Saturday, December 4, 7 PM
Colin Phils, Houdan The Mystic, The Late Virginia Summers, Shapes In The Water @ Black Iris – $6 (order tickets HERE)
It sure is nice to see local music surviving and thriving in our post(?)-pandemic world. Live music shutting down completely for a year caused a lot of chaos for a lot of bands in this world, and while huge artists like Radiohead or Green Day or whoever could just live off all the money they’ve banked, a lot of times the loss of steady work for smaller bands led to breakups and indefinite hiatuses proliferating across the scene. Therefore, we can all be thankful that a quartet of veteran Virginia indie bands will be returning to form and bringing us all the sounds we love this Saturday night at Black Iris.
Colin Phils in particular was dealt a cruel blow by the pandemic; having released their latest LP, Trust Fall, at almost exactly the same time as the first big COVID shutdown hit us all back in March 2020, they were robbed the opportunity to travel around the country and the world showing off their latest work to both fans and new listeners. Since things came back online, they’ve been making up for lost time, touring around the East Coast and appearing live in a variety of places. And, by the way, with a variety of lineups. The photo accompanying this article documents the band’s lineup at the time Trust Fall was released, but I really can’t say for sure who (besides band mainstays Ben Tiner and Benjamin Mauch) will take the stage Saturday night. Rest assured, they’ll deliver you an unforgettable performance of some top-quality indie/math-rock/emo tunes regardless.
Colin Phils isn’t the only band making this Black Iris show worth your time, though; there’s also their former split partners Houdan The Mystic, a long-running local trio whose smooth, intricate math-rock sounds have been fascinating for screamo nerds, stoner indie heads, and everyone in-between for damn near a decade now. They may not have released anything since their aforementioned 2017 split with Colin Phils, but they just don’t like to rush. Rest assured, their music will still be right on time. The Late Virginia Summers, who hail from Lynchburg, have been enriching the VA indie scene with their synth-infused take on instrumental post-rock for over a decade now, and demonstrate that they’ve still got a lot to say on brand new release Beauty In The Ghost; expect them to show off some tunes from the new record on this night. Finally, Shapes In The Water released their debut LP only two years ago, but 3/4 of the band have a significantly longer history under the name From Fragile Seeds, and their new EP, Acedia, shows that their brand of intricate, post-rockified emo remains vital and is, if anything, getting better all the time.
Wednesday, December 1, 8 PM
The Octavias, Safari Room, Colpa Mia @ The Camel – $8 in advance, $10 day of show (order tickets HERE)
A lot has happened for a lot of Richmond bands while the pandemic had us all holed up in our rooms. One example is the duo formerly known as Grem Smiley, who — like Colin Phils — released a record only weeks before the pandemic made live music a thing of the past for over a year. After their Canvas LP lost its chance to soar, the band went into a long woodshedding period that saw their former name go by the wayside in favor of the (indisputably improved) name The Octavias. They’ve only released two songs under that name so far, but the rollicking rock n’ roll bash that they unleash on debut single “Sometimes” is certainly enough to whet one’s appetite for a full set from these rippers.
That’s what we’ll get at The Camel tonight, but it’s not all we’ll get; Nashville’s Safari Room are coming through town as well, and their more melodic approach is sure to act as an intriguing contrast to the rave-ups of The Octavias. Apparently people have compared them to all sorts of groups in the past, and most of those comparisons seem way off to me, so let me avoid that pitfall and just tell you that their delicate, arpeggiated guitar lines and soaring vocal melodies occasionally give way to powerful crescendos that make the whole thing feel ecstatic. Locals Colpa Mia will be rounding out the bill with their catchy indie pop tunes, so you’ll get a solid dose of excellence from this one. Get with it.
Thursday, December 2, 7 PM
Lenne, The Impurity @ Another Round Bar And Grill – Free!
Over the past few years, Another Round has made itself the indisputable local home of unreconstructed metal, untainted by hipsters and retaining its pure original state — as raging music for frustrated working class headbangers. And don’t get me wrong, the hipster stuff has its place, but sometimes its nice not to have to try and pick up on the influences of bands who worship an obscure death metal demo released in 1987 by a band from Argentina who never toured and were only together for six months, or whatever. When Lenne and The Impurity play a free show at Another Round this Thursday night, you won’t have to worry about any of that.
Instead, what you’ll need to know is that Lenne is a project featuring members of Sevendust and The Infinite Staircase, among others, dealing out some heavy rockin’ metal with a strong blues influence. The melodic vocals follow in a similar vein to the band members’ previous projects, but rest assured, the whole thing still hits hard as hell. Tourmates The Impurity, who hail from Buffalo, NY, have a similar sound, but are definitely willing to do some growling and screaming at times. All of it’s gonna bowl you over, and if you want to bang your head, you’ll have plenty of opportunities. Plus, the price is right. Make it happen.
Friday, December 3, 9 PM
Smirk, Hard Copy, Magic Wand @ Fuzzy Cactus – $10 in advance, $12 day of show (order tickets HERE)
This Friday night, Fuzzy Cactus will bring you a heaping helping of the exact kind of sounds you expect from this town’s proudest “rock n’ roll bar”: some raw, primitive, quirky garage rock. Smirk is a California band that’s actually a one-man project by Nick Vicario, whose name you may know if you’re nerdy enough to be aware of groups like Crisis Man and Public Eye. Richmond’s own Feel It Records handled the release of Smirk’s LP, a vinyl release from earlier this year that combined both of the project’s earlier cassette releases. Only a couple of months ago, Smirk followed up this release with a new one entitled EP (I sense a theme here), featuring seven new songs that are pretty much all off-kilter basement pop gems.
So yeah, you’ll definitely want to catch Smirk when they come through town dispensing their offbeat anthems, even if I can’t actually tell you what form they’ll take live — a pickup backing band? One guy doing everything? Prominent use of drum machines? I have no idea, but it’s worth finding out! The music’s sure to be fun regardless. Along for the ride on this one are Hard Copy, a quartet with a postpunk vibe and snarky political lyrics featuring members of Fat Spirit, New Turks, and Young Adult Fiction, among others. Their EP from this spring is a lot of fun; one would think this set would be too. Fun local punks Magic Wand will round out a bill full of great tunes at the most rock n’ roll bar in town.
Saturday, December 4, 6 PM
Holy Roller, Devil’s Coattails, Cassidy Snider & The Wranglers @ Fuzzy Cactus – $10 (order tickets HERE)
OK, so I just told you all about how rock n’ roll Fuzzy Cactus is in the last blurb, but never let it be said that they’re afraid to throw the occasional change-up. That’s what comes from this show starring headliners Holy Roller, who originally evolved out of Virginia quartet Big Mama Shakes a few years back. These days, Holy Roller have expanded to a six-piece, which pairs vocalist Brady Heck’s deep, soulful baritone with the unmistakable voice of talented Richmond singer-songwriter Rebekah Rafferty. The result, combined with the band’s Southern-rock tinges and subtle gospel flavorings, is a sound that fans of everything from Matthew E. White to Drive-By Truckers to Counting Crows should be able to appreciate.
Devil’s Coattails are also on the bill, and this ensemble goes even further outside the typical confines of “rock n’ roll” with their take on rootsy country sounds. Featuring members of The Dharma Bombs, Blush Face, the Pistol Sisters, and more, this six-piece — featuring two vocalists with some great interplay — lay down the kind of honky-tonk sounds you just can’t find in the world of mainstream country anymore. Plus, it’s got that freewheeling outlaw spirit. So in the end, it’s actually perfect for Fuzzy Cactus. As is Cassidy Snider, a homegrown blues singer with a soulful country vibe, who’ll be bringing her band The Wranglers along to kick this one off in fine fashion. So hey, make it a Fuzzy Cactus weekend, and on Saturday night, you’ll get to catch both kinds of music — country AND western.
Sunday, December 5, 7 PM
Nickelus F, Radio B, Michael Millions, NameBrand @ The Broadberry – $20 in advance, $25 day of show (order tickets HERE)
Do the talented MCs and producers who make up the crew known as Association of Great Minds even need any sort of introduction anymore? At least here in Richmond, I would hope not. However, I’ve got a couple of paragraphs to fill, so we’re gonna go ahead and talk about the greatness of the four men bringing the latest edition of their “Flag On The Moon” to The Broadberry this Sunday night. Nickelus F is probably the first among equals here, as he’s been making his name with top-level rhymes and excellent beats for something like 15 years now. His last big high-profile release, Stuck, came out on Vinyl Conflict back in 2018, but he’s still making great tunes — and probably hoarding at least some of them away from public eyes, as was true of the two Gold Mine compilations he released in 2019. Here’s the thing — it’s all great. And whatever he does onstage Sunday night, whether it’s a Nick F classic or some shit you’ve never heard before, it’s going to be top-quality and unmissable. So don’t blow it.
Let me not take anything away from Radio B, though. Out of all of these artists, he’s the one who put out a new full-length most recently, with his fall 2020 release All Art Ain’t Pretty — a record with a cinematic approach and philosophical lyrics that are clearly influenced by the Black Lives Matter movement and the protests that took place in Richmond last year. Hearing these songs live will be worth the price of admission to this event on its own, so make sure you’re there. And of course, you’re gonna want to be on time, as Michael Millions and NameBrand, who are actually brothers as well as artists in their own right, will be performing as well. Michael’s last major project, Hard To Be King, is still blowing my mind damn near four years later (calling it now: I’m gonna be jamming “Blacksugar” on a regular basis for the rest of my damn life). As for NameBrand, his 2019 EP Grace is a soulful collection of instrumentals that makes a perfect soundtrack for those afternoons when you’re doing some deep thinking — and whatever he lays down at this show will surely do a great job of bringing you into the mindset AGM are out to create. Tap in.
Monday, December 6, 6:30 PM
Can’t Swim, Fanfare, Frames, Drop The Girl @ The Canal Club – $15 in advance, $18 day of show (order tickets HERE)
I know how it goes; after a weekend of live musical awesomeness, it can be difficult to keep the energy up for heading back out on Monday night. But you sleep on Can’t Swim at your own peril; this emotional rock band from New Jersey bring both melody and power to the equation that creates their brand new third LP, Change Of Plans. The result isn’t easily slotted into one genre or another, but you can hear all kinds of awesome things happening on it: chunky hardcore, melodic emo, pensive indie, driving rock, and even a tiny dose of metal cropping up at certain points.
The result is awesome on record, and it’s sure to be equally so in the live environment. So don’t miss out on this set — and don’t miss out on the trio of Richmond-based openers, all of whom have their own brand of catchy tuneage to present. Fanfare get downright pop-punky at times, but there’s some grit under there to keep things from getting too pretty or anything. As far as Frames goes, when you hear the name you might think of the band led by the Scottish guy from the movie Once, but that’s THE Frames. This Richmond band brings a heart-on-sleeve approach full of melody and yearning emotion, as documented very well on their 2019 EP Cursed. What have they got going on in these post-pandemic days? You’ll have to show up to find out. And openers Drop The Girl are a couple of charmingly goofy boys from Gloucester whose big pop-punk EP, Happy Again, was another March 2020 release that got totally outshined by the pandemic. Which is sad, because these guys are not just great fun, but actually great. Show up early and catch em all, Pokemon-style.
Tuesday, December 7, 7 PM
Wingtips, S Y Z Y G Y X, Jaguardini @ Fallout – $10 in advance, $15 at the door (order tickets HERE)
It’s Tuesday night at Fallout, so just like any other night at Fallout, the plan is to get gothed-up, wear tons of black, and dance all night to some wonderfully moody sounds. This time around, those moody tunes will be provided primarily by Wingtips, a band whose name is probably not supposed to make me think of shoes, but, well, there you are. Upon first listen to their new LP, Cutting Room Floor, and you’ll be thinking that a more appropriate name for them would have been “Black 20-hole Docs,” but the deeper you dig, the more you’ll find the heart of a dance-pop band beating within the atmosphere Wingtips creates.
I must say, I feel like Wingtips would have been just as happy opening for the Pet Shop Boys in 1985 as they would have been opening for Sisters Of Mercy in 1990, and if you’re the type of person who’d have been happy to be in the crowd at both of those shows (I am), you’ll definitely dig what Wingtips are doing. And you will dance. Oh yes… you will dance. Washington DC’s S Y Z Y G Y X (no, I don’t know how you pronounce it) has a more definitively dark, cold mood at work in their music, which adds a perfect contrast to the sound of the evening. And Harrisonburg dark-waves Jaguardini will get things kicked off with an infusion of cold synth grandeur. Perfect.
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]
Top Photo: Colin Phils by Andre Mags Photography