Sunday, September 15, 7 PM
Swordplay, PT Burnem, Blackliq, Killroy G, D R O N E S @ Gallery 5 – $5 in advance/$7 day of show (order tickets HERE)
It’s always nice when a prodigal Richmond musician returns home, and that’s what’ll be happening at Gallery 5 this Sunday as Swordplay hits Richmond once again to celebrate the release of his latest album, Paperwork. The rapper who last made a mark on the Richmond scene with his 2013 LP Tap Water has been living on the West Coast for over four years now, and he returns to Richmond having received a law degree from Berkeley. Not bad, right?
While Paperwork isn’t technically Swordplay’s first release in six years — a reissue of a 2009 CD-R release (remember those?) called Malista came out on cassette (we would have said “remember those?” about cassettes in 2009) earlier this year on MilledPavement Records — it is the first real new material from Swordplay in over half a decade, and shows quite a bit of growth since Tap Water, even as it retains all the qualities that made previous Swordplay albums so great: forthright emotion, complex and irreverent wordplay, acoustic and melodic touches mixing with pounding boom-bap beats to keep you dancing.
It’s always nice to see what’s been up with someone we haven’t been in touch with for a while. On Paperwork, Swordplay makes clear that he’s still doing well. And for his release party at Gallery 5, he’ll be gathering together a whole bunch of old friends to remind us all what we’ve been missing. He’s joined by some frequent collaborators, including the illustrious and always furiously political PT Burnem and the introspective and talented producer Erik Akers, aka D R O N E S. Sets from veteran Richmond emcee Blackliq and recent up-and-comer Killroy G will round out this bill with some serious rhyme fire. Get ready.
Wednesday, September 11, 8 PM
John Cage’s Musicircus, curated by Brian Jones, Justin Alexander, Antonio Garcia; feat. Suzi Fischer, Pinson Chanselle, Scott Burton, Reggie Pace, Zach Ware, Justin McConchie, Colleen Thorburn, Tony Martucci @ WE Singleton Center For The Performing Arts – Free!
It’s the middle of the week and we could all use something different. But over at VCU’s WE Singleton Center For The Performing Arts, some music-department faculty are getting together with a bunch of notable Richmond musicians to find out just how different things can get. Tonight they’ll all be gathering to perform John Cage’s Musicircus, one of many conceptual pieces created by 20th century experimental composer John Cage, who is most famous for “4’33” (yeah, the totally silent song).
This Cage piece is not silent at all, but instead described as a situation in which any number of musicians are gathered together in the same place at the same time and instructed to play whatever they want, without regard to what anyone else is playing, for at least an hour. If you’re imagining a wall of absolute noise chaos, you’re on the right track — but the whole reason Cage came up with the idea was to get people to look beyond the wall of noise and find the interesting juxtapositions that exist within. With members of the Spacebomb house band, No BS! Brass Band, Luray, The Big Payback, Agents Of Good Roots, and many more talented local musicians involved in this particular performance, potential is high for some amazing sounds to come out of it. Listen closely.
Thursday, September 12, 8 PM
Hand Out, W I S H, Midlife Pilot @ Bandito’s – Free!
Going to free shows is never a bad idea — even if you’ve never heard the bands involved. Take this one, for example — before I checked out the event page for this free show at Bandito’s, I had no idea who Hand Out are. Now that I’m familiar with this New Orleans-based melodic punk quartet, I’m giving this show highest marks. Hand Out’s 2018 EP, Blood & Water, was already pretty great, and they took things to an even higher level of excellence on their split EP with Ghostpool, released earlier this year.
Having spent some time with Hand Out’s ringing guitars, excellent vocal harmonies, and driving tempos, I’d say that they’d be worth paying a significant sum to see live. But hey, at Bandito’s this Thursday, you get to see them for free! You’d be a fool to turn that deal down, especially with local shoegazers W I S H and catchy Richmond pop-punkers Midlife Pilot on the bill as well. Plus — like I’m always telling you with Bandito’s shows — you can use the money you would have spent on admission to buy a big delicious plate of nachos. There’s nothing not awesome about that.
Friday, September 13, 7 PM
Max Gowan, Coy Pond, BigDumbBaby @ Black Iris – $5-10 suggested donation
The experimental sounds that were a regular occurrence at Black Iris a year or so ago have mostly died away or found other places to land, but this Friday night event shows that this gallery hasn’t entirely turned away from live performance — always a nice thing to learn in a city where finding a place to catch live music can sometimes be a challenge. What’s really nice is the sounds Black Iris is bringing us this Friday, mainly from DC songwriter Max Gowan.
Gowan sometimes performs under the name Max Gowan And The, which should tell you a little bit about how he operates. Bygones, the LP he released earlier this year, is full of quietly beautiful acoustic pop tunes that sound like they were recorded in a very private ad-hoc space (a bedroom, perhaps?), but glow with perfect melodies that shine in the slightly experimental context in which they exist. This sort of music may experience an interesting transition into the live environment; indeed, this may be the sort of show that everyone will get the most out of if everyone is very very quiet. But that doesn’t mean you should skip it — quite the contrary. Gowan has a lot to offer, and the fact that you might have to listen closely only makes the eventual payoff that much more rewarding.
Saturday, September 14, 9 PM
Grebes, Nicomo, Moons @ The Dark Room – $5
I haven’t heard much about Richmond-based singer-songwriter project Grebes, and apparently I’ve been missing out. A solo creation from Jacob Ungerleider, who previously played in Natalie Prass’s backing band, Grebes is a keyboard-driven powerhouse of quietly soulful indie pop sounds. They demonstrate their facility with that style on debut LP House Creature, which was released earlier this year, and if you dig the idea of The Beatles jamming with Marvin Gaye in the wee small hours of the morning, you’re going to want to dig into this one.
You’re also going to want to come check out New York trio Nicomo, the Nico Osborne-led trio who just released their latest EP, Views, last month. Its six songs showcase Osborne’s songwriting prowess, and the group’s charming folkish sound, which also mixes in unusual instruments and field recordings to add a bit more texture — though who knows how such things will come off in the live environment. Regardless, it should be lovely. Richmond-based opener Moons will add some texture to the evening with some Hendrix-inspired psych-rock jams to get your night started right.
Sunday, September 15, 9 PM
Serial Hawk, Druglord, Scaphe @ Wonderland – $10
This show is for all you intellectual post-metallers who enjoy slow-motion headbangs but get more stoked when you’re afforded an opportunity for contemplation of sheer riff majesty. Serial Hawk, an epic quartet who mix Isis-style moments of mood with brutal slow-motion pound and outright noise like Windhand jamming with Neurosis, are sure to please your ears when they pound hairline cracks into the Shockoe Bottom sidewalks outside Wonderland this Sunday night.
On tour behind their brand new double LP, Static Apnea, Serial Hawk are bringing an intriguingly complex and less-than-predictable approach to the intersection of two genres — post-metal and doom — which in 2019 can both feel very played out in less capable hands. Serial Hawk will remind you of why you loved all this music in the first place, and they’ll do so while blowing your mind (and your eardrums). They’ll be joined in this by Minnesota ragers Scaphe, who up the tempo and the noise for their complex and scathing two-piece approach. Richmond stoner heroes Druglord will kick the evening off with a set of hazy proto-metal dirges sure to put you in the proper mood for an evening of powerful noise.
Monday, September 16, 9 PM
Triptides, Flaural @ Cary Street Cafe – $10
A name like Triptides might lead you to expect some pretty straightforward jam-band action, but this California crew who are pulling into Richmond for the very first time are much more complicated than all that. Rather than dipping into the Deadhead sound that constitutes the usual brew for everyone’s favorite hippie hangout, Cary Street Cafe, this group takes a left turn into technicolor psychedelic pop.
On latest LP Visitors, Triptides bust out a powerful sound that harks back to some of the best acid trips pressed to vinyl over the past half-century — Innerspeaker, Incense & Peppermints, Skylarking, Magical Mystery Tour, and more all shine through the sounds dished out by this excellent group of psychedelic rangers. Denver’s Flaural are also on the bill, and bring a similarly acid-soaked psychedelic pop style into play; though they may be a bit more grounded in melody, their sound constitutes the perfect pairing with Triptides’ glorious musical space travels. Catch both of them this Monday night, and take a trip into the center of your mind.
Tuesday, September 17, 7:30 PM
Rising Revolution, Finding Verona, Sun Against Artemis, Militia @ The Camel – $5 in advance/$7 day of show (order tickets HERE)
OK, this is going to be a lot of fun — especially since I didn’t think this kind of thing happened anymore. By “this kind of thing,” I mean random shows bringing together a variety of surprisingly young rock bands from the outer edges of the Richmond suburbs — which are very far out indeed in 2019. Rising Revolution headline this show, and this symphonic power metal group have an entire fictional backstory built up around their band which sounds straight out of Blade Runner, or maybe a Coheed And Cambria record.
Rising Revolution are serious about their symphonic chops, leaning into the sort of operatic vocals and baroque guitar leads that make bands like Dragonforce so entertaining. Meanwhile, Flaming Verona, who hail from out Louisa way and are one of two bands on this show whose only internet presence is an Instagram account (#generationz), are going for more of a Killswitch Engage/All That Remains metalcore-with-emphasis-on-metal thing. Sun Against Artemis have a 70s proto-metal thing going on that makes me think of Deep Purple crossed with first-LP Heart, and Militia are clearly going for some 80s thrash sounds. But what really makes all of them interesting is how young and fresh-faced they are — if most of these bands are too young to drive, I wouldn’t be surprised. How wild is that? The kids are still out there doing it. Get down with it.
Elsewhere Around the State:
Saturday, September 14, 7:30 PM
The Appleseed Cast, Muscle Worship, Long Division @ Charlie’s American Cafe – $15 (order tickets HERE)
The Appleseed Cast have been one of the longer-lived midwestern emo bands to come out of the late 90s emo scene that also produced bands like Braid, American Football, and The Jazz June. They also have managed to stay relatively consistent across a 20-year history that’s seen them endure quite a few lineup changes. At this point, singer-guitarist Christopher Crisci is the only original member that remains, but as the band has always been fueled by his creative choices, that’s not a bad thing.
This summer saw The Appleseed Cast release their eighth album and first in six years, The Fleeting Light Of Impermanence. And if you loved their atmospheric, progressive take on an emo sound that often strayed well into post-rock territory, it’s sure to make you smile just as much as previous efforts have. Crisci’s vocals retain the power to evoke both vulnerability and extreme beauty, and the soaring guitar melodies and powerful drumming only underscore the fact that The Appleseed Cast are still at the top of their game after two decades. How amazing is that going to be in the live setting? It’s certainly worth quite a bit more than the admission price you’ll pay to find out.
Monday, September 16, 5:30 PM
Soulfly, Unearth, Incite, Prison, Arrival Of Autumn @ The NorVA – $21.50 in advance/$25 at the door (order tickets HERE)
Back when Max Cavalera left Sepultura at the height of their fame to form Soulfly, it seemed like the legendarily riff-obsessed guitarist may have screwed up. Now, 20 years later, it’s clear that Cavalera’s choice just managed to create two great brutal thrash bands out of what had been only one. Which is a pretty excellent result, if you think about it. On 2018’s Ritual, the 11th Soulfly album, Cavalera and his crew of metal ragers — which currently includes his son Zyon on drums — show that they can still crank out powerful riffs with a strong Brazilian tribal influence and some serious groove power, just as they always have.
Long-running Boston metalcore rippers Unearth are also on this bill, and have quite a strong track record in their own right. Seventh album Extinction(s), released late last year, shows that Unearth have remained consistently talented at both metal shredding and serious mosh brutality. They’re sure to get the pit raging at the NorVA once they hit the stage. In addition to these two legends of metal rage, this bill also features a few talented members of the younger generation, most notably Phoenix metalcore headbangers Incite. Floridian relative newcomers Prison and Canada thrashers Arrival Of Autumn round out a bill full of serious metal. Get ready.
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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