Punks For Presents 2021
Night One: Friday, December 10, 8 PM
Imaginary Toys, X-Mas, Toy Division @ Wonderland – $10 (order tickets HERE)
Night Two: Saturday, December 11, 7 PM
Bouncing Coals, It’s A Wonderful Lifetime, Santa Day Real Estate, International Superheroes of Glory @ Fuzzy Cactus – $10 (order tickets HERE)
The holiday season is upon us, folks. That’s right, Christmas is coming, and while it appears that the Omicron variant is set to be the lump of coal in all of our stockings this year (get your vaccines! And if you’re vaccinated, get your booster!), we are at least lucky to have finagled a way to have a real life, in-person Punks For Presents celebration this year, stretching over multiple weekends of December in RVA. Let’s get stoked!
If you like comedy, you’ll get a prelude to the P4P festivities on Thursday night at Cobra Cabana, but the real beginning of this year’s odyssey of tribute bands is Friday night, when Imaginary Toys will top the bill at Shockoe Bottom’s favorite punk rock dive bar, Wonderland! Cure tribute Imaginary Boys has been a fixture at cover band shows in Richmond for ages now, and this is not the first time they’ve added a Christmas theme to their recreations of Robert Smith’s mope-rock standards, so they’re sure to entertain, especially if you’re the sort of goth who sometimes wonders what the happy happy holiday season could possibly have to offer you. They’ll be joined on this bill by X-Mas, returning to the Punks For Presents lineup for the first time in a few years to recreate the sordid LA tales and flawless boy-girl harmonies of first-wave Cali punks X. And the whole thing will be rounded out by Toy Division, who will put a Yuletide gloss on all those songs Ian Curtis wrote about how depressed he was. If nothing else, it should appeal to the Cure fans showing up for the headliner.
The next day, head out to the Northside and post up at Fuzzy Cactus, where the evening of Punks For Presents tribute bands on offer will take a less goth, more melodic punk approach. It’ll start with The Bouncing Coals, whose holiday-themed twist on Jersey punk legends The Bouncing Souls is sure to cause some excitement. Then we’ve got It’s A Wonderful Lifetime, who recreate the music of those great dancers from New Brunswick, Lifetime. Is it emo? Is it pop-punk? Is it hardcore? Somewhere inbetween all of those, I’d say. And by the way, I have no idea if this band has anything to do with the long-ago Richmond-based Lifetime tribute put together by members of Wow Owls and 10:33, but if not, it’s carrying on a proud local tradition. The Fuzzy Cactus bill will be rounded out by the emo Christmas tunes of Sunny Day Real Estate tribute act Santa Day Real Estate and the pizza-loving pop punk of New Found Glory tribute act International Superheroes of Glory. It’s gonna be a snow-covered blast, and it’s for a good cause (all proceeds raised by Punks For Presents will go to Children’s Hospital of Richmond), so do your part by coming out and rocking!
Wednesday, December 8, 8 PM
Tyler Nail, Patrick Zampetti @ The Tin Pan – $22.50 (order tickets HERE)
It’s been a while since I had the opportunity to shout out a show out at The West End’s premier sit-down venue, The Tin Pan, but I’m glad to be able to mention their name once again. You know it’s gonna be something on the more chill end of things if you’re heading out to the Tin Pan, but that doesn’t mean it’s boring. Indeed, North Carolina singer-songwriter Tyler Nail has a downright hypnotic delivery on his acoustic Americana work — one that’s taken him a long way from his first shows, which were, if his website is to be believed, in a Taco Bell. Hey, at least the food was good.
Nail’s latest project is an EP called Devil, and the dark, foreboding sound of tracks like “Devil And A Deadman” is downright riveting. He brings an awareness in his music of deep-rooted Appalachian communities and the way things out in the country can sometimes get a little lawless; it’s the kind of thing a lot of Richmonders should appreciate, even if you’re more of a punk than a folkie. Maybe especially then. Nail’s joined at The Tin Pan by Patrick Zampetti, a local boy with an acoustic guitar and a riveting voice. This evening isn’t going to be all that loud, but it will certainly be memorable.
Thursday, December 9, 9 PM
Rezn, Lair, Doomsday Profit @ Bandito’s – Free!
Thursday night, on the other hand, will be loud. At least, it will be if you do what I recommend you do and go see Rezn at Bandito’s. Hey, the price is right. And if you need any further arguments to be marshalled in support of this recommendation, look no further than Chaotic Divine, the LP this Chicago quartet released last fall. Moving from spaced-out moments of pure psychedelia to crushing metal over the course of many lengthy epics, you might think this is another doom metal project. However, the fact that Rezn make use of all sorts of non-metal instruments over the course of this LP, from flute and saxophone to sitar, oud, and baglama, should tell you that Rezn have a lot more going on than any ordinary doom metal band you’re likely to encounter.
In fact, Rezn even released a limited-edition flexi earlier this year featuring a tune, “Mirror Mirage Dub,” that shows off their skill with the deceptively complex genre of dub reggae. These guys are sure to expand your horizons in all sorts of directions. But don’t worry, they’ll have plenty of headbanging moments on offer as well. Richmonders Lair will add to the headbanging opportunities, though they’ll take their sweet time getting there. Lair’s much more straightforward in their approach to doom metal, but they are far from boring, and they show it on the two-song release they put out last winter, At Our End. I don’t know whether to call it an EP or an LP, by the way, because on one hand it only has two songs on it, but on the other hand, those two songs add up to nearly 27 minutes of running time — longer than a lot of hardcore bands’ LPs. What I do know for sure is that it’s a deep, multilayered listening experience, and their set at Bandito’s is sure to be every bit as enthralling. North Carolina’s Doomsday Profit will round the evening out with some old-school downer sludge a la early Eyehategod. All this and the opportunity to dine on Bandito’s excellent nachos? What more could you want? (Yes, I will continue to mention their nachos every time I write about Bandito’s for the foreseeable future. Deal with it.)
Friday, December 10, 9 PM
Tasha, Mini Trees, S. Raekwon @ The Camel – $15 in advance, $18 day of show (order tickets HERE)
Things get downright emotional at The Camel this Friday night. And no, I don’t mean “emo” — if I meant emo, I’d say emo. I’m not afraid. But anyway, Tasha, who hails from Chicago, is a singer-songwriter who leads with her guitar, using her soft, muted sounds to tell stories about deep, dark feelings overtop of absolutely haunting tunes. Her brand new LP, Tell Me What You Miss The Most, is full of indelible melodies that sink deep into your soul and refuse to let go. Sometimes she’s backed by a band, and sometimes she’s on her own, but either way, she always grabs your attention and presents you with sounds you feel on the deepest level.
I will say that I don’t know whether Tasha’s coming to the Camel with a full band or on her own. However, I’m not sure it matters; her work has enough variety that you can tell she’ll be great in either format. Mini Trees, the Los Angeles-based project led by Lexi Vega, seems more likely to take the form of a full band, as they generally do on their new album, Always In Motion. Mini Trees also has more of an upbeat pop approach that, at least to me, seems to show the influence of West Coast weather on their vibes. These songs sound like they were written and recorded when the sun was out — but don’t make the mistake of assuming that makes them shallow. Like Tasha, Mini Trees is bringing real emotional depth to the fore, and their set is sure to move you. S. Raekwon, who is a New York-based singer-songwriter with (as far as I can tell) no ties to the Wu-Tang Clan, will get things started with a soulful approach to moody, guitar-driven pop. Get down with it.
Saturday, December 11, 7 PM
K Bay Presents: Benét, Kate Bollinger, Matthew E. White @ The Broadberry – $15 (order tickets HERE)
If you’ve been paying attention lately, you’re sure to know that K Bay is not only the name of Matthew E. White’s latest album, but also the name of the studio he built in his home as a sort of retreat from his Spacebomb base of operations. Therefore, the fact that this show is billed as a K Bay presentation, and features Matthew E. White at the bottom of the bill rather than the top, leads me to believe that he’s responsible for this entire bill. And therefore, you’ve got to figure that he put Benet at the top of the bill for a reason. So let’s talk about Benet, a local up-and-comer whose catchy dancefloor-filling tunes have been getting quite a bit of attention around the city and in the wider online world. They started out with last year’s Citrus City release, Stan Account, and followed up that EP with this year’s even more noteworthy collection of danceable tunes about love and romance, Game Over.
If you ask me, Benet is reason enough to show up to the Broadberry on Saturday night, Matthew E. White or no Matthew E. White. The addition of Kate Bollinger to the bill, another excellent Richmond singer-songwriter with a great new single, “Yards/Gardens,” further sweetens the pot. But of course, many of you are going to be showing up for the man himself, and you’ve got very good reasons for doing so. K Bay (the album, not the studio or the nebulous presenter of this event) is a collection of absolutely excellent tunes, showing off a wider variety of what White is capable of doing than any of his previous projects. Indeed, he lays out some dancefloor bangers of his own on this one, and you can expect tracks like “Let’s Ball” and “Electric” to be highlights of his set on this fine evening. Of course, if he drops some of his smoother balladry or even his quiet acoustic tunes, no one’s going to complain about that either. Really, whatever Matthew E. White wants to bring to Richmond, we’re sure to appreciate the resulting sounds. So let’s gather together and get down with it.
Sunday, December 12, 7 PM
LJ & the Sleeze, Zack Mexico, Piranha Rama @ The Camel – $10 (order tickets HERE)
What do you say, folks — should we spend the final night of our weekend at the Camel? In light of the fact that it’s one of the best places to hang out in the whole damn city, has great food, and is full of cool people, I might just say so regardless of what sort of music they’ve got onstage that particular evening. But once you see the rock n’ roll triple bill this show has in store for you, Sunday night at The Camel goes from “a good bet” to “fucking essential.” First and foremost, we’ve got LJ & the Sleeze, the latest project from Max Henry Gottesman, which takes that whole undercurrent of adolescent horniness that’s always an essential component of garage rock and finds out what happens when you crank it up to 17 or so. So far, the results LJ & the Sleeze have gotten with this tactic have been stellar, and the word is that Max has now recruited a full time band to back them up, so you can expect even better things to come on this fine evening.
Then there’s the other two bands on the bill, both of whom are totally willing to expand the usual band lineup well beyond the standard quartet or quintet. North Carolina’s Zack Mexico are driven by the dual rhythms laid down by their two drummers, who join half a dozen other members in making some mind-expanding psychedelic pop that isn’t afraid to push all sorts of musical boundaries. You can tell that this is their vibe when you check the track listing of their 35-minute LP Sound Waves For The Relaxed And Dying, which came out back in the cursed month of March 2020 (our condolences, Zack Mexico), and see that it only contains five songs, the majority of which stretch to over eight minutes in length. Things are going to get epic. And of course, when Piranha Rama is onstage, this genre-hopping Richmond band will do Zack Mexico exactly one better by bringing NINE musicians into play, throwing everything from jazz and soul to punk and surf-rock into a potent brew of catchy tunes. Get ready, because here they come. All of them.
Monday, December 13, 7 PM
The Wormholes, Lucy In Battle Armor, Glossing, Solace Sovay @ The Camel – $8 in advance, $10 day of show (order tickets HERE)
And hey, one good night at The Camel deserves another, am I right? Of course I’m right. This Monday night will get you back out to the venue after an action-packed weekend with some intriguing sonics from The Wormholes, a North Carolina duo with a penchant for art damage and a sound that incorporates everything from post-rock to psych-pop, and bases everything on the kind of up-to-the-minute indie sensibility that is guaranteed to make us all smile.
They are joined on this bill by a trio of Richmond ensembles, both new and veteran. Lucy In Battle Armor’s instrumental math-rock tunes have gotten more and more danceable as they’ve gone on, and the last we heard from them, back in 2019, brought us the super-fun SOPHE LP. Assuming they haven’t made any major changes since then, their set should get the whole place dancing, spacewalk-style. Then there’s Glossing, a brand new group featuring Richmond legend James Hoffer (who’s been in a million bands, including one with me! Wow, that was over 20 years ago), as well as former members of DC bands like Birds For Eyes and Broke Royals, coming together to do an entirely new thing. That’s sure to be worth hearing now rather than later, so get in on the ground floor for this one. Finally, Solace Sovay carries on their long-running tradition of bringing effects-laden alternative pop gems to the sound-starved denizens of the river city. Come down to the Camel on Monday and lap this one up.
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]