Friday, December 1, 6 PM
Doll Baby, Haybaby, Blush Face @ Hardywood – Free!
I must say, I’ve been excited about Doll Baby for a long time. I caught one of their first shows (which was easy to do, since it was in my living room) and was blown away by what they’d come up with. It was significantly different than anything the members had done before, and combined their backgrounds in folk-punk, melodic hardcore, and old-time music into a style that was all their own. Their early recordings intrigued me, but it wasn’t until new EP Hell Block, released a month ago on Egghunt Records, that I really saw all of their potential come to fruition.
Now Doll Baby will be taking over Hardywood for a Friday night of festivities set to include not just a live performance but also a premiere, for the video that will accompany Hell Block closing track “Silver Stars.” Put together by local film producer Hugh Burruss and Blush Face frontwoman Allie Smith, the video stars Sammi Lanzetta and promises to be quite the visual treat. It also accompanies what is in my humble opinion the best track on Doll Baby’s new EP, so that’s a nice little bonus.
Performers this evening will not only include Doll Baby but also Brooklyn’s Haybaby, the only group on this bill not to have ever featured Chris Carreon on bass (as far as I know). Their languid yet sinister sound has a strange resemblance to early Breeders, which is always a nice vibe to create. In addition to having lent her filmic talents to the evening, Allie Smith will also bring us a set from her band, Blush Face–and we all know these guys are great. With a ticket price of precisely $0.00, this event is officially too good to pass up.
Wednesday, November 29, 8 PM
Halfcast, Black Mold Jesus, Colder Planets, Silver Twin @ Strange Matter – $5
Whenever things are lagging in the middle of the week, you can always count on a Strange Matter Locals Only gig to come along and save you from the doldrums, and tonight’s edition, the 48th (!), is no exception. There aren’t any amazing newcomers to the scene to shine a particular light on here; we’ve all been seeing melodic indie rockers Halfcast and the weirdo rock n’ roll delights of Black Mold Jesus on bills for a while now, and if you’ve been scrupulous about following my recommendations, you’ve caught both of them at least once.
But they’re still something to look forward to after a long Wednesday spent in the office looking out the window at beautiful weather you can’t enjoy, as are the lovely, delicate indie-pop sounds of Colder Planets. Relative newcomers Silver Twin will kick things off with a reliably rockin’ set of riff-driven tunes, making the entire night a delight for the senses that will thrill you enough to help you get through the rest of a boring work week. Be sure to take advantage.
Thursday, November 30, 8 PM
Unreliable Radio Live, feat. Karmah, Harshworld, Nolanberollin, Derrick Panther, Austin Skinner, Mike Of Doom @ Strange Matter – $10 in advance/$15 day of show (order tickets HERE)
Podcasts are pretty much the wave of the future, it seems. Terrestrial radio’s in a death spiral, Sirius XM is too expensive, and you can stream pretty much any music whenever you want anyway. That’s a nice thing, but if you want curation that brings you new music you know you’ll like along with info and interviews with intriguing new artists, podcasts are your only hope these days. Here in RVA we all know about The Cheats Movement Podcast, but it’s not the only hip hop-focused podcast out of VA, and on Thursday night, another podcast will introduce itself to the RVA community with a live taping at Strange Matter.
That podcast is Unreliable Radio, an hour-long dispatch released at irregular intervals, hosted by Michael “Scholarship” Cox and featuring new music from artists within and outside of VA, plus interviews with a variety of different creatives. Unreliable Radio’s most recent episode featured Karmah, the musical headliner for this show, who hails from Ashland and makes reference to his country roots by calling himself a “dirt road soldier.” Karmah’s got connections with DC’s Goth Money records, though; they released his No Hand Outs EP last year, so he’s not just some random rapper from the sticks. He’ll head up an impressive lineup of artists from the DMV area on this evening, including a trio from Hampton Roads and a couple more from the DC suburbs. And of course, we’re sure to hear from Scholarship as well. Come find out what’s up with Unreliable Radio, and find some new hip hop artists from the area that are worth your time as well, at Strange Matter Thursday night. It’s the smart thing to do.
Friday, December 1, 8 PM
Kamasi Washington, Moonchild @ The National – $24.50 in advance/$27.50 day of show (order tickets HERE)
OK listen, I’ve already given you a hot tip on a free show you can hit up this Friday night. BUT, if you’ve got some extra scratch, because maybe you just got paid or something, you might want to look into what’s going on at The National this night instead. Kamasi Washington, a young tenor saxophonist who’s built himself quite a reputation in the two or so years since releasing his debut triple album The Epic, will be bringing his talents and his band to the National stage, and if you care at all about jazz, you really should be paying attention. Washington’s known to the wider music scene for his connections with the world of hip hop, having played on Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly LP, toured with Snoop Dogg, and featured Thundercat in his band at various points.
That having been said, one thing any listener to Kamasi Washington’s music is sure to understand immediately is that it’s very much of the jazz genre. Both The Epic and his more reasonably-sized single-album followup, Harmony Of Difference, feature instrumental performances that seem to draw mainly from classic-quartet era John Coltrane and the rich world of soul jazz. They also incorporate plenty of modern hip hop and R&B influences though, and on the whole stand out not only as some of the best works to come out of the jazz world in quite a while but also an excellent gateway drug for hip hop and soul heads who just haven’t ever allowed themselves to take the plunge. So whether you’re a jazz freak from way back or just a curious fan of good music in general, you should definitely take a chance on catching Kamasi Washington’s live performance at the National this Friday. You won’t regret it.
Saturday, December 2, 7:30 PM
Snake Union, Bonnie Jones, Feminacci @ Black Iris – $6-10 (sliding scale)
I spent the 90s being really into quirky, chaotic hardcore bands who stepped outside the usual cultural mold around that genre to challenge preconceptions and make people think while they slam-danced. And since I was living in Richmond then, too, one of the bands I paid the most attention to in that vein was Action Patrol, whose brief existence brought forth a wealth of great music. Up in DC, there were the Meta-matics, whose pointed political lyrics and sharp postpunk riffing later gave way to the improvisational funk noise of the All Scars. Today, former Action Patrol frontman David Grant and former Meta-matics/All Scars frontman Chuck Bettis are working together as Snake Union, and they’re still challenging preconceptions and pushing the boundaries of what music can be.
But let me warn you, Snake Union is not some new hardcore project. No, it’s got nothing to do with punk or even rock music. This electronic project, in which Bettis and Grant work together to create complex digital rhythms, uses analog synthesizers, modular controllers, and all sorts of other machines in the production of improvised grooves that find a driving forward motion and ride that wave for as long as they can. Their 2017 EP, The Role Of Revulsion, includes several lengthy tracks that start with a quiet, sinister mood and build towards an unsettling but captivating climax. Grant and Bettis will be creating similar musical movements at Black Iris this Saturday night, and fans of experimental noise, German cosmische music, and avant-garde electronics are sure to enjoy the results.
Sunday, December 3, 8 PM
Diet Cig, Sammi Lanzetta, Big Baby @ Strange Matter – $12 in advance/$15 day of show (order tickets HERE)
OK, so, I was gonna tell you to go see Pinegrove on this night, and then, well, everything that happened with that band happened, and now I can’t imagine I’d tell you to go see them even if they were still going to be playing in town on Sunday. But really, it’s OK, because there’s an equally excellent show happening in town that night, and you would be just as well-served to go to that one! Indeed, I have extolled the virtues of Diet Cig in this column in the past (pretty recently, in fact, which was my original reason for planning to write about another show), but I’m sure there are some of you out there who ignored my advice or started reading this column two weeks ago or whatever and missed the whole thing.
The rest of you, I’m assuming, already know how great their debut LP, Swear I’m Good At This, really is, and have been jamming it nonstop the same way I have. The way Diet Cig mix melodic punk riffage and heartbroken, politically informed lyrics with an undercurrent of sweet pop gorgeousness stands out even in a genre full of excellent groups, from Candy Hearts to Hop Along to Speedy Ortiz. And of course, Sammi Lanzetta’s been steadily building a bulletproof reputation around town as an excellent songwriter with an angelic voice and a snarky lyrical wit of her own, so it’s no surprise that she and Diet Cig have been touring together lately, or that she’d appear on this bill. Local indie-rock stars Big Baby kick off the night with some killer catchy jams of their own, and thereby we have a 100% amazing show with no sketchiness involved. What a relief.
Monday, December 4, 8 PM
Parker Gispert, Billy Neptune @ The Camel – $12 in advance/$15 day of show (order tickets HERE)
Hey hey, it’s Parker Gispert from The Whigs! Only this time, he’s not coming to town with the Whigs in tow; instead, he’s out on a solo tour, bringing his songs to the Camel’s stage in their most minimal form. Even though Gispert has been bringing the rock with the Whigs for years now, he’s apparently always started out conceiving of his music as solo acoustic guitar tunes, and now he’s decided to release an album in that vein. Of course, his website says it’s due for release in fall 2017, and considering that season will end in about three weeks, it seems likely he’ll be behind deadline.
Regardless, people who show up at this show are sure to get a big taste of what’s to come where that’s concerned. A couple of songs are already floating around out there on YouTube, and from what I’ve heard, it sounds like he’s channeling Neil Young’s most minimal acoustic side, and using that template to create hypnotic mood pieces that are indelible and beautiful. Which makes sense, considering how much the Whigs’ full-band sound seems to draw from Crazy Horse. Gispert solo may not be the sort of sweaty, booty-shaking affair a full Whigs show is, but those who enjoy the full band are sure to get a lot out of seeing the frontman step out on his own. And hey, if you need a jolt of Whigs-like Southern-tinged rock n’ roll, look no further than local openers Billy Neptune–they’ve got plenty of it for you, and they’re sure to get you in a great mood to see something a little different from Parker Gispert.
Tuesday, December 5, 8 PM
TSOL, True Body, Serqet, DJ Devolved @ Strange Matter – $15 (order tickets HERE)
I’m always stoked when TSOL come around. This LA punk band got started at the dawn of the 80s by fusing that early American hardcore punk sound, what with the stripping down and the speeding up, with a dark, doomed consciousness that soon took them in a far more gothic direction–at a time when goth wasn’t even really a thing yet. Early work like Dance With Me and Weathered Statues EP was unassailable, but after the band first lost legitimately troubled frontman Jack Grisham and, by the late 80s, became a shadow of their former selves with zero original members, it seemed as if their legacy had been irreparably tarnished.
Fortunately, the original members reformed, successfully reclaimed the rights to their band name, and began making new music around the turn of the 21st century. After their second reunion album, the excellent 2003 LP Divided We Stand, the band brought back Greg Kuehn, who had played keyboards on their 1984 LP Beneath The Shadows. Kuehn’s additional textures once accentuated TSOL’s goth vibe, but today they give the band a bluesier feel, as can be heard on latest LP The Trigger Complex. While TSOL aren’t still the same band in 2017 that they were in 1981, they still have a ton of talent and a wealth of great songs to draw from for a killer setlist. Missing them next Tuesday at Strange Matter is just as inadvisable as missing them in LA 35 years ago would have been.
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]