RVA Shows You Must See This Week: December 20 – December 26

 In News

Wednesday, December 20, 7 PM
Fontaine‘s Big Birthday Partay, feat. Flannel, Future Mantis, Crack Fox @ Cobra Cabana – $8
When this time of year comes around, it seems like most of the shows start being devoted to a very particular holiday — one you can’t avoid even if you don’t participate in it yourself. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not above writing about shows that relate to that holiday. I’ve already done it at least once this year, for cryin’ out loud! However, this week I think it’ll be cooler to talk about another holiday that doesn’t get anywhere near as much attention. By which I mean: Fontaine’s birthday.

You all know Fontaine, right? Long a fixture on the Richmond music scene, she’s been doing her WRIR radio show, What The Fontaine?, for literal decades now. It’s always a great listen, particularly if you enjoy those moments when Fontaine will bust out some nearly forgotten Richmond track from times long ago. It’s one of the best reasons to donate to WRIR when their fund drives come around; without Fontaine on the air, we’d certainly never hear most of what she plays on any given week in any other context. But it’s hard to really let people know directly how much you appreciate them when they’re just a voice on the other end of a radio signal. This Wednesday night show at Cobra Cabana is a great opportunity to show your appreciation for Fontaine in person for once — to come out and celebrate one of the coolest ladies the Richmond music scene has ever known.

But there are plenty of reasons to go to this show besides just wishing Fontaine a happy birthday. For one, Flannel is headlining this one. A Richmond band originally active in the late 80s and early 90s, Flannel was originally led by Dean Rasmussen, a noted raconteur and pro wrestling fanatic celebrated throughout the wrestling world as the founder of the legendary Death Valley Driver Video Review website. Rasmussen passed away earlier this year, but original member Bryan Clouse has kept Flannel going, and they’ve been pretty active over the past year or so, still playing the sort of Agent Orange-early Meat Puppets goofball punk that they’ve always made — sometimes in Devo-style flowerpot hats. These Richmond scene veterans will certainly be a delightful listen when they hit the Cobra Cabana stage tonight. They’ll be joined by Future Mantis and Crack Fox, both bands made up of veteran Richmond musicians who still have a ton of talent. This will be a thoroughly fun evening, and you certainly shouldn’t miss it — especially if you love Fontaine and WRIR. And really, who in this town doesn’t?

Wednesday, December 20, 7 PM
Desolus, Nuclear Tomb, Hellion Child, Vigil @ Bandito’s – $10
Meanwhile, over at Bandito’s, things are getting seriously heavy. This bill is chock full of metal thrashing awesomeness that should appeal to all the headbangers out there, but especially those who can never get enough of old-school thrash metal shredding. That’s exactly what Desolus bring to the table. This DC-based trio have an LP coming on the legendary Hell’s Headbangers label, but for the moment, only the title track, “System Shock,” is available for preview. One listen to this song will be more than enough to blow the minds of any Sodom or Kreator fans in the general vicinity, and get everybody stoked to hear a whole lot more. Desolus will be bringing exactly that when they hit the stage at Bandito’s tonight, so get those neck muscles limbered up — you’ve got a lot of headbanging to do.

Desolus will be joined on their brief trip south by fellow DMV-area headbangers Nuclear Tomb, who come from Baltimore. Their 2022 EP Offer Your Life shows them to be less married to the classic 80s thrash sound than Desolus, dipping further into the death-metallic thrashing of early Death or Celtic Frost, but if you enjoy the type of fury one of these bands is dishing out, you’ll surely dig them both. Two buzzworthy local bands will round out the bill; the first, Hellion Child, hit that old-school sweet spot, summoning up the Florida death metal spirit of bands like Morbid Angel and the death n’ roll energy of classic Entombed. As for openers Vigil, they just released a new demo that’s turned a lot of heads with its harsh ripping blackened thrash sound. These four bands are all set to dominate the metal scene throughout the Richmond/DC/Baltimore corridor, so get in on the ground floor and go see all of them at Bandito’s. You won’t regret it.

Thursday, December 21, 7 PM
Twin Films, The Eye Of Life, Ky Stephens And The Mulberries @ Bandito’s – $10
Richmond indie duo Twin Films have been through an intriguing evolution over the past few years. Starting out as more of a poppy, jangly indie rock group, they’ve slowly integrated more and more electronic textures into their sound. Now, with their newest EP, Hold Your Breath And You Will Live Forever, they’ve moved into a primarily electronic space, creating tracks full of electronic textures, synth swells, and programmed beats. While they’ve always had a talent for catchy tunes, the new material is some of the most intriguing they’ve produced yet, especially when the upbeat dance rhythms and catchy keyboard melodies run up against the alienated, awkward lyrics, which are often delivered in a nervous bark.

How will these evolutions be reflected in Twin Films’ current live presentation? I certainly can’t say. However, if they forgo guitars and drums entirely in favor of taking the stage behind banks of keyboards and drum machines, I won’t be surprised. Whatever approach they use to live performance, though, the talent inherent in their music is sure to shine through. Twin Films will be joined on this bill by an equally talented group known as The Eye Of Life, whose recent live EP, Safe Haven Sessions, finds them exploring a jazzy, soulful hip hop sound in an expansive, loose-limbed style that should please all comers. As for openers Ky Stephens and The Mulberries, I know almost nothing, but considering the company they keep, they’re sure to be worth showing up on time and checking out. And you can always order some nachos to eat while you wait. As good as the music is sure to be, everything’s better with Bandito’s nachos.

Friday, December 22, 9 PM
A Cold Richmond’s Night, feat. Chandler, Lunch $pecial, DuctTape Jesus, Lil Stixxx, Sap Evans @ The Camel – $10 in advance, $14 day of show (order tickets HERE)
For my money, if you’re looking for a sure thing in the Richmond scene as of the end of 2023, you can’t do better than Chandler. This laid-back sardonic rapper has slowly taken over this city over the past year, steadily cranking out new singles and scoring viral TikTok numbers at the drop of a verse. His biggest hit this year was “Figure It Out,” an instant classic summer jam that I still get stuck in my head. But he hasn’t rested on his laurels since then either, dropping fire tracks like October’s “Purple Devil Emoji” and the brand-new-as-of-last-Friday “On The Radar Freestyle.” Now he’s bringing us a triumphant live performance with which to cap off the year, bringing together some other similarly minded Richmond hip hop up-and-comers to create a rock-solid evening of rap that’ll hit you as hard as a brick to the face.

A Cold Richmond’s Night will feel a lot better than a brick to the face, though, since it’ll bring you sets not only from Chandler but also from his frequent collaborator and partner in crime, Lunch $pecial. Lunch actually released an LP this summer, Kasablanca, which showed he’s able to stretch his talented, unorthodox flow across a variety of tracks at once without losing any of the witty, charismatic approach that makes his singles such a fun listen. He’s recently followed it up with “Sugar Boy,” which features an emotional lyrical delivery over a boom-bap beat, and just might be his best single yet. Lunch’s set at this show will be every bit as essential as Chandler’s, and we both know that’s saying something. Meanwhile, DuctTape Jesus is not to be outdone or outshined, having released a new LP of his own, Chester Skate Land, only last month. This one has had the Richmond scene talking, and it’s not hard to see why. If you haven’t caught DuctTape Jesus live yet, you should fix that ASAP. Hey, no time like the present, right? Fellow young talents Lil Stixxx and Sap Evans round out this bill of hip hop fire to warm up a cold pre-Christmas night here in Richmond. Come on in and warm up.

Saturday, December 23, 2 PM
Santa Claws, feat. Ionna, Sun V Set, Horsehead, Cassidy Snider & The Wranglers, E 33rd, Prabir Trio, DJ Sidewinder @ Hardywood – Free!
The last Saturday before Christmas is traditionally one of the biggest shopping days of the year, and as someone who works in big retail stores, I can tell you, you do NOT want to be at Walmart, Target, or the mall on Saturday afternoon. Fortunately, if you’ve still got a few last-minute gifts to check off your list, you still have a cool place to go — Hardywood! Starting at 2 PM on Saturday and lasting well into the night hours, Hardywood is throwing an event known as Santa Claws, which will combine a holiday market full of local vendors with a jam-packed bill full of local leading lights to keep you entertained as you browse for stocking stuffers and try to find something to give great aunt Mindy.

Alternately, if you just want to camp out by the stage, that’s a very solid decision to make in light of the many incredible artists who’ll be playing this event. For one, there’s Cassidy Snider & the Wranglers, who’ve become a veritable institution of Americana sounds here in Richmond over the past couple of years. And of course, alt-country veterans Horsehead have plenty of great tunes from their new LP, Sundogs Dancing In The Early Morning Light, to share with us all and get us dancing in the evening dusk. Then there’s the always-reliable indie rock of Prabir Trio, the ambient synth beauty of Ionna, the ethereal, progressive sounds of Sun V Set. And that’s not even all! Truly, this will be a great afternoon full of outstanding music. Which is good, because it’s the last live music performance happening in this town until a couple of days after Christmas, so we’re all going to have to make this one count.

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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