RVA Shows You Must See This Week: April 24 – April 30

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Saturday, April 27, 3 PM
Wes Freed Day, feat. J. Roddy Walston, Horsehead, Beex, Mag Bats, Woody Woodworth and the Piners, The Slack Family Band, Louis Ledford, Jeff Wall, Joe Cat, DJ Jay Leavitt @ The Canal Club – Free!
The independent, underground music scene in Richmond has quite a long history at this point. For example, I’m rapidly approaching 50 years of age and have been involved for over 30, but I often feel like a Janie-come-lately when I contemplate just how much further back this scene’s history goes than even I remember. Having such a deep history is really cool, too… but what can be a pretty big bummer is when some of the pioneers of the whole scene start to pass on. Case in point: Wes Freed, a legendary Richmond artist and musician who shuffled off this mortal coil a couple of years ago. He’s best known outside of this city for his visual art, with its colorful palette and distinctive compositions; his paintings graced the cover of ten Drive-By Truckers albums, as well as releases by Cracker and Lauren Hoffman.

Here in Richmond, though, Wes Freed had a strong musical legacy. In the 80s, he fronted Mudd Helmut, a band that featured former members of first-wave Richmond hardcore band White Cross and played a style of 70s-rock-influenced post-hardcore that would have fit right in with the early grunge bands out of Seattle. In more recent times, he fronted the long-running alt-country combo The Mag Bats, which was a showcase for his distinctive songwriting and wry sense of humor, right up until he died of cancer in 2022. Wes made a big impact on this city, and you can see evidence of that impact in the free live music and multimedia extravaganza that a group called Friends Of Wes Freed have put together at The Canal Club this Saturday.

There’ll be some real heavy hitters of the punk, grunge, alt-country, and Americana scenes on hand, including Richmond legends like J. Roddy Walston, Horsehead, and Beex. There’ll also be some acts not every Richmonder knows, such as North Carolina bluegrass/hillbilly phenomenon Jeff Wall, aka “Bigdumbhick,” and Louis Ledford, an alt-country singer-songwriter who is based in Washington state but might be remembered by some old Richmond heads for his time with Used Carlotta. And of course, the Mag Bats will be there, bringing a variety of guest singers to the stage to help summon the spirit of Wes and do his songs justice one last time.

One other really important element of this free all-day festival, though, is the art auction that will be taking place. The really big project Friends Of Wes Freed have taken on in the wake of Wes’s passing has been the Wes Freed Memorial Scholarship Fund, which is intended to provide financial support to deserving young VCUarts students who, like Wes himself, come from rural Virginia. All of the artists participating in the auction have agreed to donate 100% of the proceeds from the auction to the Wes Freed Memorial Scholarship Fund, and there’s some really great work in the mix from artists like Ed Trask, Bob Gorman, and Scott Elmquist, as well as some pieces by Wes himself. The auction will end at 9 pm on Saturday, towards the end of this event, so you’ll want to be on hand for that. And if you want to bid now on some of these priceless works of art, you can do that online at this link. Either way, you should definitely come out to the Canal Club this Saturday and be part of this event. This kind of opportunity to experience Richmond music history firsthand will only get rarer as time goes on.

Wednesday, April 24, 9 PM
Outer World, Collate, Hard Copy @ Fuzzy Cactus – $12
It’s always nice to head over to Northside and catch some killer rock n’ roll at Fuzzy Cactus. Tonight, they’ll be bringing us all a celebration of Who Does The Music Love?, the debut full-length by Richmond postpunk crew Outer World. I’ve told you before about this latest project of Tracy Wilson and Kenneth Close, the duo who previously brought us Positive No. Outer World is certainly a different sort of beast than Positive No, trading that group’s overt pop hooks for a more experimental approach. However, it’d be a mistake to think that this band is any less capable of writing memorable tunes that stick in your head for hours at a time. Their incorporation of textures drawn from the experimental exotica of Stereolab, the cosmic synth psychedelia of German groups like Can and Tangerine Dream, and the bizarro retro-pop of Unrest creates a rich musical brew that never fails to nourish and satisfy.

Outer World are joined on this bill by Portlanders Collate, who are apparently the reason this record release show is happening several weeks after Who Does The Music Love? actually came out. Tracy from Outer World is a record collector of unparalleled taste, which she demonstrates by bringing the best punk, indie, and experimental music from around the world to Richmond via her distro, Courtesy Desk. If Tracy tells you you need to be paying attention to a band you’ve never heard of before, you should be paying attention. And by bringing Collate to town, she’s essentially telling the whole city exactly that. And if for some bizarre reason her word isn’t enough for you, one listen to Collate’s 2023 LP Generative Systems is enough to convince anyone of the wisdom inherent in attending this Wednesday night show at Fuzzy Cactus. The minimalist postpunk grooves this band lays down sound to me like Huggy Bear and God Is My Co-Pilot doing a jam session with Swell Maps circa 1979. Gotta love that. Local postpunk rising stars Hard Copy will get this one started, so show up on time, and bring some extra cash for merch. You’ll be glad you did.

Thursday, April 25, 7 PM
Thao (With Her Band), David Shultz @ Richmond Music Hall at Capital Ale House – $25 (order tickets HERE)
Thao & The Get Down Stay Down built up quite a legacy over the past two decades, getting their start in Virginia before heading to the West Coast, where they built quite a career for themselves. The group featured multiple musicians who are well known in Virginia indie circles, most notably drummer Willis Thompson (Murphy’s Kids, Positive No) and guitarist Charlie Glenn (The Trillions, Palm Palm). However, bandleader Thao Nguyen decided to retire the group back in 2021 and has since been working on starting over as a solo artist. So far, she’s only brought us one single, “Ambition,” but its sound builds on what she’d been doing on final Thao & The Get Down Stay Down album Temple: synth-driven precision lent equally to danceable indie-goth vibes and to moody postpunk atmospherics.

Will Thao and her new band come to town with a whole collection of new tunes for us, to show us exactly what we can expect from the post-Get Down Stay Down era? Will the setlist focus on previous career high points? Most likely, it’ll be a mix of the two, but we won’t really know until we show up to Richmond Music Hall Thursday night and see for ourselves. Between the promise of her solo single and the proven track record of her career with The Get Down Stay Down, I’d think she’s more than earned the opportunity to demonstrate to us all exactly what she’s got in store for us. If you ask me, she’s highly unlikely to disappoint. Indeed, the same could be said for longtime Richmond alt-country singer-songwriter David Shultz, who’ll be opening this one. It’s the very definition of a safe bet.

Friday, April 26, 8 PM
Septic Vomit vs. Immorality Crown, Industrial Suicide vs. Aisle 19, Vomit Dolls vs. Rat Piss, Artificial Scarcity vs. Pfft @ Bandito’s – $10-$15
This one’s gonna get crazy. Indeed, the very premise of the event all but demands it, since it’s billed as battle sets all night. While the “battle set” is a known commodity for kids in certain parts of the hardcore and grind scene, the rest of you might need an explanation, so here goes: what happens is that two bands set up at once, facing each other across the stage. They proceed to trade the set back and forth, each band playing one song, followed by a song from the other band. The point isn’t so much to declare a winner as to keep things interesting and fun for both the bands and the audience. That said, a lot of people will walk away from each battle set with a definite opinion of which band did it better. So on a bill that’s stacked from top to bottom with battle sets, you’ve got a full collection of bands who had better be ready to bring their A game.

Fortunately for us all, we’ve got a crop of total grindcore heavy hitters on this bill. The first battle pits Charlottesville’s Septic Vomit — a powerhouse of guttural, blurry, gurgly-vocal grind — against Immorality Crown, which seems to be not a band but an entire Richmond-based record label, so I’m not sure what’s going on here. Considering Immorality Crown’s discography features releases by noise merchants like Oozing Meat, Degloved, and Aberration Penchant, I’m expecting a total wall of noise. Battle number two pits the shit-fi feedback mania of Industrial Suicide against the relatively structured (yet still pretty goddamn noisy) power violence of Baltimore’s Aisle 19. Battle number three pits the furious grind-punk of Massachusetts’ Vomit Dolls against the hyperspeed metallic roar of Montreal’s Rat Piss. And finally, our last battle puts politically-minded grindcore from Philadelphia’s Artificial Scarcity up against the goofball speed-thrash-grind of notorious Richmond duo Pfft. I have no idea who will come out on top in this grind battle royale, but I know one thing for sure: this will be an evening of the sort of good friendly violent fun that we all need in our lives on occasion. Do it up.

Saturday, April 27, 1 PM
WRIR Party For The Rest Of Us, feat. Destructo Disk, Opin, Lunch $pecial, Dazy, George, Closet Space, Billy Bacci, WRIR DJs @ Hardywood – Free!
We’ve already talked about the rich depth of this city’s musical history once in this column, but we’re gonna have to do it again, because the Wes Freed Day show at The Canal Club isn’t even the only free all-day Richmond music extravaganza happening this Saturday. Over at Hardywood, right around the same time, WRIR will be kicking off its yearly Party For The Rest Of Us, in celebration of WRIR’s 19th birthday. Indeed, WRIR really has been in operation locally for very close to two full decades — which just goes to show, once again, that time flies. Certainly I can’t imagine this city, or its music scene, without WRIR, just as I can’t imagine what I’d keep the radio in my beat-to-shit 1995 Escort tuned to if it weren’t on the air. Therefore, I’m definitely glad that WRIR is on the air.

Indeed, another purpose of this event, which is occurring as part of the station’s annual Spring Fund Drive, is to keep WRIR on air for another year. So if you’re in a position to do it, I highly encourage you to bring some cash to this show, despite it being free, and donate it to the cause. Even if you’re flat broke, though, you should definitely show up to enjoy some of the best talent this city has to offer — including the headliners, snotty yet melodic punkers Destructo Disk. Also on the bill are Richmond electronic indie veterans Opin, sardonic and talented local rapper Lunch $pecial, RVA bedroom punk-pop legends Dazy, and quite a few others. WRIR DJs will be on hand to spin your favorite tunes between bands as well. In the end, no matter which of the two free Saturday afternoon/evening extravaganzas you end up attending (or even if you try to dash back and forth across the city between them), you’re sure to have a good time. And at this one, you’re helping to make sure that the best radio station this city has seen in the post-Y2k era remains on air for another year. Really, what more could you ask for?

Sunday, April 28, 7 PM
Torvus, Cemetery Sex, Hellion Child, Letcher @ Bandito’s – $10
Let’s finish out our weekend by heading back to Bandito’s, shall we? This is the perfect opportunity to order a plate of nachos if you didn’t do so last time you were there, but it’s a lot more than that. For one thing, this show features a headlining set from Torvus, a Maryland metal band who straddle the line between raw black metal, retro doom, and gothic haunted-castle exploration soundtrack on their 2021 EP Dead Seasons. It’s the sort of thing that already feels powerful when it’s coming through your headphones, but you just know will hit five times as hard when the band’s standing right in front of you, playing at top volume. Get stoked for that!

I know less about Cemetery Sex, the DC-based band who are heading to Richmond along with their Maryland-based compatriots Torvus. What I can tell you is that the one song the band has online, “Vampyre Blues,” has a sort of early 80s gothic peace-punk feel to it, even as it evokes an ominous feel that seems like it’d fit right in on one of the more guitar-based shows that hits Fallout on occasion. Really, I think both of these bands will find a way to appeal to both goth kids and metal kids. As a gothic metal kid, I’m pretty damn stoked about that. Richmond thrashers Hellion Child are one of the two local openers, and are likely to win the award for heaviest, harshest band on this bill, though I suppose Torvus may give them a run for their money at that. Unsung Richmond sludge kings Letcher will get things started in the sort of slow, heavy place that builds and builds for several minutes before finally getting to the point and proceeding to cave your skull in — in the best possible sense of the term. This one’s gonna be a major rager from beginning to end, so come prepared to bang your head, even as chills run up and down your spine.

Monday, April 29, 7 PM
Beggars, Heavy Is The Head, Contact @ The Workshop – $5
Two things I really love: seeing a new venue open here in the city, and seeing awesome new local bands take things to the next level. This show offers us a chance at both, and that totally rules. First, let’s talk about the venue: I haven’t previously heard of The Workshop, a Scott’s Addition space run by Carytown-based personal-trainer collective Tequila & Deadlifts, but I do recognize the address. 1400 MacTavish Avenue was previously occupied by Studio Two Three, which recently relocated south of the James to the Manchester area. I would have guessed this spot would turn into yet another craft brewery and/or condo complex, so it playing host to a venue that will at least occasionally bring us shows by local metallic hardcore bands is a very positive development.

Speaking of those metallic hardcore bands, we definitely should all be paying attention to Beggars. This local metallic hardcore quartet has only released one EP, 2023’s Follow Me, thus far. However, the four songs on that EP are powerful and memorable, generating an absolutely pounding sound without being devoid of melody. Indeed, folks who wondered what we’d have ended up with if Killing The Dream had been a little more into At The Gates will definitely appreciate what this band’s bringing to the table. As for Heavy Is the Head, I’ve written about this band a lot lately, but you have to hand it to any band who manages to get onto extremely relevant local shows as frequently as these guys do. And believe me, it’s not just a lucky coincidence, either — they more than back it up with their continually powerful metalcore sound. Richmonders Contact start this one off. They recently followed up their excellent debut, Before And Through And Beyond All Time, with a new single that takes things in a more melodic direction than the excellent early 90s hardcore sound they displayed on the aforementioned debut. It’s gotta be their most memorable song to date too, so while I loved their earlier material, I think they’ll still be just as great if they continue in this direction. Either way, you’ll definitely want to see them — and all of the bands on the bill — at The Workshop this Monday night.

Tuesday, April 30, 7 PM
40 Reps, The Carolyn, Eaten By Snakes, Steelboy @ Cobra Cabana – $10
Here’s another excellent bill that comes to us via the cooperation of Cobra Cabana and Rival Booking. The two local bands bookending the bill, 40 Reps and Steelboy, should be well known to local punkers by now. In case you’ve missed out thus far, though, 40 Reps have a rad melodic, emotional punk sound that’s sure to hit hard for fans of Ann Beretta or Beach Slang, while Steelboy — who just signed with Punkerton Records and have a super-catchy new single out now — are bouncier and a little bit angrier. So yeah, these are two great punk bands that you’ll want to check into if you haven’t already, and rock out to if you have.

But listen, here’s the really important thing about this show: Eaten By Snakes are coming to us all the way from Germany. And they’re bringing some seriously great tunes in a catchy melodic punk vein, as demonstrated on their rad most recent album, Peace And Love. If you dug The Dougboys back in the day and/or think Good Grief are underrated now, you’re going to love this band — and who knows when they’ll make it back this way? You really owe it to yourself to make it down to Cobra Cabana and see these guys live. Their tourmates The Carolyn are at least from here in the USA — they come from Atlanta — so chances are a little better that you’ll see them soon. But their jangly take on indie-punk charm overload is a true blast, and you won’t want to miss that either… especially if you’ve enjoyed the more recent Angel Dust work, or feel like you could really appreciate a slightly calmer version of Posture And The Grizzly. Really, this show’s gonna be a top-level banger from beginning to end. Just go ahead and show up. You can thank me later.

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): rvamustseeshows@gmail.com

Please consider supporting my Patreon, where I’m documenting my progress on two different novels and (sometimes) writing about music of all types. patreon.com/marilyndrewnecci

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