Big Takeover, Vol. 1
Day 1: Friday, May 20, 7 PM
Genocide Pact, No/Mas, Mutually Assured Destruction, Restraining Order, The Fight, Restless Spirit @ The Camel – $20 (order tickets HERE)
Day 2: Saturday, May 21, 1 PM
Terrorizer, Mindforce, Division Of Mind, Dead Heat, Judiciary, End It, BIB, High Command, Downfall, Spy, C4, Gel, Final Gasp, Armor, Protocol, Vomit Forth, Kontaminate, Never Again, Killing Pace @ The Broadberry – $65 (order tickets HERE)
There were a lot of casualties of the pandemic, and I don’t just mean the million Americans (and millions more outside of America) who died. Bands broke up, venues went away, restaurants closed down. And in the midst of all that, Richmond’s long-running annual hardcore festival, United Blood, decided to end their run. This was definitely the end of an era. The great thing about the hardcore scene, though, is that anytime one era ends, someone else starts up a new one. Just like that song Lambchop used to sing (and is presumably still singing, somewhere), hardcore doesn’t end.
This weekend marks the launch of the new era in Richmond hardcore fests: the first annual Big Takeover. And it’s jam-packed with heavy music. I’m not even covering it all here; for one thing, there’s a pre-show Thursday night at a bike shop out on Williamsburg Road. For another, there’s a Friday night after-show at some warehouse (that one’s strictly an “ask a punk” situation). But the two shows listed above, Friday night at The Camel and all day Saturday at The Broadberry, are the big ones. If you can only make it to two, put the priority on these two.
As for what you’ll see there, there’s so much to talk about I have no idea how I’m gonna get through it all. With that in mind, floor it! In a move that will let you know where hardcore is as a genre right now, both nights are headlined by death metal bands. DC ragers Genocide Pact cap off Friday night’s mayhem, while legendary Los Angeles grinders Terrorizer (featuring legendary Morbid Angel drummer Pete Sandoval) provide the climax of Saturday’s festivities. Friday night also features Richmond crossover up-and-comers Mutually Assured Destruction and hyperactive Massachusetts maniacs Restraining Order, among others. Highlights of Saturday’s ridiculously stacked bill include metal-thrashing hardcore powerhouse Mindforce, Richmond dark hardcore veterans Division Of Mind, the bizarrely psychedelic hardcore punk of Nebraska’s BIB, and hardcore’s #1 buffalo chicken fans, C4. But look, we’ve barely scratched the surface — there’s so much to love at these shows. If you are into hardcore at all, you gotta go. Oh, and by the way, there have been a ton of social media posts over the last week about “low ticket warnings” or “almost sold out” about these two shows, but as of 11 am Wednesday, tickets for both shows were still available. So hop to it, punk.
Wednesday, May 18, 7:30 PM
Brian Jones’ Kaleidoscopic Haze, Noah Campbell Trio @ Artspace – $20
I’ve noticed a surprising boom in intriguing jazz shows around Richmond as we all work our way back from the pandemic’s extended shutdown. And while I don’t actually know if this is a big new movement within the Richmond jazz scene or if it’s just that I’ve developed a better network of tipsters for local jazz stuff, I’m grateful for it either way. Because otherwise, I might totally miss this midweek show by a trio of RVA jazz heavyweights, and that would truly be a tragedy.
Brian Jones’ Kaleidoscopic Haze is a trio put together by legendary Richmond jazz drummer Brian Jones back in the days before the pandemic, which also features guitarist Trey Pollard and bassist Adam Hopkins. They laid down an album’s worth of tracks at Spacebomb back in 2019 sometime, and it actually came out in January of 2021, but with no shows happening back then, it’s taken until now for them to come together for a proper album release show. The sound of this particular combo is highly atmospheric and somewhat avant-garde, but constructed around a tight melodic sense and strong fundamentals that produce highly enjoyable results. It’s certainly the type of thing that will make for a fascinating live performance. But don’t just take my word for it — go to the show and find out for yourself! After all, what good is a boom in live jazz if you’re not there to experience it?
Thursday, May 19, 7 PM
Gusher, Weird Tears, Bonjinski @ The Camel – $10 in advance, $12 day of show (order tickets HERE)
This one is bittersweet. For while it marks the first show since the pandemic for two-thirds of the bands on this bill, and a record release celebration for at least one of them, it also marks the last show ever for those same bands. That’s incredibly unfortunate, but we can at least take comfort in the fact that we get to see them one last time. Plus, at the top of the bill: Gusher, the one band on this lineup who isn’t playing their last show. We’ll get to appreciate their synth-infused grunge-punk brilliance for quite a while after this — which is no reason to miss them Thursday night.
It’s definitely the last opportunity any of us will get to catch Weird Tears, though, and that’s a damn shame, because this swinging melodic punk band with hints of 50s rock n’ roll has always been a ton of fun. And you can keep listening to their excellent pre-pandemic tape release (I’m sure I will), but this will be the last time you can dance to their tunes in person. Missing that chance would be a truly terrible decision. Bonjinski is also breaking up after this performance, but we can at least take comfort in the record this jangly alt-rockin’ trio has been working on since back before the pandemic hit has finally made it into the world. Get yourself a copy, and get out on the dance floor one last time.
Friday, May 20, 6 PM
Prince Daddy & The Hyena, Macseal, Insignificant Other, California Cousins, Flight Club @ The Broadberry – $18 (order tickets HERE)
I’ve been digging Prince Daddy & The Hyena for quite a while now, and it’s nice to have an excuse to write about them here, as they blow into RVA on a Friday night to spread the word about their new self-titled album. The follow-up to 2019’s Cosmic Thrill Seekers — the album that got me onto the Prince Daddy train — the new album takes what they were doing before to the next level. The band is more emo, more alt-rock, and more punk, all at once. One thing that makes the band’s new work more accessible than ever, though, is that vocalist Kory Gregory, who had the kind of intense voice on previous albums that people either really love or really hate, has toned down the harshest, shrillest aspects of his vocal approach. There’s real melody here now!
How that will come across live, of course, is anyone’s guess. And I have to admit, I’m the kind of emo nerd who really hopes he’s still willing to hit those throat-shredding semi-screamed high notes. But regardless of whether Prince Daddy & The Hyena focus on their slightly smoothed-out new material or dip heavily into the early shit they made their name on, this show is bound to be great. Get ready for a lot of dancing and screaming along. Also, while they’re pretty far down on the bill, I’ve gotta mention how stoked I am that California Cousins, who are actually from New York, are playing this show as well. These guys (actually from New York) have a chunkier emo sound that will work equally for fans of Joyce Manor and Soul Blind, and they’ve got a new album called Secret Footage out in a few weeks, for which this set is sure to act as a tantalizing preview. Make sure you show up on time for that one.
Saturday, May 21, 8 PM
Rough Age, Gnawing, Work Wear @ Fuzzy Cactus – $5
I could say something like “the theme of this week’s column is the after-effects of the pandemic,” and I probably wouldn’t be wrong, but that’s mainly because all of us are going to be dealing with the after-effects of the pandemic in every aspect of our lives for years to come. So maybe it’s trite to even mention it? I don’t know. What I do know is that Rough Age got started during that brief pre-pandemic part of 2020 that we’ve all sorta forgotten even happened, and now that two years have passed, a lot of changes have happened for this Richmond band during their time out of the public eye. For one thing, half the band has departed; the two former members of RVA indie-rockers Lightfields who got the whole thing started are now joined by music-making machine James Hoffer (Buzzard Dust, Charmer, a million other bands) on bass and multi-instrumental talent Robert Lindstedt (Fat Spirit) on guitar. For another, they’ve put together a brand new EP, entitled Blank Eyes, for which this show will act as a record release celebration.
The new Rough Age EP shows off their strengths as a band, from the muscular twin-guitar attack that certainly evokes quite a few of their 90s alt-rock heroes to the driving rhythm section that brings an undeniable punk rock undercurrent to the proceedings. All of this is bound to hit even harder once they unleash these songs in a live environment, so you’re definitely well advised to be at Fuzzy Cactus this Saturday night so you can be there when it happens. You’ll also get to catch a set from Gnawing, whose jangly grunge-punk sound mixes early Uncle Tupelo vibes with a solid dose of Screaming Trees thrown in. They’re always great, but you should know that by now. Charlottesville’s Work Wear, a new trio I’m just discovering now, round out this bill. Their new EP, Charger, features three indie-rock tunes that slowly build at a relaxed pace, all of which stretch past the seven-minute mark. Safe to call these guys “slowcore”? Yeah, I think so. They’ll be an intriguing contrast on this bill, that’s for sure.
Sunday, May 22, 6 PM
Julie Karr, Richmond Vampire, Muck, Curriculum @ Studio Two Three – Donations encouraged
For years and years, it’s seemed like the Christian right has been whittling away at our right to legal abortion. It’s been such a steady drumbeat for the past several decades that sometimes reproductive rights supporters like me could get a little numbed to it all. Now, though, they’ve won a real, substantive victory. It seems clear that the Supreme Court will, in the next month or so, officially strike down Roe v. Wade, thereby erasing the right to abortion in over half of the states in the USA. Looks like it’s time for all of us to wake up, shake up, and get the blood flowing once again.
I don’t pretend to know everything we can do to protect our rights where this issue is concerned, but I do know there are quite a few groups working their tails off to make sure the things we can do get done. One of those groups is the Richmond Reproductive Freedom Project, and this Sunday evening show at Studio Two Three is a benefit for them. Even if you don’t have time to volunteer, or the energy to repeatedly call your elected representatives, you can at least come out to this show and make a hefty donation. In return, you’ll get some excellent musical sounds in a variety of genres, from Julie Karr’s moody, entrancing indie-blues tunes to Richmond Vampire’s speedy, snotty hardcore punk. Local newcomers Muck are nowhere on the internet, so I have no idea what they sound like, but people say they’re good; meanwhile, Curriculum will make their live debut at this show, but the practice-space demo they’ve got up online leads me to expect good things. Come to this one to support a great and extremely important cause; stay for the plentiful amounts of killer tuneage.
Monday, May 23, 7:30 PM
Sylvan Esso, Benet @ The National – $32.50 in advance, $35 day of show (order tickets HERE)
North Carolinians Sylvan Esso are an interesting phenomenon. You can look them up and read about their history, find out how singer Amelia Meath and producer Nick Sanborn formed the duo after stints in Appalachian folk group Mountain Man and jam-folk ensemble Megafaun, respectively, and you’ll expect one thing. But as soon as you listen to them, you’ll find that what you have on hand with Sylvan Esso is a completely different proposition. This isn’t folk or jam-band music, by any stretch of the imagination. Instead, Sylvan Esso produce the sort of indie-electro tunes that you’d expect to appeal equally to fans of Bjork, Portishead, and fka Twigs.
All of that being said, a clear flavor left over from the old-time roots and psychedelic offshoots of their former projects shines through on recent Sylvan Esso singles like “Frequency” — which manages to generate an undeniable dance groove despite a total abscence of conventional beat — and “Ferris Wheel” — which intriguingly pairs a minimalist melody with a bedrock of rumbling low-end synths. These songs are actually nearly two years old now; Sylvan Esso, like everyone else, had to put touring for the album they released in September 2020 on hold for a year and a half. But they’ll still hit just as hard through the National’s powerful PA stacks on Monday night as they would have if we could all have enjoyed them live two autumns ago. So hey — show up and dance. You know you want to.
Tuesday, May 24, 8 PM
BoDeans @ Tin Pan – $55 – $61.50 (order tickets HERE)
There was this period of time back in the 80s, before Nirvana happened and dragged the underground rock scene straight into the spotlight, when the occasional sincerely alternative band would break just enough above the waterline to get a minor amount of mainstream success, but not really enough to become a truly big band. The Connells would be one example of a band like this; another would be The Del Fuegos. And a third would be Wisconsin’s own BoDeans, who I used to hear every once in a while on XL102 when I was in middle school in the late 80s, and who I always liked, but never heard as much of as I might have liked.
Today, BoDeans are probably best remembered for having contributed their song “Closer To Free” as the theme for so-90s-it-hurts teen drama Party Of Five, but they’re far from one-hit wonders. Singles like “Only Love” and “You Don’t Get Much” remain underrated heartland-rock classics over three decades after their original release, while 2017’s Thirteen (their 13th album, natch) still contains a clutch of excellent tunes. In light of all that, going to see BoDeans on Tuesday at Tin Pan is certainly a good idea. It’s a great opportunity to get familiar with a long-running group that never quite got their due. Don’t let it slip by.
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]
Top Photo: Mindforce at United Blood preshow, 2017. Photo via Mindforce/Twitter