Thursday, November 15, 9 PM
Forward, Headsplitters, Loud Night, Cement Shoes @ Flora – $10
Burning Spirits. To most, perhaps, it’s a vaguely paranormal-sounding phrase with no real significance beyond that. But for the diehard punks and hardcore kids in the know, it is a password to some of the wildest, craziest, and greatest hardcore the genre has ever produced. Apparently the name Burning Spirits comes from a series of venues that graced Japan in the 80s, but these days it’s a signifier of the bands that came from those venues: Death Side, Bastard, Tetsu Arei, Judgment, etc. These bands had a huge influence on the punk, hardcore, and grind scenes around the world as the 80s turned into the 90s, and while many of them were done by the end of that decade, a new generation of bands formed in their wake.
Forward is one of those bands, and perhaps the most legendary. Formed in the mid-90s by members of Death Side and Insane Youth, they became the foremost torchbearers of burning spirits hardcore over the past two decades. Forward has the traditional Burning Spirits sound, which fused post-Discharge UK hardcore with the speed of Scandinavian crust and the ripping biker-style thrash of early speed metal bands. Motorhead was a key influence as well — in fact, on Forward’s latest EP, Another Dimension, they cover Motorhead’s “Death Or Glory” in tribute to Lemmy Kilmister (RIP) — but they inject surprising melodic touches at the oddest of times, which might be the biggest part of their charm.
Forward making it to Richmond from their native Japan isn’t something that happens every day — in fact, it’s been four years since the last time they came through. It might be at least that long before they make it again. So if you want to come sing along with classics like “Just Go Forward To Death” or “Over The Matter Of Course,” this is your chance. Don’t waste it. New Yorkers Headsplitters are also in on the fun with some raging biker-crust of their own, and Richmond up-and-comers Loud Night and Cement Shoes get this one moving. So spike up your hair, dig out your leather vest, and get ready for some serious circle-pit action.
Wednesday, November 14, 7 PM
Amigo The Devil, Harley Poe, The Wet Boys @ Strange Matter – $15 in advance/$17 day of show (order tickets HERE)
There’s a really interesting stereotype about old-time folk music from the hills of Appalachia. All of it, they’ll tell you, is about degenerate behavior — drugs, gambling, murder, and assorted antisocial behavior. It’s enticing to hear, but other than occasional high-profile exceptions like “Knoxville Girl,” you’re not gonna run across too much from the prewar 78-RPM era that lives up to that billing. But here in 2018, Texas musician Amigo The Devil is doing his best to make that hyped-up legend of folk music’s dark, twisted murder balladry a 21st century reality.
Amigo The Devil plays a banjo, sings in a hypnotic baritone, and has written multiple songs about serial killers, from Ed Gein to Jeffrey Dahmer. He’s even been known to tag his sound as “Murderfolk.” That’s the sort of sound he’s explored on his early EPs; now on debut full-length Everything Is Fine, he’s moving towards a fuller sound with more backing instrumentation. Up front, though, he’s still the same banjo-playing songwriter with an angelic voice and a demonic imagination. He’s joined on this tour by a group with a similar sort of approach to demonic folk music, Harley Poe. These Indiana boys like to sing from the point of view of horrible people, giving them jaunty folk tunes over which to vent their spleens and say horrible things. It’s a forbidden thrill, but it makes for a heck of a fun listen. Give these two artists, as well as VA-based openers The Wet Boys, a night to worm inside your skull, and you might just find yourself walking to work tomorrow humming a song about murder with a big smile on your face. And what could be wrong with that?
Thursday, November 15, 8 PM
Birds And Arrows, Glass Twin, Blush Face @ The Camel – $7
Birds And Arrows have had quite the journey over the past dozen years or so. Starting as a folk duo in North Carolina, the group (which is also a married couple, Andrea and Pete Connolly) pulled up stakes last year and headed across the country to Tucson, AZ. Since resettling there, they’ve been rediscovering rock n’ roll volume, turning up louder and louder. You can hear their newfound embrace of raging noise on single “Stay Down,” which has obvious folk roots in its strummy guitars but nonetheless hits with heavy rockin’ power, like a classic psychedelic stoner tune from the mid-70s.
So what can you expect from Birds And Arrows when they hit The Camel stage tomorrow night? Well, as we’ve always heard, the truth is somewhere in-between, and this duo is sure to bring both the hard-rockin’ power of recent tunes and the more stripped-down feel of their folk roots to life when they play live. They’ll be celebrating the release of their new LP, Arbitrary Magic, which expands on the sound of “Stay Down” and features some overtly political commentary about just how frustrating the current state of our country is. If you’re feeling the frustration, and just need to let out some energy to a high-volume example of rock n’ roll chaos, Birds And Arrows are the band for you. Don’t miss ’em.
Friday, November 16, 7 PM
Druglord, Slump, Lair @ Sound Of Music Studios – $7
You can expect some serious sludge from this loud, noisy affair at Sound Of Music Studios Friday night. Druglord have been dealing out their loud, heavy doom around Richmond for many years now, but returned to the recording arena only recently; new LP New Day Dying is their first release since 2015 EP Deepest Regrets. This is their first release with new bassist Julian Cook, and it shows that despite the departure of local legend Greta Brinkman, these guys can still pound and shred with the best of them.
The new album was released on Sludgelord Records, and it’s an appropriate label for a band with some strong musical resemblances to bands like Grief and Eyehategod. If you’re a fan of slow-motion headbangs and pulverizing low-end distortion, you need to see what this trio has been up to lately. You won’t be disappointed. Heavy-psych weirdos Slump make an intriguing pairing with Druglord for this bill; they trade the sheer slow-motion trudge of Druglord’s sound for some extremely spaced-out ambience of the sort that’ll appeal to Hawkwind fans. Underneath all the trippy noise, though, these guys have some driving riffage that splits the difference between Motorhead and Blue Oyster Cult. Opening up will be Lair, an intriguing newcomer on the Richmond doom metal scene who told you most of what you needed to know about their sound when they released a two-song, 21-minute EP earlier this year. Serious doom, y’all. Get ready.
Saturday, November 17, 7 PM
Mock Orange, Fire In The Radio @ Capital Ale House Music Hall – $15 (order tickets HERE)
It’s been interesting to watch the evolution of our cultural nostalgia over the past several decades of my life. One thing that’s become eminently clear is that nostalgia operates on a 20-year cycle — and the underground is not immune, from the early-00s infatuation with Joy Division-era postpunk to the “emo revival” that was all abuzz circa 2013. While it’s a good idea to be a bit wary of nostalgia, one great thing about the nostalgia cycle as it’s applied to underground music is that sometimes, it causes things that never got enough shine the first time around to receive a long-overdue embrace.
This year, it seems to be Mock Orange’s time to shine; they’re currently on tour to celebrate the 20th anniversary of landmark debut LP Nines And Sixes. That album staked a strong claim on a sound that was somewhere between indie-rock melody and the noisier post-hardcore tendencies of bands like Quicksand and Jawbox. Since then, Mock Orange have evolved quite a bit — they never really stopped making records, and released their sixth album, Put The Kid On The Sleepy Horse, in 2016. Though they still rock hard, their more recent releases show an increased presence of quirky postpunk synths and effects. It’ll be interesting to see how the group applies the results of these evolutions to the material with which they initially made their name. But regardless of the result, the mere fact that Mock Orange are finally getting their due is a positive thing. Whether you’re a curious potential convert or a longtime diehard fan, this show is sure to get your juices flowing.
Sunday, November 18, 7 PM
Tall Heights, Old Sea Brigade, Frances Cone @ Capital Ale House Music Hall – $15 (order tickets HERE)
This one is going to be glorious. Tall Heights have been around for a while now, starting out with a joyfully ethereal indie-folk sound that highlighted the duo’s incredible vocal harmonies. They’ve come a long way since then, though, expanding the group’s instrumentation and lineup well beyond the airy, minimalist melodies on which they made their name. 2016 LP Neptune saw them augmenting their basic guitar-cello configuration with atmospheric percussion and multi-layered synth washes.
Now, with recently-released follow-up Pretty Colors For Your Actions, they’ve taken things to another level entirely, moving away from acoustic folk sounds toward the sort of layered indie-pop productions that have marked the work of Brian Wilson-influenced 21st century experimenters like Animal Collective and Grizzly Bear. Tall Heights have plenty of tunes just as indelible as those of their predecessors, too, and at Capital Ale House this weekend, they’ll dish ’em all out for you. Get ready to bliss out.
Monday, November 19, 8 PM
Bask, Mister Earthbound, Tel @ Strange Matter – $10 (order tickets HERE)
I think we all know there got to be a glut of doom metal bands for a while there, right? Sure, there were a whole bunch who really ruled, and stood head and shoulders above the pack (many of them from right here in Richmond, of course). But new doom bands popping up on a seemingly weekly basis just wore us all down after a while. That’s why it’s been good, in recent years, to see the emergence of groups like Bask — groups that find a way to use the best parts about doom metal (spooky atmosphere, crawling heaviness) in ways we haven’t heard other groups use them a million times before.
Bask’s 2017 LP, Ramble Beyond, does this in brilliant fashion. On this album, Bask uses doom metal’s slowed down tempos and groovy riffs as a part of an expanded sonic palette that incorporates psychedelic astral explorations as well as the evocative melodies of old-time Americana. The result sounds like what you’d get if some talented stoners with a penchant for serious heaviness broke into some old-time Western ballads beneath huge desert skies at twilight. From folk-metal to desert-psych, this band touches on a variety of genres and moods, and as a result has a much broader appeal. Take heart, headbangers — as long as bands are getting this creative with the standard template, doom metal will never die.
Tuesday, November 20, 7 PM
The Story So Far, Turnover, Citizen, Movements @ The National – $23 in advance/$26 at the door (order tickets HERE)
Damn, this one hits close to home. The Story So Far were one of those bands like Knuckle Puck and State Champs and The Wonder Years, the melodic hardcore groups who had enough energy and distortion to appeal to my hardcore punk heart even as their downcast melodies struck me right at the core of my being. This happened a whole lot throughout my 20s and 30s, when I spent most of my time being emotionally vulnerable, alienated, and alone. Life’s gotten a whole lot better for me over the past few years, and I don’t feel that way much anymore (thank god), but I will admit that I’ll always have a soft spot for bands like The Story So Far.
But I’m not just reliving memories of great records they put out years ago — The Story So Far released their fourth album, Proper Dose, only weeks ago, and somehow managed to outdo themselves yet again, bettering their classic self-titled album from a few years ago as well as 2013’s milestone in depressed melodicore awesomeness, What You Don’t See. On Proper Dose, The Story So Far brandch out a bit sound-wise. But they still sound sad, like the post-teenage self-doubt, alienation, and ennui is weighing on them just as hard as ever, despite the fact that they play much bigger venues when they go on tour now. Honestly, I get it — bigger crowds never seemed to make Kurt Cobain feel any better either. But at least when they look out from the stage of the National Tuesday night, they’ll feel a little less alone. You will too if you make the trip down, and between continued amazingness from our consistently brilliant headliners and a slate of outstanding support acts topped by VA’s own Turnover, there’s a lot to enjoy… or at least connect with. And sometimes that’s what we really need.
Bonus Hampton Roads Picks:
Friday, November 16, 8 PM
Part Time, Fenster, Blood Sound, Zabeth @ Charlie’s American Cafe – $12 in advance/$15 at the door (order tickets HERE)
Those of you who sit up late at night watching dumpstered VHS tapes of 80s movies on your crappy thrifted VCR are sure to get something out of what Part Time is doing. This group, the creation of California-based songwriter David Loca, taps into the warped sounds of decaying videotapes and obsolete synthesizers to create the Part Time sound. The group has been around for a decade, releasing cassettes through Burger Records and building a following with their indie-influenced take on 80s new wave electronica, but with new LP Spell #6, freshly released via Tough Love Records, they’re going mega. The album features a guest appearance by obvious influence Ariel Pink, and lush ballads like “So Far Away” and “Hide” capture the lovelorn feel of the best bedroom-pop creations.
Part Time are joined on this bill by Berlin, Germany’s Fenster, who play some strange indie pop sounds of their own. They’ve done some intriguing and memorable things, including a feature-length film entitled Emocean (2015), which documented the band’s attempt to complete their third album while trapped in an alternate dimension. Or so they tell us. New album The Room finds the group continuing to explore sonic possibilities, from space-age lounge music to alternate-universe postpunk. Fenster might throw you for a loop at points, but they keep your feet moving and your ears enchanted by melody. And isn’t that what’s important? Don’t let the static hypnotize you — this dual-headliner bill is more than worth switching off the TV and leaving the bedroom for.
Saturday, November 17, 7 PM
Airpark, Babe Club, Court Street Company @ Toast – $7 in advance/$10 day of show (order tickets HERE)
Nashville’s Airpark is ready for their close-up. This duo of Ford brothers, Ben and Michael Jr., have a lush sound that, on recent single “Devotion,” harks back past modern folk-pop into the early 70s heyday of singer-songwriter soft rock. Chiming acoustic guitars and gorgeous vocal harmonies set the tone, grounded by a rock-solid rhythm section and some creative songwriting choices. The group has released two EPs so far, Early Works volumes 1 and 2, but their forthcoming follow-up promises to take us beyond the early stuff as Airpark comes into their own.
When they make their way to the stage of Norfolk’s Toast, they’ll be well prepared to show the audience what they’ve got to offer. And so will South Carolina’s Babe Club, a newly-formed duo whose members both split from SC indie band Susto earlier this year. For the group’s frontwoman, Jenna Desmond, this group offers her a chance to step out from her previous role in Susto as the female bass player in a band full of men, and express her feelings about being a woman in Trump’s America. She does this over intricate guitar melodies from bandmate Corey Campbell, as well as her own driving bassline, on debut single “Hate Myself,” which gives an intriguing preview of what this group will have in store for us when they hit the stage. If it’s all this stunning and memorable, Babe Club will give Airpark a run for their money. No matter how it turns out, though, you’re going to want to be there and hear it all go down.
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, there’s plenty more of my writing to read over at GayRVA — come say hey.]
Top Image by Lindsay Eastham
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