Sunday, January 20, 1:30 PM
Dave Watkins @ The Pump House (1708 Pump House Dr) – $30 (order tickets HERE)
Our city has a long and fascinating history, going back hundreds of years, and one result of this fact is that there are random neglected corners of Richmond that hold fascinating treasures mostly undiscovered by the city’s population at large. A great example of this is the old Richmond Pump House, which can be found at the end of a little-used road just up the hill from the toll booths at the nickel bridge (aka the Boulevard Bridge). Long ago, it pumped the city’s water out of the Kanawha Canal and uphill to the Byrd Park reservoir, from which it made its way to the taps and spigots of the city.
The Pump House is a big old stone castle of the building, and its gothic spires are irresistible when you come around the curve and see them standing tall. It’s been almost a century since it supplied the city with water, and almost as long since the huge dance hall on the balcony was open for events. When I first discovered it in the mid-90s, my friends and I enjoyed wandering around its dusty depths, but these days it is not open to the public due to safety issues. However, the non-profit Friends Of Pump House have some grand wishes for it, and are currently working with Enrichmond and the city’s Parks and Recreation Department to restore it to its former glory and gain it an occupancy permit, so it can host events and dazzle visitors once again.
To that end, they’re holding a pretty excellent and unique music-related event this Sunday afternoon, and while tickets are extremely limited, there were still a dozen or so left when I checked this morning, so you absolutely still have a chance to be part of it. The event will begin at 1:30 with a full tour of the Pump House, and if you aren’t old enough to have had the chance to explore it years ago, it’s definitely worth getting a full tour (especially since you’ll have knowledgeable people there to tell you what you’re looking at and what its purpose was). Then at 2 PM, Richmond mainstay Dave Watkins will break out his homemade dulcitar and grace all in attendance with a beautiful set of avant-garde music incorporating his fascinations with old-time folk music and electric-guitar ambience. I talk a lot about great shows in this column, but full-on experiences that incorporate this city’s rich history are rare indeed. Make it your business to be part of this one.
Wednesday, January 16, 8 PM
The Spliffs @ Vagabond – Free!
When I hear a name like the Spliffs, my mind goes in one of two directions — either irreverent punk or marijuana-scented jam-band. However, the Spliffs coming to Vagabond tonight to play a free show for us all occupy neither of those genres. Instead, they’re a vehicle for the amazing soulful vocalizations of Brittany O’Neill, a lady who has been lighting up stages and recordings around the Richmond scene for years — I first saw her take a guest vocal for The Big Payback at The Republic, so you know that was a while back.
She’s been back and forth between RVA and LA for the past couple of years, but she’s home now, and she’ll be fronting the Spliffs for a set of soulful jazz fusion at Vagabond tonight. And she’s got some powerful friends backing her up — the group also consists of People’s Blues of Richmond drummer Neko Williams, jazz pianist Macon Mann (probably better known to RVA Mag readers as “Mc Chicken,” the rapper responsible for the viral “Richmond River Rat” video of a few years ago), and brothers Paul and Dmitri Yeonas of the Twin Brothers Band (and they are indeed identical twins). This quintet’s sure to be responsible for some deep grooves down in the Vagabond’s downstairs space, known as “The Rabbit Hole.” So head down the stairs and enjoy the underground sounds.
Thursday, January 17, 7 PM
Jackie Cohen, Angelica Garcia, Strawberry Moon @ Gallery 5 – $10 (order tickets HERE)
Spacebomb Records isn’t always right in your face with what they’re up to, but one thing’s for sure — they never sleep. This past year saw them release music from a variety of artists, and one particularly striking voice on their roster came from Jackie Cohen. She released two EPs on Spacebomb in 2018, known as the Tacoma Night Terror EPs, parts one and two. The nine songs in total presented by these two dispatches from Cohen’s personal emotional landscape that might have started out as quirky indie-folk tunes, but bear the unmistakable stamp of Spacebomb in their final form, harking back to the funky smoothness of the 70s Laurel Canyon music scene just as easily as they evoke post-y2k oddball indie singer-songwriter vibes.
It’ll be fascinating to see what form this sound takes in a live environment, and we’ll have just that opportunity on Thursday night, as Jackie Cohen takes the Gallery 5 stage and presents us with her unique tunes, including such hits as “Make U Sick,” “Ladies’ Man,” and the memorably-titled “I Hate My Body.” She’s joined in this endeavor by Richmond singing sensation Angelica Garcia, who’s currently hard at work on the follow-up to her attention-grabbing 2016 debut, Medicine For Birds. Recent Bandcamp uploads indicate promising results being achieved in the studio, and Ms. Garcia always brings her A game to the live environment, so you’re sure to enjoy this one. Strawberry Moon opens up with their entrancing ambient indie-pop — get there on time, and stay all night. Not a minute of this evening will be missable.
Friday, January 18, 7 PM
Gabby’s World, Yowler, Missangelbird @ Capital Ale House Music Hall – $10 in advance/$12 day of show (order tickets HERE)
This is one for all you young indie kids. Gabrielle Smith hasn’t been performing under the name Gabby’s World for very long; previously, she was known as Eskimeaux, a name that undoubtedly got the boot due to dodgy cultural implications. However, both under that name and at the head of her new quartet, she’s produced some undeniably memorable music. Beast On Beast, the album Gabby’s World released a couple of months ago, show that her delicate vocals and assured songwriting touch are both very much intact; indeed, this just might be her best work yet.
You’re not going to want to miss out on what Gabby’s World conjure up in a live environment. Equally, you’re going to want to catch every second of the set from Yowler, a solo vehicle for Maryn Jones, who previously grabbed attention as the leader of All Dogs. On Yowler’s second full-length, Black Dog In My Path, Jones brings us a set of hushed, mournful songs that center on her softly plucked acoustic guitar and vocals delivered at a near whisper. The room will have to get quiet for this performance, but it will certainly be worth it to hear the dark, delicate beauty of Yowler’s music. Richmonders Missangelbird will get this one started off right, and it’ll only get better from there.
Saturday, January 19, 8 PM
Louis York, Calvin Presents, Weekend Plans @ Capital Ale House Music Hall – $15 in advance/$18 day of show (order tickets HERE)
Louis York is a group whose name you may not know as yet. They’ve been recording for a few years now, and have released three installments in their Masterpiece Theater series of EPs. But what really makes the duo of singer Claude Kelly and pianist/multi-instrumentalist Chuck Harmony so distinctive is their background in the behind-the-scenes world of the pop music industry. Both have some heavyweight songwriting credits to their name — Kelly for Miley Cyrus’s “Party In The USA,” Harmony for Rihanna’s “Russian Roulette, among many others of course — and both made quite a name for themselves in that world separately.
The combination of their talents into the duo known as Louis York has only produced more gold in a variety of genres, from the dance-club bounce of “Don’t Play” and the cocktail jazz of “I Enjoy You” to the orchestral R&B-pop of “Clair Huxtable” and the Queen/MCR power balladry of “Nerds.” This isn’t a group with limited ambitions, by any means, and they certainly don’t seem to have any limit to their talent, so when they hit the stage, there’s no telling what sort of amazing flights of musical fancy you’ll be privy to. What we can tell you, though, is that you’re sure to enjoy every moment of it.
Sunday, January 20, 7 PM
Brower, Nightcreature, Weird Tears, Brain Drain @ Gallery 5 – $7 in advance/$10 day of show (order tickets HERE)
I love it when a band I’ve never heard of shows up in town and blows my mind. Well, Brower aren’t here yet, but considering it’s my job to write this column every week, I always get a little bit of advance warning — which is my cue to alert all you Richmond music fans. And this week, it falls to me to ensure that all of you are aware of Brower, the New York power-pop group who’ll be taking the Gallery 5 stage this Sunday night. A fuzzy garage-rock edge is certainly present in Brower’s music, but what really makes this group stand out is their flawless sense of pop-rock songcraft.
Led by Nat Brower, a singer-songwriter with credits from garage rockers Nancy, Brower does quite a bit to evoke the best sounds of 70s rock radio, from David Bowie to T. Rex, on their new album, Buzzsaws. The result is a recipe for nonstop dancefloor action, of the sort that’ll have you smiling all night. We all could use a bit of that, especially since we’ll all have to head back to work the next morning. Excellent local support from garage-punk up-and-comers Nightcreature, post-Cherry Pits rockers Weird Tears, and bubbling-under punk group Brain Drain will only make this evening even sweeter.
Monday, January 21, 6:30 PM
Cracker, Camper Van Beethoven @ The Broadberry – $25 in advance/$30 day of show (order tickets HERE)
It’s always nice when post-punk bon vivant and one-time Richmond hero David Lowery brings his music back to a stage in RVA, and this particular event promises an overview of Lowery’s entire career in one enchanted evening. It all got started back in the early 80s with the formation of Camper Van Beethoven, who both ascended from the California punk scene of that era and tweaked its incipient orthodoxy by breaking all sorts of unwritten rules: using acoustic instruments and violins, incorporating country and folk sounds into their punk-tinged melodies, and Lowery’s iconoclastic lyrics, always delivered with biting wit.
But it was Cracker that really made David Lowery a star. Brought together in the Oregon Hill neighborhood, long before it was gentrified beyond all recognition, Cracker grew to international stardom with early-90s heartland-rock hits like “Low” and “Get Off This.” Today, David Lowery plays and records regularly with both of his bands, and double-billed shows like this one have been an outstanding result of that synergy. We’ll all get an amazing overview of David Lowery’s entire four-decade career, from “When I Win The Lottery” to “Euro Trash Girl” to “Waited My Whole Life.” And every moment of it is going to be excellent. We don’t get a treat like this every day here in Richmond — I’m counting on you not to miss out on this one.
Tuesday, January 22, 8 PM
Brunswick @ The Hof – Free!
One way you can tell that Richmond is a great town for music is by taking a look at the caliber of mid-week free shows we get around here. For a great example, look no further than this jazz performance taking place in The Hof’s “Darkroom” performance space on Tuesday night. Brunswick is a name that might not grab as much attention in discussions of local jazz groups as more prominent leading lights like No BS! Brass and Butcher Brown.
Nonetheless, this 13-piece ensemble is a local mainstay, and features members who’ve done time in all sorts of other noteworthy jazz groups around town. Last summer, they released Five Years, their debut LP, which celebrated the amount of time leader John Hulley and his talented bandmates had been working toward this milestone. Live, they’ll intersperse original tunes from the album with brilliantly unorthodox covers of artists like Frank Ocean and Daft Punk, giving you an up-close experience of jazz in the 21st century. And you get all this for free on a Tuesday night — how awesome is this town?
Bonus Hampton Roads Picks:
Saturday, January 19, 7 PM
Ghouli, dad, Bato, Nervous System, Single Use Plastic @ Charlie’s American Cafe – $5
Both of the picks for the Hampton Roads area this week are on Saturday night, which is something I usually try not to do. However, with the way everything stacked up this week, unless you want to catch up on what Jimmie’s Chicken Shack are up to in 2019, or see a solo show by one of the ICP guys, you’re gonna have to try and double up on Saturday night. So it goes. The question you must answer, in order to know which of these is more up your alley, is: are you more of a punk rocker, or a hardcore kid?
If you picked the former, you’re going to want to head to Charlie’s American Cafe, where two RVA groups head up a bill of punk rock excellence. Ghouli keep it raging and ranting with their straight-ahead punk riffs, while dad’s pensively furious queercore summons up memories of pre-Sleater-Kinney group Heavens To Betsy. A fierce trio of Tidewater punk rock crews are also on the bill, with the hyperspeed punk rage of Bato being a standout. Nervous System has a creative D-beat sound, mixing that genre’s expected UK punk gnarl with a surprising talent for multi-layered guitar harmonies. Local newcomers Single Use Plastic get things started off right. This one will rule.
Saturday, January 19, 7 PM
Faded, Circle Back, Beggar’s Row, Down To This, Violent Life Violent Death @ West Beach Tavern – Free!
But don’t get us wrong, this one will be a ton of fun too, and if you answered “hardcore kid” to our question above, it will appeal to you in particular. This one will offer chances aplenty for serious mosh pit action, as a quintet of hardcore bands from Tidewater and the Carolinas come together to lay the brutality on ya. VB rippers Faded have shown a serious talent for metallic hardcore of the breakdown-laden variety; they’ll get the spin-kicks flowing for sure. And of course, fellow Virginia Beachers Beggar’s Row take things in a thrashier direction, picking up the speed without dropping an ounce of the metal.
These groups are joined by a trio of powerhouses from the Carolinas, bringing their riffs northward to devastate the Tidewater region. Circle Back in particular has a powerful sound with an outright death-metal undercurrent, but rest assured, these guys keep it core all the way. This Charleston SC band comes to us in the company of Charlotte, NC’s Violent Life Violent Death, who have the most direct appeal for those who want their hardcore to bear at least a passing resemblance to Swedish thrash (I’m definitely one of those people). And of course, Down To This, who hail from the oceanside military town of Jacksonville, NC (not FL), have some serious thick-necked beatdowns to deliver. This one’s gonna be heavy as fuck, so come prepared to move.
Top photo via Friends Of Pump House
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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