Saturday, July 9, 7:30 PM
Ms. Jaylin Brown, Rebekah Rafferty and The Wakes, Kenneka Cook @ Gallery 5 – $10 (order tickets HERE)
Music is too damn predictable sometimes. It might not seem that way to you, the casual reader of this column, but when you spend eight years of your life doing deep dives into the work of something like five dozen different musicians every single week, after a while, everything starts feeling pretty samey. Another raging metal group, another acoustic indie-folk project, another street-level rapper. You might enjoy it — you might even LOVE it. But it’s not really ever NEW, is it?
It’s incredibly rare that something comes along that really throws me for a loop, leaves me all like, “Whoa, I didn’t expect THAT.” But this is a rare week, because Ms. Jaylin Brown — who is celebrating the release of her brand new EP, Take It Easy, at Gallery 5 this Saturday — did exactly that. I’m not saying she reinvented the wheel or anything, or that her new EP is completely untraceable to conventional music history. It’s not that at all; from old-time blues and folk singers (Bessie Smith, Odetta) to torch singers of the mid-20th century jazz scene (Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald), to neo-soul balladeers of the millennial era (Lauryn Hill, Erykah Badu), all the influences that might have come together to create what Ms. Jaylin Brown is doing are pretty apparent once you listen to her music.
Nonetheless, the music she’s creating is very much out of left field in terms of today’s music scene. Softly plucked electric guitar strings creating an ultra-minimal musical bed for powerful, virtuosic vocals that explore poetic flights of fancy and even dip into scat-singing on occasion, while also integrating collaborations with talented poets? Where else is that happening? If it is, anywhere, I haven’t caught onto it yet. And that’s probably the most rare and intriguing thing I can offer you in one of these columns — an artist who is completely unique on the Richmond music scene in 2022. So go see Ms. Jaylin Brown at Gallery 5 this Saturday, and pick up a copy of her new EP while you’re at it. Revel in the opportunity to experience an artist who you almost certainly did not see coming.
Wednesday, July 6, 9 PM
Sissy Spacek X Suppression, No/Mas, Erick Van Ficken @ Fuzzy Cactus – $12
I hope you’re not expecting this writeup to have anything to do with the star of Coal Miner’s Daughter. Spoiler: it doesn’t. Sissy Spacek — this Sissy Spacek — is a noise project led by extreme noise legend John Wiese and fellow noise artist Charlie Mumma. It’s integrated a variety of other musicians over the years; indeed, on the Philadelphia show of their current tour, they’ll expand to a three-piece by adding experimental guitarist Bill Nace. Here in Richmond, though, they’ll be playing a collaborative set with our own legendary noisemakers: Suppression.
Suppression, led by bass-wielding maniac Jason Hodges, has been around in one form or another for over three decades, and in its current form, pairing Hodges and genius drummer Ryan Parrish, has existed for over 20 years. During that time, they’ve played everything from Butthole Surfers-ish noise-rock to blurry shit-fi grindcore. In that way, they have a lot in common with Sissy Spacek, whose three 2020 releases veer from chaotic power-violence (Featureless Thermal Equilibrium) to harsh, screeching noise (Besiege) to percussion-focused, psychedelic free jazz (Prismatic Parameter). What will happen when these two duos, made up of four brilliant, off-kilter musical minds, come together as one? Well, it’ll probably be harsh and chaotic, most likely very fast… beyond that, you’ll pretty much have to head to Fuzzy Cactus and see for yourself. Believe me, it will be worth the trip.
Thursday, July 7, 7 PM
Horse Jumper Of Love, Strange Ranger, They Are Gutting A Body Of Water, Shormey @ The Camel – $15 in advance, $18 day of show (order tickets HERE)
A lot of shows have gotten canceled at the last minute over the past nine months or so, as the music scene tries to figure out how to keep pace with the harsh realities of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. I couldn’t help but think when I saw this one on the list, “Isn’t this some sort of make-up date?” Maybe that’s sorta true — Horse Jumper Of Love were supposed to come to Richmond back in January. But even if they had made it, I’d still be sending you to see them all over again this Thursday, because since that January date, this Boston trio have graced the world with a new album, their first in three years. Natural Part is an intriguing listen even for those who have previously enjoyed this band’s work, as it takes things in a number of new directions. Their tendency to integrate Neil Young & Crazy Horse-style riffs with slowcore tempos a la Codiene (by which I mean the band, not the drug. Then again, maybe I mean both) has met with an increased melodic sense that can’t help bring to mind the work of Red House Painters.
So yeah, Horse Jumper Of Love are taking an already established, excellent sound in some intriguing new directions on their new album, and that’s definitely something both seasoned fans and newcomers looking for the right time to jump on the bandwagon should look into. What’s more, the bill this time around brings us some equally intriguing opening acts. I absolutely have to mention Philadelphia’s They Are Gutting A Body Of Water, whose Dinosaur Jr.-ish grunge-gaze sound is just as enjoyable as their truly unique, SEO-friendly name. 2019’s Destiny XL is a great listen, one that is sure to come alive in the live environment at the Camel on Thursday night. New Yorkers Strange Ranger pull in a strong post-punk/early New Wave vibe that immediately conjures images of darkened dance floors surrounded by bright neon tubes, though there’s also an undeniable folk-pop undercurrent running through what they do. So that’s certainly fascinating. And of course, Richmonders should already know how great the psychedelic electro-pop of Shormey is — we’ve had plenty of opportunities to learn over the past several years. Of course, if you don’t know what I’m talking about, you’re gonna need to not only go to this show, but show up as soon as doors open so that you don’t miss a minute of Shormey’s set. Hey, I don’t make the rules.
Friday, July 8, 9 PM
Ett Eko, Weak Signal, Material Boy @ Fuzzy Cactus – $10
Look, I’m just gonna lay my cards on the table: I don’t know a whole lot about what to expect from this show, musically speaking. Not many people do; after all, this is brand-new Richmond band Ett Eko’s first live performance ever. This trio, whose name appears to be a shortening of the Swedish word for “ecosystem” (but that’s just a guess), brings together members from three different past Richmond bands, all of which were excellent. Kenny Close and Keith Renna were the guitarist and drummer for Positive No, whose outstanding melodic indie/alt-rock sound was some of the best music to come out of this city during the 2010s. And Michael Harl, who rounds out the trio, has laid out his psychedelic post-punk credentials as the guitarist and vocalist for departed Richmond ensembles Canary Oh Canary and Manzara.
If that right there isn’t enough to make you want to see Ett Eko’s first show, then I have to figure you just moved to town. In which case: trust me — these are very talented people. You will want to see what they come up with. And Weak Signal, who hail from New York city, certainly offer a powerful inducement of their own to make it out to this show. On their new album, War&War, they channel the Dream Syndicate, the Velvet Underground, Galaxie 500, Brian Jonestown Massacre, and a variety of other hazy, psychedelic projects in order to create a hypnotic post-punk wall of glorious noise. It’s sure to be especially brilliant in the live environment with the amps cranked up really high and the vibe just right. So yeah — come out to this show, open up your third eye, and let the music blow your mind.
Saturday, July 9, 7 PM
Merciful Zero, Wax Brain, Almost Honest, Small Bones @ Garden Grove Brewing – Free!
It’s a night of doom at Garden Grove! But don’t worry, the craft brews aren’t poisoned — the theme is a musical one. And since we all lived through the late 00s and early 10s, I’m sure we all know what to expect when bands are referred to as “doom” — slow, sludgy post-Sabbath riffs, alternating with mid-70s Camaro-rattling stoner intensity. Indeed, just to put a finer pinpoint on the whole thing, West Virginia’s Wax Brain, one of the two touring acts on this free four-band bill, open their latest album, Hive Mind, with a track that quotes the tiniest portion of Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man” riff as part of its main verse. But don’t worry — this album, and by extension this show, have quite a lot to offer beyond biker-metal riff rehash. Wax Brain certainly don’t mind cranking tempos up to downright punk velocity at times, and there’s a fair amount of shred-tastic metal thrashing happening in their riffs as well. They’ve even got a few outright mosh parts that will hopefully get the jean-jacket heshers doing their first circle pit in years at this show.
As for Almost Honest, the Pennsylvania-based trio who constitute the other half of the touring duo on this bill, they’ve got a strong dose of power metal working through their particular riff salad on 2019’s Seiches And Sirens, as if Iron Maiden had taken a good bit more from Black Sabbath than they did from early Judas Priest. They’ve got a strong melodic sense, too, which makes all their riffs catchy as hell. So yeah, between these two bands, you can be sure you’re getting a refreshing take on doom-metal affiliated sounds that won’t just put you to sleep. Local fantasy-metal stoners Merciful Zero and vaguely post-hardcore stoner-rockers Small Bones round out this bill with a double dose of local metal power. It’s gonna be a great way to spend your Saturday night, and best of all… yup, the price is certainly right.
Sunday, July 10, 8 PM
Grassy Sound, Scott Burton’s Exploitation Cinema @ Artspace – $15
I love how wide open the world of jazz is. Your band isn’t your entire identity, and it seems you’re always free to put together any project that interests you with pretty much anyone else in the scene who wants to rock with you. It’s that freewheeling spirit that is showcased in Grassy Sound, a new duo that pairs guitarist Nick Millevoi, best known for his work in Desertion Trio, with pianist Ron Stabinsky, who has played with the Meat Puppets and the Peter Evans Quintet. While Desertion Trio have a heavy, rock-informed approach to jazz, Grassy Sound showcases Nick Millevoi’s interest in things like surf rock, Hollywood cowboy-movie instrumentals, and the “space age bachelor pad” music of 60s weirdo greats like Esquivel. On the duo’s forthcoming debut album, The Sounds Of… Grassy Sound, Stabinsky’s organ makes carnival sounds as Millevoi veers from Hawaiian steel guitar swells to Dick Dale-style surf shredding. The result is immensely entertaining, and should be even moreso from the stage at Artspace.
Meanwhile, the always-exploratory nature of Richmond jazz guitarist Scott Burton sees him opening up a new rabbit hole to dive down for this performance, with the first live appearance of his latest solo endeavor, Scott Burton’s Exploitation Cinema. Influenced by Burton’s love of dark underground films and their equally dark soundtracks, Burton arranges tunes he’s picked up from his filmic explorations and rearranges them for solo guitar, bringing new possibilities out of the scores for extreme film classics like John Woo’s The Killer, or the notorious not-actually-a-snuff-film (but it fooled a lot of people) Cannibal Holocaust. All you grindhouse nerds out there (don’t worry, I count myself among your number), take special note of this one.
Monday, July 11, 8 PM
Floral, Elaine The Singer, Night Idea, Dumb Waiter @ The Camel – $12 (order tickets HERE)
Attention all Richmond music heads: if you’re a big fan of math-rock, you should already have marked your calendars for this one, since it features performances by two of the best local math-rock combos we have here in the river city. Dumb Waiter’s fresh off their latest album, Gauche Gists, and are sure to be excellent, while these days it’s a treat whenever Night Idea plays a show at all. But look — we all already know those two bands are great. What about the other two on this Monday night Camel bill? Are they worth sticking around for?
If you asked this question, then shook up your Magic 8-Ball, it would tell you “It is decidedly so.” For one thing, Floral are an excellent instrumental math-rock duo from San Francisco who generate enough beautiful melodic chaos on their 2020 self-titled album to trick you into thinking they aren’t a duo at all. However, it’s really true — that’s just one guitar player doing all that string tangling. And if you find the intricacies of musical composition at all interesting, you’re certainly going to want to see how the heck he manages to generate that many notes per second. Am I right? Yeah, you know it. Meanwhile, Elaine The Singer has the kind of name that might make you worry you’re about to see some random lady from the neighborhood do the same Billie Holiday song she always does at the corner bar’s karaoke night. But it’s not true! Instead, Elaine The Singer is a Floral side project that sees these instrumental talents get hard and heavy in a manner that should remind Richmond music scene vets of past Pen Rollings projects like Breadwinner and Loincloth. And listen — I don’t evoke the name of Pen lightly. So you know this is something well worth hearing. Get there.
Tuesday, July 12, 7 PM
Virginia Man, Trout Baseline @ The Camel – $12 in advance, $15 day of show (order tickets HERE)
Does anyone else hear the name “Virginia Man” and think that it must refer to some local version of the notorious “Florida Man,” the anonymous resident of that swampy Southern state who always seems to be in some sort of cartoonish legal trouble? I could sit here and contemplate what sort of hijinks the Virginia version of “Florida Man” would be getting up to, but that’s actually not a productive use of my time. You see, the Virginia Man in question isn’t a ne’er-do-well miscreant at all, but instead the name of a Fredericksburg-based rock band with a sensitive sound and a strong melodic sense. They’re playing at The Camel every Tuesday night in July, making this the second of four Richmond shows they’ll play this month. So hey, why not talk about this one?
Why not indeed? Virginia Man are currently supporting a lovely new single called “Snow In The Desert,” which shows off the more introspective, emotionally oriented aspects of their music. Meanwhile, their previous release was a live acoustic session version of Tom Petty’s legendary hit single, “Runnin’ Down A Dream.” And of course, 2020 saw the release of their only full-length album thus far, Sad But True. From the quiet, moody sound of acoustic track “I Don’t Really Mind” to the gorgeous 80s-pop inflections of album opener “Forgive Me (Hide and Seek),” Sad But True is full of gems. This Virginia Man is on quite a run at the moment — and not from the cops, either. You can find them at The Camel this Tuesday night, making some beautiful music. They’d love to see you. (And no, they’re not holding.)
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]
Top Photo by Keshia Eugene