Saturday, December 16, 6 PM
Jet Trails Music‘s Star Wars X-Mas Party 2, feat. Spooky Cool, The Milkstains, Tinnarose, Blush Face @ Hardywood – Free!
I went to see Thor: Ragnarok the other night, and caught a really awesome trailer for The Last Jedi before the movie. I know it’s out today, but I must admit, I’ve been slacking on keeping up with the Star Wars franchise over the last few years. Those prequels in the late 90s definitely made me feel a bit burned, and I just haven’t bothered to check out any of the latest round. Jet Trails Music has never left me feeling burned, though, and they’ve been keeping up with Star Wars in a big way, as they prove with their second annual Star Wars-themed X-Mas Party on Saturday night! We promise it’ll be way better than the infamous late-70s Star Wars holiday special, too.
One big reason it’ll be better is the presence of Spooky Cool at the top of the bill. This band has simultaneously lit a fire under the local live music scene over the past couple of years and kept recorded versions of their songs relatively under wraps. They finally integrated the live and recorded worlds last month with the release of their Good Day RVA video for “Black Wine,” which shows the group’s simultaneous melodic prowess and tense, heavy undercurrent. All those guitar chugs at the beginning are particularly awesome, though the catchy, math-y breaks later on provide an intriguing contrast. Want a whole set of this? Of course you do, even if it’ll be like your 20th helping of such a thing. It’s the holidays–time to indulge!
If anything, the band listed just below Spooky Cool on the bill have to be seen as a co-headliner. The Milkstains have a long, rich history as part of the Virginia music scene, and their surf-grunge-punk hybrid sound is as killer as it’s ever been if this year’s release of Punch The Sky can be trusted. Wait, what? Of course it can! How can you deny the incredible pop hooks of “Young Scum”? The doom-twang portent of “High Plains Wizard”? The driving, jangly punk of “Shake”? You can’t! And you won’t be able to stand still while this band dishes it out live, with all the killer hooks and riffs of their studio recordings plus a heaping helping of wild, sweaty energy. The lineup is rounded out by Fairport Convention-influenced Austin folk-psych crew Tinnarose, and killer local popsters Blush Face. Plus, there will of course be many Star Wars-themed extras, including a costume contest, so get ready to have some fun!
Wednesday, December 13, 9 PM
Scott Clark 4tet, Party Pack ICE @ The Camel – $5
It’s always nice to see some cool stuff happening in the jazz scene around town. Ever since I’ve been paying attention to that scene, I’ve found that drummer Scott Clark is always up in the mix. This is the first time I’ve seen his excellent 4tet out and about in a while, though, and I’m glad they’ve made a return. Featuring Spacebomb affiliates and former Fight The Big Bull members Cameron Ralston, Jason Scott, and Bob Miller, this group released an elegaic, powerful album in 2015 entitled Bury My Heart, which was a musical exploration of Clark’s Native American ancestry. Now they’re returning to live action with their Ornette Coleman-inspired piano-less quartet for a killer performance at The Camel, and it’ll be delightful to see what they’ve come up with.
It’s also gonna be cool to see Party Pack ICE, an avant-garde quintet led by bassist Adam Hopkins. Hailing from Baltimore via Brooklyn, the group features members of Turn Around Norman and Signal Problems, which will delight my underground music readers who bothered to get to the second paragraph of a jazz writeup. Party Pack ICE prove their fratboy-tempting name to be a clever dodge with their recently released self-titled EP, on which they get totally free and kind of nuts in a manner that should please fans of both Arab On Radar and John Zorn’s Naked City. These guys sure will blow the cobwebs out of that space between your ears, so be sure you’re prepared.
Thursday, December 14, 7 PM
Chatham County Line‘s Electric Holiday Tour @ The Broadberry – $15 in advance/$18 day of show (order tickets HERE)
I admit I’ve never been the biggest follower of bluegrass music. That said, I always enjoy this sort of stuff when it comes across my radar, and I enjoy it even more when bands push their boundaries and spread their wings a bit. Therefore, when I saw that Chatham County Line’s Electric Holiday Tour was coming through town later this week, I couldn’t resist telling you about it. I’m not sure it’s really even fair to reduce Chatham County Line’s normal sound to “bluegrass”–they aren’t as fast as a lot of those groups are, and they’ve got a yearning, emotional tinge that I more associate with early country music, so maybe it’s fairer just to consider them a melange of rurally-centered old-time sounds. Their music is sweet and nice, though, I know that much, and should please those who need a break from loud guitars and pounding drums.
At least for a little while, because once they’ve played a normal percussion-less acoustic set, they’ll head back to the stage for a second set featuring an expanded band wielding amps, drums, and plugged-in guitars. These Electric Holiday sets have been a Chatham County Line end-of-year tradition for nearly a decade now, and they’ve built up quite the repertoire. You can expect classic rock n’ roll tunes from artists like Chuck Berry and Roy Orbison–and with the passing this year of Tom Petty and Fats Domino, chances for tributes to these artists are pretty high. You’ll also get electrified versions of songs by Chatham County Line’s electrified precursor, Stillhouse, and even a few reworked songs from the band’s extensive catalog. The electric stuff has a bit more of a modern alt-country feel, and will probably connect for fans of Drive-By Truckers or even J. Roddy Walston & The Business. Plus, it’s a rare occasion for this band, and probably the perfect introduction for new fans as well as being a treat for the longtime heads. So even if bluegrass isn’t usually your thing either, give this one a shot. You just might love it.
Friday, December 15, 7 PM
Converge, Pile, Give @ The Broadberry – $20 (order tickets HERE)
It really amazes me when I think about the fact that Converge are still around and going strong. Back in 2001 when they were touring on breakthrough fourth album Jane Doe, my friends and I thought of them as longtime veterans who had survived way longer than we ever expected of a hardcore band. And that was 16 years ago! This year, Converge released The Dusk In Us, which is their ninth album only if you take a particularly strict approach to their discography (it feels more like their 12th if you factor in split LPs, singles comps, etc). It’s hard to believe that a 25 year old hardcore band could still be at the top of their game, but one listen to the album should remove any doubt.
Jake Bannon’s rampaging snarl has continued to gain strength and ferocity over the band’s career, and the band’s current lineup, which has remained unchanged since that 2001 tour, operates like a well-oiled and totally brutal machine. These guys were maniacs the last time I caught them live, and have not slowed down at all with age, so chances are they’ll still rip your head off at the Broadberry this Friday night, just like it was still 2001. They’ll be bringing fellow Bostonians Pile with them, who created a sensation in the noise-rock world with their 2015 album You’re Better Than This and have continued to grow with this year’s followup, A Hairshirt of Purpose. DC straight edge group Give, who’ve used colorful flower-themed artwork and a strong melodic sensibility to defy the tough-guy stereotype associated with the straight edge scene, open things up, and make showing up on time a requirement.
Saturday, December 16, 7 PM
Reverend Horton Heat, Junior Brown, The Blasters, Big Sandy & the Fly-rite Boys @ The Broadberry – $30 (order tickets HERE)
It’s party time for all the rockabilly cats this Saturday night down at the Broadberry bar n’ grill, and if there aren’t at least a few enormous, elaborately-restored American cars from the 50s, complete with tail fins, parked somewhere in the Broadberry’s vicinity on this night, I will truly be disappointed. Reverend Horton Heat is coming to town, bringing his nearly three decades of psychobilly freakoutery to RVA once again for a gigantic package tour known as the Holiday Hayride. The Rev has been woodshedding with his band for a while, having just picked up a new drummer and started work on his 12th album over the summer. Expect some new tunes as well as all the classics you know and love, complete with the country-punk twang and rebel-stomping badass panache.
The Rev’s not the only act on this hayride, though, and if anything, the powerful openers are just as much of a draw for this one as the headliner. Country-singing guitar-slinger Junior Brown will bring his unique “guit-steel” double-neck axe to the stage and grace us all with a deep songbook he’s been putting together ever since the 80s. And then there are the Blasters, who’ve been cranking out rootsy, punky rock n’ roll for longer than Brown or the Rev, originally forming in the wake of the LA punk explosion in the late 70s. While singer/guitarist Phil Alvin’s brother Dave isn’t playing lead guitar anymore, the original lineup remains otherwise intact, so if you loved them in the mid-80s you’ll still get a kick out of signature tune “I’m Shakin'” and their many other excellent songs, still delivered with fire and passion. Big Sandy & His Fly-rite Boys kick things off, and even this relatively new group (only 25 years together) is 100 percent worth your time and attention, so make your dollar count and show up on time.
Sunday, December 17, 8 PM
Silent Music Revival, feat. Blush Face @ Gallery 5 – Donations appreciated
So much Christmas stuff happening around town this month, and Gallery 5’s brought plenty of it to us so far. With Silent Music Revival’s return to the Gallery floor this Sunday, they’ll throw in a bit more holiday cheer for us all, as local indie-pop sensation Blush Face provides musical accompaniment to a succession of holiday shorts spanning from the beginning of film as a medium in the late 19th century up to the World War II era. The band hasn’t seen any of these films beforehand, so don’t expect a set of Blush Face tunes you’ve come to know and love. Instead, you’ll get a totally unique musical and visual experience of the sort that Silent Music Revival founder Jameson Price has been curating for over a decade now. Whether you’re a longtime fan of this unique recurring musical event or totally new to the whole thing, you definitely will want to catch this Sunday afternoon offering, guaranteed to get you in the holiday spirit.
Monday, December 18, 8 PM
Downhaul, MyWay, Mon Chere, Good Looks @ Strange Matter – $5
Yet another installation of the ongoing Locals Only series at Strange Matter, and as always, it’s a winner. Really, how can you lose with a cheap four-band bill offering a variety of bands and sounds, most if not all of which will be new to you? Trying new things and finding out what else is going on outside your little bubble is one of the great joys in life–as is music, come to think of it. So why not do both at the same time and liven up an otherwise-dullsville Monday night?
Downhaul are the band closing this one out, and they’re absolutely worth sticking around for. Their literary lyrical tales of epic awkwardness sum up the angst and ennui of the post-graduate malaise, and since all of us have either been there or are headed in that direction, it’s a feeling we can all relate to–especially set to this band’s lovely indie-emo sounds. MyWay have a chunky blues-rock sound, which offers a completely different sort of feel to Downhaul but one that’ll cure its own set of ills. The atmospheric indie sounds of new crew Mon Chere and the funky prog-rock of Good Looks round out the bill to keep you entertained with an eclectic set of sounds. Relieve the Christmas-shopping stress with this one–it’s sure to soothe your nerves.
Tuesday, December 19, 8 PM
G. Smith, Model Child, Maral, Ghost Piss, Aesthetic Barrier, Popcub @ Strange Matter – $5
Is everyone reading this aware of just how enthralled the young indie kids are these days with experimental electronic sounds? I would think anyone paying attention here in RVA is at least aware of the popularity Dazeases has built up over the past few years, but what you might not know is that this is just the tip of an iceberg with deep roots both locally and around the country. G. Smith is a great example of an artist with similar vibes and sounds, hailing from the SoCal hipness mecca that is post-Y2K Los Angeles. She’s got an ambient vibe, a funk rhythm, and an entrancing melodic grasp; all the ingredients you need to take strange electronic sounds and turn them into hypnotic dance-floor bangers.
Fellow Angeleno Model Child works in a similar medium, though his beats are a bit more robust. Either way, this guy knows how to make the floor shake just as well. And the third of this LA trio arriving in RVA next Tuesday night, Maral, mixes influences from Middle Eastern music in with this potpourri of ingredients to create similarly memorable tunes that’ll both expand your mind and move your body. The other three artists on the bill all have local roots, even though only one is currently based here. Ghost Piss returns from Brooklyn to drop a set of hypnotic ambient pop noise on us all, Aesthetic Barrier emerges from Jackson Ward to embrace us all in oozing synth haze over pounding beats, and Popcub flies home from Alaska to open up with a DJ set I strongly suspect will feature a heavy nightcore presence. You know you love 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] [yes, my email is through GayRVA, don’t get weird about it]