Saturday, January 4, 9 PM
Djanuary, feat. Stu Kindle, Sweet Potatoes Music, The Pop-Up Duo, Lil Jimmy & The Robinsons @ The Dark Room – $5
Well folks, it’s 2020. We made it through another holiday season — and another decade — alive, and it’s time to get our bearings and ease into yet another year here in Trump’s America. And what better way to get a non-stressful start on the 20’s (finally, a decade with an abbreviation that makes sense!) than with a week heavy with the wonderful sounds of jazz?
That’s what we’ve got for you this week, and at the top of the list is Djanuary, a year-beginning celebration of legendary Romani jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt masterminded by local ukulele strummer Stu Kindle. Reinhardt was one of the first guitarists and first Europeans to exert a strong influence on jazz, a feat made that much more remarkable by the fact that he only had the use of three fingers on his left hand due to an injury he sustained in a fire at the beginning of his career. Reinhardt’s integration of Romani folk music, and focus on stringed instruments rather horns and woodwinds, helped kickstart an entire genre known as “gypsy jazz.”
You can hear a strong influence from Reinhardt’s approach on Stu Kindle’s own agile, speedy ukulele technique, which makes it eminently appropriate that he’s the Richmond musician spearheading this entire evening. He’ll be joined in this evening-long tribute to Django Reinhardt by a variety of local talents including jazz combo Sweet Potatoes Music, the acoustic jazz-folk of Pop-Up Duo, and swinging acoustic string band Lil Jimmy and the Robinsons (which also features Kindle on ukulele). It won’t be loud, it won’t be heavy, but rest assured, Djanuary at The Dark Room definitely will be hot.
Thursday, January 2, 7 PM
Plastic Nancy, Hollywood Cemetery, Big Fundamental, Cleophus James @ Poor Boys – $5
I can’t imagine anyone isn’t glad to see Poor Boys and PRSMCAT carrying on the banner of Locals Only in this post-Strange Matter era — and it’s even better when it results in a rock-solid bill like this one. Plastic Nancy top the bill with some pretty outstanding psych-pop alt-rock that hit a new high on recent single “Think Of Now.” I for one can’t wait to see what their next batch of tunes sounds like — and chances are we’ll get at least a little bit of a preview tonight!
Hollywood Cemetery are a newer group from right here in the river city, but they’ve certainly got their sound locked down tight if recent EP Sweet Dreams is any indication; I never would have thought the mixture of catchy emo pop and Interpol-style postpunk drama would be anywhere near this much fun, but I’m happy to stand corrected. Alt-rockers Big Fundamental and soulful postpunks Cleophus James (old-person points for you if you know the reference) round out a killer bill of talented Richmond groups you should be paying attention to in the new decade.
Friday, January 3, 7 PM
Opin (Photo by Joey Wharton), ADAR, Velocity 128, Bri Bevan @ Gallery 5 – Free!
Gallery 5 turns 15 this year (as does RVA Mag — watch this space), and they’re showing no signs of slowing down as they roll into 2020 with an awesome art show featuring custom-made toys. That alone should make turning up at their free First Friday event a no-brainer, but the musicians they’ll have on hand only make it that much more essential. Opin, the post-White Laces group featuring members of Magnus Lush, Night Idea, and Navi, among others, is currently gearing up to release the long-awaited follow-up to their 2017 self-titled debut.
New single “No. 3” finds Opin in powerful form, with driving rock rhythms, multi-layered synths, and an incredible vocal melody overtop of it all. Can’t wait for more where that came from. This show will also feature DC retro synthwave duo Velocity 128, turning the whole place into the dancefloor from an 80s crime movie, as well as a performance by Charlottesville jazz-soul-rock hybrid ADAR. Local singer-songwriter Bri Bevan rounds out an excellent bill you’re sure to enjoy — get there.
Saturday, January 4, 10 PM
The Gilberts, Black Plastic, Lounge Lizzard @ City Dogs – Free!
It’s rare for too many bands to be touring around the holiday times, so this early into a new year, you’ve got to expect a lot of locally-focused shows. Fortunately for us, Richmond has a wonderful music scene that in no way, shape, or form has any need of out-of-town bands to make for excellent live musical experiences. For example, this Saturday, we’ve got this outstanding three-band local bill happening at City Dogs, the Main Street hotspot that was, in the early days of the 21st century, home to one of the best live venues in the city — the glorious chaos that was Nara Sushi.
City Dogs may or may not get as wild on this Saturday night as Nara used to back in its prime, but the music is certainly worthy of excitement regardless of how crazy y’all get out there in the crowd. Local quintet The Gilberts dish out indie-pop tunes with a shambling punk spirit. Black Plastic raves up with some driving alternative rock tuneage. And then there’s Lounge Lizzard, whose vocalist, Sera Stavroula, will be celebrating a birthday this evening — they’ll rise to the occasion with a big dose of their raging metallic punk sound. It all adds up to an evening you’re sure to enjoy, especially in light of the lack of cover charge. Use your cash to grab some chili dogs instead! Just be sure you don’t take them into the pit — that’s always a sloppy proposition.
Sunday, January 5, 8 PM
Brydge/Williams/Kartari @ Cary Street Cafe – Free!
Get ready for the first full work week of the new year — and the first non-holiday week since back in the first half of December — with this evening of fine jazz sounds over at Cary Street Cafe. Bassist Chris Brydge has worked with a lot of local jazz talents around town, including JC Kuhl, Fred Hibbard, and quite a few others. He usually does so in the company of drummer Emre Kartari, his rhythm-section partner in crime. And this evening finds the two of them together once again, this time working with saxophonist Eddie Williams.
This same lineup has performed gigs under the name The Eddie Williams Trio as well, so will the equal billing for the three indicate a different instrumental priority in this performance? The improvisational nature of jazz as a musical style all but guarantees we won’t know until the three musicians take the stage, but regardless of how it all plays out, we can certainly expect some outstanding bebop sounds from this trio of instrumental talents. Just what we all need so we can face the boss on Monday, right?
Monday, January 6, 8 PM
Zack Mexico, Landon Elliott, The Flavor Project, Manzara @ The Camel – $7 in advance/$10 day of show (order tickets HERE)
North Carolina group Zack Mexico have an intriguing approach to the art of creating psychedelic indie music, and you can tell the second they start setting up their gear. Beginning as a quartet, the group has expanded significantly in their decade together, most prominently with the addition of a second drummer. Seeing two full kits up there onstage is always powerful, and this band’s laid-back, tuneful approach does indeed carry a lot of power, even as it is often wielded with a subtle grace.
This is part of why Richmond singer-songwriter Landon Elliott is such a good match for Zack Mexico, musically. Elliott’s recently-released LP, Domino, shows off strong songcraft, making judicious use of 80s-style production and instrumentation at times while always first and foremost serving the gorgeous, introspective pop songs Elliott creates with a natural ease. It will be a treat to see this multi-layered sound come to life on the Camel’s stage this Monday night. The Flavor Project and Manzara will round out this eclectic bill with injections of funky Latin hip hop and dark, heavy postpunk. It’s sure to be a good time.
Tuesday, January 7, 8 PM
Dexter Moses & Marcus Tenney @ The Dark Room – $5
This Tuesday brings more jazz to the Dark Room, in the form of a meeting between two talented local saxophonists. Dexter Moses is the younger of the two, a blazing jazz talent who is still too young to order a beer at the HofGarden bar (at least for a few more weeks), but has been making a name for himself around town since his high school days. His skills at sax are worthy of a player twice his age.
Marcus Tenney isn’t quite there yet — his 2019 LP Triple Trey was a celebration of his having reached 33 years of age — but anyone who pays the slightest bit of attention to the local jazz, funk, and hip hop scenes is sure to know that he’s got a ton of talent in his own right, whether he’s showing it off in Butcher Brown, No BS! Brass Band, hip hop duo Tennison, or as the leader of his own jazz quartet. What sort of fireworks will ensue when the veteran comes together with the young gun in a fiery sax duo on the stage of the Dark Room? Something you’ll definitely want to see.
Elsewhere Around The State:
Saturday, January 4, 5 PM
True Body, You’re Jovian, Gone, Carnival Bird @ Smartmouth Brewing (Norfolk) – Free!
Down Norfolk way, Smartmouth Brewing’s warehouse seems to be about the closest thing they’ve got to Richmond’s wonderful Hardywood — a place predominantly concerned with creating craft beer (which I know the kids all love), which also brings the area some excellent free musical performances on a somewhat regular basis (now this is what I’M here for). They’re kicking off the year with exactly that sort of thing this Saturday as they bring us all a live performance by Norfolk gothic-postpunk ensemble True Body.
True Body haven’t given us a new helping of their dark, dramatic, synth-driven sound since the 2017 “Over It”/”Tourists” single, and that was three years ago now, so catching them live has become a must. Plus, they’re joined on this bill by fellow Norfolkers You’re Jovian, whose shoegazey indie-rock sound is always a hazy delight. There’s also a band called Gone on this bill, and all I can tell you for sure is that they’re not the same Gone featuring ex-members of Black Flag. But we do have a bit more information about Virginia Beach’s Carnival Bird, an indie-electro-pop duo featuring members of Radflux and Berries who will return to the stage at this event for the first time in over a year. So yeah, all of this is definitely worth being present for — especially since it won’t cost you anything to get in.
Sunday, January 5, 6 PM
Watersdeep, Route 29, Old Old, Good Grief @ Flipside Lounge (Fredericksburg) – $5
I freely admit that I don’t know as much about Fredericksburg’s music scene as I’d like to, but I’m always trying to learn, so I’m glad to have discovered a new F-burg venue to keep an eye on — Flipside Lounge, which is starting the new year off right by presenting this bill of catchy emo-punk groups from throughout the Old Dominion (should I be capitalizing those letters? Shrug). Watersdeep, at the top of the bill, are technically from DC, but close enough, right?
The Watersdeep boys refer to their sound as “sadboi pop-punk,” and if you enjoy bands like Saves The Day, Taking Back Sunday, and Knuckle Puck as much as I do, you’re sure to get a charge out of this band’s energetic, intense sound. Route 29, who coincidentally enough hail from my own hometown of Warrenton, have more of an indie feel, but still draw on emotional undercurrents that give their music a welcome resonance. Blacksburg’s Old Old are tough to google for, but reward the tenacious internet searcher with both a tough side and a sweet sensitivity. The entire evening kicks off with some fine power pop from Good Grief. Taken as a whole, it’s more than worth the hour’s drive up 95.
Top Photo: Django Reinhardt in 1946, by William P. Gottlieb, Public Domain, via Wikimedia/Library of Congress
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]
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