Friday, November 23, 8 PM
The Big Payback, Weekend Plans @ The Camel – $10 in advance/$12 at the door (order tickets HERE)
Hey Richmond, it’s Christmas time! Well, OK, it’s still the day before Thanksgiving as you read this, but we all know what comes the day after Thanksgiving: Black Friday, the longstanding kickoff to the Christmas shopping season. In these days when stores are playing Christmas carols over the muzak the day after Halloween, it might seem like Black Friday actually lands several weeks into the Christmas shopping season, but none of us can deny that the most ridiculous sales (and the biggest customer mobs) all happen when the stores open the day after Thanksgiving. I mean, the evidence is on YouTube to prove it!
That being said, Richmond’s foremost James Brown tribute act, The Big Payback, are giving all of us a reason to leave the house on Black Friday despite all the crazy shopping crowds. Long after that whole pallet of $20 TVs is gone from the Walmart aisle, they’ll be taking the stage at The Camel to chase your Christmas shopping blues away with a set of powerful funk. Frontman Kelli Strawbridge has quite the reputation for talent, energy, and soul due to his many excellent projects around town (KINGS, Mekong Xpress, Mikrowaves, and the list goes on), and seeing The Big Payback makes clear that he was born to invoke the spirit of James Brown live on stage.
The Godfather Of Soul recorded three different Christmas albums over the course of his career, and we can only hope that Strawbridge and his crack ensemble of talented musicians are willing to bust out “Soulful Christmas” or “Go Power At Christmas Time” for this performance. Even if they just stick to the tried-and-true classics, though, you’ll still get a night full of perfectly-played funk grooves it’s impossible to sit still for. So get on the floor, get your groove on, and sweat those turkey pounds away. Start your Christmas season on the good foot.
Wednesday, November 21, 8:30 PM
Kofi Shepsu Trio @ Vagabond – Free!
It’s the night before Thanksgiving, and the last place you want to be is the party all your old high school friends are throwing down the street from your parents’ house. So hey, why not stay in town for an extra night and come groove on some smooth jazz sounds down at Vagabond? Drummer and bandleader Kofi Shepsu is quite young; he just graduated high school earlier this year. But don’t let his youth fool you — this man definitely knows his way around a kit.
Even with only a brief professional music career behind him, Shepsu has already managed to work with quite a few Richmond jazz heavyweights, including Charles Owens, Andrew Randazzo (of Butcher Brown), and Kevin Eichenberger (of CGI Jesus), among others. This particular session sees him leading a trio featuring the bass talents of veteran RVA jazz musician Michael Hawkins, as well as the piano stylings of Garen Dorsey, who previously played saxophone in the avant-garde jazz-metal project Groam. The results of this collaboration aren’t exactly predictable, but they’re sure to be enjoyable. Certainly more so than hearing about whatever the annoying guy who sat behind you in English class ten years ago has been up to.
Friday, November 23, 6 PM
RVA Noise Fest: The Finale, feat. Yohimbe, Dyrt, Fake Object, Xenojothsz, Teenage Cynobyte, Kyle Flanagan, Hunting Dog, Kisner, Melul, Ceremonial Scissors, Broadcastatic, Nu Depth, Coteries, Richmond Avantgarde Improv Collective (photo by Joey Wharton), Thieves Of Shiloh, Internecine, Surfacing, and more? @ Strange Matter – $5
Some of the worst news to reach the ears of the Richmond music scene in quite some time broke last week: Strange Matter, which has indubitably been one of the top venues for live music in Richmond over the past decade, would be closing down before the end of 2018. Since the word got out, a variety of different scenes within the local music community have expressed their sorrow over this awful turn of events by putting together one last hurrah for all the local groups within their particular music world. Friday marks the first of these events to hit the calendar — and certainly not the last.
Richmond has long been a hub for experimental noise production, and annual celebrations like RVA Noise Fest were always a great opportunity for the many creative projects within that scene to grab the attention of the community at large — often with damaged beats, harsh noise, and skronking improvisational wildness. Now they’re all coming together to do it one final time. Over a dozen noise acts, from local stalwarts like Coteries and Fake Object to returning former residents like Nu Depth, will all take the stage and blast the loyal Strange Matter denizens with massive walls of sonic chaos. They’ll your mind clean of all thoughts relating to holiday carols and gift shopping, creating an army of shambling noise zombies ready to take over the world. Or at least, we can hope they will.
Saturday, November 24, 4 PM
Nerve, Love Roses, Ain’t No Mountain High Enough, Smoke Signals, Thirst For The Sea, 7th Grade Girl Fight, Satori Daydream, Flood The Asylum @ 3 B’s Bar and Grill – $10 or $7 plus donation
It’s not often that I’d send you 90 minutes to the northwest of the city for a Saturday afternoon show, but these aren’t normal times. It’s a holiday weekend, you’ve got plenty of time on your hands, and this is a sincerely fascinating bill that will offer you a chance to catch up with all the bands you’ve missed from smaller cities and towns around the state (as well as a couple of DC-area projects). Plus, it’s for a good cause — these bands are coming together to feed the hungry and donate toys to underprivileged kids, which is always a good thing to do, right?
So who are the bands you’re going to hear as part of this trip up 64 West? Well, there’s the dark, raging hardcore of Maryland’s Nerve. There’s the driving emotional post-hardcore of Charlottesville’s Smoke Signals. There’s the rockin’ indie-garage of fellow Charlottesvillains 7th Grade Girl Fight. There’s the brutality of Fredericksburg deathcore mosh warriors Flood The Asylum. There’s the goofy, speedy punk of NoVA’s Ain’t No Mountain High Enough. And there’s more, including RVA faves Love Roses. Plus, it all takes place in a scenic central VA town, inside a bar that clearly used to be a Pizza Hut. How fun is that? Fire up the GPS app on your phone and get there!
Sunday, November 25, 6 PM
Hand Out, W I S H, Manson Family Values @ Garden Grove Brewing – Free!
We’re all gonna have to get back to work on Monday, which is never fun after a long weekend, but of course you can soften the blow with some excellent live music. On Sunday evening, Garden Grove will present all comers with a set from Hand Out, a relative newcomer from New Orleans who apparently have some history in that city (members previously played in NOLA bands Modern Language and Variants). Here in RVA, all we have to reckon with is Hand Out’s debut EP, recorded earlier this year before the quartet had filled out its lineup.
Not that you can tell from listening to it — Blood & Water has a full, powerful sound that channels the work of groups like Balance And Composure and You Blew It. If heartfelt, hard-rockin’ emocore is your cup of tea, this band’s gonna make you want to go back for refills. They’re joined on the bill by local newcomers W I S H (they write it with those spaces on purpose), whose recently released two-song EP finds them tapping into the spirit of prime 90s shoegaze from the US. The Swirlies and the Lilys come immediately to mind, not that that’ll mean much to my younger readers. Loud guitars, hazy vocals, and ethereal melodies should appeal to everyone, though. And honestly, if you don’t love the moniker picked by openers Manson Family Values enough to give them a shot based on name alone, I don’t even know what to tell you.
Monday, November 26, 6 PM
Colin Phils (photo by Mags Design), Castle OG, Model Child, Don Babylon, Moniker, Halfcast @ Strange Matter – $10
These farewell-to-Strange-Matter shows are gonna come hot and heavy over the next few weeks, y’all, but don’t get too jaded to ’em, because in only a few short weeks, the club we’ve loved for a decade now will be gone forever. The best advice I could possibly give you is to treat them like Pokemon and catch ’em all. This one in particular will be rewarding for fans of interestingly complex underground rock sounds; the fact that it’s headlined by the one and only Colin Phils only makes that even more clear. This South Korea-via-Richmond group impressed the hometown crowd with their strong split LP with Houdan The Mystic.
Since then, they’ve plentifully proven their mettle (not metal, though, these guys are more math-rock) in quite a few live performances around town. Give them a chance to prove it to you on Monday night at Strange Matter, and you’re sure to come away impressed. Castle OG (the initials stand for “Of Genre,” and I have still never figured out if this is a high-fantasy reference or what) have been making some waves of their own lately. They’ve got a killer indie-pop sound complete with autotuned vocals and some really catchy synth parts, as showcased on their “No Trick” single from last year. And then of course there are a ton of other great local bands who are somewhere on the rock spectrum, from guitar-slinging faves Don Babylon to the unassuming alt-rock of Moniker. There are at least two more bands on this bill, and word is more will be added, so for only ten bucks, you really can’t go wrong. Drink in that Smatter ambiance while you can.
Tuesday, November 27, 8 PM
Blame God (photo by Danny DeRusso Photography), Ancient Torture Techniques, Berkowitz, MSD, Spontaneous Noize Combustion @ McCormack’s – $8
Things may be getting dire where the lower Fan’s music scene is concerned (Flora’s also scheduled for the chopping block), but down on the grimy streets of Shockoe Bottom, the Between 2 Beers crew is still keeping the metal flame burning at McCormack’s. It’s a heartening sign of hope for the future, especially when this particular show is headlined by the excellently named New York group Blame God. Their 2017 EP Strategically Confined is a balls-out slab of hardcore rage and biker-metal power, all rolled up together into five songs of pure hate. These guys are going to blow minds and explode heads when they hit the McCormack’s stage, so come prepared.
And expect the unrelenting onslaught to start the second the first band takes the stage at this show. Hailing from Roanoke, the openers in question are known as Spontaneous Noize Combustion and their flavor of blurry, blown-out D-beat is full of harsh feedback and harsher screams. It only gets more hectic from there: MSD bring the grinding death metal to destroy your eardrums. Berkowitz, a new group formed from the ashes of Throne of Botis and Murder, might not be for sensitive souls, but will definitely satisfy your appetite for brutal death grind madness. And Ancient Torture Techniques, the power-violence trio that once upon a time did a split with long-gone Richmond ragers Street Pizza, appear to be fully back from the dead and ready to rip your face off. Sounds like a great time, huh? After all, a little dismemberment is just what anyone should expect from a top-level metal show.
Bonus Hampton Roads Picks:
Friday, November 23, 7 PM
The Last Bison, Abby Huston @ Toast – $18 (order tickets HERE)
In a time when bands taking inspiration from mega-selling “indie” folk groups like The Lumineers and Of Monsters And Men are pretty thick on the ground, it can be tough to find anyone talented messing around with those kinds of sounds. Fortunately, The Last Bison have been around for a while, and built up quite the track record for themselves. No insincere johnny-come-latelies they; new album Suda is their sixth release since 2012, and shows some intriguing growth since 2015’s Dorado. The Last Bison initially structured their sound around instruments like acoustic guitar, banjo, and mandolin, but on their new album, it appears their “mountain-top chamber music” have evolved into a strange sort of off-kilter synth-pop sound.
And that’s a pretty good thing, on the whole — mainly because this trio is incredibly talented, writing irresistible melodies and catchy choruses that stand alongside the best of them. Granted, tunes like “Gold” — which has an almost Modest Mouse-like bounce — are far from the folky acoustic charm of early hits like “Switzerland,” but you wouldn’t want a band to stagnate, would you? And rest assured, if you loved their melodies before, the new album will by no means run you off. So head to Toast this Friday night, and let The Last Bison show you what they’ve been up to for the last few years. By the end of the night, you’re liable to forget ever having known the Lumineers existed.
Saturday, November 24, 8 PM
Process of Suffocation, Appalling, Voarm, Night Hag @ Riffhouse Pub – $8
Process of Suffocation, Memphis’s mysterious masters of death metal, come to Norfolk this Saturday night, and all of you better get ready to bang your head. This group’s blackened sound lands somewhere between the chaotic rage of early Possessed and the relentless rumble of NYC legends Internal Bleeding. It can be heard in all its fine fury on 2015’s Caos Y Destruccion 666, but the group’s released nothing in the three years since. By now they’re bound to have built up a backlog of new stuff, and anyone heading out to this show can look forward to some fresh cuts from the slaughter.
They can also look forward to a triple thrash threat of VA bands backing them up, including two RVA all-stars. Appalling will thrill the Tidewater area with their talented take on thrash metal, which interjects both significant melodic flavor and a great deal of old-school deathrage. Then there’s the straight-up Scandinavian-style black metal of Voarm, who’ve made quite an impression on the Richmond scene over the past couple of years and are more than prepared to the same to Hampton Roads. Virginia Beach’s own Night Hag, who demonstrated their ability to come up with excellent titles on this year’s Insemination Rites Of The Succubus, split the difference between lumbering death metal and brutal, powerful doom, like some strange Frankenstein’s monster made of parts from Autopsy and Noothgrush. Epic.
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] [and yeah, there’s plenty more of my writing to read over at GayRVA — come say hey.]
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