Admiring Offset RVA: A Look At The Inclusive Series’ Origin & Astonishing Debut
This Thursday at The Camel, a new showcase debuted with the goal of offering a more inclusive view into Richmond’s thriving music scene, celebrating the artistic diversity of the city by highlighting musical acts fronted by women, persons of color, and members of the LGBTQ community.
Entitled Offset RVA, this bi-monthly concert series hopes to bridge the lengthy demographic gaps that exist in the musical world with a variety of artists all coming together to perform for the joy of culture and community.
Conceived and spearheaded by local musician Tyler Meacham, Offset’s origin is born out of an unfortunate discomfort that far too many musicians feel these days while performing and participating in the music scene.
“Most shows I play on, I’ll walk into the venue at soundcheck and just take notice that I’m usually the only woman that will be seen onstage that night,” Meacham observed. “It’s something that has held my attention since I started playing, and I’ve heard similar experiences from my POC friends.”
The stats back up this assertion, with Meacham pointing to Data USA and Statista that state 60% of the music industry is comprised of men while 79.9% of the industry is white, alarming numbers that leaves little room for female, POC, and LGBT artists.
“The disparity in a live setting is somewhat unavoidable,” Meacham declared. “However, the idea of Offset RVA is to offset the balance & spread the wealth of opportunity that is playing in a staple Richmond venue like The Camel on a Thursday night. Perhaps we can start local and see what happens.”
But the intention here is not to cast shame on an industry that has let this gap grow to troubling lengths. “There’s nothing wrong with the majority demographic,” she continued. “Overrepresentation is definitely not an intentional move on any show promoter or venue — it’s just a reflection of the industry as a whole. There’s a lot of white guys & guitars. I love their talents & I think honoring good music regardless of who’s making it is what makes Richmond’s scene so abundant … I’d love for people of all sorts to see themselves in someone performing on stage, and I’d love to see more bills that are representative of our diverse culture.”
In crafting the idea of Offset, Meacham drew inspiration from a kindred showcase her band played at in Greensboro, NC at Joymongers Brewing. “The show was part of a music series that’s been ongoing since 2018 and carries a similar theme of inclusivity,” she stated. “When we played the show, we had a small following but not enough to pack a room, but as it turned out, locals were more than willing to come out to this weekly showcase without knowing much about the featured artist — they just wanted a taste of something different. We played to a full house and reached a ton of new people, and the overall atmosphere in the room was one of genuine community. That experience was really inspiring, and I started asking ‘what if we did this in an actual venue back home — what would that look like?’”
As she asked that question, Meacham landed on The Camel as a partner in this venture, drawing on her own experiences as an artist and fan. “The Camel is simply one of my favorite spots in the city,” she remarked. “I started talking with folks at The Camel over the summer about doing something on a regular basis in 2020. My band is in an in-between state where we still want to be playing a lot of local shows in addition to touring, so a monthly residency might not have been the best for us or the venue. Instead, this idea of doing something every other month and seeing what happens came up.”
Meacham plans to be a part of each Offset show moving forward, but stresses that the focus is not on her own music. “From the start of these conversations, I never wanted it to be all about me & my music,” she remembered. “I thought this was the perfect way to try this idea out. We’ll host & close the night, but other than that, it should be about the other bands. I think if you’re given open access to any sort of platform, or stage in this case, it’s important to bring others up with you.”
For Offset’s grand debut last night at The Camel, Meacham pulled together a stellar line-up of diverse artists that created a truly special and unforgettable concert experience. Flickering neo-soul group Soulburst kicked off the show with an inviting sound full of rich timbre and impish spirit, setting the mood just right for an intriguing and communal night of music.
Bon Ki followed next with an explosive set that highlighted not just the propulsive power of each of its members, but also the wildly creative songwriting at play that moves past R&B and jazz into an area of progressive soul music where intrinsic emotion pulls the song from one spot to the next through humming harmony and bellowing resonance.
Indie rock band Margox shifted the night’s sound from soul to rock, while retaining an element of soulful vocals relaying deeply personal lyrics. A cover of Phoebe Bridger’s “Motion Sickness” helped keep this core intact as well as the band’s recent singles, “Confetti” and “Glass House,” but it was a newer composition the band debuted that served as the set’s emotional anchor. Introduced with a warning to the crowd for its heavy subject matter, the new track showcased the band’s nimble ability to amplify a song’s emotional core, this time funneled through swirling accompaniment that lifted singer Colleen Christman’s soaring voice.
Tyler Meacham took the stage last, bridging the gap between rock and soul even further with a modern mélange of pop songs that felt like ear candy at first, before unveiling themselves as much needed musical remedies, prescribed for any soul. Meacham’s songwriting overflows with talent, evident by tracks like “Say Yes” and “Denver” on her recent EP Property, but the songs reach new, towering heights in a live setting thanks to the exuberant collaborative harmony of her bandmates, including Colleen Christman from Margox who Meacham described as an unofficial member before welcoming her onto the stage for a few songs.
With so many vibrant musicians on stage reveling in the music and joy, it was a great example of what Offset can offer to Richmond going forward – a night that celebrates diversity with welcoming inclusion, showcasing that representation matters, and that there’s always new, great music out there to be found if it’s given the right platform. And Offset is that right platform – one that hopefully will continue to grow throughout 2020.
Planning is already underway for Offset’s second outing, currently slotted for Thursday, March 12th with a line-up announcement expected to come early February. Last night’s line-up featured artists all hailing from the Richmond area, something that Meacham wants to stay true to moving forward, although she stated that there could be room for touring acts to join the bill in the future, hopefully helping to grow the platform even more and establish Offset as a bi-monthly destination for any music lover in the city, regardless of their background.
Judging by the excellent debut show and deep roster of female, POC, and LGBTQ artists within the city, that’s exactly what Offset will do – become an inclusive destination spot for any nearby music lover with several more sublime concerts at The Camel.
Concert photos courtesy of Andrew Cothern.