Friday, January 21, 9 PM
Sexbruise? @ The Camel – $10 in advance, $12 day of show (order tickets HERE)
I keep telling myself, week after week, that I’m not going to start the column this week by talking about the pandemic. And then I find myself, week after week, having to do so. Why am I bringing it up this week? Well, just to give you a good picture of where things stand with the effect COVID-19 is currently having on live music in Virginia, I sat down to start this column and discovered that, 10 minutes before I opened my browser, the show I was going to make my featured show had been postponed. It was at the biggest venue in town, featured at least two dozen Virginia bands and a local music institution, and… as of this morning, it wasn’t happening. That’s the theme of things lately — last minute decisions, however prudent, leave everyone scrambling. And maybe the thing you’d planned your week around is suddenly not happening at all.
But never let it be said that we here at RVA Mag can’t adapt. After all, we were lucky enough to have a backup candidate for the week’s featured show just waiting in the wings, courtesy of our old faithful local music standby, The Camel. And that show is none other than the latest local appearance by South Carolina satirical pop band Sexbruise? (Yes, the question mark is part of their name.) Sexbruise? bring an 80s synth-pop aesthetic, as illustrated by their prototypical single, “Party In The 80s,” to a fundamentally satirical sensibility that lands somewhere between Monty Python and Flight Of The Conchords. Plus, their live sets are always a blast, with plenty of dancing, costumes, light shows, and audience participation. Basically, they’re here to show you a fun time, pandemic or no pandemic.
That said, they’re actually one of the few bands I’ve encountered in recent months who have addressed the pandemic in their music directly. Not that they got serious or anything: no, last year they released “WDHTV,” a comedic take on the ongoing struggles we’re all dealing with when we try to meet hotties and get laid during COVID times. The satirical lyrics poke fun at those who believe random weirdos on the internet who tell them what they want to hear instead of actual scientists, among other pandemic-related issues of the moment, and the music is a pure sexy-dance anthem that’s sure to get the booties shaking on the Camel’s dance floor. So if you feel safe going out and shaking it up with a bunch of people whose precautionary history you know nothing about, rest assured that Sexbruise? is gonna provide the perfect soundtrack… and they’re self-aware enough to laugh along with this whole predicament we’re all dealing with. That’s reason enough to hit this one up.
Wednesday, January 19, 9 PM
Brewer’s Sessions presents Mack Ben Widdit @ Brewer’s Cafe – $10 (order tickets HERE)
Local hip hop is always a fun time, especially when it brings you to the most hip-hop coffee shop in town, Brewer’s Cafe over in Manchester, for a night of beats, rhymes, and dancefloor static sure to break up your midweek doldrums. Mack Ben Widdit isn’t always consistent with how he spells his name (how many E’s does it have in it?), but he’s got a lot of hot tracks in a variety of places around the internet, and his subtly melodic flow and mix of moody samples and pounding beats makes for a multi-level listening experience that will get tracks like “Bigger Amount” and “It Is What It Is” stuck in your head all night.
Mack Ben Widdit and his Don’t Fold Entertainment posse are sure to keep the dance floor hot and the beats pumping throughout the evening at Brewer’s Cafe tonight, so there’ll be a lot of heads nodding and booties shaking at this one. Whether you’ve got fat stacks of cash or just a few bucks in your pocket, your best move for this evening is to head south across the river and be a part of it.
Thursday, January 20, 8 PM
Cory Branan, Graham Stone @ The Camel – $15 (order tickets HERE)
If you pay any attention to the world of underground country, you’re sure to know the name Cory Branan. He’s been out there making dark, stripped-down country sounds for the past two decades, bringing his background playing in Black Sabbath tribute bands along to create a unique approach to the sounds of the American heartland. He got a fair amount of attention for The No-Hit Wonder back in 2014, but since he followed it up with Adios in 2017, he’s been keeping a pretty low profile. Now, though, five years after his last full-length release, he’s got a new label, Blue Elan Records, and the word is Branan’s going to be bringing out a new LP in a few months.
Therefore, this event seems like a likely opportunity to hear all the new tunes Cory Branan’s been working on over the past five years, and get a preview of what that next album is going to sound like. Considering that the man’s been steadily growing as an artist and a songwriter over the past 20 years or so, it’s a fairly good bet that what he’s come up with will be his best work yet. Don’t you want to get down with that? Yeah, I thought so. He’s at the Camel Thursday night, along with RVA mainstay Graham Stone. Get there.
Friday, January 21, 7 PM
Indigo De Souza, Horse Jumper Of Love, Friendship @ Richmond Music Hall at Capital Ale House – $17 in advance, $20 day of show (order tickets HERE)
Here’s one for the indie kids. Indigo De Souza hails from the mountains of North Carolina, about an hour and a half south of Bristol, but she’s hardly provincial or backwoods. With her second album, Any Shape You Take, released last year, she shows off a strong songwriting talent that integrates the guitar driven alt-rock you might expect from an artist signed to Saddle Creek, as well as the danceable, vaguely retro pop sounds of groups like Haim. She knows how to have fun, too — see the video for her single “Kill Me,” in which she sits on a cake. The combination of all this should bring an appropriate amount of upbeat joy to a Friday evening that will surely call for such a thing, especially in light of everything else going on out there in the world.
De Souza will be joined on this bill by two other indie talents that come from out of town. Boston’s Horse Jumper Of Love have certainly received notice here in RVA before, with their delicate, deliberately paced tunes. 2019’s So Divine is still their most recent release, but considering how rare the opportunities to see them — or, for that matter, anyone else — have been in the intervening years, its tunes are probably still going to sound fresh and new to most of us. Philadelphia’s Friendship are also moody and deliberate in their sound, but there’s a decided country flair in there that you wouldn’t exactly expect from a band hailing from the ironically named City of Brotherly Love. But why not, right? Everything’s kind of upside down in the world these days. The best thing to do is to revel in it. That’s what all of these bands will come to Richmond to do — in spite of everything.
Saturday, January 22, 8 PM
Jake Xerxes Fussell, Saw Black @ The Camel – $12 in advance, $15 day of show (order tickets HERE)
I’m not sure if it’s just that full-scale national tours aren’t happening much right now or what, but we’re getting quite a few artists hailing from the Carolinas coming through Richmond this week, and the latest example of that phenomenon is Jake Xerxes Fussell, a folk-music scholar who made his name by recording old public-domain folk songs that dated back 100 years or more and were often completely forgotten by modern musicians. He’s finally moving somewhat beyond that modus operandi; his brand new album, Good And Green Again, finds him working with Will Oldham and Megafaun’s Joe Westerlund, among others, on the first original compositions he’s ever released. However, even these new tunes preserve the basic vibe Fussell has always cultivated — a pensive, introspective mood that speaks of a different time, and a different way of existing in the world, from back before late-stage capitalism turned us all into constantly exhausted productivity machines.
If you’re the sort of person who feels tired out by life and all the burdens it places upon you on a pretty constant basis, this evening with Jake Xerxes Fussell might be just the thing you need. After all, it’s not gonna get all that loud. What’s more, it’ll put you in touch with the roots of not just the music but the people that came before this modern world, and remind us all that there is something more out there than an endless daily grind just to keep our heads above water. That’s a big burden for the music of a North Carolina folk music scholar to carry, but somehow Fussell manages it just fine. And an evening with him and his music will probably help you carry your own burdens just a little bit easier through this upcoming week.
Sunday, January 23, 7 PM
Fanfare, Suntitle, Sleave, Reflect, Wild Truth @ The Camel – $10 (order tickets HERE)
The youth are still out here doing things, and that’s obvious if you know where to look. But if you’re gonna be 46 on Saturday (actually, that’s me — I’m gonna be 46 on Saturday, which, wtf y’all), you might not know where to look. A show like this can, thankfully, provide clues. At the top of the bill, for example, are Richmond’s own Fanfare, a group with a slight hardcore-tinged undercurrent who mainly focus on pop-punk and emo and, according to RVA Mag contributor Kieran Cleary, are known to bust out a Jimmy Eat World cover from time to time. Is Jimmy Eat World an oldies act for young music fans these days? Don’t answer that.
Fanfare are joined on this bill by out-of-towners Suntitle, who just released their debut LP, In A Dream, back in November. If you’re the sort of person looking for the same sound Fanfare is laying down — by which I mean a fundamentally emo-based alt-rock sound with the heavy guitars of Hum and the underlying hardcore tension of Quicksand — well then Suntitle are going to thrill you thoroughly. A variety of other sounds can be found on this bill as well, all courtesy of local exponents. Sleave bring a choppy, moody sensibility that at times reminds me of the Smoking Popes (does anyone know who that band is anymore? Google it, I guess), Reflect take a classic angry hardcore approach that fits with a variety of threads running through Richmond musical history, and Wild Truth are a straightforward alternative rock band with some catchy tuneage on offer. Come out and get a crash course on what’s happening here in the RVA, musically speaking.
Monday, January 24, 7 PM
Kibi James, Jason Jamal, Catie Lausten, Belly Of The Heart @ The Camel – $8 in advance, $10 day of show (order tickets HERE)
If you’re not keeping up with everything prolific local label Citrus City has its hands in, well, honestly, I don’t blame you — they’re so busy, it can be tough to keep track of it all. However, when you do happen upon things they’re involved in, it’s a pretty quick and easy way to tell that this thing is cool, and worth your time. I tell you all this in order to mention that last year, Citrus City rereleased Atlanta combo Kibi James’ debut EP, Azucar, on cassette. Six months later, Kibi James are coming to Richmond to perform live, and you should already know what to do in response.
But OK, let’s say the Citrus City imprimatur isn’t enough on its own to get you to plunk down your cash on some advance tickets right now. What more do you want from Kibi James? How do catchy vocal melodies paired with Spanish lyrics, tropical-inflected guitar patterns, and postpunk grooves sound to you? Because Kibi James has all that and more, in abundance, and they’ll be sharing it all with the lucky Richmonders willing to devote their Monday night to the excellent sounds Citrus City is always digging up and bringing to our truly fortunate city. Don’t you want to bask in the glow of all that? Especially with the weather being as cold as it’s been lately, the answer should be obvious.
Tuesday, January 25, 7 PM
The Big Easy, Church Girls, The Retinas, Gnawing @ The Camel – $10 in advance, $12 day of show (order tickets HERE)
Winding up our week of excellent live music is this Tuesday night showcase of loud guitars, catchy riffs, and witty lyrics, all of which are sure to warm the heart of a post-Nirvana alterna-baby like myself. But really, anyone who likes good music should be able to appreciate New York’s The Big Easy, who named themselves after something people call New Orleans but have a much harsher and noisier take on alt-rock than you might otherwise expect. Not to worry, because their 2020 LP, A Long Year (boy was it ever), manages to offer plenty of reasons to smile as you rock out — yes, even in these cold early days of 2022.
Also on the bill are Church Girls, who come from Philadelphia with a sound that lands a little closer to the emo-pop end of things but on the whole mixes well with The Big Easy’s throaty crunch. The tension between the loud guitars and Mariel Beaumont’s angelic vocals, as displayed on Church Girls’ brand new album, Still Blooms, gives some hint as to where the band name comes from, though I’m pretty sure these folks aren’t actually too concerned about religion. Fellow Philadelphians The Retinas make the trip down to round out the trio of northeastern alt-rock bands on this Tuesday night bill, while local trio Gnawing gets things started by rockin’ and rollin’ in the way we all know they’re more than capable of doing.
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]