Friday, February 16, 8 PM
Kenneka Cook, The Flavor Project, Keilan Creech @ The Camel – $8 in advance/$10 day of show (order tickets HERE)
Sometimes a wave is happening that you just can’t deny or ignore. Kenneka Cook is riding one of those waves to total dominance over the RVA music scene right now, and we’re lucky enough to get swept away in the tide. Her debut album, Moonchild, will be dropping this Friday, and she’ll be celebrating that release with a big ol’ party over at The Camel. Join the fun — it’ll be THE live music event of the season, guaranteed!
Moonchild comes from American Paradox Records, and the collaboration between Ms. Cook and American Paradox head Scott Lane (The Congress) has borne fruit in a big way with this release. Cook’s initial rise to dominance in the local scene was driven by the unusual, unforgettable combo of her soulful jazz vocals and her multilayered programmed loops, but Lane got her into working with a full band, and brought in an all-star ensemble featuring members of Butcher Brown, KINGS, No BS! Brass Band, and more to give her gorgeous songs a fuller, more traditional backing. The resulting album encompasses both sounds, bringing powerful jazzy blues vibes on full-band tracks like excellent single “My Universe,” while Cook’s playful cover of Vampire Weekend’s “The Kids Don’t Stand A Chance” showcases the full range of her looping abilities.
Friday night’s live performance will aim to split the difference between these two sounds, as Cook is joined onstage by a stripped-down combo featuring Lane, who not only released but also produced Moonchild, on bass, along with pianist Calvin Brown and drummer Josh McCormick. One can imagine that Cook’s looping equipment will get its time in the spotlight too, though the full extent of the wonders on display won’t be realized until she takes the stage. Regardless, you’re going to want to be there. Bring a couple extra bucks to pick up a brand new copy of Moonchild for yourself, and arrive on time so you can catch opening jams from Gabriel Santamaria and Armando Munoz’s ever-growing funk ensemble, The Flavor Project, as well as from introspective singer-songwriter Keilan Creech. Don’t miss it.
Wednesday, February 14, 7:30 PM
Sweethearts at The Camel, feat. Angelica Garcia, Erin And The Wildfire, Deau Eyes @ The Camel – $8 (order tickets HERE)
The night before Valentine’s Day was the night for the single-and-lonely folks to get their time in the spotlight over at The Camel. But now, it’s Valentine’s Day, and The Camel has turned this night over to the lovers with an evening of sweet music from some of the most talented musicians this town has to offer! Is it really any surprise that all of them happen to be female? I guess that depends on who you ask, but if you’re asking me, I’d say it’s just about the least surprising element of all this.
After all, Angelica Garcia is guaranteed to open your eyes wide with her spunky, energetic rock n’ soul, which mixes melodic mastery with wry lyrics that’ll draw a chuckle of recognition from us all. She’s gotten a lot of press, and released an album on a major label, but RVA still seems to be sleeping on her a bit. This is a great time to change that. C-ville ensemble Erin And The Wildfire rocked a lot of asses around town with their latest album, Thirst, which brings a lot of funk for a group I’d previously written off as a folky jam band. Oops! Don’t make that same mistake, y’all — come find out what this band has to offer. The bill is rounded out by Deau Eyes, who’s gone from not being on my radar at all to seemingly being everywhere within the past few months; I’ve got to figure that’s due to the sheer strength of her alt-rock songcraft, which really is bulletproof. Be a sweetheart, reader — go to the Camel tonight and delight in all these wonderful sounds. Bring a date! This time you won’t get charged extra.
Thursday, February 15, 9 PM
Mistaker, On The Cinder, Smoke Break @ Wonderland – $5
Wonderland is still Shockoe Bottom’s home for punk rock, and if you can keep your ear to the ground consistently enough to keep up with what sort of musical entertainment they’re offering to the city, you’re going to catch a lot of incredible shows. This Thursday night sees yet another one rolling down to the Bottom, and just because it’s not the weekend quite yet is no reason to stay closer to home. Mistaker is the latest band from the crew of Southside boys that brought you Top Heavy and Before Falling in the past. They’re older, they’re wiser, and they’re developing a surprisingly mature and introspective side that leavens their party-punk crunch with melody and emotion. They’ll strike a chord with you whether you’re a punk rock rookie or a jaded lifer.
On The Cinder is our touring band for this night, and they come to us from Buffalo, NY, with a sound that’s both speedy and catchy. Debut LP The Fight Against Ourselves came out back in 2016, and the band’s planning on releasing another one this year, so they’re sure to be chock-full of killer riffs when they hit town! It’ll be a real treat — their melodic hardcore sound kicks more butt than anything out of Buffalo since the second Goo Goo Dolls album. (If you think that’s a joke, go google the second Goo Goo Dolls album. I’ll wait.) Smoke Break kicks things off, with members of Hold Tight, Close Talker, and Springtime getting down with some of that old-school speedy pop-punk for fans of Crimpshrine and J Church (google them too). This one is gonna be a ton of fun, so deal with the strenuous bike ride home afterward — it’ll be worth it.
Friday, February 16, 7 PM
Perpetuated, Crucial Rip, Faded, World Peace, Under Broken Skies @ Lakeside Tavern – $8
Oh look, the Lakeside Tavern survived their first metal show! And not only that, but they weathered it well enough to host another one! Maybe some local headbangers have really found a good thing here. Either way, let’s enjoy it while it lasts, shall we? This Friday night throwdown sees DC’s Perpetuated coming to town with some gloomy, doomy death metal that’ll slowly (and sometimes speedily) rip all our heads off. Who doesn’t love that? They’re joined by fellow District of Columbians World Peace, who are coming at things from more of a crossover approach, mixing chunky metal riffs and the occasional blastbeat with some raw d-beat hardcore stylings to create a storming sound that’s sure to please all the black-denim-vested among you.
That’s not the entirety of the out-of-town bands on this lineup either, as VA Beach’s Faded are also on board for this extravaganza. Their sound is a welcome return to that early 90s metallic hardcore style that brought us other great Hampton Roads hardcore bands like Mayday and Jesuit. Squeals and chugs everywhere, I love it — and the headbangers will too! All you headbangers will want to be here, too, as local gore-metallers Crucial Rip are on the scene with guttural, gurgling vocals and double bass rumble aplenty. Newcomers Under Broken Skies round things out with some brutality that splits the difference between the more metallic bands on this bill and the more hardcore-derived. These genres have a lot more in common than you may think, y’all, so whichever you swear allegiance to, you should definitely be in Lakeside Friday night banging your head.
Saturday, February 17, 7 PM
Superchunk, Bat Fangs @ The Broadberry – $20 in advance/$25 day of show (order tickets HERE)
Sure is great to see Superchunk still going strong after nearly 30 years. I myself got really into them when I was in high school, and they were the first band I ever saw live. 26 years after that fateful show, I’m still going to shows, and they’re still playing them. And unlike a lot of other bands one could say similar things about, Superchunk are still really good! This year sees the release of What A Time To Be Alive, the third Superchunk LP since the band returned to action earlier this decade and their 12th overall.
The band members are solidly into their 40s these days, with different concerns and frustrations than animated them back at the dawn of the 90s when they were barely out of college, but between the political clusterfuck dominating this country and the depressing realities that accompany getting older and realizing that life doesn’t get any easier, they’ve still got plenty to rage about. Planned Parenthood-benefiting single “I Got Cut” is a particularly solid slice of killer melodic punk, with plenty of vitriol lying just beneath the surface. They’re not as young as they once were (and god knows neither am I), so they may not bounce around the stage quite as frenetically as they once did, but they’ll still rock your socks off. Missing Superchunk in 2018 is just as bad a life decision as missing Superchunk in 1992 would have been; don’t do it.
Sunday, February 18, 6 PM
I Set My Friends On Fire, Kissing Candice, Awaken I Am, .gif From God, Smoke Signals @ The Camel – $13 in advance/$15 at the door (order tickets HERE)
Haha oh my goodness. I kinda can’t believe this is happening, but apparently I Set My Friends On Fire are on tour celebrating the 10th anniversary of their full-length debut, You Can’t Spell Slaughter Without Laughter. This goofy, critically reviled slab of bizarreness took the whole Genghis Tron/Horse The Band Nintendo-core formula in a direction that mixed in emo melodies and random shots of death metal to create a genre-fucked mess that seemed to make everyone over 18 at the time want to retch. That said, all those teenage MySpace metalcore kids are in their mid-20s now, and I suppose it only makes sense that even bands like this will have their moment of trimphant resurgence.
So is it worth reassessing I Set My Friends On Fire? Absolutely! Honestly, in a world that has seen bands like Brokencyde and Attila come to the fore, it’s clear that we just had no idea what we were in for back in those halcyon days of 2008. Had we but known, we might have celebrated the honestly catchy choruses on tracks like “Things That Rhyme With Orange,” and tried to understand why the heck sudden Cookie-Monster-style growls seemed appropriate to throw right into the middle of those, rather than just writing it all off as an adolescent mess. Chances are it’ll really connect in a live setting, especially since those chunky riffs are bound to be the loudest and hit the hardest. Maybe it’ll even help the adolescent humor and mawkish sincerity that seem to equally co-exist against all odds within I Set My Friends On Fire’s music to finally make sense to everyone who’d safely exited their teen years by the time MySpace was a thing. If nothing else, it’ll be entertaining, and will certainly be less predictable and comforting than anything else you could be doing on a Sunday night.
Monday, February 19, 8 PM
Mirrors For Psychic Warfare, Coteries, Dark Hollow Falls @ Strange Matter – $10 in advance/$12 day of show (order tickets HERE)
If you’ve been following the career of Neurosis for a while, you know that despite ostensibly existing in the world as a metal band with punk roots, they are prone to some serious weirdness. The same is true of Sanford Parker, the sludge-metal musician and producer who first came across my personal radar due to his involvement with Nachtmystium. Parker and Neurosis’s Scott Kelly first joined together for the Corrections House project, which also involves members of Eyehategod and Yakuza. However, a few years ago, they started Mirrors For Psychic Warfare, another collaborative project featuring just the two of them, in order to explore the landscape of sleepless nights.
Both on their debut EP and on their self-titled full-length album, released in 2016, Mirrors For Psychic Warfare do an excellent job of musically representing insomnia-fueled terror and the misery of lying awake in bed during the wee hours of the morning. Foreboding ambient hums, atmospheric soundscapes, and dark, downtuned guitar riffs work together to creep you the heck out in the same deliciously frightening manner that the best horror movies operate. How this will work in a darkened club full of contemplative metalheads remains to be seen, but we anticipate a Sunn 0)))-like vibe, though perhaps with less fog (and maybe a touch less volume… but only a touch). As live music goes, this one will be an experience, and it’s one you should look forward to having, assuming you know the terrifying joy of a watching a really great horror movie alone in the dark.
Tuesday, February 20, 8 PM
Dog Lagoon, Rare Colors, Nightcreature, Weird Tears @ Strange Matter – $5
It feels like almost every week I am writing about Strange Matter’s ongoing Locals Only series, and if that doesn’t tell you they are doing something right over there, I don’t know what will. The presence of Dog Lagoon at the top of this bill might help, though — this relatively new RVA band certainly has turned some heads with their recent EP, Moneyball. The absolutely killer A-side, “I Don’t Smoke,” resembles the long-gone and fondly remembered VA emo-punk trio Algebra One (or we can just say Jawbreaker, for you young-uns), and is an excellent anthem for the awkward post-teens of the new millennium.
There’s plenty more where that came from, too, so if you show up to this show just to see Dog Lagoon, we’d kinda understand. However, there’s a lot more for you to get down with on this bill, starting with Rare Colors. This synth-fueled band sees former members of Flechette and White Laces embracing the synth-tronic ambient pop that fellow ex-White Laces group Opin has also moved towards, but with a stronger emotional edge and an early 80s haze that lands on that fuzzy dividing line between New Wave and goth. It’s hypnotic, it’s ethereal, it’s absolutely worth your time. The bill is rounded out by a couple of newer projects, including Nightcreature, which emerges from the ashes of the You Go Girls, and Weird Tears, which sees members of the Cherry Pits returning to action with what one can only imagine will be another heaping helping of garage-pop greatness. Let’s find out together.
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] [yes, my email is through GayRVA, don’t get weird about it]
Top image by Vivienne Lee