Friday, February 9, 7 PM
Rumput, Gamelan Raga Kusuma @ Sound Of Music Studios – $7
In this town, it can be easy to get focused on the local mainstays — indie rock, metal, punk, etc — and miss the weirder and more intriguing side avenues the incredibly fertile Richmond music scene has to offer. But it’s always worth keeping an eye out. In fact, sometimes it’s the people from the scenes most often in the limelight that will lead you down the most fascinating musical side streets. Such is the case with Rumput, an acoustic ensemble that features Hannah Marie Standiford (Cardinal Compass) and Natalie Quick (Paint Store) working with local folk musicians to combine American folk traditions with the music of the Indonesian region.
Rumput are serious about their musical project, too — in fact Standiford, Quick, and Edward Breitner of Rumput are all currently living in Java, on yearlong scholarships to study Indonesian folk music and art. It is these traditions Rumput infuses into their music and performances, mixing Indonesian shadow puppetry and American scrolling artwork for their visual presentations even as they integrate Indonesian string band music, known as keroncong, with American string band traditions drawn from old-time folk music. The result is pretty amazing, and you can get a taste of this by checking out their self-titled debut, released last summer before three of the band members departed for Java.
Things are definitely stepping up to a higher level in the new year, though, as Rumput is currently working with Indonesian master musician Danis Sugiyanto, who is currently a visiting artist/scholar at University of Richmond. Sugiyanto will be acting as artistic director for Rumput throughout 2018, leading the group on their upcoming tour of Indonesia in July. Their current project, Akar, focuses on trickster tales, a common tradition in both Indonesian and American folklore, and the Rumput performance at Sound Of Music this Friday night will act as a sneak preview, giving RVA residents a chance to see what will be presented to Indonesian audiences this summer. It’s going to be essential listening and viewing, so I encourage all of you, even the most dyed-in-the-wool metalheads currently reading, to broaden your horizons and see what Rumput has to offer you. You’ll thank me later.
Wednesday, February 7, 8 PM
World Inferno Friendship Society, Everymen, Toxic Moxie, Hot Reader @ The Camel – $15 (order tickets HERE)
One could be forgiven for thinking the World Inferno Friendship Society is a fringe group of diabolical carny circus people here to set the entire world on fire based on their goofy name and colorful presence online and in real life. The fact that they are actually just an extremely creative band, with origins in punk rock and influences pulled from a variety of musical traditions coming from all over the world, might calm you down a little bit. But really, both descriptions are true; the musical performances are just this group’s way of challenging expectations, inspiring a beaten-down populace, and waking up the world.
Right now, the band is working on a new album entitled All Borders Are Porous To Cats, based around an extensive tale starring “a cat in the hat who wants to come to your house and hide out,” according to frontman/only-constant-member Jack Terricloth. Points about immigration and trying to understand rather than condemn those who aren’t like you may be delivered more subtly, but as always with WIFS, they’re very much there. As is the musical conglomeration that shifts from bizarre Eastern European folk-swing to bouncy punk and back again at the drop of a hat, never giving you time to get bored or reason to stop dancing. Stick with this band, they’re going places. And they’ll certainly get you moving — and thinking — with their show at The Camel tonight. Show up; they’ll do the rest.
Thursday, February 8, 8 PM
The Zeta, Amor Fizz, Gumming, This Land Is Now Dead @ Soft Web – $5
It’s only Thursday night, but over at Soft Web it’s already jumping, as this evening sees some incredible international bands combining with excellent local talent to bring one of the coolest shows of the week to life on a weeknight! The Zeta (which basically means “the Z”) is a Venezuelan band who bring an atmospheric approach to a post-hardcore style in ways that remind me of bands like Envy, but with a melodic yet passionate feel that I could trace to more emotional bands like Moving Mountains. They are joined by Argentinians Amor Fizz on this outing, who have a more intense and frenetic approach than their tourmates, and definitely flirt with the whole “screamo” thing on their self-titled 2016 LP (though I’d be more likely to call it chaotic hardcore, to be honest).
The two local bands on this bill are bringing plenty of awesomeness on their own, and I’m just as excited about them as I am about the touring bands. Gumming are relatively new, seeing members of Whorecough and Pucker Up combining to bring the same sort of sloppy, noisy hardcore attack we’ve all enjoyed from their previous groups. And of course, This Land Is Now Dead have returned from long hibernation to destroy us all once again with a hard-hitting, complex, and emotionally-driven wallop of post-hardcore metallic angst. I don’t mind telling you that this band was my favorite local band a couple of years ago, and I’m delighted to see them performing once again for the first time in over a year. Don’t miss it.
Friday, February 9, 8 PM
Strawberry Moon, Cupid McCoy, Addy, Mangoux @ Gallery 5 – $5
I really dig the weird, delicate take on jangly indie rock that has become the stock in trade of a certain segment of the Richmond underground scene. It’s nice to hear people taking new approaches to sounds that could easily be getting stale by now. The latest example of that happening is Strawberry Moon, a local duo that mingles moody acoustic songs with glittering electric guitar leads that add texture and atmosphere without overpowering the music’s quiet heart. They’re just about to release a record on local label Crystal Pistol, one of the labels that’s done the most to bring this sort of music to a wider audience, and this gig will see the release of the first single from that release. If the group’s fascinatingly foreboding first EP is any indication, the new release is going to make a lot of waves locally and beyond. Being there this Friday night is a great way to find out for yourself.
Strawberry Moon is joined on this bill by Cupid McCoy, a band they’ve been linked with from the start that takes a colorful and fun approach to electronic-infused pop music with a sweet, sugary core. Their sound may be significantly different from that of Strawberry Moon, but their equally delicate and open approach shows why the two groups work together so much. They’re two sides of the same delightful coin. Addy, a local project that came out of nowhere not long ago to capture a great deal of local attention, will also be on the bill, as will Mangoux. Both of these projects bring a dream-pop sweetness that is the perfect garnish to this night of quiet yet intense musical beauty. You might just be able to leave your earplugs at home for this one, but that doesn’t mean it won’t still hit hard.
Saturday, February 10, 6 PM
Butch Parnell, Big Brutus, Piranha Rama @ Hardywood – Free!
Here’s a double bill that should be catnip for all you fans of acoustic folk music that can make you think without making your ears ring. Butch Parnell and Big Brutus are songwriters of Southern origin with thoughtful outlooks and strong melodic chops. Parnell was once the frontman for long-running alt-country group Runaway Dorothy, but has been out on his own for a few years now, and currently has several releases under his belt. Most recent EP The Fall retains the twangy feel of his previous music, but definitely shows a broad-ranging outlook with a heartfelt and sincere cover of the Beyonce hit “XO.” Parnell makes this R&B ballad his own; it blends seamlessly with his original compositions on the EP and puts forth emotion just as skillfully as the songs he wrote himself. He’ll charm you with this one, and really with all of his tunes, if you’ll only give him a chance.
Big Brutus is a project helmed by Atlanta songwriter Sean Bryant, and most recent LP America Circa finds Bryant commenting wryly on the inhuman aspects of modern capitalism over catchy tunes that fit perfectly with the lyrics’ substantive critique of post-Trump American society. It’s neither loud nor abrasive, but this album shows Bryant turning his strong voice outward to make a bold statement regardless of volume. Big Brutus are sure to make a big impression at Hardywood this Saturday. Openers Piranha Rama kick things off with what just might be the loudest set of the night — and that’s never a bad thing.
Sunday, February 11, 7 PM
War On Women, You’re Jovian, Droopies, Keep @ Gallery 5 – $6
Wow, here’s something I never would have predicted — an acoustic set from War On Women, the metallic punk band from Baltimore who have made feminist critique of our oppressive, patriarchal society their raison d’etre. Intense anti-rape anthem “Say It” and pro-choice screed “Pro-Life?” were highlights of their incredible 2015 self-titled debut, carrying on the rage and the message of classic feminist hardcore bands of eras past such as Bikini Kill and Spitboy with a sound updated for the 21st century and ready to take on all comers. How, one must wonder, will that translate acoustically? I’m sure I’m not the only one excited to find out. Gallery 5 this Sunday night is our chance! Let’s hit it.
And of course, we’re all gonna want to show up on time, as there are some more killer sounds on offer at this show than just War On Women’s acoustic set. You’re Jovian, a killer shoegaze band from the Hampton Roads area, has been playing out for quite a while, but just finally laid a full LP, They Were Selected And Divided, on us last year. It was long overdue, but the point now is that it’s finally here and we’ll all be able to enjoy its excellent tuneage when these guys pull into town Sunday night. Droopies and Keep are two excellent local bands in a similar vein who will add a great deal of value to this already overstuffed bill — nothing to complain about there!
Monday, February 12, 8 PM
Adult Mom, Chris Farren, Sammi Lanzetta, Big Baby @ Strange Matter – $10 in advance/$12 day of show (order tickets HERE)
It’s always nice to watch musical projects develop over the years. Last time I caught Adult Mom, they were playing house shows as a mostly-solo act; these days, they’re touring as a full band behind their second LP, Soft Spots, released last year. Their sound, a melancholy melodic pop vibe that demonstrates its punk influence mostly in its down-to-earth minimalism, is hard to resist. Adult Mom comes at you with catchy hooks aplenty and lyrics that are both vulnerable and cutting in their emotional honesty, and you’re sure to be won over.
They’re joined on this show and this tour by Chris Farren, a singer-songwriter better known as the frontman for popular groups like Fake Problems and Antartigo Vespucci. With his solo material, he’s taken his sound in a softer, more acoustically-based direction, as is often predictable when frontpeople go solo. That doesn’t mean it’s any less excellent, heartfelt, or memorable, though, as his debut solo full-length, Can’t Die, showed. Farren’s solo sound might be a touch more folk-punk than Fake Problems were, but that doesn’t mean fans of his previous work won’t find a lot to love here. Local rockers Sammi Lanzetta and Big Baby offer talented local support that’ll keep you dancing all night, so don’t miss a moment of this one.
Tuesday, February 13, 8 PM
Singles Nite #4, feat. MC Chicken, Graham Stone, Imaginary Boys, Khadonna @ The Camel – $5 in advance/$7 day of show/$15 for couples (order tickets HERE)
We all know how much of a bummer Valentine’s Day can be when you’re single and lonely. That’s no fun at all, and local promoters Slimehole know all about it. This show will be their fourth Singles Nite presented over the past five or so years, and as always, it’s a way to spend Valentine’s Day that for once makes it easier on those who aren’t coupled up. This event features the unique practice of charging couples an extra dollar for arriving together. And you can probably find a way to beat that by arriving separately and not hanging out until after you’re safely in the door… but you should probably just cough up the extra dollar, y’all. It’s only fair.
This year’s edition of Singles Nite sees jazz weirdo, viral video phenomenon, and overall goofball MC Chicken heading up the proceedings with a set of special sounds for the lovers and the lonely among us. Will it include “Richmond River Rat”? I can’t rule it out… Graham Stone will also be on hand to give his countrified rock n’ roll sounds a Valentine’s twist. There’ll also be some tribute sets from long-running Cure cover band Imaginary Boys, and from Khadonna, a new project from local electro-punk group Kuni that will see frontman Jonny Khalili living out his Madonna fantasies onstage at The Camel. It’s sure to touch all of our hearts.
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]
Top photo from Rumput’s Facebook page