Friday, December 31, 8 PM
Party Liberation Foundation presents PLF Decemberween 2022, featuring:
Main Stage: Mikemetic, Ebisu Sound, Crenshaw, Reinhold, Elliott Ness, Joanna O; Eclectic Stage: Esosonic, Jaguardini, Rozez, Kitana, Psynatra, Wrath, Third Order; Pyro Stage: Snarz, CottonKandy, Nexus, Akasha, Neuron Husky, Illexandra, DoppelGanger @ Diversity Richmond – $77 (order tickets HERE)
It’s another weird end-of-year week here in the city’s live music scene, and I’d like to say it’ll be the last one before we get back to full steam ahead, but I would be crazy to think that’ll happen. The influx of positive COVID tests across the country as Omicron heats up is only going to get worse in the wake of everybody traveling to see family for the holidays, and even over the past few weeks, we were seeing big tours get cancelled before they managed to make it to RVA. So yeah… things are in flux. And they will continue to be. Consider this an apology in advance, and let it be the last we say about it. Except: Get vaxxed if you haven’t, and get boosted if you aren’t yet.
A lot of this stuff is rendered thankfully irrelevant by the undisputed titan of this week’s live events: the Party Liberation Foundation’s annual Decemberween celebration at Diversity Richmond. Since the PLF are all about some pyrotechnic acrobatics, a great deal of this event takes place outdoors even during non-pandemic times. Luckily, temperatures are supposed to be in the 60s for New Years Eve this year, so all the wild outdoor antics will have a relatively hospitable environment in which to exist. And listen — I know tickets for this extravaganza are pricey. But you need to understand that they are so very worth it. PLF sets it off like no other, and this is going to be a wild sensory delight of the sort you only rarely get in a standard dance party atmosphere.
Speaking of the dance party: there will be three different stages rocking during this party, with a variety of luminaries from both around the country and right here in RVA rocking the tables and getting the party started. Of course Mikemetic is a big name here in Richmond — his Afro Beta events are always essential. And other luminaries like Turnstyle alumna Joanna O, crime-fighting mixmaster Elliott Ness, and our very own Reinhold (who has no idea I’m writing about his show) will be joining Mikemetic on the main stage. But you’ll also be able to catch a wide variety of musical talent over at the Eclectic Stage, and an amazing soundtrack for some equally amazing fire-play over at the Pyro Stage. And this whole thing goes on til 4 in the morning! Whether you’re a fan of fire-spinning, a big believer in the “Every Day Is Halloween” aesthetic, or just someone who loves to get their freak on and wants to ring in the New Year in extremely memorable fashion, PLF’s Decemberween 2022 is the event for you. Make it happen, cap’n.
Wednesday, December 29, 8 PM
Night Teacher, Twin Films @ The Camel – $7 in advance, $10 day of show (Order tickets HERE)
It’s always an intriguing night for music when you’re out at The Camel, and tonight is no exception. In fact, it’s exceptionally appropriate, as you will be learning the musical secrets of the night from Night Teacher, a duo based in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, a couple hours up I-64 from here. The main members of this group are poet Lilly Bechtel and producer/multi-instrumentalist Matt Wyatt, and they come together to create moody, soulful blues-rock tunes with a distinctly experimental approach that gives the whole thing a delightful element of surprise.
Night Teacher demonstrated their approach as a studio duo on last year’s self-titled debut, but this live event at The Camel will show a different side of the group. Joined by Charlottesville music luminaries including upright bassist Dhara Goradia, guitarist Eli Cook, violinist Cathy Monnes (who the more alert among you will recognize as C-ville musical tornado Sally Rose‘s mom), and vocalist/actress Adelind Horan, they’ll be performing in a sextet configuration that’s sure to allow more freedom in which the Night Teacher can recreate the mystical, multi-layered tunes they created for their debut. Energetic indie-psych Richmonders Twin Films will kick the evening off in proper fashion, so hey: get there.
Thursday, December 30, 8 PM
Ten Pound Snail, Fight Cloud, No Moniker, Sigmund Fraud @ The Camel – $7 in advance, $10 day of show (Order tickets HERE)
A few weeks ago, in one of my first show columns since getting back on the good foot, we saw the name Ten Pound Snail on a bill for the first time. Then last week, we discussed the fact that they somehow became a headlining local act during the year and a half I was away from the live music scene — an era during the vast majority of which, there were no shows at all! Now we see their name topping yet another bill that feels unmissable to me, a Camel showcase of some of the best talents in Richmond indie music circa 2021. So look, if you haven’t dug into the work this moody, intriguing trio are doing yet, you can’t say it’s because you haven’t had the opportunity. Avail yourself of it already.
But look, I can’t hide the fact that the band on this bill I’m most stoked about is Fight Cloud. Back in that mid-10s renaissance of melodic, mathy indie rock, these guys created some of my favorite tunes to come out of that era. I still remember how much “Pipe Dream,” from their 2016 LP We’ll Be Alright, blew my mind the first time I heard it. Their grasp of emotionally-centered musical mood, complex song structure, and pure pop majesty is pretty much unparalleled, and I was heartbroken when they broke up five years ago. I’d only had a little time to rejoice in their return to the music world with February 2020 release Thoughts Aligned before the pandemic put paid to any hope of seeing them live anytime soon. Thankfully, it didn’t stop them from writing new material, as they’ve released three new singles in the past year, all of which claim to be from a forthcoming new album. If you’re like me and can’t fucking wait for that to drop, go see them Thursday night at the Camel; chances are they’ll have some great new tuneage to lay on us all. And of course, I’ve now used up all my space babbling about Fight Cloud, but no one watching the Richmond indie world since it returned to action from the pandemic-induced worldwide hiatus can fail to have noticed how much great work No Moniker and Sigmund Fraud have been up to. Can they? I mean… I sure haven’t. So yeah, enlighten yourself and spend the last full night of 2021 with four of Richmond indie’s pre-eminent trailblazers at The Camel.
Friday, December 31, 7 PM
The Mighty Good Times, Cassidy Snider & The Wranglers @ The Camel – $20 in advance, $25 day of show (order tickets HERE)
Let’s say, for the sake of argument, you’re a person who doesn’t want to spend eight-plus hours of your New Years Eve-into-New Years Day dancing to electronic music while people spin fire and do wild acrobatics. I can see it; that kind of thing isn’t necessarily for everyone — especially since not everyone can swing a $77 admission charge. And if it’s not for you, you might be thinking, “What’s another place I can go and spend my New Years Eve hearing good music?” Luckily for you, I have the answer, and it’ll only cost you a far more economical 20 bucks to take part: it’s the Camel’s New Years Eve throwdown, featuring a performance from The Mighty Good Times.
Now, The Mighty Good Times might not be all that familiar a name to you — two years ago, they played their very first show opening for Jackass Flats for New Years Eve 2020. And only a few months later, live music shut down for over a year. Thankfully, they had plenty of time while all that was going on to put together a rocking set of tunes that incorporate Allman Bros-style classic Southern rock, along with alternative country, folk, and blues. The result is sure to make for an entertaining way to rock in the New Year. Along for the ride will be local country-blues singer Cassidy Snider and her Wranglers, who released their first studio recording last month in the form of Losing Lovers, a swinging six-song EP that totally captures their live magic. You can get a raw dose of that magic — no records necessary — if you show up on time to this shindig, so make sure you go ahead and do that.
Saturday, January 1, 8 PM
Sugar Bear & EU @ Trio Restaurant & Lounge – $25
It’s a new year, and a new you, right? So what better way to kick off the year 2022 than with a New Years Day trip to the Southside to partake in the joys of hitting up a club that’s a little off the beaten path — at least for this show column and its readership. Trio Restaurant & Lounge, down near Southside Plaza on Hull Street Rd, has a track record of bringing legendary DC musicians to town, many of whom (including the Junk Yard Band and DJ Kool, of “Let Me Clear My Throat” fame) are associated with DC’s very own homegrown musical movement: go-go. I am sometimes dismayed at how little Richmonders only two hours south down 95 from its birthplace know about go-go, but here’s a crash course for any of you who remain unenlightened: It’s a style that grew out of funk in the 70s and heavily incorporated hip hop elements in the 80s and 90s. It’s driven by a heavy, percussive beat, and call and response between performers and crowd is essential to the music, especially when its played live.
One of the few go-go singles that ever broke through to mainstream popularity was a song called “Da Butt,” which was featured on the soundtrack to Spike Lee’s School Daze and hit the Top 40 back in 1988. That song was by EU, also known as Experience Unlimited, one of the titans of the Washington DC go-go scene of the 80s. EU is still around, still fronted by longtime singer/bassist Gregory “Sugar Bear” Elliott, and they’re coming to Richmond on New Years Day to get 2022 started right over at Trio Restaurant & Lounge. If you’ve never experienced a live go-go event, you owe it to yourself to go check this one out. The flyers say “strictly for the grown folks 30+” and “dress to impress,” and while I doubt they’ll keep you out if you’re only 29, I think you probably better be at least 21 for this one. And they’re not selling advance tickets, either, so like the flyer says — get there early. You don’t want to be standing around outside while everybody else is inside “doin’ da butt all night long.” Do you? No, I thought not.
Monday, January 3, 7 PM
Kings Of The Wild Things, Lowlife Tea Party, Solace Sovay, Vomit Rocket @ The Camel – $10 (order tickets HERE)
And now for something completely different, while still being from the DMV area. After you’ve taken Sunday the 2nd to sleep off the ragers of the NYE weekend, come on down to the Camel on a Monday night to enjoy the youthful, energetic sounds of Towson, MD’s own Kings Of The Wild Things, a pop-punk quartet who’ve got no problem keeping that whole post-Warped Tour thing alive into a new decade. If you’ve been known to dig bands like The Wonder Years and Knuckle Puck (I, for one, certainly have), you’re sure to find something to appreciate in this group’s EP, Golden State Of Mind, featuring a lead single with the chorus: “Smile, you son of a bitch.” Yup, this is going to be fun.
The openers will be too. Young Richmond trio Lowlife Tea Party aren’t quite as uptempo as Kings Of The Wild Things, but their 90s rock aesthetic, which harks back to bands like Eve 6 at times, and is closer to Hum or The Toadies at others, is sure to connect. Solace Sovay have been purveying their vaguely shoegaze-damaged version of alt-rock around Richmond for a long time now, and they’ve been really good at it the whole time, so if you still haven’t caught them yet, it’s time to fix that one. As for the evening’s opening act, well, I can’t figure out who they actually are. There was a band called Vomit Rocket running around the outskirts of Roanoke about a decade ago, but I don’t think it’s them. There was another band called Rocket Vomit that opened a show at the Camel a few months ago, and it might be them with a slightly revised name, but if so, I can’t find anything online to confirm that. So yeah, in addition to three bands that are sure-fire winners, this evening features one band that is a total mystery. If nothing else, you’ve gotta admit, it’s tantalizing.
Tuesday, January 4, 7 PM
Restraining Order, Spy, Worn, Loud Night @ The Camel – $15 (order tickets HERE)
Here you go, you maniacs — an evening of fast, unrestrained, old-school hardcore is hitting the Camel this Tuesday to make sure your 2022 is full of as much hectic craziness as possible, as quickly as possible. Restraining Order tops this bill, and this New England band is sure to make any of you who miss the days when Richmond was a hotbed of fast, wild, punky hardcore bands (like Government Warning, Parasytic, and Wasted Time, to name a few) very, very excited. They followed up their hard-hitting, blink-and-you-miss-it 2019 LP This World Is Too Much earlier this year with a ripping split EP with Warfare and a lathe-cut single-sided EP featuring their cover of “We Got The Beat” by the Go-Go’s. I know, right? Who saw that one coming?
Anyway, Restraining Order is going to get the whole place raging in what I sure hope turns out to be an old-school circle pit when they come to The Camel. And they’ll be joined by some equally powerful out-of-town ensembles, including Spy, who hail from Northern California and whose recent Habitual Offender EP shows off a devastating proclivity for harsh, gruff hardcore that hits like a ton of bricks. Then there’s Pennsylvania’s Worn, who have a more thrash-infused approach that will click with anyone who loves local dark hardcore psychos Enforced or the sadly departed Power Trip, and should also push buttons for the fans of Portland legends Tragedy or Richmond’s own Prisoner. Loud Night is the only local act on this bill, but they fit right in, bringing an uptempo energy and metallic drive to a fiery sound that splits the difference between The Accused and Motorhead. Come to this one ready to go off in the pit, because these excellent bands demand no less.
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 by Dave Parrish Photography