Friday, August 18, 8 PM
Bad Magic, Big Huge, Candy Spots, Kid Claws @ Strange Matter – $5 in advance/$7 day of show (order tickets HERE)
Jet Trails Music is becoming a more powerful force in the local live music community by the week, and I for one am here for it! There are a whole bunch of booking agencies in this town who have a solid reputation in their respective genres, but JTM is straddling the line between indie and more jammed-out alt-rock with aplomb. I find that any show they do is generally a solid night out, and this rad Friday night lineup at Strange Matter is no exception. It came together pretty recently, at least if the release of the facebook event page is any indication, but I’m glad they were able to get this happening, and especially at Strange Matter, who’ve been the most consistent spot for rad live music here in RVA for a good decade at least.
Bad Magic comes back home to us after a short jaunt up the East Coast, taking their excellent sounds to the world. They’re still going strong from the power of their most recent release, Harsh Surrender, which came out on cassette from Trrrrash Records earlier this year. That’s a logical pairing, considering Trrrrash (I probably always put the wrong amount of R’s in this name) is owned by Bad Magic bassist Tim Falen. It’s frontwoman Julie Karr that provides the fuel making this band’s sound so distinctive and memorable, though. Her lyrics dig deep into tough times and hard feelings, which pair well with the group’s rumbling grunge jangle. The fact that a song on Harsh Surrender borrows lyrics from a Jason Molina song only further underlines the emotional territory this band is staking out.
Bad Magic definitely have a haunting effect on the listener, but NYC band Big Huge has a totally different feel, albeit one that sticks just as hard. Their tough, sassy power pop is full of catchy choruses and upbeat rhythms to get you dancing around with a big grin on your face. Bad Magic may be hometown heroes, but Big Huge is the best new discovery you’ll make at this show, for sure. The lineup this night is rounded out by two psych powerhouses from right here in VA; the relatively new Kid Claws, who hail from the DC suburbs and like to get hazy with the distortion but still now how to rock, and local up and comers The Candy Spots, who have a bit more of a garage-y vibe and can definitely get your feet moving.
Wednesday, August 16, 9 PM
Decide Today, Prison Religion, R-Complex, With Sympathy @ Comm Room – $5 donation requested
My roommates have a poster for this band on the wall outside my room; it looks down on me every time I walk back from the bathroom. Its distinctive art and intense political agitprop made me curious about the band before I had any idea who they were. Now they’re coming to town and living up to all of my expectations. Honestly, when you live in a punk house, you tend to expect all the bands on your roommates’ posters to sound pretty similar. Rather than dishing out the sort of crusty, metallic punk that is the usual punkhouse poster fare, though, Decide Today devote their energies towards harsh programmed breakcore beats of the sort that got Atari Teenage Riot so much attention back in the late 90s. “Digital hardcore” was an appropriate genre hybrid for that band in their prime, and it’s also a really great way to describe what Decide Today are doing. And with songs like “Against White Supremacy,” “I Don’t Eat Flesh,” and “Strong Hearts Can’t Be Caged,” it’s clear this band has a purpose and a mission, and isn’t afraid to scream about it.
Local experimental hip hop project Prison Religion makes an excellent pairing with Decide Today, so it’s great to see them on this bill. The typical comparison points for hip hop groups making really harsh, noisy music tend to be B L A C K I E, or Death Grips, but Prison Religion have a significantly stranger and more intense sound than either of those projects. Expect powerful beats at the root of their music, but overtop of those beats, harsh screams and strange atonal noise are much more likely to appear than the funk-descended grooves and powerfully delivered raps you might expect from a hip hop group. It’s always nice to hear people doing something new with the form, though, especially when it’s this intense and politically informed. The evening’s program will be rounded out by industrial-noise project R-Complex and the more gothic industrial sounds of With Sympathy. Bring your earplugs for this one.
Thursday, August 17, 8 PM
Ex Eye, Bermuda Triangles, Dumb Waiter @ Strange Matter – $10 in advance/$12 day of show (order tickets HERE)
Getting this event invitation was my first introduction to Ex Eye, and boy did I feel stupid for not having picked up on them before. Any project that brings together avant-garde saxophonist Colin Stetson, whose 2013 LP New History Warfare Vol. 3: To See More Light was one of my favorites of that year, and drummer Greg Fox, whose work in the brilliant New York black metal group Liturgy has consistently blown me away, is something I should’ve been up on way before now. So hey, if these guys were on your radar before they were on mine, consider me duly embarrassed. For the rest of you, let’s cop a latepass together and head down to Strange Matter to experience the full force of this combo’s incredible talent.
In addition to Stetson and Fox, Ex Eye includes Chicago experimental guitarist Toby Summerfield and former Marc Ribot’s Ceramic Dog keyboardist Shahzad Ismaily, so the lineup is truly stacked. And the results they come up with are phenomenal on their self-titled debut, released a couple months ago on Relapse. Stetson’s incredible sax work takes center stage, but the outstanding drumming Fox showed off in Liturgy is very much present–complete with the occasional much-vaunted “burst beat”–and the riffs laid down by the band underneath all the dramatic instrumental fireworks are rock-solid fuel for full-on headbangs. With percussion-driven experimental postpunk veterans Bermuda Triangles and avant-jazz/metal instrumental quartet Dumb Waiter opening this evening up, it looks like this will be a night full of consistently mindblowing sound. Get ready.
Friday, August 18, 8 PM
Venomspitter, Charmer, Accident Prone, High Priest, Van Hagar @ Comm Room – $5 donation requested
Sometimes a show doesn’t have to be a big huge important deal. Sometimes it’s just a good opportunity to hang out with your friends and rock out. In that spirit, Venomspitter singer Travis Downey is throwing a big ol’ rockin’ party over at Comm Room this Friday night to celebrate his birthday. Thankfully, his friends all seem to be in rad bands, just like he is. That’s always nice! Of course, anyone who has a band wants their band to play their birthday show (that’s sure how it always was with me), so you can expect a powerful set from Venomspitter on this evening. They’ve had some lineup shakeups over the last little while–Travis actually used to play guitar in the band, for one thing–but they’re still as hard-hitting and full of intense hardcore fury as ever, so don’t expect them to be mellowing or anything.
Along with Venomspitter, you can also expect a full-speed-ahead set from Charmer, who manage to both be hyperspeed power-violence and heavy-as-fuck hardcore, as they demonstrate on the recent preview of their soon-to-be-released split with Amara. These guys are gonna rip your face off at a thousand miles an hour and it’ll be the best road rash you’ve ever had in your life. High Priest are coming from much the same place as the previous two bands we’ve discussed, but with maybe a bit more A389-style D-beat crust in the mix. Accident Prone have some of that chaotic tech-blast metalcore thing going on that seems to have faded from the picture since Dillinger Escape Plan got all proggy–it’s nice to run into some pure exponents of that sick shit for a change. And of course, my lovely roommates in Van Hagar will be there to deliver you some furious grindcore that has no resemblance to 5150 (which is still an awesome album, don’t get me wrong). The show is a benefit for Sophie House, providing support to single mothers with young children, so in lieu of cash, donations of food and clothing will also be accepted. Come help out, then rock out!
Saturday, August 19, 7 PM
Big Mama Shakes, Landon Elliott, Tigerman WOAH, Sid Kinglsey @ The Broadberry – $10 in advance/$12 day of show (order tickets HERE)
I will freely admit that I’m not the typical audience for an indie-inflected 21st century version of a Southern rock band. Therefore, it’s probably no surprise that I haven’t made it to a Big Mama Shakes show just yet. At the same time, every time I check this band out online, I find myself thinking that I should go ahead and take the plunge at some point. There’s no denying it–this band is a lot of fun. They’ve got some kickass catchy tunes that owe a good deal more to Exile-era Rolling Stones via Uncle Tupelo than they do to the Southern stuff from the 70s that kinda makes me cringe sometimes (although the truth is Drive-By Truckers have largely managed to rehabilitate even that full-on Skynyrd sound for me… but I digress).
Last year’s If I Try EP in particular grabs my attention. Uptempo rocker “Weight Of A Heavy Heart” definitely does it for me as a rather heavy-hearted girl myself. “Magnolia”‘s lovelorn midtempo sound, complete with horn accents, is evocative of moments we’ve all been through on late nights with too few people around. Big Mama Shakes have become a reliable crowd-drawer at the Broadberry in recent months, so too few people around is definitely not a worry you’ll have if you come check them out this Saturday night. Neither is hearing a bad song, because from what I can tell, this band doesn’t have any. And as an avowed metalhead, that’s saying something coming from me.
Sunday, August 20, 3 PM
Vvuumm, HeadlessMantis, Recluse Raccoon, Paul Ivey @ Hardywood – Free!
Get to Hardywood early this Sunday afternoon if you wanna catch some of the best rockin’ sounds this city’ll be witness to this weekend. Because let me tell ya, this whole event is gonna be wrapping up by about 6 PM, and you don’t want to miss a minute of it. Our co-headliners, vvuumm and HeadlessMantis, are celebrating the release of their new split tape, TRRRASHCRYSTALRADIO (I copy-pasted this so it better be the right amount of R’s this time), which will contain live sets from each band recorded live on Paul Ivey’s WRIR show, Time Is Tight.
vvuumm has a spaced-out psychedelic sound with some punk energy underneath the surface, while HeadlessMantis mix gutbucket blues with raw garage-rock rage. Both bands are at their best in a live environment, so this tape is pretty much the ideal way to listen to them… other than going to this show, of course. You’ll also get opening sets from local stalwarts Recluse Raccoon and the man himself, Paul Ivey. This will be an entertaining afternoon from beginning to end, and with the admission price certainly being nice, and the refreshments on tap all around, you’re sure to have a lovely time. Don’t linger too long over brunch–you’ll have occasion to regret it.
Monday, August 21, 5 PM
Decapitated, Thy Art Is Murder, Fallujah, Ghost Bath, Deathsinger @ The Canal Club – $20 in advance (order tickets HERE)
I feel like every time Polish death metal legends Decapitated come to town, I write in this column about how you should go see them. And I will rationalize this fact by saying that you should go see Decapitated every time they come to town! Having originally caught my attention back in the early 2000s with incredibly sick offerings like Nihility and Organic Hallucinosis, the band has remained a favorite for me for over a decade, despite the tragic loss of their founding drummer to an auto accident and a lengthy break afterwards (for understandable reasons). This year, they’re back again with their seventh album, Anticult, which is just as full of technically precise, brutally crushing death riffs as any of their previous molten slabs. They still shred hard, they still hit the sick breakdowns as hard as possible, they still get your head banging just as hard as ever… Decapitated have stayed consistent for a very long time now, and whether their evening of rage this Monday night at Canal Club would be your first or fifth time seeing them, you are still extremely well advised to make it out.
Decapitated are joined on this bill by quite a few other heavy hitters with challenging-to-decipher logos, most importantly Aussie deathcore pounders Thy Art Is Murder. Deathcore can get a bit monotonous in less-than-capable hands, but Thy Art Is Murder distinguish themselves from the pack with distinctive riffs and plentiful tempo shifts, saving the nosebleed-inducing downtuned breakdowns until they will have the most possible effect. The show will also feature some homegrown acts from the good ol’ US of A, including Fallujah, who one assumes picked their name to evoke the brutality of the Iraq war but actually tend to have somewhat of a proggy edge if anything. Then there’s Ghost Bath, the members of which are apparently some of the very few Americans still living in North Dakota. Fitting with that state’s frozen wastelands, they have some moody black metal touches to their oddly emotional shredding. These guys are honestly my sleeper pick for the whole opening slate. VA Beach’s Deathsinger gets things going well before the sun goes down, so head over as soon as you’re off work. You don’t wanna miss a minute.
Tuesday, August 22, 6 PM
Eyehategod, Negative Approach, Suppression, Dead And Dreaming, Gritter @ The Broadberry – $20 in advance/$25 day of show (order tickets HERE)
I also feel like every time New Orleans sludge legends Eyehategod come to town I end up recommending in this column that you go see them, but honestly, that’s at least somewhat due to their tendency to bring incredible touring partners with them to town. That said, Eyehategod are certainly not to be taken for granted or skipped out early on, by any means. The band’s most recent self-titled album was the last to feature founding drummer Joey LaCaze, who passed away shortly after recording the album. However, Eyehategod has remained a solid live presence in the years since, and have proved as much in their last couple of Richmond appearances. They’re still the first name in bleak, swampy sludge metal, and if you care at all about the million doom metal bands who’ve enveloped the metal scene over the past decade, you really need to give some attention to the originators.
But yeah, those touring partners. Can you believe Eyehategod comes to us this year paired with hardcore legends Negative Approach? I mean, holy crap, right? As with Eyehategod singer Mike IX Williams, Negative Approach vocalist John Brannon has remained at the top of his game for decades now. Hell, if anything this dude is angrier and scarier than he was in the 80s. Other than a Sham 69 cover on a compilation, the band hasn’t released anything new since 2010 EP Friends Of No One, but hey, who really cares? We’re all going to hear “Nothing” and “Whatever I Do” anyway, and that’s what we’re gonna get. Quit the shit, start the pit! Incredibly long-running weirdo-grind duo Suppression will also be on this show, which is a sweet score even if they are local. With openers Dead And Dreaming and Gritter further representing the double-tough hardcore and downbeat swamp metal scenes of RVA, this show is jam-packed.
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’m looking into it!]