Thursday, December 7, 8 PM
Gritty City Is For The Kids 3, feat. Gritty City, Noah-O, Black Liquid, Michael Millions, Tef Wesley, Chance Fischer, Segga Spiccoli, Reppa Ton, Ant The Symbol, hosted by Been Official, music by Swerve 36 @ Strange Matter – $5 (or toy donations)
It’s Christmastime again, and like all good people everywhere, the Richmond music scene tends to get into the giving spirit. Not only has No BS! Brass Band’s canned food drive returned for another year, and Punks For Presents come back for a record five shows (more on that one later), Gritty City Records has put together their third annual Gritty City Is For The Kids hip hop summit. This show, rapidly becoming a local institution, will benefit Toys For Tots by bringing together perhaps the best lineup of local hip hop RVA’s seen since last Christmas.
No, seriously–I’ve talked before about how there are many layers to the RVA hip hop scene, and how every show seems to spotlight a different crew, each of which has a packed stable of amazing rhymers and killer producers waiting in the wings. But in a traditionally competitive genre, Gritty City stands out by crossing all lines between crews and uniting the entire scene for a night that brings together top-level artists from all facets of the scene. This isn’t surprising for a label that’s released local artists from The Lone Crow (aka Murk One) and The Honorable Sleaze (RIP) to Rah Scrilla and John Canada, but it’s certainly refreshing for fans of all facets of RVA hip hop–for once, you can see all the best locals on the same stage on the same night.
Who are we talking about here, exactly? Well of course you know the Gritty City fam (Johnny Ciggs, Fan Ran, Ben FM, etc) will be out in force. But they’ll also be joined by Charged Up majordomo Noah-O, who is a decade into his career and only getting better. Then there’s Michael Millions, an underrated emcee from the AGM posse who just might be the best rhymer on the local scene right now. Chance Fischer, one of the only rhymers with a prayer of challenging Millions for that title, will be there too. And of course, we can’t forget the hardest working man in Richmond hip hop, Black Liquid, who just dropped what must be at least his 20th album and shows no sign of slowing down. Strong up-and-comer Segga Spiccoli, production mastermind Ant The Symbol, rock-solid spitter Reppa Ton, and living legend Swerve 36 on the wheels of steel round out a lineup that no local hip hop fan has any excuse to miss. The charity stuff is important, but where this show is concerned, the reason for the season is the music.
Wednesday, December 6, 8 PM
The Palmer Squares, Vantablac Sol, Netherfriends, Yung Dxrk @ Strange Matter – $10 in advance/$12 day of show (order tickets HERE)
From local hip hop to some touring rappers from Chicago, it’s a rhyme-heavy week. Here we have a three-artist tour package headed up by The Palmer Squares, who’ve got a huge social media presence and the lyrical skills to back up their high view numbers on YouTube. Their latest EP, NaPalm follows up their first two full-lengths with another half a dozen songs full of tongue-twisting turns of phrase from rappers Terminal Knowledge and Acumental, as well as thick, multi-layered beats from producer Nate Kiz, who isn’t technically in the group but has established a strong, unified sound for The Palmer Squares over the course of multiple projects.
Nate Kiz may not be along on this tour, but Vantablac Sol is, and I’m assuming this Chicago rapper quit using original nom de rhyme Bruce Bayne after DC Comics got wind of it. Regardless, his more laid-back flow fits with Palmer Squares’ more manic tendencies due to equally thick, pulverizing beats that tie his latest VBS Tape together. A fun third piece of this trio is Netherfriends, the Chicago-based project that came through Richmond a bunch back in the 50 Songs 50 States days. Shawn Rosenblatt’s solo project had more of a bedroom-indie vibe back then, but he was already starting to get into hip hop production last time I caught up with him a few years ago, so this tour makes a lot of sense in conjunction with recent beat-heavy releases like Piano Dude. Whether you’re in the house to catch up with Netherfriends or to catch some sick rhymes from Palmer Squares, this show’s gonna deliver some killer sounds to your earholes.
Thursday, December 7, 8 PM
Battalion Of Saints, The Cryptics, Talk Me Off @ Bandito’s – Free!
It’s never a bad guess to assume that an early 80s American hardcore band was full of dead end kids with no future, but even in a scene full of bands that could barely survive their own nihilistic lifestyle, Battalion of Saints deserve special recognition. After all, singer George Anthony has been the only surviving original member of the band since sometime in the late 80s. He’s kept the band rolling with a rotating collection of SoCal miscreants ever since, and most recently, they released a 3-song EP on Southern Lord that showed their skills at loud, fast, out-of-control punk noise having decayed not at all after 35 years of destructive rage.
So it’s pretty cool to see these maniacs rolling through Richmond once again, 20 years after they tore Strange Matter (then known as Twisters) apart on the Death-R-Us tour. This time they’ll be hitting Bandito’s, so all the punks who are scraping quarters together to buy 40s at 7-11 can stop by the show on the way to the store without worrying about their beer money having to go to the door charge. If you’re living a bit more of a sensible lifestyle these days, your money can easily go towards tasty tacos and high-quality brew from the Bandito’s staff. Either way, you’ll get a hefty dose of punk rock awesomeness from the Battalion as well as spooky, melodic punk tourmates The Cryptics and local hardcore-punk newcomers Talk Me Off. Don’t miss out.
Friday, December 8, 8 PM
Punks For Presents 2017, Night 1, feat. London Caroling, Good Cretins, Sex Tinsels @ Gallery 5 – $10
Over the next couple of weeks leading up to Christmas, Punks For Presents will present five amazing holiday-themed covers shows, all of which will benefit Childrens Hospital of Richmond, and all of which are well worth your time even if they don’t end up making it to this column. How could I skip out on this first one, though? It’d be pretty amazing to see an actual bill featuring the holy trinity of the 77 punk rock explosion, and since that will never happen, this is the next best thing!
Not only will this show feature the songs of the Ramones, The Clash, and the Sex Pistols, most likely performed by members of some of your favorite local bands (though at the moment that’s a closely guarded secret–you’ll have to show up Friday night to find out exactly who is involved), it will most likely also feature slightly-rewritten lyrics turning much loved classics into Christmas songs! “Santa Is A Punk”? “Yule Logs Burning”? “Holidays In The Snow”? All are possibilities, but what really makes this whole thing fun is finding out for yourself. Come rock out this Friday night and get in the giving spirit once again!
Saturday, December 9, 8 PM
Houdan The Mystic, Colin Phils, Gull, Shy Low @ Strange Matter – $6 in advance/$8 day of show (order tickets HERE)
Our favorite melodic prog mathematicians in Houdan The Mystic are back with yet another split LP. After keeping a low profile for a few years, since previously joining with Fight Cloud for 2014’s killer Where’s My Shakespeare?, they’ve decided to team up this time with South Korean transplants Colin Phils for a slab aptly titled Star Charts. This collection will enter the world this Saturday night at a shindig being thrown by Jet Trails Media over at Strange Matter. Like Where’s My Shakespeare?, Star Charts will enter the world on cassette and CD as well as over the digital waves. And really, even if you’re just planning on picking up the mp3s, record releases aren’t as fun without a big musical celebration, so you should still come out!
After all, Colin Phils are just as big a part of this whole picture as Houdan The Mystic, and unlike Houdan, they may still be quite unfamiliar to those of you who’ve been reading this column for a while. As previously mentioned, they originally formed in South Korea, and only arrived in Richmond recently. However, they’ve made a lot of local connections in their scant time here, and have impressed a lot of people who know what they’re talking about. Including me, I must say–the preview tracks from Star Charts available online show a mastery of everything from post-rock ambience to prog-emo grandeur and math-rock intensity. These guys are sure to bring the heat live, and if you, like me, still haven’t had the pleasure, this is the perfect opportunity. With Gull and Shy Low also on the bill, this is going to be a night full of challenging, amazing musicality. Get on board.
Sunday, December 10, 7 PM
The Dream Syndicate, Elephant Stone, Armistead of Love Tractor @ Capital Ale House Music Hall – $20 (order tickets HERE)
Social media is a weird thing. For example, this morning as I was checking facebook on my way to work where I knew I’d eventually write about this show, I discovered that it was two years ago today when I returned home from seeing The Dream Syndicate at Strange Matter and bashed out a quick recap for my tumblr before I went to bed. I’d written about that show for my show column, and it had totally lived up to the pre-show hype I myself wrote. Now, with the Syndicate’s return to the city this Sunday night, I find myself writing about them again. And I don’t regret it one bit.
That 2015 show was an incredible showcase of Steve Wynn and co.’s amazing run of 5 releases between 1981 and 1989, and I’m sure there’ll be some Dream Syndicate classics unleashed to mindblowing effect this Sunday night as well. But the main reason you should go to Capital Ale House and see this band is because the reunited incarnation of the band released their first new album in nearly 30 years earlier this year, and How Did I Find Myself Here? stands alongside any of their previous work in awesomeness. Wynn’s killer tunes are still at the forefront here, but the atonal noise solos, the layered psychedelic guitar freakiness, the hypnotic buzzing hum, and the punk rock-fueled intensity from classic albums like Medicine Show and The Days Of Wine And Roses is still on display. So yeah, it’s safe to say these guys will kick ass once again. Kick down the 20 bucks for a ticket–it’s worth it.
Monday, December 11, 8 PM
R-Dent, Josie McQueen, Sleave, Halfcast @ Strange Matter – $5 in advance/$7 day of show (order tickets HERE)
If you play alt-rock loud and fast enough, it kinda crosses the line into punk, and Jacksonville’s R-Dent push their guitar-driven midtempo riffage across that line as often as they can. One could probably quibble about whether or not this band would be more at home on Sub Pop in 1993 or No Idea in 1997, but either way, those who like loud guitars, driving rhythms, intense vocals, and an undeniable melodic sense hiding underneath everything will find a lot to like in this band, who’ll show up to Strange Matter Monday night with some loud amps in the back of their van.
They’ll be joined by a trio of loud-rockin’ locals, led by Josie McQueen, who don’t really ever push their alt-rock sound into the red enough to count as punk. That’s not a dis, though–these guys are more like Cheap Trick jamming with Marvelous Three or something, and that kind of tight, rockin’ power-pop is too thin on the ground these days. It’s good to have someone bringing that style to us right here in RVA, and it’s also nice to have the gruff melodic punk of Sleave, who clearly would find their place on post-Y2K No Idea, in the house for this one as well. Halfcast opens up with some thick riffage to keep the rock going from start to finish.
Tuesday, December 12, 8 PM
New Madrid, David Barbe & Inward Dream Ebb @ Strange Matter – $10 (order tickets HERE)
REM may not be around anymore, but if you think that means Athens, GA is no longer musically relevant, you need to pay better attention. You can start right here with this show, during which Athens crew New Madrid will come to town to hypnotize everyone with their riveting psychedelic grooves. Latest album magnetkingmagnetqueen has the sort of laid-back, spacey sound that should appeal to fans of locals like Avers and Minor Poet, making it an amazing headtrip of a listen.
With them, New Madrid will bring David Barbe, a well-known Athens denizen who has produced New Madrid along with legends like the Drive-By Truckers and Deerhunter. Barbe’s quite a musician in his own right, which he initially proved as the bass player for early 90s alt-rock stars Sugar and continued to make clear on solo efforts like 2001’s Comet Of The Season. He’s recently stepped back from production to devote himself to music-making once again, and brand new album 10th Of Seas sees Barbe playing all instruments on an album of psych-infused alt-rock that reminds everyone who loved his old stuff exactly what made it all so great. Barbe will perform backed by Inward Dream Ebb, the alter-ego of New Madrid as they pay tribute to a mentor by backing him up before returning to the stage with a killer solo set to close out the night. It’s gonna be an awesome night–make sure you’re part of 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] [yes, my email is through GayRVA, don’t get weird about it]