Thursday, February 27, 8 PM
Satanic Richmond presents Black Mass, feat. 3:33, Ages, Cut The Architect’s Hand, Cruel Streak, Pitch’n A Fit @ Fallout – $6 suggested donation
Old-lady storytime: When I was a kid in the late 80s starting to get into music in a big way, any modern band I really dug was subject to potential labeling by adults as “Satanic.” I came to expect it, and not just about extreme metal bands that truly did dabble in Satanic imagery — your Slayers, your Ozzys — but even about innocuous musicians like Def Leppard, Aerosmith, and Madonna. Even though I was still young and hadn’t really started to question the religion I was raised in just yet, this cultural environment nonetheless created an undeniable allure around Satanic iconography. If the bands I like are all at least debatably Satanic, shouldn’t I be making a point of checking out other supposedly-Satanic bands?
At least for me, a fortysomething survivor of the Satanic-panic 80s, an edgy allure still remains around anything that overtly labels itself Satanic. Of course, I grew up and found out that Satanism as it exists in the world today is really more of a philosophy than anything, one that isn’t really about the Christian conception of Satan at all. In fact, it isn’t even a religion, and its adherents are closer to agnostic than anything. Their real purpose is to engage in social activism to promote separation of church and state, and the value of individual freedom, in the face of state oppression. That’s pretty excellent as an overall value system, and it’s certainly a long way from what my elders told me as a kid about what all the ostensibly-Satanic music I was listening to wanted me to believe.
That said, my old Black Sabbath and Slayer records are still cool as hell, and if you see where I’m coming from — or even if you kinda don’t — you should probably head to Fallout this Thursday night to see what Satanic Richmond are all about. They’ll be hosting some speakers and having a charity raffle, but the main focus of the evening is music — for the most part, the exact same kind of music my parents warned me about back in the day. This includes a variety of local groups: metallic punk stalwarts 3:33, chaotic metalcore veterans Cut The Architect’s Hand, and metal newcomers Cruel Streak will bring the heaviness, while Ages moves in a dark, postpunk direction and Pitch’n A Fit brings some old-time string-band styles with a 21st century sensibility. This evening at Fallout will be a ton of sinful fun, and who doesn’t love that?
Wednesday, February 26, 8 PM
Slump, Black Button, Cruzer @ Fuzzy Cactus – $8
There’s no getting around it; Slump are a strange band. This Richmond quartet released an LP, Flashbacks From Black Dust Country, late last year on Feel It Records, and it is full of the kind of batshit psychedelic punk with tinges of noise-rock, space-rock, and even wild-ass outlaw country that puts them somewhere in the neighborhood of Jesus Lizard, No Trend, the Meat Puppets, and Hawkwind, all at the same time. It’s certainly not the kind of thing you’re going to encounter on a weekly basis of listening to whatever comes through your Spotify Discover playlist; nope, this is a unique offering, with all the outsider oddity that implies.
And if you think this group, which even features an analog synth these days, are going to be a typical humdrum live band experience, you definitely need to recalibrate your assumptions — and the perfect time and place to do that is tonight at Fuzzy Cactus, where Slump will be kicking off a tour that will take them somewhere else for some amount of time (they aren’t exactly forthcoming about this info online, but I’d expect no less from these weirdos), and should be in fine fighting form in preparation for devastating the world with their bizarre noise. They’ll have similarly-minded noise-punk newcomers Black Button and surf-punk noisemakers Cruzer along for the ride, making for a pretty entertaining way to spend a midweek evening, no matter how you slice it.
Thursday, February 27, 7 PM
Only Sibling, Smallhands, Dozing, So Badly @ Thirsty’s RVA – Free!
It’s an undeniable fact: scruffy Mac DeMarco-looking indie rock boys with hardcore-punk backgrounds are a great source for the best shoegaze tunes of the 21st century. That band Nothing did a lot to demonstrate that fact, and Only Sibling are now here to make it even more clear. This New York-based quartet have released some singles and EPs on Other People Music, but still haven’t really taken the plunge into a full-length, so a lot of people haven’t woken up to what they have to offer as yet. But you have a chance to do so this Thursday night, just over the James on Forest Hill Ave, as Only Sibling come to Thirsty’s RVA for a free show that is well worth your time.
They’ll be joined on this bill by Smallhands, who hail from Fredericksburg and are, like a lot of that city’s scene, primed for discovery after years of floating just under the radar. Their hazy sound definitely shares some characteristics with that of Only Sibling, so if you dig one of these bands, you’re sure to dig the other. Smallhands will be accompanied on their trip an hour South down the I-95 corridor by So Badly, a Fredericksburg indie group with a lot to offer on their own behalf, and the whole bill will be rounded out with a set from Dozing, who bring the early-90s post-hardcore sound from right here in 21st century Richmond. Gotta love that.
Friday, February 28, 8 PM
Bbigpigg, Prayer Group, Faucet, Recital @ Boogaloo’s – $5
Speaking for myself, I am totally used to the fact that the world of noise-rock is often unfathomably bizarre. I grew up in the days when the Melvins and the Jesus Lizard were in their prime, so I’m totally desensitized now. However, if you’re a noise-rock newcomer, a lot of aspects of the band Bbigpigg might throw you for a loop. For a start, there’s the fact that there name looks like a typo of a late 80s Australian funk group they have absolutely nothing to do with. Then there’s their minimalist internet presence, which is matched by a less-than-prolific discography featuring nothing more than a few EPs, the last of which came out damn near five years ago.
But if you can get past all these aspects — and you should — there’s a lot to appreciate here, from this band’s undeniably Jesus Lizard-ish tendency toward bent notes and off-kilter chords to the driving stomp that makes their music so unstoppably awesome and fun. If you wish the Melvins would experiment a little less, or that Captain Beefheart was still kicking, this is the band for you. They’re joined on this bill by Richmond’s own Prayer Group, who engage in a slightly sludgier and significantly rantier take on Bbigpigg’s noise-rock attack, making this the perfect pummeling pairing for you noise nutcases. Make a note of it.
Saturday, February 29, 7:30 PM
Nat Baldwin, Jono Stewart’s Big Mistake @ Shockoe Denim – $10
Props to the folks over at Little Dumbo — they always bring unexpectedly fascinating musical treats to our city, often in the sales room of a literal denim workshop located in Shockoe Bottom. How cool is that? This weekend, they’re giving us another delightful evening of unique music when they bring upright bassist Nat Baldwin to town. If you know Baldwin’s name, it’s probably from the credits section of your Dirty Projectors LPs; he’s been in the group since 2005, and has also lent his talents to the work of Vampire Weekend, Grizzly Bear, and others.
That said, Baldwin is also a talented solo musician. While his previous solo albums showcased his ability to construct beautiful melodies around his acoustic bass and falsetto vocals, his latest returns him to his roots as avant-garde jazz bassist and improviser, originally honed at the start of his career, when he studied under jazz legend Anthony Braxton. Autonomia I: Body Without Organs, released only a week ago, finds Baldwin experimenting with the sounds created by pairing his bass with a broken bow. It’s certainly not anything like the Dirty Projectors, but the result is unique, fascinating, and well worth your time. See what he does with it in a live environment, and enjoy a set from Richmond experimentalists Jono Stewart’s Big Mistake beforehand — it’s sure to subvert your expectations in the most delightful of ways.
Sunday, March 1, 9 PM
Lovelorn, Night Sins, True Body @ Wonderland – $10
Remember Creepoid? The Philadelphia shoegaze quartet blew my mind when I caught them at Gallery 5 several years ago; unfortunately, though, they broke up soon after, leaving co-leaders Anna and Patrick Troxell sitting on a whole bunch of unfinished material. Thankfully, they didn’t let that stop them, and used that material as the genesis for their new project, Lovelorn. While this group is definitely more postpunk in nature than psychedelic a la Creepoid, the dark, moody atmosphere remains intact, now with an increased dose of programmed beats and synth sounds, but still driven by the contrast of ethereal vocals and spooky, rumbling bass.
Lovelorn have still only released a couple of isolated EPs, but while the world eagerly awaits a debut full-length from them, we’re lucky enough to get a full live set this Sunday night at Wonderland. And we’d be fools not to take advantage, and experience everything this dark, psychedelic postpunk group has to offer us. They’ll be joined by fellow Philadelphian combo Night Sins on this trip to town; Night Sins are fully prepared to light up our evening with a dose of gothic postpunk darkness all their own — and it will surely be appreciated. And of course, Richmond postpunk gloom merchants True Body will be on hand to let us all know what they’ve got in store for us on their soon-to-be-released LP. Can’t wait for that.
Monday, March 2, 6 PM
Creeping Death, Chamber, Enforced, In Battle, Guardrails @ The Canal Club – $13 (order tickets HERE)
Monday night’s been slim pickings around the Richmond live music world in recent months; fortunately, it only takes one good show to turn a night from a bust into a boom, and we’ve got exactly that with this Canal Club performance by Texas’s own Creeping Death, which is sure to light up our dreary Monday evening. This hard-as-fuck quartet not only touch on the same confluence of death metal, thrash, and hardcore that Power Trip have so fruitfully exploited for the past decade but also have strong connections with their fellow Texans, even touring with them last year.
So yeah, if you’re looking for a dose of that death-thrash roar on a Monday night, look no further than this Texas combo. What’s more, Nashville’s Chamber are along for the ride, bringing their more metalcore-derived sound to The Canal Club, a venue that’s proven itself over the years to be very comfortable with metalcore. Opening sounds are provided by Richmond blackened-thrash hardcore rulers Enforced, and by newcomers In Battle (about which all I can tell you is that they are NOT the Swedish In Battle you’ll find if you try and google) and Guardrails (who are probably the most straightforward USHC group on this whole bill). This is going to be a very heavy evening, in the best possible way.
Tuesday, March 3, 9 PM
Vacation, Gnawing, Kemtrailz, Bashful @ Fuzzy Cactus – $7
It’s really nice to have reliable venues around this town; there was a point where the demise of Strange Matter probably left us all a little concerned that street-level rock n’ roll would no longer have a home in the good ol’ RVA. Thankfully, several places have stepped in to fill the void, and at this point, Fuzzy Cactus definitely distinguishes themselves as first among equals. A show like this one proves it; by hosting Cincinnati’s Vacation and a trio of scrappy local groups on a quiet winter weeknight, Fuzzy Cactus proves itself a true utility player in the game of Richmond live music.
And thank goodness for that; Vacation are bringing the sort of sound we need more of around here, and it’s wonderful that they have a venue in which to present it to us all. Their name might lead you to expect pop-punk out of them, but one listen to 2019’s Zen Quality Seed Crystal shows that Vacation have a lot more to offer than just that, channeling Guided By Voices at their lo-fi peak in the early 90s and filling in some Pavement-ish slacker-rock swing to keep your toes tapping and your booty shaking. This is going to be a scrappy, fun evening of catchy tunes, and the addition of Richmond power-pop powerhouse Gnawing, as well as newcomers Kemtrailz and Bashful, to this bill, will only enrich what’s already sure to be the best thing happening in your life on any Tuesday night in March.
Elsewhere Around The State:
Wednesday, February 26, 6:30 PM
Dan Deacon, Ed Schrader’s Music Beat, CornCob @ The Southern Cafe (Charlottesville) – $15 (order tickets HERE)
Damn, Dan Deacon’s come a long way since I used to see him performing in gross Jackson Ward basements back in the mid-00s. And thank goodness for that, because his music has only grown in catchiness and maturity over the past 15 years. He demonstrates that on his newest album, Mystic Familiar, which follows up several years in which Deacon focused on creating soundtracks for films like Rat Film, a documentary about segregation and infestation in his native Baltimore. Deacon has a conscience, and it shows through in his work, even as he first and foremost focuses on making you dance.
Where dance-party starters are concerned, Mystic Familiar‘s got plenty of material for you; on this emotionally transcendent album, Deacon remains adept at his signature building crescendos, which evoke a rush of feels even as you can’t help but bounce frantically around the room, caught up in the waves of gorgeous sound. It’s the same whether you’re in a basement with sweat dripping from the walls or a clean and lovely venue like Charlottesville’s The Southern Cafe — the joy will find you and the spirit will move you. And isn’t that what we all want out of a Wednesday night at the club?
Friday, February 28, 6 PM
Bodysnatcher, Born A New, Great American Ghost, Genosha, OnceDrowned, Split Wrist @ RiffHouse Pub (Chesapeake) – $13 in advance/$15 day of show (order tickets HERE)
You know you’re in for a heck of an evening when the Facebook event page features the words “no fighting, throwing chairs, or breaking tables.” If that’s the kind of activity the promoters are prepared for in advance, chances are things are going to get pretty crazy, even if none of those things actually come to pass. But with Bodysnatcher on the bill, you can’t really expect anything less. This Florida group’s crossbreed of beatdown hardcore and slam-style death metal is positively crushing on their brand new LP, This Heavy Void, and if it didn’t generate at least a few explosive mosh pits over the course of a live set, I’d have to wonder if the entire city of Chesapeake was asleep.
They certainly won’t be after the five bands paving the way for Bodysnatcher get done setting the stage for the headliners. Bodysnatcher’s labelmates on Stay Sick Recordings, Born A New (whom, to my eyes, should really have been “born anew” — spending a decade as a copyeditor will make you fixate on this sort of thing), bring a slightly groovier take to this sort of headstomping deathcore brutality, while Boston’s Great American Ghost simultaneously conjure up memories of Zao and Eighteen Visions, both of which are positive associations to evoke, for sure. With regional heavy hitters like Genosha, OnceDrowned, and Split Wrist filling out the bill, things are sure to get hectic at RiffHouse this Friday night.
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]