Friday, March 25, 7 PM
Test Pattern 01, feat. DeForrest Brown, Madison Moore @ VCU Institute For Contemporary Art – Free!
Spring is officially here, folks, and not only that, but cases are down and community transmission is at a relative low here in the Richmond area. Now, while we all contemplate the possibility that we might truly be seeing the final stages of the pandemic (knock on wood), is a good time to get out of the house and out of your head. One intriguing way to do so is to head over to VCU’s Institute For Contemporary Art and take in the first live performance they’ve hosted in their auditorium for quite a while. And this one, the first of ICA’s new Test Pattern series, is a good one to start with. It is both a cerebral exploration of “vibrational technologies” and a deep dive into the roots of Detroit techno. And rest assured, there will be a whole lot of beats in the offing.
Under the name Speaker Music, DeForrest Brown Jr. creates rhythmic electronic music with a base in the history of Black American beats and percussion, calling on influences like jazz great Rashied Ali and hip hop producer Metro Boomin in his most recent release, last year’s Soul-Making Theodicy EP. The abstract, experimental beats that Brown creates in his work as Speaker Music can get pretty abstract at times, but they’re always grounded in a political consciousness and a focus on “the links between the Black experience in industrialized labor systems and Black innovation in electronic music,” to quote his bio.
At ICA, Brown will join up with VCU Queer Studies professor Madison Moore for a presentation that focuses on the history of Detroit techno, a form of music that clearly matters to Brown based on his work representing the Make Techno Black Again movement. That presentation will take the form of a musical performance exploring the aforementioned “vibrational technologies” — and I must admit, I’m really not sure what that even means, but I’m certainly intrigued. After the performance by Brown and Moore, philosopher Alexander Weheliye will speak with the performers in order to get deeper into exactly what the music they’re creating is saying to us all. Pay attention.
Wednesday, March 23, 6 PM
Polaris, Like Moths To Flames, Alpha Wolf, Invent Animate, Vilified @ The Canal Club – $18 in advance, $20 day of show (order tickets HERE)
If you, like me, are Of A Certain Age, you hear the name Polaris and you think of the Miracle Legion side project that attained ephemeral fame in the mid-90s with their theme song for The Adventures Of Pete And Pete. However, this is a different Polaris — and even though I have eternal love for anything Mark Mulcahy-related, I’m intrigued by this Polaris too. That’s mainly because they hail from Sydney, Australia, and I’m going through a bit of an Australia phase lately (ask me about Australian stock-car racing next time you see me). But the music has a lot to offer, regardless of where this band comes from, especially if, like me, you enjoy melodic, emotional metalcore.
The five-piece Polaris released The Death Of Me a month before the pandemic hit, and while Australia managed to use their relative geographic isolation to avoid the majority of COVID’s worst effects, the borders were all but closed for two years, and this is the first opportunity Polaris have gotten to support their by-now-not-all-that-new album on international stages. Luckily, it still sounds as great as it did the day it came out. Elements of the heavier end of early 00s metalcore — think Shadows Fall or Killswitch Engage — mingle with an undertone of melodic emotion a la Underoath or A Static Lullaby. The result is intense, energetic, and sure to connect with audiences all over the world, even here in Richmond. So come out to the Canal Club tonight and find out for yourself — you won’t regret it.
Thursday, March 24, 7 PM
Extinction A.D., Rhythm Of Fear, Blood Ritual, Love Gun, Blazing Tomb @ The Camel – $15 (order tickets HERE)
Long Island’s Extinction A.D. have an interesting public presence, and I say that because, if you check the PR hype, you’ll find this band largely represented as a crossover thrash-metal sort of group. However, if you look into their history, check out their band photos, and (most importantly) listen to their music, you might just come to the conclusion I quickly arrived at: this band is secretly a hardcore band. They’re a very heavy and metallic one, to be sure, but where their approach, their song structure, and a lot of their riffs are concerned, they’re closer to Hatebreed than Slayer. And clearly the hardcore scene knows this: their show at The Camel this Thursday night sees them headlining over a number of local hardcore bands who are sure to bring the mosh and get the whole room raging in preparation for Extinction A.D.’s set.
And let me say — regardless of how you categorize their music, you’re going to want to mosh when Extinction A.D. start playing. Their freshly released third LP, Culture Of Violence, furthers their established metallic hardcore sound and if anything takes things to the next level, simultaneously evoking hardcore’s heaviest recent exponents — think Harm’s Way — and classic politically-informed 80s crossover thrash, a la Sacred Reich or mid-period DRI. It all adds up to some true hard-hitting brutality, and I for one am here for it. You should be too — though if you’re still a bit iffy in these (barely) post-COVID times about diving into a raging mosh pit, you’ll want to stand back. This one’s gonna go hard.
Friday, March 25, 7 PM
Ellevator, Ben Butterworth, E. 33rd @ Richmond Music Hall at Capital Ale House – $10 in advance, $15 day of show (order tickets HERE)
This Friday night will be the perfect time to break up the heaviness (of life… what did you think I was talking about?) with some lovely Canadian pop music, and Ellevator are here to bring you exactly that. They’ve just recently played SXSW down in Austin, which I suppose means that traditional excuse for springtime tours is fully back in action, and Richmond is certainly benefiting from it here, as this trio from Ontario have a truly lovely sound that will be explored in full by their upcoming debut LP, The Words You Spoke Still Move Me, on Arts & Crafts Records.
That LP won’t be out til May, but Ellevator have allowed a few songs from it to go floating around the internet ether for a while now, and based on previews, it’s likely that this show will be one for the ages. Frontwoman Nabi-Sue Bersche has a strong voice and uses it to give voice to some powerful, affecting lyrics, which sit perfectly overtop of a pop sound that incorporates a small touch of the 80s-retro vibe that’s everywhere lately. Thankfully Ellevator are not content to be a mere nostalgia act, and layer those keyboard-driven pop vibes with a fair amount of alt-rock bite and intense energy that feels at least somewhat emo-derived to me. The result is one part Eisley, one part R.E.M., and a dollop of Jimmy Eat World. Or something like that, I don’t know. Band-by-band comparisons don’t really capture it; the point is, this is really good music. And being in the same room while these three talented musicians bring it to life is a great way for you to spend your Friday night.
Saturday, March 26, 7 PM
Shred Flintstone, Blunt, Cassidy Snider and the Wranglers, Wallpaper @ Richmond Music Hall at Capital Ale House – $12 in advance, $15 day of show (order tickets HERE)
Between the goofy name and the photo on their bandcamp depicting the majority of the band members wearing overalls, I was expecting some post-hippie jam vibes from Shred Flintstone. And I gotta tell ya, if I’d been right, you’d likely be reading a recommendation for a different show entirely. Thankfully, I stayed open-minded long enough to listen to Shred Flintstone’s latest LP, 2021’s Unlimited Power. Boy, this is a great slab of hard-rockin’ guitar music. And that’s what you’ll get — at top volume, no less — when Shred Flintstone hits Capital Ale House’s Richmond Music Hall this Saturday night.
If you wondered why I called it “guitar music” in the last paragraph, it’s because Shred Flintstone’s music is hard to categorize beyond that vague term. At times, it feels more like garage rock, at others it’s closer to postpunk, or even noise-rock. There’s definitely a sense of humor to be found within it, as seen on song titles like “Friend Of A Friend Of The Devil” and the band-name-joke-recycling “Shred Durst.” And you can tell these guys are up for jamming hard on any big, powerful riff, no matter how over the top it is. At times, that makes me think of the band Red Fang. But I think Shred Flintstone are ultimately ill-served by any one-to-one comparison. These guys are weird, in the best possible way. And they rock hard as hell. If that’s not something that appeals to you, I honestly have no idea why you’re still reading this column.
Sunday, March 27, 7 PM
Omen Stones, Weed Coughin, Faith In Jane, Small Bones @ Another Round Bar And Grill – $10
If there’s one thing I’ve learned from my time in the salt mines of music journalism, it’s that you can’t please everybody. When I did a whole bunch of jazz coverage last week, I got comments giving me crap for the fact that these columns usually feature a lot of heavy metal music (clearly I have NOT learned yet that reading the comments is always a bad idea). That made me hesitate a couple times when picking shows this week. “Am I picking too much metal?” I thought. “Maybe I should feature an 80s retro synthwave band here instead.” In the end, I decided I was overthinking it. It’s like with fantasy football: when in doubt, play your best players. Pick your best shows.
Here’s one of the undisputed best shows of this week, and it’s on a Sunday night out in Lakeside. Maybe you’ll need to grab a ride north of the city to catch this one, but I assure you it’s worth it, because some truly great metal is getting unleashed at this one. Of course, Omen Stones are your headliners for a reason; featuring members of Richmond heavy hitters like Druglord, Parasytic, and Tel, their 2019 self-titled debut was a real monster. But that was three years ago — do they have more tunes yet? Only one way to find out. And even if the answer’s no, learning will be a very fun way to headbang your Sunday night blues away. Maryland’s Weed Coughin, who lead with the riffage and throw one hell of a musical good time on their brand new full-length debut, Other Worldly, will be a crucial addition to this heavy evening. Their fellow Marylanders Faith In Jane will bring some powerful doom grooves of their own to the table, and Richmond’s Small Bones will get this one started with a hard-rockin’ opening set. Don’t overthink it, y’all — just come headbang.
Monday, March 28, 6:30 PM
John Hollenbeck’s GEORGE, Scott Clark’s Dawn & Dusk @ Spacebomb Studio – $20 in advance, $25 at the door (order tickets HERE)
Just to prove I haven’t entirely left the RVA jazz scene behind, here’s a great Monday night jazz show for all of you for whom last week’s double dose wasn’t enough. This one focuses on the latest project from Canadian drum great John Hollenbeck, who formed GEORGE during the pandemic with three talented players from a variety of backgrounds: avant-garde jazz flute and sax player Anna Webber; saxophonist, rockabilly bandleader, and real-life Treme character Aurora Nealand; and microtonal-synth genius/electro-pop producer Chiquita Magic. Right now, all GEORGE have released is one song, recorded remotely during the pandemic, but their debut LP, Letters to George, is coming from Flexatonic Records in a couple of months, and their performance at Spacebomb will act as an essential preview of coming attractions.
The evening will also feature a performance from local percussion genius Scott Clark’s latest combo, Dawn & Dusk. This sextet brings together several of the players from Adam Hopkins’ School Work — not just Clark and Hopkins but also trumpeter Bob Miller and saxophonist JC Kuhl — along with pianist Michael McNeill and vocalist Laura Ann Singh, in order to do something entirely new and unforeseen. Truly, I have no idea what it’ll sound like, but with this level of talent coming to the table, I’m ready to listen to anything Scott and his latest combo want to put in front of me. So yes, it’s always a good time to get your jazz vibe on, and Spacebomb is the place to do it this Monday night. You know how to roll.
Tuesday, March 29, 7 PM
Andy Shauf, Helena Deland @ Richmond Music Hall at Capital Ale House – $20 (order tickets HERE)
Once again, folks, it’s time to head over to Capital Ale House’s Richmond Music Hall, in order to appreciate the music of an unconventional songwriter who often uses his music to cut through the extraneous crap of daily life and get to the heart of the matter. Andy Shauf comes from Canada, and his quietly intense acoustic songs have a real literary feel; in 2016, he released The Party, an album that examined different characters and incidents that all came together at a single party. 2020’s The Neon Skyline sat with some regulars at a bar, learning what those people were about through overheard conversations and attempts at flirtation with one another.
On Shauf’s Wilds, released last fall, his literary elements are more self-contained, creating narratives song by song rather than spreading a unified story across an entire album, but the moods and memorable turns of phrase come across no less clearly for all that. Musically, there are elements of everything from The Beatles to Shauf’s fellow Canadian singer-songwriter Destroyer, plus some Mountain Goats and a variety of other things in the mix besides. The overall feel is simultaneously challenging and comforting, enveloping the listener in an intense virtual world. That world will take over Richmond Music Hall this Tuesday night; you should spend at least a few hours living in it.
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]