Sunday, September 10, 7 PM
Iron Reagan, Valkyrie, Homewrecker, Enforced @ The Camel – $12 (order tickets HERE)
I’m ba-aaack! And as usual, I’m really excited about a local metal show. Yup, some things never change. Iron Reagan have been remarkably consistent for a long time, but if you think that means they’re stagnating, you obviously haven’t checked out their absolutely ripping latest album, Crossover Ministry. I think it’s probably time for you to fix that if not. And even if you have, it’s probably been a damn minute since you got to see Iron Reagan rip things up in a relatively small club on a stage less than 5 feet high, so you should probably show up at The Camel this Sunday night and remedy that as well! This is the first time Iron Reagan’s hit a local stage since they were at The Broadberry with Power Trip back in the wintertime, so it’s really overdue, and what better way is there to wind up a weekend than by becoming absolutely exhausted in a classic 80s-style mosh pit? No, I don’t know either!
Where long-running and reliably consistent metal bands from Virginia are concerned, though, Iron Reagan really look like babes in the woods alongside Valkyrie. This stoner metal crew from the woods to the west of here have been laying down rip-roaring Sabbath style grooves to get your head banging for over a decade now. Led by guitar-slinging brothers Jake and Pete Adams, the band took a bit of a back seat when Pete joined Baroness in 2008. But they never went away, and their 2015 third album, Shadows, showed that they hadn’t lost a single step. Now that Pete’s left Baroness, Valkyrie are back in action full-time, and ready to destroy all comers with riffs as slow and groovy as Iron Reagan’s are fast and thrashy.
Homewrecker may not be as long-running as Valkyrie, but they’ve definitely got quite a bit of history under their belts as well, and their multiple A389 albums show that these Ohioans are tapped into that same pitch-dark vein of fast, metallic rage that drives bands like Sect, YAITW, and quite a few others. Stuff like that is always good to hear, and will make a nice strawberry to Iron Reagan’s vanilla and Valkyrie’s chocolate for this Neapolitan ice cream box of a show. Not sure that metaphor works but I’m running a little late so I’m just gonna keep rolling. Enforced are your new local thrashers opening up the bill, and their straight up 80s thrash style sounds like something that’d appear on a Metal Massacre comp in 1984. So, you know, like a lot of the best bands coming out of the hardcore scene right now. Which rules.
Wednesday, September 6, 8 PM
Cayetana, A Giant Dog, The Smirks, Piranha Rama @ Strange Matter – $12 (order tickets HERE)
Cayetana’s back, which always brings a smile to my face. This band’s first LP struck a chord with me at a time when my life was kind of a damn mess (which I realize does not narrow down the time frame too much–though 2017 has been thankfully mess-free so far. I should knock on wood. And return to the subject at hand). Their new one, A New Kind Of Normal, came out at the beginning of the summer, but I was so knee-deep in the retail job I thankfully no longer have that I’m only hearing it for the first time now. On it, this Philly trio shows that they’ve still got the knack for hooky power-pop in the vein of bands like Speedy Ortiz and Hop Along, and that Augusta Koch’s lyrics still cut deep in the best way possible.
This time, Cayetana comes to town in the company of A Giant Dog, who just released their latest album, Toy, on Merge Records–which was a tiny DIY label when I was in high school, and now seem like they might run the entire music business. A Giant Dog are just as successful at cranking out catchy rock n’ roll tunes with some dirty guitar swagger and a confident strut that’ll make you think of Sheer Mag crossed with The Murder City Devils as their label is at rising from diminutive origins to becoming an international powerhouse. Does this mean A Giant Dog are headed for world domination? Their music is certainly capable of it. Catch them in a small club now and you can say you knew them when. The Smirks and Piranha Rama, a couple of sassy garage-punk locals with spirit, fire, and hooks galore, will kick off this excellent bill.
Thursday, September 7, 6 PM
Opin, On The Water, Blush Face, Julie Storey @ Champion RVA – Free!
I love this. Bandito’s has made itself the place to go if it’s Sunday night, you need to rock, and you can really only afford a drink. Now Champion on E. Grace St is stepping up to play the same role on Thursdays. If things carry on like this, eventually you’ll be able to catch a few local bands for free on any given night in RVA. With the troubles I’ve had making ends meet in my time, I’m sure that would be a relief. For now, though, if you need a night out to get you through until that paycheck hits your bank account in the morning, and you’ve only got $3.50 in quarters you harvested from the couch, you can spend your Thursday evenings at Champion, and score some dollar menu goodies from Taco Bell on the way home! Who could ask for anything more?
This Thursday night pairs an excellent new local band, Opin, with some radical troubadours hailing from Philly known as On The Water. The contrast between these groups is obvious based on even the briefest listen; Opin, the new project from former White Laces frontman Landis Wine, takes the sorts of songs that White Laces did in a more fundamentally electronic direction, for an intriguing electrified sequel to Wine’s previous group. On The Water are a strange folk collective who create quietly riveting compositions using entirely acoustic instruments. Both groups are unique, and have attention-getting styles that are sure to keep you watching raptly throughout their sets, though, so this pairing is ultimately quite apropos! With excellent local indie-pop band Blush Face also on the bill, and Doll Baby frontwoman Julie Storey making another of her ever-more-frequent solo appearances, this evening promises to be everything you need to keep your spirits soaring even as your bank account scrapes bottom.
Friday, September 8, 7 PM
Japanese Breakfast, Mannequin Pussy, Spirit Of The Beehive @ Strange Matter – $12 in advance/$14 day of show (order tickets HERE)
I’ll just go ahead and admit it–when I found out about this show, I knew all of the bands on it except the headliner. It’s true, I’d never heard Japanese Breakfast before a few weeks ago! I don’t know where I was hiding (actually I do–low-wage retail hell), but I’m hoping to grab a #latepass on this one because the newest Japanese Breakfast album, Soft Sounds From Another Planet, is absolutely delectable and I just want to sink into it forever. It has an ambient electronic vibe that lands it somewhere between hazy yet danceable electronic pop a la Grimes and a mysterious European vibe that’s sometimes downright Francoise Hardy-ish. I’m sure all the hip girls in their Swinging London-style outfits and perfect eye makeup will be swaying to the beat in the front row at this one, and even if that’s a somewhat intimidating image, you should still join them, because this stuff is beautiful and you could do a lot worse than letting it wash over you at top volume.
Now for the bands I did already know. Mannequin Pussy are a raging twin-guitar punk crew from Philly (all three of these groups are from Philly, actually; as far as I can tell, it’s the only thing that unites them). They’ve got a bit of a melodic sensibility to their songwriting, as all great punk bands do, but their ultimate goal is to knock your socks off, catchy choruses be damned. They remind me of White Lung, which is always a good thing to do. As for Spirit Of The Beehive, their languid, 90s-style guitar-driven alt-rock veers from more Pavement-ish moments towards louder sounds that have an almost Swervedriver-ish upbeat shoegaze feel (yes, that’s a real thing). Their latest album, Pleasure Suck, drifts a bit further in the ambient/electronic direction, but they can still crank the guitars up if they’re feeling like it. Word is this show might sell out in advance, y’all, so if you’re reading this and you’re interested, buy now! Me, I’ll be on a plane Friday night, but I hope everyone has fun!
Saturday, September 9, 8 PM
Stinking Lizaveta, Branch Manager, Black Naked Wings @ Gallery 5 – $6 in advance/$7 day of show (order tickets HERE)
What’s going on here? When I saw this event announcement, I couldn’t help but think someone had made a mistake, because this looks way more like the sort of bill I’d encounter at Moondance on a Thursday night in 1997 (no one under 37 has any idea what I’m talking about right now). But no, it’s not a mistake at all–Philadelphia noise-math trio Stinking Lizaveta may first have crossed my radar back in the 90s, but they’ve continued on a steady stream of excellence ever since, and released a new album earlier this year, entitled Journey To The Underworld. The album sees this instrumental trio continuing their explorations into jazz syncopation, math-rock weirdness, and wire-tight metallic riffage in as fearless and confident a fashion as they did two decades ago. If, like me, you haven’t seen them since back then, this is a great time to get re-acquainted.
As for Branch Manager, this is indeed the DC band who released two albums on Dischord Records in the mid-90s and once opened for Fugazi at an outdoor show in Shafer Court, on a stage long since torn down to make way for a dining hall. Oh, VCU. Anyway, Branch Manager were one of those random DC bands who’d get signed to Dischord back in the 90s and then drop an excellent postpunk record full of complex song structures and off-kilter catchy tunes out of nowhere. Their second LP, 1997’s Anything Tribal, was killer and the fast tracks in particular could send a jolt of adrenaline through your veins even when you’re dead asleep. That was their last release though, so what the past 20 years have brought them to, and through, remains to be seen. It’ll be great to get an update, though. Youthful metalheads Black Naked Wings kick this one off–should be rad, even if it isn’t the 90s anymore.
Sunday, September 10, 8 PM
Paear, McKinley Dixon & Friends, Antiphons, Shormey @ Strange Matter – $7
Paear is an intriguingly named musical project. The cover of their most recent, self-titled album depicts a pear, the fruit that this strangely-named band is most likely to remind you of. Also, the frontman of this band’s name is Peter Katz, and if you replace the T in his first name with an A, you get… Peaer. Which isn’t quite Paear, but it’s close enough to make you think. Musically, Paear is pretty well thought-out, even though they definitely have a sort of 90s-guitar alt-rock slacker vibe that’s kind of back in vogue lately. Closer listens to songs like “Third Law,” from their latest full-length, show some pretty precise choices being made, even as the guitars and vocals sway along with the somnolent grace that gives this band their overall first impression. There’s a lot of talent here; Paear certainly reward close aural attention.
McKinley Dixon seems to show up more often on rock bills than anything else, which may be because he typically performs backed by a live band. However, make no mistake–McKinley Dixon is a hip hop artist. He’s got skills, he’s got killer songs, he’s got talent, and if you haven’t caught up with what he’s up to around town by now, I’m not sure where you’ve been hiding. Now is a good time to crawl out from under that rock, I promise. At least at Strange Matter, the coast is clear. Antiphons are another great opener on this bill; a local guitar-slinging band with a mournfully beautiful sound, these guys kind of remind me of early My Morning Jacket at times. At others, though, things are decidedly more psychedelic. Regardless of where their muse is taking them, Antiphons are sure to move you. Intriguing new artist Shormey will kick this off by letting you know what they’re all about. Don’t miss it.
Monday, September 11, 7:30 PM
The Afghan Whigs, Har Mar Superstar @ The National – $28 in advance/$33 day of show (order tickets HERE)
You know, I could go with another “OMG the 90s are back!” angle here, but it really feels uncharitable. After all, the Afghan Whigs have a lengthy history of greatness, dating back all the way to the late 80s and stretching forward to… well, right now. After releasing six albums between 88 and 98, the band took a decade and a half off before returning a few years ago with Do The Beast. Now they’ve followed it up with In Spades, their eighth album. Genius frontman Greg Dulli is still making incredible emotional epics to this very day, and lead single “Demon In Profile” reflects the same sort of possibly-diabolical brilliance Dulli brought to 1993 landmark album Gentlemen (still, even now, the album Afghan Whigs are best remembered for).
Dulli’s post-y2k work with ensembles like The Twilight Singers (from which the Whigs recruited current guitarist Rick G. Nelson) and The Gutter Twins (which paired him up with heavyweight talent Mark Lanegan) kept his creative juices flowing during the Whigs’ long time off, and with first Do The Beast and now In Spades, the band makes clear that they’re still at the top of their game. Come for “Be Sweet” and “Debonair;” that’s certainly understandable. But you’ll stick around for “Oriole” and “Royal Cream”–I promise you that. Get there on time, too, because just to give this show a proper touch of “no really, is it still the 90s?” Har Mar Superstar is opening up. I’m sure that man’s ironic lounge act has only become more and more poignant as he’s gotten older. Who knows, maybe by now it’ll seem sincere.
Tuesday, September 12, 8 PM
Chase Royale, Mally Black, Isaiah Jeremiah, Metallic Keem @ Strange Matter – $8
I love finding new underground hip hop artists to get into. And what’s really amazing is just how often that can happen right here in VA, without the need to go anywhere! Chase Royale is my latest discovery, and I really only found him because he’s playing at Strange Matter next Tuesday night. I was considering a couple of other possible shows for the column that night, but as soon as I heard The Gemcutter’s Prism, Royale’s latest full-length, I knew that this would be the show to see in RVA that night. From its intricate, creative production to its hard hitting beats and Royale’s top-quality rhymes, this album is a tremendous achievement. Royale’s lyrics dig deep into important issues affecting the African-American working class, and focus on way more important things than beef and bling. I always dig that.
Chase Royale will share the stage at this performance with Mally Black, a Stafford-via-VCU rapper who further proves that great new hip hop artists show up right here in VA all the time. Black’s sound, from the groovy electronic beats to his smooth confident flow, reminds me of local hero Dr. Millionaire with a bit more of a space-age vibe. I’m down with that. Richmond’s own Isaiah Jeremiah is the third headliner for this power-trio of back to school hip hop headliners, and he’s got a bit of a cloud rap thing going on, which is never a bad thing. Local rapper Metallic Keem is one of several openers you can expect on this bill, and if I knew who else to expect, rest assured I’d tell you. With the powerful headliners you’re guaranteed to see at this show, though, you really can’t go wrong.
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] [the rvamag address isn’t working for some reason, I haven’t had time to look into it! Bear with me]