Saturday, March 3, 6 PM
Grace Vonderkuhn, Gold Connections, Fat Spirit, Doll Baby @ Hardywood – Free!
It’s a new year, and a lot of musicians are getting a jump on it with brand new releases intended to take 2018 by storm. It’s kinda been an ongoing theme of the column over the past month or so, as a variety of Richmond artists, heavyweights and newcomers alike, have been throwing record-release celebrations intended to let the city know that they’re here and have something strong to offer. The same thing can’t entirely be said of Grace Vonderkuhn, as she’s technically not even a Richmond artist (she hails from Wilmington, Delaware). However, her brand new album, Reveries, was released last week by Richmond’s own Egghunt Records. And while her show at Hardywood this Saturday might not be billed as a record release show, it’s the first chance Richmond will have to enjoy a full-volume live performance showing off everything Reveries has to offer.
There’s quite a bit to be found, too. Vonderkuhn’s live combo is a lean, mean power trio built around her gorgeous vocals and powerful, distorted guitar work. She’s got some killer songwriting and an incredible voice, something that could also be said about Egghunt’s last big discovery, Lucy Dacus. However, Vonderkuhn’s tunes hit harder, bringing a rock n’ roll swagger and a grunge-punk crunch that’ll surely appeal to everyone who still misses the post-Nirvana alt-rock wonderland of the early 90s. Reveries is capable of fitting right into a playlist featuring The Breeders and Liz Phair, but has the tough-girl swagger of The Runaways and The Shangri-Las down as well. What’s not to like?
This stacked show at Hardywood won’t just offer an opportunity to explore the excellent new sounds from Grace Vonderkuhn, though — it’s stacked with talent originating closer to home, starting with Gold Connections. This Charlottesville band has gotten some high-profile props due to frontman Will Marsh’s early work with Car Seat Headrest’s Will Toledo, but one listen to their debut EP from last year will let you know that Gold Connections have more than ample songwriting skills necessary to stand on their own. Their sound is a bit smoother and mellower than Grace Vonderkuhn’s, but overall it’s an excellent pairing. As is the pairing of Fat Spirit and Doll Baby, the two killer Richmond openers who shouldn’t really even need an introduction if you’ve been reading this column for a while. Just go. The show is even free — what more could you possibly want?
Wednesday, February 28, 8 PM
Zaigoat, Lair, NFA, British Sterling @ Strange Matter – $5
I love Strange Matter for a lot of reasons, but their Locals Only series is a big part of it. When I’m putting together this column, the middle of the week sometimes looks kinda lackluster, but if Strange Matter is doing a Locals Only show somewhere in there, I know I’ve got at least one pick locked down. This week is no exception, as the latest LO show (#56 in the ongoing series — keep it up, y’all!) brings us a collection of brand new heavies that anyone who loves metal and punk, definitely including me, can get stoked about. Zaigoat are at the top of the bill, and this brand new band might be considered doom under some lenses but seems more accurately characterized as horror-sludge. I sure am down with that.
Then there’s Lair, who absolutely can accurately be described as doom. This band’s debut EP features two songs and a 22-minute running time, so you know they’re serious as a heart attack. Slow-motion headbangs will be the order of the day when this band hits the stage. Which puts them at the opposite end of the spectrum from NFA, which stands for Not Fucking Around, and they certainly are not! This is the latest loud fast n’ outta control old-school hardcore punk barrage from the dudes who previously brought you Omega Boys and Flickerflame — and if you remember those two powerhouses, you know you’re in for a treat with this one. This gig is rounded out with a set from British Sterling, the latest from a bunch of super old-school Richmond heads who were veterans back when my 40 year old ass started going to shows around here — I’ll go ahead and mention Mulch and Ugly Law, and most of you won’t even know what I’m talking about. Get educated; show up on time to this all-RVA banger.
Thursday, March 1, 8 PM
Conan, The Ditch and The Delta, Gritter, Eldritch @ Strange Matter – $10 in advance/$12 day of show (order tickets HERE)
It’s Thursday night, and things are getting even heavier over at Strange Matter. Conan is flying in from England, and although Arnold Schwarzenegger is not at all involved, this powerful three-piece will waste no time evoking apocalyptic tales from the Hyborian Age with their brutal, steamrolling metal power. Recently following up their killer 2016 full-length Revengeance with a collection of awesomely grimy demos entitled Man Is Myth, these Brits are fully set to obliterate Strange Matter with a wall of low-end sludge heavyosity. As doom bands go, these guys are actually rather concise, and keep things moving at a relatively non-glacial pace, even as their riffs seem to extend for days. Fans of High On Fire are gonna have a field day with this one.
Meanwhile, fellow touring doomers The Ditch And The Delta come to us from Salt Lake City, which seems like one of the weirdest environments to grow up as a metalhead that I can imagine. From the home base of Mormonism, The Ditch And The Delta bring us a sound that is cleaner and darker than that of Conan, more like early Mastodon or mid-period Neurosis. These two excellent doom crews should pair well together, and they’ll receive capable support from local vets Gritter, whose new LP, Nobody Cares, sees them further refining their take on downbeat NOLA-style sludge metal. The evening kicks off with a set from local newcomers Eldritch, who get points with me for taking a name from HP Lovecraft’s vocabulary list, and for their resemblance to departed sludge-doom legends Burning Witch. This one is gonna rule, friends.
Friday, March 2, 8 PM
Livid, Huntsmen, Desert Altar @ McCormack’s – $7
It’s a doomy week here in RVA, as Friday night finds Between 2 Beers and McCormack’s bringing Shockoe Bottom into the act. Thankfully, Livid — who share a label with The Ditch And The Delta from the last show I wrote about — have their own disctinctive take on this sometimes-repetitive genre, keeping this week from blurring into a single long, sludgy riff. This Prosthetic Records crew hails from Minneapolis and released an excellent LP last summer entitled Beneath This Shroud, The Earth Erodes. This should give you some idea of where this group is coming from; if not as persistently gloomy and depressing as Loss or 40 Watt Sun, they nonetheless have a spooky vibe that mixes intriguingly with their progressive leanings. Fans of Helms Alee or early Isis will get a lot out of this band’s darkly fascinating sound.
They’re joined on this bill by Chicago’s Huntsmen, who are not the long-gone 60s garage band. This relatively new and frankly bizarre band mixes doom vibes with Americana, interjecting elegaic Southern folk reveries into the midst of melodic doom metal songs. Rather than doing so at random or in a jarring manner, the Huntsmen take advantage of the lengthy running times common in the doom metal genre to create smoothly building structures that take their songs from quiet folk beginnings to incredibly heavy crescendos, and sometimes back down into acoustic reveries. Plenty of doom bands have had apocalyptic-folk side projects over the past several years, but the Huntsmen have found a way to integrate these two disparate yet spiritually similar sounds — something I never would have predicted anyone could pull off. In a genre that can sometimes be a bit samey, they are unique, and that’s impressive. Don’t miss them.
Saturday, March 3, 7 PM
American Nightmare, Pissed Jeans, Protester, Cloak/Dagger @ The Broadberry – $20 (order tickets HERE)
Let’s start with an important note: as of this writing, this show is not sold out YET. But if you don’t even need me to tell you why you should care, and somehow forgot to buy your ticket already, skip the rest of this writeup and click that ticket link NOW (or try the facebook event page — there are at least a few people selling tix over there). OK, now that that’s out of the way, let me try to explain to the rest of you why some people are freaking the hell out that American Nightmare is coming back to town. See, this band went away for a long time. One of the bands — if not THE band — to ignite the early 00s hardcore revival, American Nightmare mixed the erudite, emotional lyrics of Wes Eisold with a rage-filled take on Boston hardcore riffage and some 21st century speed to start a new movement within the genre.
The band encountered a series of setbacks in their early years, ultimately being forced to give up their original name by another band that had copyrighted the phrase. However, with their return to full-time action in 2016 (after over a decade apart), they were able to reclaim the name, and just recently released their self-titled third album on Rise Records. The album shows that Eisold and co. haven’t lost a step, incorporating a slightly higher percentage of melody into the same angry riffage and passionate lyrics that made the scene fall in love with them nearly 20 years ago. As if that isn’t enough reason to go to this show all on its own, the fact that they’re joined by post-hardcore sludge-monsters Pissed Jeans, DC straight edge rippers Protester, and veteran RVA garage-hardcore hybrid Cloak/Dagger should be more than enough to get you to pony up the ticket price for this jammer. But act fast! Tomorrow may be too late.
Sunday, March 4, 6 PM
Hate Club, The Death Vacation, Nightcreature, Deli Kings @ Capital Ale House – $5 in advance/$7 day of show (order tickets HERE)
This Sunday, Albany invades Richmond, as Hate Club and The Death Vacation roll into town and set up shop at Capital Ale House, of all places. Albany’s always had a pretty unique scene, and it doesn’t require knowing much more than the fact that Self Defense Family hails from that city. That band’s amorphous lineup and unpredictable take on post-hardcore seems to exert at least a little bit of an influence over the whole city, not least because almost every musician in Albany has been in SDF at one point or another. Indeed, two members of The Death Vacation are former members of SDF spinoff band Aficionado — but then, Aficionado were always a pretty strange exercise in and of themselves, and The Death Vacation is pretty far removed from their own former band. At which point, my whole analogy blows apart like a house of cards.
So what the heck can you expect from Hate Club and The Death Vacation when they arrive in RVA? Well, Hate Club have the sort of jangly, poppy sound that derives influence from early 90s slacker grunge crews like Pavement and Guided By Voices, and therefore should be a big hit with the whole Citrus City scene, who are spiritually very much in line with that whole aesthetic. The Death Vacation like to stomp the distortion pedals a bit harder, and therefore are a bit more reminiscent of Dinosaur Jr, only crossed with early Weezer to add that proper note of weirdo pop goodness. Basically, it’s all killer, and the addition on this bill of post-You Go Girls up-and-comers Nightcreature is pure gravy. Get stoked!
Monday, March 5, 7 PM
Wallows, Field Medic @ The Broadberry – $15 (order tickets HERE)
Sometimes I just give bands whose names I don’t recognize a brief listen before writing about them to make sure I’m into them enough to give them my stamp of approval. Then I google them when I’m actually about to write the column and find myself going, “Oh holy shit, I didn’t expect that!” Such is my current situation, where the catchy indie-rock of Wallows was pleasing enough at first listen that I picked them for the show column this week without ever discovering that frontman Dylan Minette is on that Netflix show 13 Reasons Why… until right now. Oops.
But it’s really not a big deal; after all, if Wallows were good when I just thought of them as three random dudes from LA or wherever, they’re still good now that I know one of them is a random famous guy. They’ve got some really catchy tunes that sorta remind me of early Strokes, sorta remind me of Parquet Courts, but mostly just get my feet tapping in an excellent manner. They don’t have an album yet, having only released a succession of four digital singles with themed covers, but those songs give more than enough reason to expect a killer set from this band when they show up to The Camel Monday night. That way, even if the front row is full of blushing teenage girls that only came out to get a glimpse of Clay Jensen in the flesh, there’ll still be some people there to appreciate the music. Which is really what it’s all about.
Tuesday, March 6, 7 PM
Young Scum, Jouska, Strawberry Moon, Cat Duggan @ Sound Of Music Studios – $5
Those days early in the week when it’s sometimes hard to find anything fun to do, it’s nice to find an old reliable friend dishing out the killer jams and giving us a chance to dance, long before the weekend rolls around. That’s the role Young Scum are playing Tuesday night as they head up an excellent bill over at Sound Of Music. It’s been a while since they had some new tunes out — 2016’s Zona EP was the last new release — but those songs haven’t dulled any with age, and at this point it’d be a big surprise if there weren’t at least a couple new rockers the band’s ready to spring on us all. So either way, we win!
The Scummers (actually the most clean-cut nice-looking fellas, but hey, I didn’t name them) are joined on this bill by touring crew Jouska, who like the touring bands on Sunday night’s show are from Albany. Interesting. Their sound is, as you might expect from that previous writeup, pretty unusual, and definitely engaging. It mixes quiet, emotional moments with off-kilter jangle riffs and some outright ambience to bring a unique overall vibe to both their forthcoming Tiny Engines EP, From Elson To Emmett, and to Sound Of Music Studios, where such styles are always welcome. Local openers include ambient pop star Strawberry Moon and folksy strummer Cat Duggan, who are sure to sweeten the pot.
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): firstname.lastname@example.org [yes, my email is through GayRVA, don’t get weird about it]
Top image by Vivienne Lee
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