Sunday, February 16, 7 PM
Talk Me Off, Doll Baby, Pedals, Xed Out @ Gallery 5 – $8 (order tickets HERE)
Where music is concerned, Richmond always has a lot going on, and in recent years, that activity has spread across a more widespread spectrum of genres than ever. That’s to be applauded. At the same time, this city would lose something if our longtime status as a hotbed of punk rock ever were to dry up. Therefore the fact that there’s no sign of that happening anytime soon is certainly a great sign for Richmond’s musical health as we head into the roaring(-with-frustration) 20s.
The latest standard bearer for Richmond punk rock is Talk Me Off, a local trio with a knack for expressing the archetypal punk emotions of alienation and frustration through quick, peppy songs with driving beats and scraping guitars paired with an always-strong sense of melody that keeps the whole thing from being just another atonal blurt. Talk Me Off are on the cusp of releasing their debut LP, Cursed, on longtime Richmond punk label Say-10, and whether you love that classic punk sound to the very core of your being or are just looking for a good musical outlet for your frustrations at being alive in Trump’s America in 2020, Talk Me Off are in great position to provide you with your fix.
They’ll be releasing Cursed into the world at Gallery 5 this Sunday night, and you can expect its release to be accompanied by a fiery set of catchy uptempo tunes to get you bouncing. And in addition to Talk Me Off’s celebratory headlining set, you’ll also get some great sounds from an additional trio of Richmond punk bands. These include the twangy, emotional sounds of Doll Baby, the long-running folk-punk talents of Pedals (On Our Pirate Ships… I’m still not sure if the name has officially been shortened or not), and newcomers Xed Out, who feature former members of Smoke Or Fire and The Bled, so you know they’ve got a lot to offer. Be there for this one and appreciate the latest evolution of a storied Richmond tradition.
Wednesday, February 12, 7:30 PM
The Wood Brothers, Kat Wright @ The National – $23 in advance/$26 at door (order tickets HERE)
Where folk music is concerned, things can sometimes get a little predictable. However, the Wood Brothers manage to avoid this issue by bringing quirky influences and a wide-ranging background to bear on the songs they create. Singer-guitarist Oliver Wood consistently comes up with interesting lyrics that avoid cliche, while bassist Chris Wood brings a funky jazz approach into the group, derived from his longtime membership of legendary trio Medeski, Martin & Wood.
The Wood Brothers just released their eighth album, Kingdom In My Mind, a few weeks ago, and as fans have come to expect, it moves across a variety of different genres to dip into everything from folk and jazz to blues and soul. That broad musical sensibility is sure to result in a live performance that takes listeners to a variety of musical places, all of which the Wood Brothers will inhabit with sure-footed talent, and all of which are guaranteed to please you and make your Wednesday night a brighter, happier affair than it otherwise might be. And here in the midst of a listless Virginia winter, who doesn’t need that?
Thursday, February 13, 7 PM
Plastic Nancy, Deli Kings, Toward Space, Majjin Boo @ Poor Boys – $5
It feels like we just got into 2020, so it’s heartening to see what an active year the Richmond music scene is already having. Plastic Nancy and Prsmcat Presents are both good examples; the Majjin Boo/Spooky Cool-affiliated booking company has really ramped up the amount of good music coming out of Poor Boys and given that venue a shot in the arm that will help ensure that it’s a worthy successor to Flora and Balliceaux before it.
And at this Thursday’s latest locally-focused Prsmcat show, Richmond psych ensemble Plastic Nancy are celebrating the release of their latest album, which should certainly lend a candy-colored dayglo atmosphere to the early months of 2020 here in the river city. On Last Of The Electric Flowers, the boys of Plastic Nancy embrace an acid-drenched atmosphere that manages to avoid outright retro nods in favor of a 21st century sensibility that nonetheless captures the greatness of all those spaced-out bands of the late 60s that we know and love. Revel in the all-encompassing mood they create, and enjoy three other immensely talented RVA bands while you’re at it, at Poor Boys this Thursday night. You won’t be sorry.
Friday, February 14, 8 PM
Lightmare, ZunZun, Prabir Trio, Past Palms @ Gallery 5 – $5-7 (order tickets HERE)
I may be married now, but for a long time, Valentine’s Day was a big bummer of a holiday for me, so I know there are probably a lot of people out there just hoping Friday comes and goes as quickly and painlessly as possible. And Gallery 5/Raw Mom Presents’ Rivanna Youngpool knows this too, which is why she’s reviving her tradition of throwing big fun shows on Valentine’s Day for this Friday night shindig. If you were at either of the ridiculous Valentine’s Day shows that took place at Sour Haus back in the day, you know how amazing this evening has the potential to be — especially at Gallery 5, a place that’s much more able to handle the crowd this is likely to draw than the kitchen of our old place in Church Hill ever was.
It’s not just eating candy hearts and spending the evening with friends that’ll get us through this one emotionally unscathed, though — it’s really great music. And Raw Mom Presents has a killer lineup awaiting us this Friday night, topped by DC’s uncategorizable DIY powerhouse, Lightmare. Expect something somewhere between soul, punk, synth-pop, disco, and garage rock from this six-piece combo with creative energy to spare. I have no idea who ZunZun are (googling only turned up a husband-and-wife flute duo from California who I can’t imagine are on this bill), but it’ll certainly be interesting to find out, and we’ll get a set from the Prabir Trio, the latest vehicle to bring us the ever-reliable pop songcraft of Mr. Prabir Mehta. All that plus newcomer Past Palms — plus, I’d be willing to bet there will be sour hearts. I’m calling it now: Gallery 5 is where you need to be for V-Day this year.
Saturday, February 15, 8 PM
Nosebleed, Ugly Muscle, Sweeties, Phantómódel @ Boogaloo’s – Donations requested
Here’s a show that’s an awesome confluence of three things that are already awesome on their own: political action, tattoos, and hardcore punk. This punk-as-fuck gig at Brookland Park’s Boogaloo’s is coordinated with International Tattoo Flash Day, an initiative created by tattoo artists in Santiago, Chile and Atlanta, GA to get as many people as possible tattooed in support of Chilean political prisoners in the wake of a massive government crackdown against citizen protests that began last October. All money raised at the door of this gig will go toward the families of Chilean prisoners, so whether or not you’re into getting a tattoo yourself, you’ll be able to support the cause.
You’ll also be able to hear some excellent sounds from several local hardcore/punk groups, starting with Nosebleed, who’ve recently released a fierce, incendiary EP called Outside Looking In on hardcore powerhouse Triple B Records. Expect this set to be galvanizing in the extreme, and you can expect similar from Ugly Muscle, a slightly more ramshackle and chaotic combo that will nonetheless bring all the furious energy that Nosebleed contains to bear on its own set. Sweeties are much noisier and less melodic than their name would suggest, while Phantómódel, a new incarnation of Thin Pigeon, offer a postpunk sound full of moody energy. This will be a great night for a great cause — you should really be part of it.
Sunday, February 16, 6 PM
Mean Jeans, Brower, The Ar-Kaics, Sports Bar @ Hardywood – Free!
A lot of people credit the Ramones for having invented punk rock, and many of them feel that the music made by those four New York weirdos in leather jackets has never been improved on. Therefore, it can’t be too much of a surprise that, even after the Ramones spent over 20 years cranking out album after album of their stripped-down, razor-sharp, but always incredibly catchy tunes, there are still bands out here trying to find new ways to wring glory out of that classic Ramones sound.
That’s where Mean Jeans comes in. Having existed for over a decade now, this toe-tapping trio released their fifth album of Ramones-worshipping punk ditties, Gigantic Sike, last year on Fat Wreck Chords. And even if you’ve heard every Ramones song a thousand times, that album and this performance by Mean Jeans at Hardywood on Sunday are guaranteed to prove that there’s still magic left in that classic (one-two-three-)formula. The evening will also feature a performance from New York’s Brower, a glam-punk/power-pop solo project sure to keep you smiling. And of course, consistently talented Virginia punk rockers The Ar-Kaics and Sports Bar open this one up with the retro-garage rock and punky power-pop that you’ve respectively come to expect from them. Get stoked for this one.
Monday, February 17, 7 PM
Ceremony, Loud Night, Ghouli @ Gallery 5 – $13 in advance/$15 day of show (order tickets HERE)
A warning only necessary in Virginia: This show does not feature the group called Ceremony from central Virginia. However, a warning for hardcore kids who haven’t checked back with the Cali Ceremony in a while — this show doesn’t exactly feature the band that made Violence Violence in 2006, either. Oh sure, it’s still the same people, but for the past decade or so, they’ve been moving further and further afield from the fast, angry hardcore that made their name.
That’s really obvious on last year’s In The Spirit World Now, Ceremony’s sixth album and first in four years. Singer Ross Farrar long since traded his harsh bark for a Gang Of Four-ish yelp with occasional dips into outright melody, while the guitars and increasingly present synths have moved away from the distorted and atonal in favor of a UK postpunk sound that might remind you of Joy Division or Echo and the Bunnymen, but certainly not the harsh fastcore of Ceremony’s early albums. Nonetheless, there’s still a lot to love here, including a propulsive energy that takes a vastly different form but remains intact from the band’s earliest works, one that makes singles like “Turn Away The Bad Thing” every bit as essential as Rohnert Park once was. If you’re bummed Ceremony shows don’t feature massive pits anymore, you might be tempted to skip this one, but I encourage you to open your mind and give it a shot. This is sure to be a thrilling evening of musical bliss, even if it’s not quite what you once expected from this talented band.
Tuesday, February 18, 7 PM
Flor, Winnetka Bowling League, Castle OG @ The Broadberry – $15-18 (order tickets HERE)
There are some intriguing things happening in the world of guitar-based pop over the past couple of years, and the success of bands like the 1975 is heartening for anyone who was afraid this stuff was going to fall permanently out of the mainstream musical discourse a few years ago. LA’s Flor are in a prime position to benefit from this resurgence, as on their 2019 album Ley Lines, they dabble in a similar sort of delicate, bouncy pop as that of the 1975 — one that always focuses on the sounds created by the band’s guitars and voices, even though it’s never particularly harsh or loud.
Perhaps we’ve finally gotten far enough past Nirvana for the distorted paradigm they created to lose its lengthy period of ubiquity, and I know there’ll be some out there who are bummed out to think of that, but when bands like Flor are out here on tracks like “Slow Motion” showing how much can still be done with an approach that focuses on playful melodies and delicacy rather than noise, it’s hard to see it as all that tragic. See what sort of magic Flor is able to weave in the live environment at The Broadberry this Tuesday night, and learn to embrace the non-crunchy guitar wave.
Elsewhere Around The State:
Friday, February 14, 8 PM
Witchbaby @ Blue Moon Diner (Charlottesville) – Free!
An alternate approach to Valentine’s Day is available this Friday night in Charlottesville, and it’s being brought to you by Witchbaby, the mother-daughter combo of Catherine Monnes and Sally Rose. You may know Rose for her role at the heart of C-ville’s own Shagwuf, and both are members of the Sally Rose Band, which features a song in its repertoire entitled “Witchbaby” — so it all comes full circle. This stripped-down duo finds Monnes’ cello and electric violin joining with Rose’s guitar and both members’ voices to create a more intimate version of the psychedelic folk-rock the full-scale Sally Rose Band brings to you so consistently.
This Valentine’s Day appearance by Witchbaby at Charlottesville’s Blue Moon Diner is a free gathering offering a welcome space for all — whether lovers or lonely hearts — to spend a holiday that is often fraught and difficult on an emotional level. If you’re looking for your V-Day to be a quiet, pressure-free evening, Witchbaby’s soothing musical presence is sure to help you attain what you seek. And who knows, you might make a friend, or at least find a new musical love.
Saturday, February 15, 7:30 PM
Amanda Shires, LA Edwards @ The Jefferson Theater (Charlottesville) – $25 (order tickets HERE)
There are a few different reasons you might be aware of singer/fiddler Amanda Shires; her frequent collaborations with her husband Jason Isbell and his band the 400 Unit is one of them. Another is her role in The Highwomen, an all-female take on the classic outlaw-country supergroup The Highwaymen featuring Shires, Brandi Carlile, Maren Morris, and Natalie Hemby.
However, it would be a bad idea to let her collaborations with other talented songwriters steal the spotlight from Shires’ own work as a bandleader, most recently showed off on 2018’s To The Sunset. On that album, her songwriting skills shine through in her evocative lyrics, even as the fuller sound her band on the album (which features Jason Isbell himself, returning the favor) takes her folk-country sound to a new level that, yes it’s true, outright rocks. You’ll be able to see her rock these tunes out for yourself at The Jefferson this Saturday night, but only because they moved this show up from The Southern after it sold out in a heartbeat. So yeah, get with the program if you haven’t already. Go see Amanda Shires.
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]