Friday, March 8, 8 PM
Analog Suspects, J Slim, Cadillac Cat, Santana Brothers, music by Hip Hop Henry @ The Dark Room at The HofGarden – $10
If you really want to know what’s popping in Richmond hip hop, you need to keep up on what The Cheats Movement is doing. From the website Marc Cheatham’s been maintaining for most of a decade now to cover the intersection of hip hop and politics on a local and national level to the radio show hosted by Cheats and Gigi Broadway on WRIR (I listen to it as a podcast, you should too), the work The Cheats Movement does to shine a light on local hip hop is unparalleled in reach and effectiveness.
That’s why, when The Cheats Movement hosts a gig, I take notice. And maybe I’m slipping (I’m always slipping), but it wasn’t until I saw that The Cheats Movement was hosting a live performance by Analog Suspects at The HofGarden’s Dark Room that I found out about that high-powered local duo on the come-up. See? It pays to pay attention to Cheats. And it pays to listen to Analog Suspects, too — their just-released debut, Transmission 001, is incredible.
As a hip hop fan, I’m partial to albums with a single producer, and I think the unified sound DJ Mentos creates for Transmission 001 is an excellent demonstration of my reasoning — his moody, cinematic beats create the perfect atmosphere for Noah-O’s intense, politically-informed lyrics, which also delve into the MC’s personal background and the state of Richmond VA in 2019. Anyone who’s been paying attention over the past decade or so already knows that Noah-O is an incredible live performer, and with DJ Mentos backing him up, this Analog Suspects show is bound to blow everyone’s heads up. If you miss this one, you’ve officially screwed up.
Wednesday, March 6, 7 PM
The Joy Formidable, Positive No @ Capital Ale House Music Hall – $16 in advance/$18 day of show/$46 VIP (order tickets HERE)
As groups tagged with the unfortunate genre label of “shoegaze” go, The Joy Formidable is just about the best one in current existence. Using a genre term like that might give you a vague idea of what effects pedals this Welsh trio uses, but in no way sums up the gorgeous wall of noise they’ve been generating for the past decade or so, most recently on their fourth album, AAARTH, released last fall. You might think that title is the word for our planet, said in a cartoonish accent (OK, I admit it, that’s what I thought initially), but it turns out to be a stretched-out version of the Welsh word for bear. I love bears, so this pleases me.
The album also pleases me, both by continuing this band’s strong track record of dishing out hazily beautiful fuzz riffs at top volume while also retaining a top-flight sense of melody, and by showing some clear growth and expansion within their creativity. I mean, I have a ton of love for their debut album, 2011’s The Big Roar, but if they still sounded exactly the same eight years later I’m sure I’d be way less stoked. This band continues to evolve in wonderful ways, and you’re certainly going to want to be there tonight to get an up-close glimpse of where they stand as of today. VIP ticket-holders get a bonus acoustic mini-set before the show, too, so that’s definitely something to make the high-dollar tickets worth your while. And everyone gets an opening set from excellent locals Positive No, who’ve also spent several years demonstrating flawless senses of both melody and loud guitars. A perfect pairing — don’t miss this chance to enjoy it.
Thursday, March 7, 7 PM
SRSQ, Ships In The Night, MRC @ Gallery 5 – $12 in advance/$14 day of show (order tickets HERE)
SRSQ is a group born from tragedy; the project began as a way for Kennedy Ashlyn to deal with her grief after Cash Askew, her partner in up-and-coming group Them Are Us Too, passed away in the 2016 fire at the Ghost Ship collective in Oakland. There’s an undeniable melancholy undertone to the work Ashlyn has released since beginning SRSQ; the group’s layered synthesizers and vocals are reminiscent of both the Cocteau Twins and The Cure at their saddest moments. However, on debut LP Unreality, it is Ashlyn’s powerful voice that dominates the sound, rising above the ethereal ambient hum to offer an undeniable ray of hope and joy, shining through the misty, mournful melodies.
When SRSQ arrives at Gallery 5 Thursday night, they are sure to bring all of these elements to full, rapturous life onstage. The group’s deep synth textures are perfectly designed to fill a room with foggy ambient atmosphere at top volume — but of course, it will be Ashlyn’s voice that truly dominates the proceedings, as she demonstrates what we all would have experienced if the Cocteau Twins’ Elizabeth Fraser had exchanged ethereality for full-throated power. Charlottesville’s own ambient goth project, Ships In The Night, will provide strong support, and the show will open with a set from True Body side-project MRC, who are sure to inject a note of postpunk darkness into the proceedings.
Friday, March 8, 9 PM
The Stone Eye, Tel, Horse Culture @ Wonderland – $10
Ever been sitting around listening to Alice In Chains’ classic masterpiece of the grunge era, Dirt, and found yourself thinking, “This album is great and all, but wouldn’t it be cool if it was somehow… sludgier?” If so, you’re definitely going to want to head down to Shockoe Bottom this Friday night and catch The Stone Eye. This Philadelphia trio dishes out the heavy-as-fuck stoner grooves that you love from groups like Goatsnake and Kyuss, but does so while also bringing some incredible vocal melodies that can’t help but remind one of Layne Staley at his spooky, yowling best.
The Stone Eye’s latest album, Kevlar, Kryptonite, Gloria, was released last summer, and extends their already-formidable legacy with some powerful riffs that land somewhere between Blue Cheer at their most doleful and Soundgarden at their witchiest. They’ll be dishing out tons of riffage when they take the stage at Wonderland Friday night, and they’ll be aided in their mission by a couple of similarly minded Richmond groups. Tel are pros with the sludge grooves, though they skimp on the melody in favor of digging straight into the dirt. They’ll be releasing a new full-length later in the month and are sure to be playing some new jams as a result. Finally, Horse Culture will kick off the evening with some dark, unsettling noise dirges. It’s gonna get dark in the Bottom this Friday night.
Saturday, March 9, 8 PM
Winstons, Dogwood Tales, Saw Black @ The Camel – $10 (order tickets HERE)
We’re getting raw and primitive at The Camel Saturday night, and I’m not talking about Norwegian black metal, either — Winstons hail from right here in the good ol’ US of A. This rockin’ duo currently lives in Brooklyn, but they have roots here in Virginia, which is why they’ll be celebrating the release of their new self-titled LP, on Charlottesville’s WarHen Records, right here in Richmond, at the Camel.
Winstons are part of the long wave, unleashed by the success of the White Stripes and the Black Keys, that finds rock n’ roll bands viewing a bassist as completely optional. Winstons generate so much excellent racket with just guitar, drums, and voices that a bass would just get in the way anyway, so I for one am in favor. They stick to the raw, blues-adjacent roots that the aforementioned duos grew from in their early stages, without a hint of the radio polish that infected them both before all was said and done. Winstons replace that less-than-desirable element with a higher dose of Southern-fried boogie that only makes the whole thing that much sweeter, especially for VA heads like you and me. So let’s all go rock out with em, shall we? And bring some biscuits — I’ll get the gravy.
Sunday, March 10, 10 PM
The Colloquial Orchestra, Christopher Tignor, Kenneka Cook @ Bandito’s – Free!
Keeping up with Dave Watkins is always an enjoyable endeavor. His equal facility with old-time folk music, bizarre noise-rock, and electronic ambience has been on display in various projects of his, and all of it comes together in The Colloquial Orchestra, a loose-knit ensemble with Watkins at its head. The Colloquial Orchestra allows Watkins to periodically unleash an instrument of his own invention called the dulcitar, which combines a strummed dulcimer straight from old-time mountain music with a modern electric guitar.
But he won’t just be busting out one dulcitar at this performance — there will be four in all, plus a bed of percussion and electronics to keep things solidly rooted. Watkins will be joined by local luminaries Elizabeth Owens, PJ Sykes (Hoax Hunters), Micah Barry (Private Cry), and Jon Hawkins (Opin) in this endeavor. And on the bill, the Colloquial Orchestra will be joined by New York violinist and composer Christopher Tignor, whose ambient, electro-acoustic sound is sure to pair well with the room-filling vibe the Colloquial Orchestra will create. Kenneka Cook will start the night out with her always-reliable looped-vocal soul sounds, so this evening will just be sheer joy from beginning to end. Grab a plate of tacos and get ready to enjoy yourself.
Monday, March 11, 9 PM
Sink In, Midlife Pilot, THRE3, Johnny C @ The Camel – $5 in advance/$7 day of show (order tickets HERE)
Here’s a fun one to liven up your Monday. Sink In started life as a Central PA pop-punk band, with a pretty similar sound to a lot of great bands that have come out in that scene over the past decade or so. However, in the last few years, they’ve moved in an interesting direction that surely reflects the poptimist state of our 21st century musical culture. Which is to say, they’ve demonstrated a great deal of straight-up mainstream pop influence in their more recent work.
Brand new single “Ghost,” which just came out a month ago, features a video that openly refers to Sink In as a “boy band,” which might seem like a turn-off til you listen to the music and realize that these guys have retained almost all of their emotionally-driven pop-punk sound — it’s just that singer Tighe Eshelman has followed in the footsteps of Tyler Carter and embraced his inner Justin Timberlake. The result is an undeniable blast, bringing to mind what might have happened if, instead of becoming a faceless radio pop band, Fall Out Boy had been able to retain their identity even as Patrick Stump dove into R&B. If that seems like a lost opportunity to you, go to The Camel Monday and watch Sink In take the very chances that FOB blew. It’s gonna rule.
Tuesday, March 12, 8 PM
The Tough Shits, Sick Bags, Toward Space @ Mojo’s – $8 suggested donation
It’s easy to assume that garage-punk bands with confrontational names like The Tough Shits are going to be wild, crazy, and full of raw, in-your-face energy. However, if there’s one thing The Tough Shits have demonstrated over the course of their career thus far, it’s that they not-so-secretly have hearts of gold. Despite the band name and a history of singles with names like “Pretty Wild,” “Babes Of The Abyss,” and “Adult Fantasy,” this is one raw rock n’ roll act that leans pretty heavily on their pop sensibilities.
They’ll be bringing those pop sensibilities to Mojo’s on a Tuesday night, giving plentiful opportunity for the movers and shakers of this city to move and shake on the dance floor to their incredibly catchy tunes. Their new LP, Burning In Paradise, is soon to be released by garage kingpins Burger Records, and they’ll surely unleash some tunes from it on the clamoring masses, but regardless of what portion of their extensive back catalog gets highlighted, sweet melodies played with high energy on jangling guitars will certainly rule the day. Slightly snottier RVA garage-punk groups Sick Bags and Toward Space make this a night full of rock action, so don’t miss a minute.
Bonus Hampton Roads Picks:
Saturday, March 9, 7 PM
Hiss Golden Messenger, Erin Rae @ Goode Theatre at ODU – $20 (order tickets HERE)
Hiss Golden Messenger has made a lot of fans here in Virginia, and not just because they’ve taken local trombone hero Reggie Pace on tour in his band, either. The North Carolina group, which is really just singer-songwriter MC Taylor and whoever else he recruits to play with him, has made quite a name for itself over the past decade-plus with a laid-back Southern folk-rock sound that pleases indie kids, hipster dads, and jam-band bros alike.
Hiss Golden Messenger has had quite a few heavy hitters in the group over the years, including members of Ben Folds Five and Megafaun, but at ODU’s Goode Theatre this Saturday, it’ll just be MC Taylor all by himself. And as much as I’d love to see him bust out a song from that Ex-Ignota EP buried in the back of my record collection, chances are the HGM fans among you will be more stoked to hear what material from last year’s Virgo Fool, the 10th Hiss Golden Messenger album since 2008, sounds like in more stripped-down arrangements. Chances are, though, no matter what material MC Taylor chooses to revisit in this performance, it’ll be revelatory. Definitely worth the trip, regardless of where you’re coming from.
Sunday, March 10, 6 PM
Brother Bird, Hot Spit, Static Collector @ Charlie’s American Cafe – $10 in advance/$12 day of show (order tickets HERE)
Sometimes a musician’s story threatens to overshadow their actual music. If we aren’t careful, Brother Bird’s story could do just that. The group is lead by Caroline Swon, who the Voice fans among you may remember as Caroline Glaser, from Season 4 in 2013. She met the man who’d eventually become her husband, Colton Swon, when they were both contestants on The Voice. Years later, she was able to obtain a record deal for Brother Bird by recording a Manchester Orchestra cover and posting it on her YouTube channel, where that band’s frontman, Andy Hull, discovered it.
So yeah, now Caroline Swon is married to her fellow Voice contestant, Brother Bird is signed to Hull’s label, Favorite Gentlemen, and the group’s on tour behind their self-titled debut EP, released late last year. That matters, though, not because of the extensive backstory leading us to this point, but because Brother Bird is an excellent group, regardless of pedigree. Their dynamic sound, which moves from moments of quiet beauty to dramatic crescendos in a manner that is sure to please Manchester Orchestra fans, creates a beautiful frame for Swon’s excellent vocals, which are the star of any show she’s involved in… no matter how she did on The Voice. Come to Charlie’s American Cafe this Tuesday night, and she’s sure to win in your heart.
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] [and yeah, there’s plenty more of my writing to read over at GayRVA — come say hey.]
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