Friday, May 10, 4 PM
Saturday, May 11, 3 PM
Cacophonous Pianos at ICA, a sonic arrangement by Dylan Languell @ VCU Institute Of Contemporary Art – Free!
Summer’s coming, and as the saying goes, the living’s easy. It’s in the 80s pretty much every day lately, and who can complain about that? But you know us critics — such contrarians! Which is why I’m here to inform you that this week is all about difficult music. You know, the stuff that’s the opposite of “easy listening.” The stuff you have to think hard about to really follow; the stuff that, on first listen, kinda hurts your ears. As a dyed-in-the-wool metal nerd, I love shit like this — and not just when it’s black metal, either.
I also love it when it’s experimental music performed on piano. Or hey, why not a dozen pianos? Dylan Languell, a local artist, filmmaker, and VCU alum who is perhaps best known locally for his curation of the Direct-To-Video film festivals, is presenting a “sonic arrangement” entitled Cacophonous Pianos at VCU’s Institute of Contemporary Art. It’s part of the ICA’s current exhibition of artist Rashid Johnson’s sculpture, “Monument,” which in addition to the display of the sculpture will also “activation” by live performances made in response to the work.
Languell’s arrangement for a dozen pianos is one of these performances; it’ll take place twice this weekend — once on Friday and once on Saturday. It’ll feature a variety of noteworthy local musicians and artists, including Chino Amobi, Christian Luke Brady (Antlers/Father Sunflower), Abdul Hakim-Bilal (Among The Rocks and Roots), photographer David Kenedy, violinist Jessika Blanks, and a whole bunch more. As for what it will sound like, I only have wild guesses: a dozen Cecil Taylor records playing at once? The video for “Close (To The Edit)” by Art Of Noise where the punk girl destroys the piano? Those MIT students dropping a piano off a building? Maybe none of the above — but we can at least guarantee that it will be interesting. So show up, and bring an open mind that’s willing to do some thinking. You will be rewarded.
Wednesday, May 8, 9 PM
Tyler Meacham, Little River Creek Police, Margox @ The Camel – $5 in advance/$7 day of show (order tickets HERE)
OK, so it’s not ALL difficult music this week — local singer-songwriter Tyler Meacham is if anything just the opposite. Her beautiful pop music goes down like a cool drink of water, and the whole city now gets a chance to find this out, as she celebrates the release of her new single, “Moving On,” at the Camel tonight. Now, I am an old lady, and therefore have to be at least a little skeptical — how does a single release work in a post-streaming world? Does an artist even have anything to sell the people that come out? A download card, maybe? Or are even those passé now?
I guess we’ll all find out at The Camel tonight. One thing I do know for sure is that Tyler Meacham’s excellent voice, talented song construction, and flawless ear for pop melodies all show themselves to perfect effect on “Moving On,” a song that, if YouTube videos are any indication, I particularly enjoy in its full-band incarnation (though as a bit of a car nerd I am still kinda wondering what local shop they filmed that performance in). Tonight at the Camel, you’re sure to as well — and you’ll get a whole additional set from Meacham and her backing band, plus openers from fellow locals Little River Creek Police and Margox to glory in. Get stoked!
Thursday, May 9, 7 PM
Murder By Death, Sarah Shook and the Disarmers @ The Broadberry – $20 in advance/$25 day of show (order tickets HERE)
It’s time to swing back a little bit towards difficult, at least where descriptions are concerned. Because Murder By Death… they’re a bit hard to pin down, as a band. Having named themselves after a satirical mystery starring Truman Capote (no, not Philip Seymour Hoffman, the REAL Truman Capote. RIP to them both), this Indiana quintet proceeded to construct themselves in the form of a rootsy alt-country act.. and then play music that totally colored outside those genre lines, as a matter of course. That was over 15 years ago, and they haven’t headed back toward the conventional since.
So what is the story with Murder By Death? Well, musically, they land somewhere between the sort of gothic country death purveyed by Nick Cave in his more recent years, the epic punk travelogues of Titus Andronicus, and something maudlin, moody, and epic… Scott Walker? The Tindersticks? You get the basic idea. Their eighth and most recent album, The Other Shore, is a concept album about death — about what you’d expect at this point, right? That album came out on Bloodshot Records, and they come to RVA in the company of another Bloodshot artist, Sarah Shook and the Disarmers. This hardscrabble company of country-punks has never been afraid to stand up for causes they believe in, safe spaces and pro-LGBTQ feminism chief among them. Between that fact and the excellently heartbreaking prairie twang of their 2018 second LP, Years, they’ve definitely won me over in a big way. Show up on time at the Broadberry tomorrow night, and they’re guaranteed to win you over too.
Friday, May 10, 6 PM
Brian Markham, Gardener, Russ Waterhouse @ Steady Sounds – Free!
OK, back to the weirdness, and in fact, straight into the world of deep record-store crate-digging. That’s where you find all the best weirdo psych jams, don’cha know. Fledgling local label Flux Editions certainly know that — after all, they’re hosting the celebration for their inaugural release at Steady Sounds, a record store that certainly has more than its share of finds awaiting you in the stacks.
The find of the night Friday is Brian Markham, a recent Richmond transplant and member of underrated psych-drone champs Ancient Sky, as well as Dommengang and the Holy Sons, among others. His first solo release, Bat In The Baptismal Room, is just as deep and wide a space-drone excursion as you’d expect from one with the sort of pedigree he offers, and what will be fascinating will be seeing him bring this humming colossus to life right there on the floor of Steady Sounds. Get your records purchased and out to your car early, because you’re going to want to be prepared for takeoff before the music starts.
Saturday, May 11, 7 PM
Zeal & Ardor (Photo by Henry Schulz), Among The Rocks And Roots, Petrichor @ Capital Ale House Music Hall – $15 (order tickets HERE)
The internet. It used to be kinda OK, sometimes. I’ll give it that much, at least. But in recent years, it’s taken a definite turn towards the suck. Therefore, one really has to give props to anyone who can find a way to unearth something good from the social media shitpile. Like, for example, Swiss-American metalhead of color Manuel Gagneux, who — in a masterful display of resilience despite marginalization — took a maliciously-intended 4chan suggestion to mix black metal and traditional black music and turned it into a glorious reality, in the form of his latest band, Zeal & Ardor.
On their latest LP, Stranger Fruit, Zeal & Ardor made clear just what an emotional powerhouse can be created by mixing tremolo-picked hyperspeed guitars with soulful lead vocals backed by a transcendent gospel chorus. It’s tough to say whether Gagneux and company are playing anything that could be properly categorized as metal, but if what you want from your metal is to be laid flat by massive heaviness, Zeal & Ardor have the stuff you need. Open your mind to it and let it flow over you. You won’t regret it for a second. Equally powerful sounds from local champions Among The Rocks And Roots and Petrichor await you as opening preparation for what Zeal & Ardor have in store. Don’t miss it.
Sunday, May 12, 9 PM
Southside Stranglers, Sick Bags, Mystery Girl @ Bandito’s – Free!
The Southside Stranglers have been gone for quite a while now; not only was Richmond’s most notorious serial killer Timothy Wilson Spencer, executed by the state 25 years ago, the ripping Richmond punk band who used said serial killer as a namesake and, depending on which member you asked, a mascot, also played their last show a good seven years or so ago. Well, at least, their officially-billed “last show,” that is. Since then, they’ve risen from the grave to terrorize Richmond’s punk faithful several times, and this free Sunday night showdown is just the latest.
You might wonder, what’s this about? Is there some bigger meaning to be derived from this sudden return our long-expired local anti-heroes? Well, not necessarily — these guys are all still friends, and maybe they just felt like doing it once again. That said, it’s been three years since last time something like that happened, so if you value having your head rocked by a speedy, no-holds-barred punk rock attack, you are going to want to mark your calendars for this one. In addition to current-era Richmond punk torchbearers Sick Bags, support for this one will also be provided by upstate New York’s own Mystery Girl, a melodic punk outfit with the perfect dose of 50s greaser cool thrown in. Turn up the collar of your leather jacket before you hit Bandito’s back room for this one.
Monday, May 13, 7 PM
Bear’s Den, Vera Sola @ The Broadberry – $20 (order tickets HERE)
Little-known fact about me: bears are my favorite representatives of the entire animal kingdom (and yes, I know humans are members of the animal kingdom too. That doesn’t change my opinion one iota). So if your band name is a bear reference, I’m predisposed to like you. Actual results tend to be mixed on this score — for every Huggy Bear, there is a corresponding iwrestledabearonce. But Bear’s Den have proven themselves over their first three albums to be on the positive side of that equation, and I for one couldn’t be happier.
Bear’s Den have evolved significantly over the course of their still-brief career, beginning as a band whose moody alt-folk sounds split the difference between Tom Petty and Frightened Rabbit, then moving in a more electronic direction on second LP Red Earth And Pouring Rain. The just-released So That You Might Hear Me sees the UK ensemble maintaining their more electrified instrumental palate even as they increase the emphasis on their emotion-laden chorus melodies. While they started out drawing allegations of Mumford soundalike-ness, they’ve left all that behind in order to reach something deeper, something more profound. They’ll bring that sound to life at the Broadberry this Monday night. They’ll make you feel some feels — one of which should include positivity toward bears, nature’s perfect animals.
Tuesday, May 14, 7 PM
Wear Your Wounds, Uniform, Twin Drugs, Kristeva @ Gallery 5 – $15 (order tickets HERE)
As crazy as it might seem to those (like me, your decrepit yet intrepid columnist) who remember their teenage beginnings, Converge have become venerable elder statesmen of metallic hardcore in the quarter-century since their earliest EPs. Therefore it shouldn’t be any real surprise to find their vocalist, Jacob Bannon, spreading his wings with a solo-ish project. That’s the story with Wear Your Wounds, which began a couple of years ago with Bannon’s debut solo album of the same name. Since then, the project has turned into a full-time band, featuring members of The Red Chord, Cave-In, Twitching Tongues, and Trap Them.
Which would lead you to expect something in a similar vein to that of Converge, right? But no — if you’re looking for roaring vocals, blasting beats, and ripping thrash riffs, you better look to Bannon’s main project, because on the group’s forthcoming (first? second?) album, Rust On The Gates Of Heaven, they explore a dark, epic terrain much more familiar to fans of Neurosis, Swans, or Nick Cave than anything remotely resembling the metallic hardcore scene from which these vets all arise. Which doesn’t mean you should yawn or tune out — if anything, you should listen closer; interesting things always happen when proven musical talents extend themselves into new musical territory. This group is no exception. On Tuesday night, set your GPS for Gallery 5 — you’re going to want to be there.
Elsewhere Around The State:
Wednesday, May 8, 7 PM
The Suitcase Junket @ Toast – $10 (order tickets HERE)
There are many different ways to approach being a one-person band, and considering that my wife is a huge fan of the form, I’ve seen just about all of them. One thing I’ve learned about this particular musical approach is that it lends itself to rootsy, countrified bluesy sounds, and The Suitcase Junket definitely lands somewhere along those lines. Another thing I’ve learned is that feet are very important to one-person bands; that’s something else that The Suitcase Junket definitely proves.
This man and his somewhat ridiculous mustache do pretty normal band-guy things from the waist up — singing and strumming a guitar, mostly. But the foot pedals — The Suitcase Junket uses at least four — are what’s really important here, working not only an abbreviated but relatively conventional drum kit but also a series of percussion instruments, including a loud and memorable cowbell. If there’s one thing Christopher Walken’s taught us, it’s that we can all use a little more cowbell in our lives. So if you’re down Norfolk way tonight, you could certainly brighten up your midweek with a visit to Toast to watch The Suitcase Junket do his thing.
Friday, May 10, 8 PM
Tool @ Hampton Coliseum – $105-$145 (order tickets HERE)
It’s been 13 years since Tool released their fourth and, thus far, final album, and many of the leading lights in the progressive metal world are still trying to catch up with where they were back then. Over the decade plus since 10,000 Days, various members have kept busy making wine, investigating sacred geometries and occult rituals, writing comic books, and working with a variety of musical side projects, but it now seems clear that Tool will indeed be releasing a new album in the very near future. Not only have they been playing new songs live, they’ve given it an official release date of August 30. As in, this year.
So yeah, a lot of people are stoked — and I feel sure that at least a few of those people are regular readers of this column. Listen, if that’s you, I only hope I’m not the first one to bring you news of this upcoming Tool show on Friday at Hampton Coliseum. I say that because, as of last night, despite the show originally featuring tickets for as low as $70 (still a pretty high price from my vantage point), the cheapest ticket one could actually obtain online stood at over $100. Too rich for my blood, for sure — but if you’ve got one of those cushy office jobs that I hear some people luck into by the time they’re solidly into their 30s, maybe you can grab one for yourself. God knows you’re bound to have a great time — this band’s live performances are noteworthy both for their intensity and the sheer musical talent displayed on stage. And with the prospect of brand new songs in the offing? Who can resist? At least, who with 120 or so bucks to spare. If you have the means, this one gets my highest possible recommendation.
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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