Saturday, July 20, 11 AM
RVA Bluegrass & Brews Festival, feat. Adam Dawson, Amanda Beason, Charlie and Darlings, The Come Hears, Corey Axt, K.F.C., Matt Monta, Ol’ Riles Band, Tony Farris & Jon Green, Wes & Rebecca @ AlterNatives Boutique – Free!
It’s hot, y’all. In fact, it’s damn hot. And while, in our modern times, the most effective way to beat the heat is to sit inside in the air conditioning all day (a tactic that, to avoid misconceptions, I am a huge fan of), the traditional Southern way to beat the heat is to spend a lot of time outside, in the shade, drinking cold drinks and listening to good music. It’s that classic Southern tradition that Carytown’s AlterNatives Boutique will be honoring this Saturday with their all-day RVA Bluegrass & Brews festival. The event will, according to AlterNatives management, “honor the values of mountain people with homegrown music, brews, and Southern cuisine.” Sounds good to me.
Where the food is concerned, multiple food trucks from the area will be on the scene, and Legend, COTU, Starr Hill, Hardywood, and more will be on hand to provide the brew. And what about the music? Well, that’s the best part, as nearly a dozen bluegrass acts, mostly from the local area, will be keeping us smiling and our toes tapping. The evening will feature the Come Hears, a loose-knit collective of local bluegrass musicians who came together from open jams at Cary Street Cafe and therefore have tunes by everyone from the Grateful Dead to Merle Haggard in their repertoire.
There’ll also be two sets from up-and-coming locals Ol’ Riles Band, who’ll be celebrating the release of their newest album. Ohio’s Matt Monta will make another of his frequent recent appearances in the River City, and Charlie And Darlings will represent the younger generation of local old-time music players. There are a ton more artists on the bill too, but we’re running out of space to discuss them all, and we still need to mention the Highland Support Project, a local non-profit with a multi-decade history who work to help break the cycles of poverty in mountainous communities throughout the Western Hemisphere. This event is free, but will nonetheless be raising money to benefit the Highland Support Project’s important work. The forecast says it’ll be 100 degrees this Saturday, so beat the heat with some great music, food, and brews at AlterNatives.
Wednesday, July 17, 7 PM
Wailin’ Storms, Unmaker, Manzara @ Gallery 5 – $7 (order tickets HERE)
It’s rare that any band in the world manages to name themselves as appropriately as Wailin’ Storms have. This noisy postpunk group has exactly the sort of loud, heavy, dark, and ominous sound that the phrase “Wailin’ Storms” evokes in your mind. For a group to have such a strong grasp of what they’re doing that they manage to perfectly describe their sound with the name they give their band is impressive in its own right. But the sort of massive foreboding punk rock noise they generated on their most recent LP, 2017’s Sick City, is even more impressive.
Therefore you can be sure that, when Wailin’ Storms take the Gallery 5 stage tonight, this North Carolina quartet will call forth the full fury of a class 5 gale. Their sound somehow manages to mix the dark-as-midnight garage fury of Ex-Cult with the fire-and-brimstone revival-preacher punk of Gun Club and the terrifying gothic horror of first-LP Bauhaus. The result is absolutely incredible — and if you’re into it, you’ll find that the metallic postpunk of Unmaker and the dark moodiness of Manzara make them the perfect local openers. The sun may be baking everyone outside, but tonight in Gallery 5, the perfect musical storm will be brewing. Dive into the eye.
Thursday, July 18, 9 PM
Landmines, Talk Me Off, Xed Out @ Bandito’s – Free!
This one hits me on a personal level, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. A little over a decade ago, Landmines were one of the best punk rock bands in Richmond, and I was a huge, huge fan. Their two LPs were full of furious rage, expertly coupled with indelible melodies and powerful lyrics about the important issues, both personal and political, that we all grapple with every day of our lives. A while after their excellent second LP, Commerce And Marx, was released in 2011, Landmines split up, and though there was a brief reformation in 2014, they haven’t taken the stage in something like four years now. The former members are all still making music in excellent bands like Sea Of Storms, Tied To A Bear, and Park Sparrows, but none of their current projects quite scratch that same itch the way Landmines always did.
Therefore I am very stoked to be able to tell you all that Landmines are finally taking the stage once again! It’ll happen at Bandito’s, and the fact that it’s happening there on something other than a Sunday night lets you know how special it is. With members spread all over the country these days, it’ll be great just to see them all in one place again. And of course, every song they ever recorded was outstanding, so this is going to be a set chock-full of hard-hitting melodic punk classics. The fact that snotty RVA punks Talk Me Off are also on the bill, along with Xed Out — a new project from some longtime vets of the Richmond punk scene — only sweetens the pot that much further. Get to Bandito’s, order some nachos, and let’s all get ready to sing along.
Friday, July 19, 9 PM
Un, Wormwitch, Shy Low, Colin Phils @ Wonderland – $10
In this life, you will find many reasons to be sad. For me most recently, it’s been the loss of something like a thousand dollars after an automotive breakdown four hours from home (and no, the car still isn’t fixed). For you, it might be something more tragic, like heartbreak or the loss of a close friend. Some might say that the best way to deal with emotions stemming from life’s bad breaks is to escape from it all with happy, upbeat music. But Seattle’s Un understand that, when things are really dark, nothing other than downbeat, gloomy music will really strike a chord with you.
For the past several years, Un have been creating note-perfect soundtracks for devastation. Their most recent full-length effort, 2018’s Sentiment, finds them combining haunting minor-key melodies with head-crushing slow-motion sludge riffs and unrelentingly bleak low-end vocals. And while that might sound like an incredibly gloomy thing to listen to, it has some healing elements that, despite paradoxical elements, are no less present. Un may rattle foundations when they take the Wonderland stage Friday night, but it’ll be in pursuit of a catharsis that will help you face the morning that always arrives too soon. Journey into the darkness of Shockoe Bottom this Friday night; you’ll find restoration awaiting you.
Saturday, July 20, 8 PM
Tiger Castle, Midlife Pilot, Cleophus James, Vegan Llamas @ Mojo’s – $5
It’s always a fun time down at Mojo’s, and this Saturday night will be no exception. Not only will delicious Philly cheesesteaks be on the menu like always, but Philadelphia’s Tiger Castle will be on the bill, spreading joy and happiness through loud, upbeat rock n’ roll with a definite post-Nirvana 90s feel. Which is to say, these guys capture that same dynamic created by mixing loud, distorted guitars with catchy pop melodies and a sort of loose, slacker approach to the whole thing.
That might sound like faint praise, but as someone who loved both Pavement and Superchunk back in the day, I see it as nothing but a positive thing. One listen to Tiger Castle’s new LP, Pineapple Slasher, and I fully expect you to be converted. Or you could just come on out to Mojo’s this Saturday night and enjoy a killer set from these traveling guitar-slingers, along with musical treats from local mainstays Midlife Pilot and Vegan Llamas, both of whom are just as adept at that whole 90s-style distorted yet melodic rock n’ roll. Newcomers Cleophus James are a bit of a wild card, but considering you’ll get the other three excellent bands on this bill for a mere $5 — already a screaming deal — you can think of their set as a free bonus.
Sunday, July 21, 6 PM
Madison Turner, Decide By Friday, Dead Selves, Spartan Jet-Plex @ Garden Grove Brewing – Free!
It’s always great to spice up your weekend with a free show that brings you a ton of local talent as well as a taste of what’s happening outside the city. Bandito’s has been a pretty consistent venue for exactly these sorts of shows, and in recent months, Garden Grove has become just as much of a clutch player where these kinds of chill-yet-awesome shows take place. This Sunday brings one such show to Garden Grove, and it’s very much worth your time.
Madison Turner has become a local mainstay, with her sound that blends angst-ridden folk-punk with 90s-style alt-rock to glorious effect, most recently on excellent 2018 LP, A Comprehensive Guide To Burning Out. She’ll be taking the stage at this one at the head of a four-piece band, which means things are gonna get rockin’, and you’re not gonna want to miss it. Decide By Friday will bring their brilliantly difficult to categorize sound, as epitomized on excellent 2018 EP Sankofa, to the stage, and the strange yet hypnotic ambient balladry of Spartan Jet-Plex will round out the trio of locals. Atlanta’s Dead Selves join the bill with some catchy yet emotionally resonant melodic punk, sure to soothe your soul as you prepare to start your work week. Enjoy this one — you’ve earned it.
Monday, July 22, 9 PM
Dead To A Dying World, Lair, Horse Culture @ Cary Street Cafe – $10
This burning hot week in Richmond is the perfect time to introduce all of you who are as yet unfamiliar to the majestic power of Dead To A Dying World, an epic, metallic force of nature in the form of a band featuring seven full-time members churning up huge, towering soundscapes of apocalyptic proportions. If you find Neurosis, Sunn 0))), Mogwai, and Mussourgsky’s “Night On Bald Mountain” equally captivating, this is the band for you, and they prove it with flair and finesse on brand-new LP Elegy, which sees them shifting back and forth between ambient moments full of ominous portent, and outright skull-crushing epic brutality.
This won’t just be a performance, it will be an experience, one far more memorable and life-altering than a three-hour superhero movie full of universe-ranging battles between gods and godlike humans. Why? Because that’s all make-believe, but Dead To A Dying World are 100 percent real. Just like the terrifying, captivating, and inescapable force we know as “life.” Of which this show is guaranteed to be a highlight. Don’t miss it.
Tuesday, July 23, 9 PM
Mephiskapheles, AdGRod, Blunt @ Wonderland – $10
Wow — this is a real blast from the past. Back in the late 90s, when ska ruled the roost and it seemed like every punk band had to have at least one song based around upstrokes, Mephiskapheles stood out in a crowded field, separate from the thousands of Save Ferris and Voodoo Glow Skulls clones, due to their frank embrace of the diabolical power of Satan. That’s right, it’s not just a clever name — from their very beginnings in the early 90s on to their eventual drifting apart in the early days of the 21st century. The ska boom-times had begun to wane, and the members slowly moved on.
However, two decades beyond the time of Mephiskapheles’ greatest fame, a new generation has discovered the joys of skanking all night in black-and-white checked pants, and the stage has been set for a ska revival. Mephiskapheles has been back and playing shows for several years now, their playfully devilish streak intact, and even released a self-titled EP a few years ago that found them at the top of their game as ever, especially on metallic reggae tunes like “Satan Stole My Weed” and “Snakes In The Garden.” Look — I know some of you still have porkpie hats and creepers buried in the back of your closets. What better opportunity than this one will you have to break them out once again? Exactly. Make it happen, cap’n.
Elsewhere Around The State:
Friday, July 19, 8 PM
J. Marinelli, Tucker Riggleman & the Cheap Dates @ Pale Fire Tap Room (Harrisonburg) – $5
Here’s a surprising and exciting face from long ago to delight those like me who were heavily involved in the emo scene 25 or so years ago. J. Marinelli once played guitar in Samuel, without a doubt the most unjustly forgotten band of that whole mid-90s Jade Tree Records scene that brought the world The Promise Ring and Texas Is The Reason. The sad denouement of Samuel in no way quieted the punk rock fire in J. Marinelli’s heart, though, and for the past decade or so, he’s been recording and performing as a one-man band, keeping the beat with his feet as he dishes out driving guitar riffs and sings joyous anthems of personal resistance.
Of course, as with any one-man band, Marinelli’s got a definite roots-rock influence mixed into his sound, but on 2017 LP Stray Volts, he pulls just as much from old-time folk, good ol’ punk rock, and even a little bit of mountain holler. It all adds up to a lot of fun, and that’s what you’ll have if you journey out to Harrisonburg’s Pale Fire Tap Room this Friday night. J. Marinelli will be joined on the bill by Tucker Riggleman and his band, the Cheap Dates, who’ll be laying down some of the same twangy, rollicking rock n’ roll they brought to us all earlier this year with their Time Machine EP. It’s going to be a ton of fun — don’t miss it.
Saturday, July 20, 7:30 PM
Sierra Ferrell @ The Golden Pony (Harrisonburg) – $10
I have no idea who Sierra Ferrell is bringing with her to The Golden Pony this Saturday night. Backing group? Opening act? It might happen, or it might not — I really can’t tell you. But even if it’s just her up there onstage all by herself for three hours, you should check it out regardless. This young lady from Nashville, Tennessee is a flawless songwriter who clearly works in an old-time milieu but has no easily-defined genre. Is she a folk singer? A country barroom queen? A swinging pop spitfire? The answer is: yes, and she’s a whole lot more than all that too.
On her new album, Washington By The Sea, Sierra Ferrell works with a five-piece band, but within a minimalist, acoustic framework that keeps her voice and acoustic guitar the undisputable star of the show. Occasional touches from fiddle, dobro, bass, and pedal steel bring layered depth to her sound, but rest assured, Ferrell’s songs stand on their own, with a driving pace and a distinctive lyrical approach that only gains ground when those words are sung in her uniquely captivating voice. Honestly, nothing I can say here will give you the full idea of what you’re in for at The Golden Pony Saturday night — you need to be there and see for yourself. Whether there’s an opening act or not.
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 via Highland Support Project
Music Sponsored By Graduate Richmond