Friday, March 16, 9 PM
Silent Music Revival, feat. OINuBi @ Garden Grove Brewery – Free!
Saturday, March 17, 9 PM
Silent Music Revival, feat. Harry Partch Appreciation Society @ Garden Grove Brewery – Free!
Sunday, March 18, 8 PM
Silent Music Revival, feat. Houdan The Mystic @ Gallery 5 – Free!
Hey y’all, it’s another holiday weekend! No, I’m not talking about someone else’s excuse to get plastered (“I’m a person just like you but I don’t actually drink beer” — Roman Mars); I’m talking about the James River Film Festival, which makes its return for a weekend of serious film nerdery starting this Friday. There are a lot of amazing things going on around town related to the film festival this year. You avant-garde music heads are gonna want to catch Gary Lucas at Grace Street Theatre Friday night, playing along to German silent horror film The Golem; those of you who loved Husker Du are going to want to get to Gallery 5 early on Sunday night and catch Every Everything, a 2013 documentary about the late Grant Hart.
However, what we’re spotlighting is not only the best value for your money anywhere in town this weekend (because, yeah, all these shows are free) but the latest flowering of an ongoing Richmond music scene tradition, that of the Silent Music Revival. Jameson Price of Lobo Marino started this recurring event over a decade ago, pairing local bands with silent films they haven’t seen before in order to create unique soundtracks that reveal new elements of the artists involved while also allowing audiences to experience silent films in a new, engaging way. It’s a cool series, it’s featured a ton of excellent local performers over the years, and this weekend sees a new Silent Music Revival event taking place for every night of the James River Film Festival.
The first two events, both billed as “Avant-Garde Afterparties,” happen at Garden Grove and pair unusual films with unusual local performers. Friday night sees experimental beatmaker OINuBi mixing it up with French director Maurice Tourneur’s 1918 fantasy film The Blue Bird, while Saturday night brings us the 1929 experimental documentary Man With A Movie Camera, a Dziga Vertov film from the early days of the Soviet Union that pioneered many filmmaking techniques we take for granted today. This one will be paired with a performance from the Harry Partch Appreciation Society, a collective of local improvisational musicians paying tribute to the avant-garde microtonal works of the titular composer. Finally, on Sunday night, psychedelic math-rockers Houdan The Mystic will mix it up over at Gallery 5 with the legendary Spanish surrealist director Luis Bunuel’s L’Age d’Or, a cutting satire of church and state that pissed off a lot of repressive people back when it was released. What sort of strange twists will these local performers add to these fascinating films from bygone eras? That’s a question worth answering firsthand — and hey, the price is right.
Wednesday, March 14, 8 PM
Zion I, Iespecial, McKinley Dixon @ The Camel – $12 in advance, $15 day of show (order tickets HERE)
Real underground hip hop is alive and well here in RVA, and in a lot of other cities around the USA as well — for evidence, look no further than the arrival in our city tonight of Zion I, the long-running Oakland-based hip hop project led by Baba Zumbi, which has over 10 albums to their credit as of this year, and is about to drop another one, The Tonite Show, in only a couple of weeks. No singles from the album have made their way into the world yet, but you’re sure to hear a few blasted out from the stage at The Camel tonight.
Zion I has a conscious focus, with lyrics that talk about everyday realities for working class African-American people trying to make it in America today. This is the sort of stuff we need to hear, and it’s set to incredible beats from a variety of producers that hit hard but don’t leave out the melodies and the memorable choruses that get you moving. Zion I is on tour with Iespecial, a Boston group with a hip hop vibe, an electronic sound, and a psychedelic consciousness, all of which integrates together into a unique sound that should appeal to fans of both Zion I’s hip hop and more experimental projects from King Crimson to Disco Biscuits. And of course, with McKinley Dixon opening up the show, you know the local support will make it well worth your time to show up early. This one can’t miss.
Thursday, March 15, 8 PM
Vesterian, Rites To Sedition, Death Shroud, Embra @ McCormack’s – $7
Black metal rules. From the unrelenting riffage and pounding drums to the intense vocals and spooky subject matter, it’s a sound with a guaranteed appeal to weirdos like me who love horror movies and screeching atonal noise. As a genre, it has a desire to freak people out, and while that can sometimes get into downright sketchy territory, thankfully Vesterian just stick with classic occult themes in their evocation of musical terror — and who can’t get down with that? So wear your corpse paint and spiked gauntlets to McCormack’s Thursday night, because this LA crew is bringing you some grim, frozen brutality from the sunny shores of SoCal. The unrelenting assault of their excellent 2013 LP, Anthems For The Coming War Age, is sure to come to life on this chilly winter’s night here in RVA.
Charlotte, NC’s Rites To Sedition will join Vesterian this night with some killer sounds of their own, though they veer more towards progressive thrash metal wizardry than outright black metal darkness. And there’s not a damn thing wrong with that, as proven by their excellent 2017 LP, Ancestral Blood, which shows how black metal influences can be integrated with prog melodies and thrash speed without sacrificing an ounce of intensity on any level. Feel the triumph! Support will be ably provided by Blacksburg black metal maulers Death Shroud, and by up-and-coming RVA shredders Embra. Heads will bang throughout — be prepared.
Friday, March 16, 6 PM
A Blues Brothers Tribute Show, feat. No BS! Brass Band, The Flavor Project, The Blue Tips, KINGS, RVA Tonight’s Studio 804 @ Hardywood – Free!
As a movie, The Blues Brothers has just about got it all. Not only does it give us the original SNL dynamic duo of Aykroyd and Belushi (RIP) spreading their wings across a hilarious feature film, not only is it in the top 5 all-time car chase movies (the other four are Dirty Mary Crazy Larry, the original Gone In 60 Seconds, Vanishing Point, and Bullitt — go see all of them), it features an absolutely incredible soundtrack full of powerful performances from R&B legends including James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, and more. And of course, the Blues Brothers backing band is made up of legendary stars from the classic Stax house bands including Booker T & the MGs and the Bar-Kays. Any group of musicians setting themselves the task of paying tribute to the film have given themselves a lot to live up to.
Fortunately, the musicians involved in this tribute show are more than equal to the task. This evening will pair a live screening of the film with performances from members of No BS! Brass Band, The Flavor Project, KINGS, and more, coming together to form an all-star RVA band that one might even regard as a 21st century equivalent to those Memphis all-stars that made up the original Blues Brothers. This band will take over for the film’s versions of classic songs like “Shake Your Tailfeather” (Ray Charles), “Think” (Aretha Franklin), “The Old Landmark” (a gospel standard performed in the film by James Brown), and quite a few more. If you’re as stoked about the original Blues Brothers film, and the work of the many classic southern soul musicians who were involved in it, as I am, you really need to be there.
Saturday, March 17, 8 PM
Dumb Waiter, Tiny Scissors, Colin Phils @ Gallery 5 – $7
The math-jazz-metal mania that is Dumb Waiter rolls on undiminished year after year, and anyone who has an issue with that is a total grinch. It’s been a while since this instrumental quartet gave us any new music — second LP Cancel Christmas was all the way back in spring 2016 — but if the facebook rumor mill holds true (and it ALWAYS does), they’ve been laying down some new jams in the upstairs rooms at Gallery 5 that sometimes double as Dave Watkins’ studio. Which is outstanding news that will make all the local diehards feel like the holidays have come early this year (OK, I’ll stop with the Christmas jokes).
Dumb Waiter are well matched on this bill, as they find themselves paired with Atlanta duo Tiny Scissors. This instrumental project brings guitar and drums together into wild flights of math-metal fancy that see them treading on territory previously visited by killer ensembles like Don Caballero and Orthrelm. They’ll get your head spinning as often as they get it banging, but one thing’s for sure — you’ll be hanging on their every note. Korea-via-RVA math-rockers Colin Phils will round out the bill with some killer prog riffs and guitar pyrotechnics. This is one for the thinkers; you’ll see way more than three chords on display at Gallery 5 on this night. Show up ready to have your mind blown.
Sunday, March 18, 8 PM
Soft Kill, Choir Boy, True Body @ Strange Matter – $12 in advance/$14 day of show (order tickets HERE)
The postpunk force is strong with this one. Portland’s Soft Kill are on Profound Lore Records, but don’t let that fool you into expecting any sort of doom metal. No, the doom and gloom here are the sort of dark, pounding energies that you would more normally expect from bands like Joy Division and The Chameleons. These touchstones are becoming more and more frequent around the US postpunk scene these days, and I for one am on board. Soft Kill’s new LP, Savior, is scheduled to drop in May, and only one song from it is available online at the moment, but its ominously indelible melodies foreshadow an evening of darkly hypnotic tuneage.
It doesn’t hurt that they’re joined on this bill by Salt Lake City denizens Choir Boy, who have fought the repressive vibe of their home city with an energetic dream-pop sound harking back to the more colorful bands of the mid-80s UK postpunk underground. Cocteau Twins and This Mortal Coil influences are clearly present here, though the more mainstream new wave sounds of Spandau Ballet and Scritti Politti are in evidence as well. It all adds up to a set full of danceable tunes that will fill you with the sort of indefinable emotional rush of a John Hughes movie. Relive your teenage years (or, OK, mine) at Strange Matter Sunday night, and don’t miss the opening set from Norfolk sludge-punk weirdos True Body, who’ll add a bit of additional fascinating strangeness to the whole evening.
Monday, March 19, 8 PM
Soul Glo, Prison Religion, Nosebleed, MAASK @ Soft Web Studio Collective – $3-5 sliding scale
OK, let’s get this out there up front: Soul Glo have run into some trouble on their current tour, and may very well not make this show. The Philadelphia punk band, which features multiple people of color, was stopped on tour in Missouri by cops who proceeded to pull the band over and arrest one of the members. They then had to post an emergency crowdfunding campaign in order to pay the unusually high bail set by the judge, who presumably knew a touring band when he saw one. Thankfully, the scene came through, the bail money has been raised, and the band member should soon be free. Whether they’ll want to continue on tour after all that remains to be seen — we’d understand if they didn’t.
However, on the off chance that Soul Glo does make it to Richmond, you should absolutely be at the show. Their music is full of powerful, politically-informed hardcore punk with confrontational lyrics and complex, unpredictable riffs that get crowds moving every time they perform. Their performance is every bit the equal of the reactions they get, with the band throwing themselves into their music and leaving it all on the stage in an intense display that leaves no doubt as to how much they value the opportunity to express themselves, and connect with others. Even if Soul Glo don’t make it, this bill will feature a varied and powerful trio of local artists — the hardcore rage of Nosebleed, the gripping electronic terror of MAASK, and the confrontational, experimental hip hop of Prison Religion. But if nothing else, show up because Soul Glo might make it. They’re worth the time.
Tuesday, March 20, 9 PM
Ovlov, Maneka, Fat Spirit @ Flora – $5
Time to get something else out front: I’m not entirely sure what’s going on with this show, y’all. The facebook event page says Ovlov is playing, while the flyer for the tour (seen above) says Ovlov/Stove frontman Steve Hartlett is doing a solo set. What’s the truth? We’ll all have to show up and find out. However, regardless of what’s going on with Steve and his backing band (or lack thereof), Maneka is definitely playing, and this new project by former Speedy Ortiz guitarist Devin McKnight, is worth coming to check out on their own. Their debut EP, Is You Is, released last fall, mixes distorted off-kilter vibes I’d normally associate with the current state of the experimental electronic music scene with some killer 90’s style loud-guitar alt-rock jams of the sort that both Speedy Ortiz and Ovlov have been excellent at reviving in recent years.
It’s nice to hear bands continuing to put a new spin on this sound, which was excellent back in its original heyday but could easily turn into soulless retreads in the wrong hands 25 years later. Steve Hartlett’s hands are not the wrong ones, and that’s true whether he’s fronting Ovlov — which returned to action against all odds last year after splintering in 2015 — or his solo-ish post(?)-Ovlov project, Stove. It’s probably even true if he’s all by himself, considering how well the more acoustic sound of Stove works at replicating that post-Dinosaur Jr distorted-folk sound that Ovlov did in a much louder fashion. So hey, whatever he’s bringing to the table, I’m there for it, and you should be too. The grunge-punk of openers Fat Spirit will be the perfect appetizer for whatever these touring acts have in store. But I must admit… I really hope it’s an Ovlov full-band set. I love that band so much.
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] [and yeah, in case you’re wondering, more awesomeness from my cracked and bleeding fingertips is available at GayRVA — come say hey.]
Top Image by Vivienne Lee
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