Wednesday, May 4, 8 PM
Indie Pop Night at Black Iris, feat. Hotspit (Photo by @2hevns), Winkler, Ten Pound Snail, Frames @ Black Iris – $8 in advance, $10 at the door (order tickets HERE)
Something nice I’ve noticed as the live music scene here in Richmond has thawed and reawakened after the eighteen-month virtual freeze of the pandemic is the increased role being taken in bringing live music to our town by two different important local entities: Black Iris, and Baripete Productions. I’ve particularly noted the things the Arts District-based social club and the up-and-coming promotion outfit have been working together on. For a few months toward the beginning of this year, Baripete were running weekly jazz nights on Wednesdays at Black Iris as part of a series called “Doors At Eight.” Since then, in addition to the growth of the Brambly After Dark series of concerts at Brambly Park and a few noteable presentations at The Hofheimer’s multiple live rooms, Baripete’s brought several other events to Black Iris, of which this Indie Pop Night is just the latest.
And while the jazz fans who loved Doors At Eight might be a little bummed that this event has such a different theme genre, those of us who adore the many melodic indie bands making gorgeous tunes around the Richmond area are in luck with this evening. Hotspit is at the top of the bill, and they’ve really taken some big steps over the last couple of years. The latest is demonstrated by “Wane Mouth,” the single the band released a couple months ago as their first new music in the wake of 2021 debut album CC. It’s both more concise and more directly focused on the beautiful melodies at its center than any of the songs on CC were, and it shows that Hotspit are reaching a new level with their craft — a level that will immerse you in memorably lovely sounds.
Three more bands grace this bill in addition to Hotspit, though, and all have considerable charms. Let’s start with the one from out of town: Winkler are a jangly, acoustic-focused Boston combo who demonstrate an old-fashioned folky charm on new single “Mona.” It definitely leaves you wanting more, and they’ll be bringing plenty more to Black Iris tonight. As for Ten Pound Snail, their Red House Painters-ish slowcore sound is infectious, and a little bird tells me they’re getting ready at some point in the relatively near future to release a fresh batch of excellent tunes to all of us eager listeners. Get a preview of what they’ve got in store at this show. And hey — make sure you show up right on time at 8 o’clock sharp for this one, because missing a second of the opening set that incredibly talented emo-pop group Frames opens the evening with is a crime against music. Be there or get locked up. Hey, I don’t make the rules.
Wednesday, May 4, 9 PM
Pardoner (Photo by Chloe Mullowney), Blunt @ Fuzzy Cactus – $7
Alternately, you might wish to head to Northside and spend your Star Wars Day (May the Fourth be with you… I know, it’s terrible) evening at Richmond’s 21st century home of rock n’ roll, Fuzzy Cactus, where the talented San Francisco-based group Pardoner will be unleashing an evening full of excellent indie rock riffs. And like, look people — nostalgia is a curse. Pop culture is so doused in it circa 2022 that I wish it had physical form, so I could pick it up and wring the nostalgia out of it like a wet washrag. But nonetheless, when I hear people talking about Pardoner having a nostalgic sound that harks back to the early-90s days of underground alternative rock on their latest LP, Came Down Different, well… I can’t deny that I get what they mean.
But let’s reframe this, folks. When I listen to Pardoner, I hear a band capable of energetic indie rock that pulls from sources as diverse as early 80s UK postpunk, the psychedelic garage rock revival led by their fellow San Franciscans Thee Oh Sees, the Americana-infused jangle-pop of early REM, and, yeah OK, the many feedback-laced melodic guitar rockers from college towns like Boston and Chapel Hill who infused the indie scene of the early 90s. Why can’t what these guys are doing today just constitute another wave of this evergreen sound? I for one think it does — every time I’ve put on Came Down Different over the past couple days, I’ve quickly forgotten that I was doing a “research listen.” This band is more than good enough to be a band that you don’t just indulge for extramusical reasons. And they’ll certainly present a show that’s way more than good enough to get you through another year of unnecessary lightsaber references.
Thursday, May 5, 7 PM
The Chisel, Dark Thoughts, Quarantine, Public Acid @ Studio Two Three – $15
Another big change in the post-pandemic world of local live music is that I’ve found I can’t just source all my information about upcoming shows on Facebook anymore. Which is great, because I hate Facebook (I’m a Twitter girl, at least for now). However, these days, I’m finding the place I have to go — and do a fair amount of hunting while I’m there — is Instagram. I can deal with Instagram, but I much more oriented toward words than pictures, so it doesn’t come the most naturally to me. Thankfully, the more time I spend on there, the more often I find amazing shows like this one, featuring great underground bands tearing it up at venues that are a little off the beaten path. Many times, the most truly memorable live music events take place in circumstances like that one.
But even if such high-flown reasoning isn’t likely to draw you out to some random punk show, rest assured you should make time for this one. UK punk rockers The Chisel have blown a lot of minds in the punk and hardcore world over the past year or so, first with a series of killer singles, then with their incredible LP of last November, Retaliation. I hear people talk when they listen to this band about oi! and other such micro-genres, but I’m not gonna get into the weeds with all that, because to me, The Chisel is just a straight-up old-school punk band with a ton of energy, fury, and that patented British snarl all the best late-70s UK bands excelled at, coupled with some great rock n’ roll riffs that stand outside any particular momentary movement. Whether you dig Blitz, 9 Shocks Terror, the New York Dolls, the Back From The Grave comps, or some combination of all of them, you’ll find something to love in the music of The Chisel. And you should really be there for what’s sure to be one of the better shows to come to RVA this season. Regardless of what social media you did or did not find out about it from.
Friday, May 6, 7 PM
Suppression, Kontusion, Left Cross @ Cobra Cabana – $5
Here’s an absolutely mind-blowing fact — Suppression have been a band for three full decades. Formed by bassist/vocalist Jason Hodges back when he was a teenage grindcore nerd living in Roanoke, they spent most of their first decade as a quintet with constantly shifting lineups, of which Jason was the only constant member. When he moved to Richmond at the dawn of the 21st century, the lineup settled into its present incarnation, with the illustrious Ryan Parrish (also of Darkest Hour, Iron Reagan, and a million other bands) on drums and Jason handling everything else (so: bass, vocals, and a million distortion pedals and noise machines).
They’ve been through a ton of evolutions in just the time since the duo of Jason and Ryan became the band’s permanent lineup, and in recent years they’ve returned to a sloppier and even more noisy and primitive version of the grind/metal/noise/core sound they were making during their Roanoke days in the mid-90s. 2021 digital compilation Oblivion Rats collects all the noise they made between 2015 and 2018. It includes two full-length albums and six split EPs, and runs to 99 tracks, many of which are run-together medleys featuring three or more songs. So yeah, this is a bunch of blurry, distorted noise, of the sort that makes most of what “power violence” seem downright slow and accessible. 30 years later, well into their 40s, Suppression are still making the kind of noise that will not only alienate your parents, but probably your kids too. And if that isn’t a commendable achievement, I don’t know what is. Go celebrate it with them at Cobra Cabana this Friday night. Do it for posterity.
Saturday, May 7, 8 PM
The Great Beforetimes, Abby Huston, Tess Fisher, Rebekah Rafferty & The Wakes @ The Camel – $10 (order tickets HERE)
The Great Beforetimes are a minimalist acoustic trio that brings together singer-songwriter Aern Stapel and artist Ceili Galante with guitarist Taimir Gore, whose name is more familiar to me from post-rock band Kristeva and Black Liquid’s new metal band, Armagideon Time. It was definitely that unusual combo of people involved in this project first caught my attention, but I wouldn’t have stuck around long enough to write about them if it weren’t for the sincerely intriguing sound they create on their brand-new self-titled LP, the release of which this Saturday night show at The Camel is intended to celebrate. With a percussion-less sound fundamentally oriented around banjo, there’s a temptation to write them off as old-time music, or Americana, or whatever.
But if you actually spend some time with the music of The Great Beforetimes, you’ll soon realize that they have far less in common with scratchy old 78s recorded in Southwest Virginia hotels 100 years ago than they do with psych-folk rangers like Devendra Banhart, the early works of grandiose weirdo singer-songwrite Sufjan Stevens, or even Richmond hometown hero Josh Small. Like the music of all of these artists, The Great Beforetimes’ music steps outside of any studied, formalistic appreciation of the music of a bygone culture to connect with us all in the here and now. This band uses banjo, acoustic guitar, and voices raised in harmony to create songs that actually reach us all the way here in our digital-as-fuck 21st century world and make real deep connections that’ll have you placing these tunes into “new favorite tracks” playlists right alongside Lizzo or Wet Leg or Drug Church or whatever else you’re digging so far in 2022. There’s no contradiction here. Great music exists outside time. That said, this show takes place in a very defined chronological moment, and I encourage you to spend the hours between 8 pm and midnight this Saturday night at The Camel appreciating every gorgeous, unique moment of it.
Sunday, May 8, 7 PM
Soul Glo, Listless, Dumb Waiter @ The Camel – $12 in advance, $15 day of show (order tickets HERE)
Speaking of music we’re adding to playlists featuring our faves of 2022 thus far, it’s highly apropos that Soul Glo are bringing their frantic, chaotic brand of hardcore to Richmond at The Camel this Sunday night. Because their new LP, Diaspora Problems, is — at least for me — the most fully realized expression of what it is that they do that’s come into the world thus far. And I mean, I loved Soul Glo even back when I first heard them back in 2016. Nonetheless, Diaspora Problems seems to me to bring all of the elements of what they do into perfect proportion to create an absolute hardcore classic. The song structures are chaotic and unpredictable without being confusing or alienating. The guitars are noisy and harsh, but the choruses are so catchy and memorable that you’ll be singing along with the best of them after only one listen — even when that means you’ll catch yourself mumbling, “Who gon’ beat my ass? Who the fuck gon’ beat my ass?” under your breath while washing dishes.
That’s the other thing about Soul Glo that stands out from moment one — the larger than life personality of vocalist Pierce Jordan, who screams, rages, and rants a thousand miles a minute throughout this album, showing off a verbosity that I, a person who writes this long-ass column once a week, can’t help be impressed with. Soul Glo’s lyrics bring a realness that gets much closer to what it’s actually like to be alive than 99% of lyricists ever even attempt, as well as a strong political consciousness that isn’t going to let any of us off the hook for any of our day to day bullshit. Specifically, they focus quite a bit from an intensely personal perspective on the struggle of marginalized Black people in the United States in the year 2022, something a lot of white people like me (and maybe you?) have let ourselves mostly forget about now that the monuments are down. Soul Glo’s an incredible band pushing the boundaries of what hardcore and punk rock can be, and they’re sure to blow your mind musically. But the lyrics and the statements they make with their music are just as important, and that if anything is why you should make The Camel your destination this Sunday night.
Monday, May 9, 7 PM
Chris Acker, Jackson Lynch, Cassidy Snider & The Wranglers, Brady Heck @ The Camel – $10 in advance, $12 day of show (order tickets HERE)
I know, I’ve said it many times before, but I’m always so thankful that The Camel bothers to book shows on Monday night, a night when many other local venues are generally dark and shuttered. This time around, though, they aren’t just bringing us a charming little locals-only bill; instead, they’re hosting touring singer-songwriters Chris Acker and Jackson Lynch. Acker hails from Seattle, while Lynch was born in Ireland and raised in New York, but the city that appears to unite the two of them is New Orleans, where both have spent quite a bit of time during their careers. They’re currently on tour together, both in support of recently released full-lengths that show off their respective powers.
Where Acker is concerned, the LP in question is Odd, Ordinary & Otherwise, his third, released last year and featuring an impressive collection of tunes that make abundantly clear why people compare this dude to the legendary John Prine. It’s the voice, yes — they do sound similar. But it’s also the strength of the songwriting, the way Acker is skilled at capturing all the tiny events that make up the lives of ordinary people and setting them to beautiful, bittersweet tunes. As for Lynch, his new LP is All By My Ownsome, his first full-length release. It mixes covers of century-old tunes by pre-war blues legends like Lonnie Johnson and Josh White with Lynch originals that show how deeply indebted Lynch is to the old-time blues and folk traditions, but also display how creative he is and how much personality he brings to his music. Both Acker and Lynch will be well worth your time to see, and the fact that local purveyors of Americana sounds like Cassidy Snider & The Wranglers and Brady Heck are also on the bill only sweetens an already delicious cup of musical iced tea. Drink up.
Tuesday, May 10, 6:30 PM
Higher Power, Earth To Heaven, Reflect, Torment @ The HofGarden – $15 in advance, $18 day of show (order tickets HERE)
I like a lot of different kinds of music, but I’ve never pretended to be anything other than a hardcore kid at heart, so whenever a really great hardcore band comes through town, I try my best to get them into this here show column. You’ve seen some evidence of that already in this edition (see the Soul Glo blurb above), and here’s another example. Higher Power hail from Leeds, over in the UK, and while the UK’s hardly been a hotbed of hardcore greatness over the decades, I don’t think there’s anyone who will deny that this band is in the top tier of hardcore right now. And that’s got a lot to do with the intensely musical nature of their work.
Past generations of hardcore bands have embraced the slogan coined by fellow UK HC band Discharge: noise not music. But Higher Power is doing a lot more than just making harsh, angry noise. On 2020 album 27 Miles Underwater, Higher Power demonstrate influence from groundbreaking bands of the past 30 years, from Quicksand and Snapcase to Glassjaw and Turnstile. And the result is memorable, full of catchy singalong choruses without losing an ounce of the energy we all come to hardcore for. Higher Power might not be exactly what anyone in 1982 or 1996 thought hardcore would sound like today, but it’s pretty goddamn great, and isn’t that what ultimately matters? Spoiler: yes, it is.
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]