost among them, and while this local quartet may not focus as much on the synth-electronic end of things as Lunar Vacation, they coax some similarly shiny melodies out of their guitars and vocals, always to lovely effect. Death Palette is a new project from Rene Franco, better known as the more introverted half of Citrus City Records, and the solo demos I’ve heard certainly build anticipation for some smooth, tropical indie-pop. Nic Perea of Camp Howard opens things up with a solo set, and if that isn’t a guarantee of a great opening act, I don’t know what is. Show up on time and ready to get stoked.
Tuesday, August 7, 7 PM
Microwave, Can’t Swim, Drug Church, Flight Club @ The Canal Club – $15 (order tickets HERE)
We can’t get through a week without some emo, can we? I sure don’t want to! Thankfully, our last RVA slot of the week has been filled by a killer triple bill of emotion-fueled groups with various ratios of melody to volume on display in their styles — and all of them are awesome. Atlanta’s Microwave are at the top of the bill with some excellent songcraft and the sort of infectious choruses that’ll make you an instant fan (at least, if your tastes are anything like mine). 2016’s Much Love is full of excellent tunes with intriguing one-word song titles like “Roaches” and “Vomit.” Don’t worry, their sound is much more pleasant than those particular nouns would lead you to believe.
New Jersey’s Can’t Swim have a slightly heavier sound, with chunkier guitars and a more strained vocal approach, but their melodic sense is first-rate, and they display that fact on 2017’s Fail You Again with a collection of top-quality tuneage. The last release by Albany, NY’s Drug Church dates all the way back to 2015, but a one-song preview of their forthcoming full-length on Pure Noise Records shows that this band hasn’t lost its touch with catchy yet powerful post-hardcore, a sound they’ve used to standout effect on previous albums like 2013’s Paul Walker and 2015’s Hit Your Head. I for one am eagerly awaiting more — and we’ll probably all get a preview of their next offering at this show. Local pop-punk goofballs Flight Club open this one up; expect some serious fun.
NEW: Bonus Hampton Roads Picks!
Thursday, August 2, 6 PM
Self-Inflicted, Promise Breaker, The New Reign, Deathsinger, Betrayer, Beyond The Grave @ 37th and Zen – $5
That’s right, folks — in an effort to expand our reach and let you know about killer shows that might not make it to the Richmond area, we’ll be including a couple of shows per week from the Hampton Roads/Tidewater area of the state. We’ll start it off with a night of maximum heavyosity at Norfolk’s 37th and Zen, which is headlined by a touring double bill of New Hampshire’s Self Inflicted and PA’s Promise Breaker. Self Inflicted have that sort of heavy-hardcore mosh power that distinguishes prime offerings from modern bands like Harm’s Way while harking back to the prime days of Biohazard and Shattered Realm. Practice your floorpunching for this one.
Promise Breaker are also heavy as fuck, but this quartet likes to pick up the pace and throw some serious death-metallic bottom end into things. It isn’t quite deathcore; if anything, it’s closer to the sort of power-violence-damaged metallic hardcore that bands like Nails have messed around with in recent years. One thing’s for sure — it’ll level you. Maryland’s The New Reign round out this trio of touring shredders with some sludgy mosh-core tuned to drop Q. Guaranteed to rumble your guts. A trio of VA metal bands provide support, led off by Deathsinger, who straddle the line between Sworn In’s ridiculously-pulverizing death mosh and straight-up Dying Fetus-style death metal. Betrayer and Beyond The Grave round things off with some serious death, and all of it’s brought to you by Black Goat Booking — are these guys the Hampton Roads version of Between 2 Beers? Time will tell, but I’m definitely paying attention.
Friday, August 3, 7 PM
True Body, Nosebleed, Deviant, Slump, Shormey @ Cardinal Skate Shop – $8
The hardcore punk scene in Richmond is always hopping, but don’t let that blind you to what the Hampton Roads area has to offer — there are plenty of shows happening down that way as well, and sometimes they’re worth taking a trip for. This Friday night rager at Norfolk’s Cardinal Skate Shop is a prime example; headlined by goth-punk oddballs True Body, it’s a benefit for the bowl ramp Cardinal’s building out back to give locals a space to shred. It’s also True Body’s apparent farewell to Norfolk, so this will be a good time to catch their darkwave/batcave vibes before they head out of town. Are they moving to LA? Or just leaving for tour? I admit I have no idea… but regardless of the reason, they’re always worth seeing.
There’ll be several other much more straightforward HC/punk acts on this bill, including some Richmond rippers we all know and love. Nosebleed will get you moshing with some classic hardcore sounds that hit you hard and leave you gasping for breath, while RVA newcomers Deviant throw their weirdness/queerness in your face with some hard-driving old-school killers. Former True Body split partners Slump will be on hand to dish out their unique brand of psychedelic oddity, and the whole thing will be kicked off with a set of washed-out electropop from Norfolk’s own Shormey. Bring your board, this one’s gonna be a blast.
Top photo by Joey Wharton
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] [and yeah, in case you’re wondering, more awesomeness from my cracked and bleeding fingertips is available at GayRVA — come say hey.]
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