Punks For Presents 2021
Night Three: Friday, December 17, 7 PM
Should I Sleigh Or Should I Go, Operation Icy, Shiverdales, Media Blitzen, The Jam-gle Bells @ Richmond Music Hall at Capital Ale House – $10 (order tickets HERE)
Night Four: Saturday, December 18, 4 PM
High Voltage, Faith Sno More, Smashing Presents, Smooch, Sledpultura @ Hardywood – $10 (order tickets HERE)
What, you thought that last weekend’s heaping helping of Christmas-themed punk/metal tribute bands playing in support of the Children’s Hospital of Richmond was enough for one holiday season? Think again, punk! Punks For Presents is back for another jam-packed weekend of Christmas-themed tribute shows — enough to keep you smiling all the way through the day-after-Christmas sales and straight up to New Year’s Eve (when we can finally, hopefully, look forward to a better year than these last two have been).
Punks For Presents have spread the love amongst four different venues this year (five, if you count last week’s comedy show at Cobra Cabana — and we probably should), so this Friday night sees a crop of new tribute acts invading the ever-popular Richmond Music Hall at Capital Ale House. Should I Sleigh Or Should I Go is a new twist on The Clash from at least a couple of people you’ve seen do similar things before. Regardless, these songs are true singalong anthems and will be a blast. Then we have Operation Icy, who’ve been putting a Yuletide theme on the songs of pioneering ska-punkers Operation Ivy for years now. Shiverdales make me feel old, because I remember when the Riverdales were just “Ben Weasel and Danny Vapid’s new band” and Screeching Weasel were seen as the one true tribute-worthy Chicago pop-punk act. But hey, maybe they’ll make me reevaluate all those later records I never gave much of a chance. Rounding the whole thing out will be new ensembles paying tribute for the first time to The Jam (excellent) and The Germs (I fully expect to see some guy smearing peppermints all over his body during this one — don’t let me down).
Saturday night will draw the festivities to a close, and it’ll feel like Christmas has come early to our final venue of the year, craft brew and live music stalwarts Hardywood, as Richmond’s own Bon Scott-era AC/DC tribute act, High Voltage, will return once again to electrocute you with that faulty strand of Christmas lights you thought you threw away last year. I’ve been watching a lot of Australian stock car racing (they know what’s up — the series theme song is “Highway To Hell”) over the past few months, so I’m proper stoked for this one. Veteran Richmond-based Smashing Pumpkins tribute act Geek RVA will don their yuletide apparel and perform as Smashing Presents, and the much-beloved Faith Sno More will remind us all how truly great Mike Patton’s most famous project are. Then there are a couple of new additions to the Punks For Presents stages to round things all out. Smooch reminds me of the way multiple KISS tribute acts used to come through Richmond regularly back in the 90s. Time heals all wounds, I suppose, and I for one am finally ready to hear a holiday spin on “Strutter.” Make it happen, y’all. Then there’s Sledpultura, giving us a set of heavy-as-fuck chugging thrash from Brazilian legends Sepultura. I’m here for it. I’m here for ALL of it. You should be too.
Wednesday, December 15, 7 PM
Betcha, 90s Kids, Broke Royals @ The Camel – $10 (order tickets HERE)
When I hear the name Betcha my brain just goes “…by golly, wow!” Which should confirm all the rumors you’ve heard over the years. It’s true: I am a goofball. But you knew that — you read this column. Anyway, let’s get to this actual show. Betcha are from Nashville, and they are apparently signed to Atlantic, which is interesting to me because I feel like they exist farther below the radar than a lot of indie-label bands in the year 2021. That’s probably not deserved, though — based on 2021 singles “5 AM” and “Grey Skies,” these guys are very good at the whole melodic alt-rock thing. Whether you’re more a fan of bands like Knuckle Puck or Panic At The Disco, Betcha’s upbeat tuneage and catchy choruses are sure to split the difference and get you dancing.
Then there are 90s Kids, a band named after the decade during which I came of age and, I’m guessing, they were born. These grey streaks in my hair aren’t the only things making me feel old, kids! The nostalgia angle this band brings to their catchy tunes, which land on the smoother, more melodic/heart-on-sleeve end of the emo/pop-punk spectrum, distinguishes them from Betcha in some ways. But in other ways, this tour is the perfect pairing of two bands whose catchy jams are perfect for getting your feet moving. Don’t worry about all the references to some supposed halcyon time before Y2K and 9/11 (I was there, y’all — now is better); just enjoy the lovely sounds. Richmond’s own Broke Royals will provide a bit more of those to kick this evening off. Show up on time — you won’t regret it.
Thursday, December 16, 9 PM
Jeremy Pinnell, Kristina Murray, Tess Fisher @ Fuzzy Cactus – $10 in advance, $12 at the door (order tickets HERE)
Do you remember country music? Not the oh-so-modern stuff, laden with exaggerated twangs, 80s power-ballad guitar solos, and a million lyrical references to $80,000 trucks normal people can’t afford without a ten-year loan? (Public Service Announcement: do NOT get a ten-year car loan. Just don’t.) That shit is suburban-jerk music. I’m talking about music made by people from small towns, who understand what it means to struggle to feed their families, or to find a way to live with the skeletons in their closets and the demons that haunt their minds. That stuff was good. I miss that stuff.
Thankfully, at least this Thursday night, I don’t have to, because Jeremy Pinnell is coming to town with a strong dose of the cure to what ails me; real, honest-to-god country music that can be related to by someone who doesn’t own a house or a car made less than 15 years ago. Pinnell’s latest album, Goodbye LA, is real music about real people with real lives. And yeah, it’s got some twang, but it’s real twang, not some shit a vocal coach taught a guy from Iowa how to do right before he went into the studio. Pinnell’s country music is the real deal, and we could all use more of that in our lives. Openers on this set will include Kristina Murray, a Nashville-based singer-songwriter with a strong country foundation, and Richmond’s own Tess Fisher, whose music I mainly know from her time fronting the uncategorizably heavy Petrichor. A solo set from Tess is sure to be intriguing, and to whet your appetite for the excellence to follow.
Friday, December 17, 8 PM
Ten Pound Snail, Foxhedge, Martial’s Law, Emil & The Cosmonauts @ Black Iris – $7 in advance, $10 at the door (order tickets HERE)
It’s been interesting, since the return of this column a month or so ago, to take stock of how much the Richmond live music scene has changed in the year and a half since the pandemic put paid to a lot of previously thriving cultural activities. One thing I’ve noticed is that all the big touring bands who I used to put at the top of these columns in past years (Every Time I Die, Archers of Loaf, etc) sell out their Richmond shows before I even get a chance to write about them. Another thing I’ve noticed is that most of the local mainstays have gone through big changes. New bands have sprung up and started playing shows while I was still hidden away protecting my 45-year-old ass from the pandemic, while familiar names I’d gotten used to seeing on the list week after week are suddenly nowhere to be found.
All of this is to say that Ten Pound Snail was a brand new presence to me when I returned to this beat, but I’m quickly learning that they’re one of the more active local ensembles circa the end of 2021. They released Parlor Tricks, an EP of moody indie/slowcore a la Red House Painters, back in May, and this is not the only local show I’ve seen them top the bill of over the past few months. I’m still relatively unfamiliar with this bubbling-under trio, but I think we all should definitely be paying attention to what they’re up to. If you haven’t seen them yet, this show makes a great first step. What’s more, equally unfamiliar local openers like the quirky indie group Emil & the Cosmonauts, or total ungoogleable mystery band Martial’s Law, offer more tastes of the new generation. And of course, New Jersey janglemeisters Foxhedge add a lovely sound from out of town to the whole thing — just for spice. Kick it up a notch, y’all.
Saturday, December 18, 8 PM
Classical Revolution RVA presents: Listen Local, feat. compositions by Colton Dodd, David Robbins, Curt Sydnor, Donovan Williams @ Gallery 5 – Free! (Donations encouraged)
We get used to focusing on popular music here at RVA Mag, but if we’re intending to be true students of the ongoing evolution of music in all its forms, that sometimes requires that we widen our gaze a bit. Thankfully, Classical Revolution RVA also understands that music involving complex compositions and wide-ranging instrumentation must be brought down from the conservatory and out of the symphony halls to reach the people — so there are lovely nights like this free Saturday exhibition at Gallery 5 in which we can meet the sometimes-opaque world of classical music halfway, and learn a little something about the wide range of music being made right here in our hometown while we’re at it.
This event, entitled “Listen Local,” will feature an evening of performances by Classical Revolution RVA of music composed by Richmond composers. Whether that’s Colton Dodd, a classically trained pianist and VCU graduate who now writes scores for films, dances, and video games; David Robbins, who plays piano for the Richmond Ballet and works regularly for the Virginia Symphony; Curt Sydnor, a local teacher and church organist who released an album last year on local experimental label Out Of Our Head Records; or Donovan Williams, a high school student and violin prodigy who also excels on the football field; all of them have something unique to offer that you’ll never get at a basement show or a dirty punk club. So come down to Gallery 5 and expand your musical mind with this evening of unexpected sounds from right here in your hometown. You won’t be sorry.
Sunday, December 19, 7 PM
J. Roddy Walston presents: Christmas To The Bone! @ The Broadberry – $30 in advance, $35 day of show (order tickets HERE)
Piano-pounding rock n’ roll wildman J. Roddy Walston hasn’t always been based in Richmond. But since his arrival in town most of a decade ago (my, how time flies), he’s been embraced by the local scene and played a ton of wild gigs around the river city over the years. We thrilled to his original hard-rockin’ band, The Business, and we’ve all enjoyed his latest project, Palm Palm, in which he’s paired with some of the most talented performers this city’s seen in a long time. But now he’s up to a whole new thing, a holiday-themed thing, no less, and he’s taking it up and down the East Coast to spread Christmas cheer to fans throughout the nation.
What exactly is J. Roddy Walston’s Christmas To The Bone! Well, to hear him tell it, he and his wife, along with a “raging holiday band,” are going to be performing multiple sets of excellent J. Roddy music for all who show up. No openers, just J. Roddy doing one set of tunes old and new from the J. Roddy songbook, and one set of holiday classics given a new twist by the man himself. Do you like to rock? Well then, I can’t imagine you won’t like this. It’s just like Christmas, really: you might not know exactly what’s going to be under the tree when you go to unwrap those shiny packages, but you know it’s prepared with love, and you know you’re going to enjoy it. So come get J. Roddy Walston’s Christmas present to Richmond this Sunday, and enjoy a little bit of early Christmas cheer. It’s gonna be a fine time.
Monday, December 20, 8 PM
Sono Lumini, Dan & The Fam @ The Camel – $7 in advance, $10 day of show (order tickets HERE)
I must say, the Camel’s been doing a great job of holding it down on the less highly-trafficked live music nights over the past several weeks. There was a time when I could always count on Strange Matter to have the early days of the week covered with some great music; with Strange Matter sadly gone, the Camel has stepped into the breach and made it its mission to bring us essential tuneage, even on a Monday. It’s not necessarily anything big, but when we’re all attempting to shake off yet another bout of the Mondays, it can make a crucial difference.
This week, it’s Sono Lumini, coming to us from Winchester, VA, via Athens, GA (I guess? Conflicting online band bios ahoy!). Regardless of where they’re from, this instrumental combo makes fun, jazz-fusion type music that should appeal equally to fans of John McLaughlin, Jerry Garcia, and Dopapod. So yeah, get down with it. They’ll be bringing Dan & The Fam along, which appears to be a project of local guitarist Danny Jams. Normally, he uses loops and backing tracks to keep his funky solo guitar styles grounded; as far as I can tell, though, Dan & The Fam is what happens when he performs with a backing band. I wouldn’t be shocked to find that this entire evening is vocal-free, but hey… isn’t that a nice change-up every now and then? Of course it is.
Tuesday, December 21, 7 PM
John Bradberry Trio presents: End Of The Year Party Type Thing @ The Camel – $5 (order tickets HERE)
J. Roddy Walston got all elaborate with his Christmas To The Bone event, above, but two days later, the John Bradberry Trio is just relaxing into a nice early-week holiday jam occasion with their “End of the Year Party Type Thing” at the Camel. John Bradberry maybe a familiar name to you if you know the Virginia band Faceship; this smaller combo finds the somewhat psychedelically-inclined guitarist pairing up with musicians from other Virginia luminaries including Dalton Dash, Jackass Flats, and The Southern Belles.
Now, what will ensue when they come together to celebrate the end of another long journey around the sun? It’s hard to say, but one thing we know for sure is that previously-unannounced special guests will be on hand. And with Christmas and New Years just around the corner, I don’t think anyone can be surprised if some holiday tunes end up on the set list. But the one thing we do know for sure is that this whole evening is going to be lots of fun with friendly people and great tunes. Who can get grinchy about that? Not me.
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]