Friday, February 2 & Saturday, February 3, 8 PM
Cory’s Big Sloppy Hate Fest Round 2, feat. Day 1: Charmer, No Mas, Jars Full Of Blood In Hell: Action Unit III, War Bonds, Cremains; Day 2: Uncle Buck, Nerve Rot, Kryptcest, Van Hagar, Musket Hawk @ McCormack’s – Free!
Guess who’s back? OK yes, the show column is back after a week’s hiatus… but that’s not what I’m talking about! Nope, it’s Between 2 Beers Productions, still cranking out the shit-hot metal spectaculars after several years of nonstop booking all around Shockoe Bottom and beyond! B2B majordomo Cory Nicholas is taking things to a higher gear at the start of 2018 by returning to a winning tactic for a jam-packed weekend of brutality. Cory’s Big Sloppy Hate Fest is back for another round, and it’ll be taking over the upstairs room at McCormack’s in the Bottom for two straight nights of carnage. Strap in, folks.
Night one is full of grind, power violence, and other blastbeat-related genres full of speed and noise. DC’s No Mas are the star attraction on this bill, dishing out a Rotten Sound/Nasum-ish brand of extremely metallic crust-grind, laced with the occasional killer Anthrax-style mosh break. Virginia Beach heshers War Bonds have somehow landed on a sound that mixes thicknecked tough-guy mosh with death metal, or something like that. It definitely has its charms. As for locals, Charmer’s been plying their ripping speedcore around town for a while now, but still don’t seem to be getting the attention they deserve–let’s fix that, shall we? Meanwhile, the incredibly named Jars Full Of Blood In Hell: Action Unit III seems to be shooting for some mix of bass-drum grind a la No Comply and 80s-action-worship a la Graf Orlock. Color me intrigued.
On Saturday night, the hits keep on coming, with two excellent Maryland bands at the top of the bill. Uncle Buck takes a different approach to the 80s-movie theme, but their songs fly by so fast and hit so hard you’re not even gonna worry about it. Recommended for fans of Lack Of Interest and other prime Slap A Ham classics. Musket Hawk are not in as big of a rush but their thrashcore-meets-death metal approach to riffage hits every bit as hard. Local grind stalwarts Van Hagar are also on board, and word is they’re hard at work on an LP, so you can expect some killer new material from these freaks. VB low-end death ragers Kryptcest, as well as the first live appearance of Nerve Rot (featuring members of US Bastards and Unmaker) round out a killer night that’ll keep you full of sloppy hate for weeks to come. The best part is that this entire two-day shindig is free; at that price, how can you say no?
Wednesday, January 31, 8 PM
Des Demonas, Paint Fumes, Stake @ Strange Matter – $10 (order tickets HERE)
Oh wow. Usually when these retro-garage style bands hit town, I’m ready for a whole lot of rocking with very little intellectual thought behind it. And that’s awesome — sometimes it’s exactly what a body needs, and I can definitely recognize that. However, Des Demonas are coming from a whole different perspective, primarily because of their singer, Jacky Cougar Abok. This intense Kenyan firebrand shifts on the self-titled Des Demonas debut LP (released in December on In The Red) between raging rock n’ roll delivery and outright Gil Scott-Heron style political declamations, the most formidable of which is album opener “The South Will Never Rise Again.”
“You can build a big fucking wall between the border of the United States and Mexico but the South will never rise again,” Abok declares, not an ounce of amusement in his voice. Backed by members of veteran DC punk and garage combos like The Make-Up, Medications, and Kid Congo Powers’ Pink Monkey Birds, Abok and his compatriots bring a foreboding, midnight-dark feel to the whole garage-punk thing, much like Ex-Cult, who are personal faves, so you know I’m in. Get ready to dance, but don’t turn your brain off just yet, because Des Demonas are gonna make you use it. Paint Fumes, who’ve made plenty of friends in RVA over their decade or so of existence, are back in support of their year-or-so-old second LP, the excellently titled If It Ain’t Paint Fumes It Ain’t Worth A Huff. And of course, if Paint Fumes are playing, it can’t be much of a surprise that Chaz Tick’s latest project, Stake, are opening up. Killer.
Thursday, February 1, 8 PM
Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb, Enemy Exorcism, Pissing Contest, Maximum Zero @ McCormack’s – $5
More fun, more punk, more Between 2 Beers excellence… it’s shaping up to be that kind of week. I never thought I’d be recommending as many McCormack’s shows as Strange Matter shows, but here we are, and there’s definitely some credit due to Cory and the B2B crew for that one. And hey, it doesn’t hurt that they’re consistently bringing good bands to town — in this case, Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb, who hail from up around DC way. I’m sure I’m not the only one here who’s a sucker for a Dr. Strangelove reference, and it also doesn’t hurt that this band has found a way to do straight-up old-school punk riffage with a melodic sense that is almost power-pop in its sugary goodness. Think Sheer Mag riffs played by the Adolescents, or the Dead Boys stealing licks from the Raspberries — something like that.
Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb are joined on this bill by a triple threat of Richmond punk reprobates, which is headed up by Enemy Exorcism. I’m kind of surprised to see this band’s name on a bill again, as it’s been a few years since they were really around too much, and as the only recorded evidence of their sound I’m aware of dates back to the dawn of this decade, I can’t really tell you how much they have or haven’t changed in the intervening years either. But I’m definitely curious, I’ll say that. Pissing Contest are way less of a mystery, and more of an institution around town. They’re mainly punk in the riff style but just tight enough and crunchy enough to be vaguely metallic. Not bad! And then of course there’s Maximum Zero, the fake Soviet band who pop up every now and then with another entertaining twist on a bizarre gimmick. I’m ready for another dose — how about you?
Friday, February 2, 8 PM
Lola Pistola, Magnus Lush, Toward Space @ Strange Matter – $8 in advance/$10 day of show (order tickets HERE)
If you’re anything like me, you hear the name Lola Pistola and think, “Oh damn, is this another garage-punk show?” But here’s the thing — it’s not! Lola Pistola is not just a musical project but a person, or at least a persona, who leads this Brooklyn combo, and she gives it an intriguing sound that is hard to pin down. Last year’s Curfew was an excellent LP that roamed the entire musical landscape over the course of its 10 songs, from the Hole-style moody alt-rock of “Carroll St” and the jangle-punk of “I’m Stupid” to the hazy acoustic ambience of “Doomed” and the gloomy balladry of “Friday Night.”
So what will Strange Matter goers get from this band/frontwoman’s performance this Friday night? It may not be that easy to predict from moment to moment, but it’s sure to entrance and enlighten showgoers. One thing that holds strong throughout Lola Pistola’s varied discography is an assured songwriting talent that brings us a strong, clear voice. That voice is our guide through the many musical moods it wanders, and it stays true throughout. The RVA locals opening up bring us their own strong voices despite different musical approaches; Magnus Lush’s complex yet tough take on post-hardcore, or maybe postpunk, lands somewhere in the neighborhood of both Fugazi and the Bush Tetras. Toward Space mix the Shangri-La’s with the King Khan & BBQ Show, bringing raging retro rock n’ roll with a heart of gold. It’s all gravy.
Saturday, February 3, 8 PM
Mammoth Grinder, Genocide Pact, Occvlta, Left Cross @ Strange Matter – $12 (order tickets HERE)
Mammoth Grinder is back, in more ways than one! This Texas band has finally released their fourth album, Cosmic Crypt, after a five-year break; also, they’re coming back to RVA, which is especially nice now that the band features two Richmond locals in the form of Iron Reagan’s Ryan Parrish and Mark Bronzino. Does this mean we can say they’re coming HOME? Well, let’s not get too excited, as frontman Chris Ulsh’s loyalties still lie very much with Austin, where he swings the sticks for living thrash legends Power Trip. But it’s hard to remain complacent when faced with an incredible album like Cosmic Crypt — that old-school death metal sound that’s been getting such a workout in recent years is done to perfection here.
Indeed, I’m sure a dubbed cassette of this album would go right into heavy rotation if it were taken 25 years back in time and dropped into the waiting Camaro (or Chevette, as the case may be) of any suburban headbanger. But its retro appeal is no strike against it, and honestly I’d take this album over most of the early Obituary albums I cut my teeth on back then. Yeah, I said it. Genocide Pact, who are on tour with Mammoth Grinder, have an even newer album (this show occurs only one day after its official release), Order Of Torment, which also harks back to the early 90s prime of first-wave death metal — though this time, I’m thinking more of Incantation. Whatever, the point is it’ll get your neck snapping, as will a bonus set from German thrashers Occvlta, whose killer take on early black metal fits right into the early-90s evocation of this whole bill. Left Cross kick the whole thing off, and they’re always a treat, so show up on time!
Sunday, February 4, 8 PM
Classical Revolution RVA presents Andrew McEvoy, Django Tango @ The HofGarden – $6 in advance/$8 at the door (order tickets HERE)
If you’re thinking that this column has leaned really hard on punk and metal so far this week, rest assured I’m thinking the same thing. Variety is the spice of life, and we all need to change it up from time to time, so this Sunday night full of classical guitar performances, being presented by Classical Revolution. Admittedly, I don’t know a ton about classical music of any kind, but this one sounds intriguing. Guitarist Andrew McEvoy will be performing solo, doing his new album Parlor Tricks. This album, which features pieces by Chopin, Villa-Lobos, and Dyens, among others, was put together by McEvoy to demonstrate the influence that folk rhythms had on the music of Parisian high society.
That’s a fascinating enough premise for me right there. And when you add in a performance by Django Tango, a local trio who pay tribute to the early 20th-century Romani guitar master Django Reinhardt and his hot-swinging Manouche jazz sound, I’m definitely hooked. Reinhardt’s swinging sound had its own effect on the sounds of Parisian society in the 30s, and was one of the major movements in jazz music in general at the time. This night won’t have you banging your head, and you can leave your earplugs at home, but where entertaining musical spectacles are concerned, this one’s as good as any death-metal extravaganza.
Monday, February 5, 8 PM
Phlegm, Dweebs @ McCormack’s – $5
Speaking of death metal extravaganzas, though, we’ve still got one more for ya this week, and even though right now the bill only features two bands, the presence of Phlegm at the top of it is really all you need. Phlegm are hardly the most famous death metal band to exist in the history of the genre, but they were on the scene from the beginning, forming in 1988 and becoming a Rhode Island legend through their demos and their work booking touring bands in their area.
Since their breakup in the early 90s, Phlegm have developed a steady cult following, and in the wake of their reformation several years ago, and a 2015 double-disc reissue of all their early demos entitled Consumed By The Dead, they’ve kept at it with a higher profile than ever. So even with only one random opener on the bill, they’re still worth the trip down to Shockoe Bottom all by themselves. I have no idea who Dweebs are, but I’m pretty sure they’re not the ridiculous-seeming family band from Wisconsin that keeps showing up on google searches… I guess we’ll all find out together! And then Phlegm will run us over and it’ll be awesome.
Tuesday, February 6, 6:30 PM
Tiny Moving Parts, Mom Jeans, Oso Oso @ The Camel – $13 in advance/$15 at the door (order tickets HERE)
OK yes, Tiny Moving Parts have been to Richmond within the past nine months or so, and yes, I sent you to that show too, but OMG I’m still so excited about this, because they have a new album out and it’s probably the best thing they’ve done to date. Considering how much I loved 2016’s Celebrate, that’s a strong recommendation to say the least, but seriously, Swell (which came out just last Friday) is even MORE crammed with indelible melodies than the last album, and still hits that same level of passionate emotional intensity. And on top of all that, I feel like it’s even more energetic and bouncy… basically, what I’m telling you is that this already-great band got better in every way.
Is that enough to get you in the door at The Camel on Tuesday night? Or do you need even more? Well, if you’re on the latter side of things, the fact that Mom Jeans is on this bill will surely sway you. At least I’d hope so. This melodic emo band has a bit more of a lovelorn feel than Tiny Moving Parts, but between their name and the fact that they recently followed up their debut LP, Best Buds, with a three-way split EP called NOW That’s What I Call Music Vol. 420, it’s clear that they have a sense of humor as well. In the world of emo, that can be a pretty difficult quantity to come by, so whoever’s gonna lay it on us at any point is a welcome presence on a bill that, in all honesty, is gonna see 90 percent of attendees getting all choked up at some point. Openers Oso Oso (“bear bear” in English) bring some more upbeat punky sounds to the whole emo thing, so while all of these bands will tug at your heartstrings, none of them will take quite the same musical approach to do so. Variety is, after all, the spice of life.
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@example.com [yes, my email is through GayRVA, don’t get weird about it]
Top photo by xKgB Productions