Friday, January 14, 6:30 PM
Dwight Yoakam, Reid Haughton @ The National – $45-$52.50 (order tickets HERE)
Every week I start the column with it, and every week I say it’s for the last time. Let’s stop kidding ourselves. I’m gonna bring up COVID to start this one, and it’s not the last time. If you’re fully vaxxed AND boosted, you might be OK to go to shows these days, maybe even without a mask… but I’m not a doctor, nothing’s for certain, and one of the reasons that I have fewer and fewer shows to pick from for this column every week is because some people don’t want to take chances. The fact that this column exists is NOT me telling you to take chances. All I’m saying is, I’m bringing up eight shows, that are happening in this city over the next week. Are they REALLY must-see in the current public health environment? That’s up to you to determine.
But look, Dwight Yoakam is coming to the National this Friday night, and that’s something you really should see if you feel safe enough to attend. The man’s been acting as an antidote to safe, sterile, overproduced country music for damn near 40 years now, and he’s honestly not getting any younger, so if you haven’t made it out to see Dwight Yoakam at any point in the past, now might really be the time. After all, he’s got a career chock full of classics, starting back in 1986 with “Honky Tonk Man” and including such career highlights as his duet with Buck Owens on “Streets Of Bakersfield,” heartbreak classics like “Ain’t That Only Yet” and “It Only Hurts When I Cry,” and his covers of legendary tunes like Elvis’ “Little Sister” and Queen’s “Crazy Little Thing Called Love.” He’s bound to break some of them out at some point this Friday night, and it’s going to be awesome when he does.
Unlike a lot of other artists rapidly approaching the 40th anniversary of their first album, Dwight Yoakam has remained creatively vital and at the peak of his powers for decades now. And let’s be real: when it comes to live music in these COVID times, veteran artists like him are gonna pick their targets carefully. He might not be back to Richmond for a long while now. So — assuming you feel healthy enough to make it — you really don’t want to miss this show. Break out your boots and cowboy hat, because if there was ever a right time to do it up proper, this is it.
Wednesday, January 12, 8 PM
Destructo Disk, Teen Mortgage, Baby Bugs, Lips @ The Camel – $10 (order tickets HERE)
Midweek is a good time to punk it out at The Camel, and two energetic bands from the northern part of the state are coming down to the capital city to give us a wonderful opportunity for high fives and stage dives. Destructo Disk hail from Winchester, of all places — hardly what I’d ever think of as punk rock city, amirite? And yet, on recent singles like “Punk Rock Die” and “Breakfast In Space,” they show an assured grasp on the melody, irreverence, and spunk that all come together to create the best punk rock. Even if you can skate, you should enjoy the music of this power-punk trio.
Teen Mortgage hail from two (or 27, depending on the weather) hours up 95 in Washington DC, and their tougher two-piece sound makes a great contrast with the more fun-loving vibes of Destructo Disk. On their latest EP, Smoked, Teen Mortage channel the dark punk of bands like The Wipers and Ex-Cult and mix it with the anthemic power of Japandroids to make a can’t-miss racket that’s sure to win over the entire room. Richmond newcomers Baby Bugs have a driving punk sound that reminds me at times of 90s legends Veruca Salt, and opener Lips is a total mystery to me — I’m pretty sure it’s not the band from New Zealand that showed up when I tried really hard to google a musical artist called Lips, but beyond that I have no idea. Whatever. It’s a punk rock show. That should be all you need to know.
Thursday, January 13, 8 PM
Ethan Jewell, Mae Krell, Ryan Kent @ The Camel – $15 (order tickets HERE)
I must admit, I had no idea about youthful internet sensation Ethan Jewell until this show made it into my upcoming-show masterlist, but I’m apparently one of the last to find out about him; this 19-year-old poet has millions of followers on TikTok, and is rapidly parlaying that into a musical career, though his works might not be exactly what you expect. Because here’s the thing: Ethan Jewell doesn’t even attempt to sing. He recites poetry over moody, melodic musical backgrounds, and if that makes you think of some of Jack Kerouac’s recorded works, well, you’re not entirely on the wrong track.
Really, though, I’d compare Ethan Jewell to some more clearly 21st century works: for example, there’s Arkansas alt-rock project Listener, based around the spoken vocals of poet Dan Smith. More famously, there’s Between Bodies, the LP The World Is A Beautiful Place And I Am No Longer Afraid To Die made with poet Chris Zizzamia handling the majority of the vocals. If you dug those projects, chances are you’ll find a lot to like in what Ethan Jewell is doing. NYC-based singer-songwriter Mae Krell is also bringing some beautiful, heartfelt sounds to this event. The whole thing will kick off with a performance by Ryan Kent, who you may know as, um, a staff writer for RVA Mag, or as the vocalist for local metal bands like Murdersome and Gritter. However, he’ll be appearing on this bill in his guise as a poet, and with a spoken word album of his very own coming later this year, now’s the perfect time to see what Ryan’s up to on that front. Get to it.
Friday, January 14, 9 PM
Blunt, Colin Phils, Rest Ashore, Midlife Pilot @ The Camel – $10 (order tickets HERE)
Ah yes, Richmond indie. It survives, it thrives, no matter how much it has to push through. And bands like Blunt and Colin Phils keep coming back stronger year after year to prove exactly that. After a few years of releasing occasional singles on Bandcamp, Blunt finally brought us a proper EP this past year with Luxe, a four-song collection of their catchy, jangly tunes. I can’t help but think of Interpol at times while listening to this EP, but what I really like about it is the scrappy, underdog energy the band brings to it, giving it a DIY feel that is incredibly endearing. I’m sure their performance of these and other tunes at The Camel Friday night will be similarly endearing.
Then, of course, there’s Colin Phils, who’ve been a mainstay on the local scene for long enough that you almost forget they originally hailed from Korea. If you’re aware of their association with local math-rock luminaries like Houdan The Mystic, that should give you some idea of what this band is up to… but really, if you’ve gotten this far without hearing their last full-length release, 2020’s Trust/Fall, you’re blowing it, and there’s just no other way to put it. You can, of course, earn some points back by coming out to see them this Friday, and ceasing to resist their melodically complex but always danceable tunes. As for New Jersey’s Rest Ashore, they engage in a little bit of that math-rock guitar tangling on their 2021 album Psychogore, but their grasp of catchy choruses and driving pop crescendos is straight-up emo revival if you ask me. And yes, that’s a good thing. A very very very good thing. As is this entire show, really. Show up and see for yourself.
Saturday, January 15, 7 PM
The Connells, Jphono1 @ The National – $22.50 (order tickets HERE)
Listen, I know what you’re gonna say. “Drew, you’ve sent us to see The Connells before, and every time you’ve done so, you’ve just ranted about how much you loved them back when you were in high school in the early 90s, and how excited you were to see them play songs from 30 years ago.” And it’s all true! I’m not even gonna argue it. At this point, even damn-near-46-year-old me would find it a bit difficult to rationalize going to see The Connells again based on songs they’ve played in this town many many times before — even if those songs are stone classics of American alternative rock (because, I mean… they ARE).
But here’s the really wonderful amazing thing: for the first time in two decades, The Connells made a brand new album in 2021. Called Steadman’s Wake, it’s an album that befits the Connells’ status as veterans of the mid-Atlantic indie scene; indeed, its pensive title track references the opioid epidemic and the Unite The Right riot in Charlottesville. However, songs like “Stars” bring out that classic wistful tone that marked the best Connells songs of decades past, while opener “Really Great” shows that this band still can bring the energetic bounce that we all love to see. I know it’s the hip move to head for the bar when a new song gets broken out at a show like this, but this time around, it must be said — the real reason to see The Connells, even after nearly 40 years, is what they’ve been up to lately.
Sunday, January 16, 7 PM
Free Throw, Bad Luck, Camp Trash @ Richmond Music Hall at Capital Ale House – $16 in advance, $20 day of show (order tickets HERE)
Sunday night marks the end of the weekend, another evening of dreading the return to work, or school, or whatever bummer shit makes your Mondays suck. But why not chase those pre-Monday blues away this Sunday night by heading to the lengthily named Richmond Music Hall at Capital Ale House and checking out a killer performance from Nashville, Tennessee band Free Throw. These guys have been bringing that lovelorn emo excellence for quite a while now. Last year saw the release of their fourth album, Piecing It Together, and while it might not pushed the band’s sound into new terrain, that’s not really a problem when you can dish out the catchy emotional pop-punk sound with the kind of quality and consistency these guys bring to the table.
Basically, if listening to bands like Real Friends, Knuckle Puck, and The Story So Far makes you feel all the feels, Free Throw’s set this Sunday night is sure to put a smile on your face. And just to make the evening even sweeter, Free Throw are bringing a couple of other touring bands with them to chase those looming Monday blues away before they ever get here in the first place. Bad Luck, from New York, trade the most overt emo elements of Free Throw’s sound for a rawer punk edge, and even introduce a tiny bit of Lemonheads bounce into the whole equation, while Florida’s Camp Trash bring in harmony vocals and jangly guitars that they might just have picked up from Angel Dust. The result is sure to be an evening of fine sounds with enough of an emotional hangover to send you to work the next morning with a smile on your face, for once.
Monday, January 17, 7 PM
Dan Whitaker, Mackenzie Roark, Brady Heck @ The Camel – $7 in advance, $10 day of show (order tickets HERE)
Let’s go a completely different route for this Monday night, a night on which you just might need to drown your sorrows at the friendly bar over at The Camel. It’s the perfect night to do it, because veteran Chicago singer-songwriter Dan Whitaker will be in the house, touring behind his latest album, One More Story Told. The longtime frontman for Dan Whitaker and the Shinebenders has gone out on his own for his latest album, on which he takes a more stripped-down, acoustic approach toward songs that he’s created throughout his lengthy career. The result is some downcast country-style Americana, avoiding the unfortunate schmaltz of Nashville’s most excessive 70s ballads in favor of the same sorts of bare-bones arrangements that Johnny Cash utilized toward the end of his life to such amazing effect on his American Recordings series of albums.
If that’s the kind of thing that’ll put the tear into your beer (in the happiest sense of the phrase) on Monday night, then you should also appreciate the music we’ll be getting from the two local openers. Mackenzie Roark’s solo work, which generally just features her voice and hollow-body electric guitar, brings the lovelorn mood and honky-tonk twang that’s sure to set your heart alight. And of course, Brady Heck is a hardworking local fella who has showed off his chops most recently on “Saddle Blanket,” a stripped-down alt-country single he released a few months ago featuring guest vocals from Mackenzie Roark and Deau Eyes’ Ali Thibodeau, at least one of whom we know will be in the house for this performance. Is there a team-up in the offing? You won’t know unless you’re there.
Tuesday, January 18, 7 PM
Aura, Novacaine, Rest Aside, 3Peace, Disposed @ The Camel – $5 in advance, $7 day of show (order tickets HERE)
Well, it’s official: time really is a flat circle. Thirty years after the whole post-Rage Against The Machine boom in rap-metal, Richmond newcomers Aura have combined a post-deathcore triple-guitar chug attack with some straight-up hip hop vocals to create a sound that lands somewhere between Whitechapel and Downset. And look, I know a lot of people clowned the early-90s era of rap-metal pretty much as soon as it ended, but there’s a reason that sound was so big for a few years there: it had a lot of undeniable power. As someone who was around for this the first time, I’m still unironically stoked when that Downset song everyone always mocks comes on.
So yes, I for one do welcome our new rap-metal overlords. I’m not entirely sure whether Aura is just the first flickerings of a coming new wave; after all, fellow post-deathcore Richmonders Rest Aside are definitely coming from more of a Job For A Cowboy/Killswitch Engage-influenced place, complete with a fair dose of melody in their guitars (which works well — keep that coming, guys). But if these two bands are a good example of how the future looks in Richmond’s young metalcore scene, then I definitely see a dose of the past running through it. Not that I’m complaining; I loved all that stuff the first time around. Let’s rock with it again.
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]