RVA Shows You Must See This Week: February 14 – February 20

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Thursday, February 15, 7 PM
Sam Reed Sings Betty Davis, feat. Sam Reed, DJ Leto, Nu Rodeo Caldonia Burlesque @ Gallery 5 – $30 in advance, $40 at the door (order tickets HERE)
The full official name of this show is “Sam Reed Presents: Sex! A Betty Davis Tribute,” in case anyone was wondering what we were getting into here. And now that we’ve set the tone for a post-Valentines night of music that will focus on the very thing that we all hope our Valentine’s Days end with, let’s talk about who Betty Davis was, and why Sam Reed is paying tribute to her with a full night of her music. Let’s start by dispelling any confusion that might exist out there: this show is not about Bette Davis, the legendarily fierce film actress who had her greatest fame in the post-WWII era. This evening of music pays tribute to groundbreaking funk vocalist Betty Davis, whose powerful, sensual approach took funk to whole new levels of raw.

Now, Betty Davis was briefly married to Miles Davis, which is where she got her last name, but the two were long since divorced by the time she released her most influential and important albums: 1974’s They Say I’m Different and 1975’s Nasty Gal. At the time, people didn’t really get what Betty Davis was doing, but her influence has grown in the decades since she her best-known music was released, and she’s been cited as an influence by people like Erykah Badu and Jamila Woods. Her sexually aggressive performance style and futuristic style were essential elements of her impact on future generations.

Richmond’s own funk diva, Sam Reed, takes a strong influence from Betty Davis. In a recent Instagram post, Reed said of Davis, “Her impact in music still stands today. Her presence in fashion can still be found all over your online shopping sites. And because she expressed herself without shame or fear I can fully embody all aspects of who I am as a performer.” In Reed’s previous performances as part of her ongoing third-Thursday series at Gallery 5, she’s paid tribute to other important influences in her own musical development: Jazz, Rock, the music of the early 80s, the legendary singer Sharon Jones. Now she brings us an exploration of another crucial element of who she is today as a performer and musician: the music of Betty Davis. She’ll do so joined not only by her usual talented crew of musicians, including members of Dance Candy, Butcher Brown, and No BS! Brass, but also with the assistance of Weekend Plans’s own DJ Leto, as well as that of queer POC performance art troupe Nu Rodeo Caldonia. This show is sure to be a wild, freaky exploration of the excellent music and incredible spirit of Betty Davis, brought to life once again by a top-level ensemble of Richmond talents. If you haven’t made it to one of these Sam Reed Sings performances yet, this is the best chance you’ve got to fix that. Rest assured, it’s a night you won’t forget.

Wednesday, February 14, 7 PM
Sun V Set, Catie Lausten, Doreen, Pink Window @ The Camel – $12 (order tickets HERE)
It’s Valentine’s Day, and that means this is a very emotionally fraught night. For some of us, it’s an opportunity to celebrate the romance we’ve found in our lives, but for too many others of us, it’s a huge unwelcome reminder of another year on our own. Regardless of where you stand on that spectrum, you’ve probably got some anxieties around tonight. Am I going to meet someone if I go out? Will the date I planned be enough to charm and impress my partner? These are very valid concerns, but we get wrapped up in them at our own peril. Instead, it might be a better idea to stop panicking about how tonight will go and just stop by the Camel for a night of lovely music from a variety of local acts, all of whom should easily be able to take your mind off your worries and let you enjoy the evening.

Sun V Set is at the top of the bill, and since they released their debut LP, Curious Wave, last fall, they’ve been drawing a lot of attention locally. This is well deserved, as their subtly complex take on indie-folk shines through in both their studio recordings and their live performances. This trio is incredibly talented and their mellow sound is sure to soothe your soul if you’re feeling a little too aware of your single status tonight. Also on the bill is Catie Lausten, a talented local singer-songwriter who has followed up her excellent 2022 EP Love To Love To Love with half a dozen or so equally great singles over the past year. Her catchy and slightly sardonic tunes are always a great listen. Doreen feels like a pretty new band, since I’ve never heard their name before, but I am also pretty sure they are a new incarnation of Richmond indie group Mangoux, so that should tell us a little bit. As for openers Pink Window, they appear to feature members of Houdan The Mystic and Fight Cloud (though don’t quote me on that, I could be wrong). More importantly, the one song they’ve released thus far is a particularly charming slice of indie pop sweetness. So regardless of ex-member cred, you’re still gonna want to show up to this one on time. Bring your sweetheart, or just bring yourself — either way, it’ll be a lovely way to spend Valentine’s Day.

Thursday, February 15, 7 PM
Squirrel Flower, Greg Mendez, Hotspit @ The Camel – $18 (order tickets HERE)
Squirrel Flower is an indie band on a common recent template: starting out as an acoustic-based solo project for singer-songwriter Ella Williams, it’s grown over the course of its first three albums into a full-blown band that makes music based around electric guitars. This has been a positive evolution, and the band’s latest album, Tomorrow’s Fire, does a great job of creating memorable tunes in a genre — guitar-driven alt-rock — that doesn’t always have a lot left to be said within it. What makes Squirrel Flower’s music so memorable and enjoyable is the talent for memorable lyrics and melodies that Williams brings to the table. Whether she’s on her own or with a full band, she’s a formidable talent. But if you ask me, she’s at her best at the front of a full electric ensemble.

That’s the sound we’ll be getting from Squirrel Flower when they come to The Camel this Thursday night, and it’s a welcome one. Meanwhile, fellow touring musician Greg Mendez will be bringing a quieter, more acoustic sound that’s just as welcome. Perhaps best known for his role in Shannen Moser’s backing band, Mendez released a self-titled solo debut last summer that finds him working in terrain once explored by the legendary Elliott Smith. It’s hard to know exactly how this sound will be presented in a live environment, but considering the quality of the songs on offer, we’re undoubtedly in for a treat. Local indie-gaze mainstays Hotspit will kick things off with a set of their always enjoyable heavy-guitar mood pieces. This one will be lovely throughout.

Friday, February 16, 7 PM
OS (Michael Thomas Jackson, Lynn Book, David Menestres), Tear Ducts @ ADA Gallery – $10 suggested donation
The world of experimental noise often seems to operate in two very divergent paths. You either get intensely cerebral high art, or total scumbag fuckery. It’s not really a spectrum, either — generally speaking, things are either one kind of noise or the other. The fact that this particular experimental noise show is happening at an art gallery is your first clue as to what sort of noise this is. To be clear, there is nothing scummy about this one. This is high art, bringing us unusual sounds strongly influenced by a background in genres like free jazz and experimental composition. Specifically, headliners OS bring together the talents of improvisational composer and double bassist David Menestres, vocalist and multimedia artist Lynn Book, and multi-instrumentalist Michael Thomas Jackson.

Menestres’s website refers to this version of OS as the “Zero Edition,” and makes clear that the project’s lineup is at least somewhat subject to change. So what exactly this trio has in store for us is hard to say, though the hypnotic, improvisational collaborative track Book and Menestres did for You Better Mind: Southeastern Songs to Stop Cop City can give us some clue. With that in mind, expect these folks to explore the possibilities of ambience, vocalization, and the limits of what sorts of noises musical instruments can make. Or maybe do something completely different! This sort of thing is hard to predict. Tear Ducts, a solo project from Cloud of the experimental ensemble Elastic Medium, is also on the bill, and based on their massively unpredictable 2023 release, Dog Star Woman, it’s nigh impossible what to say their performance will consist of. 20 minute feedback drone epics? Acoustic guitar instrumentals? Analog synth explorations? Whatever it is, it’s sure to challenge any expectations you bring to it. And isn’t that what we always want from evenings of experimental noise?

Saturday, February 17, 7 PM
Trophy Hunt, Euclid C Finder, Le Morte, Humanitarian Deficit @ Cobra Cabana – $7-$15 (sliding scale)
Gotta tell y’all, I’m excited for this one. The screamo scene is always a personal favorite of mine, but in recent years of settling into middle-aged married life, I’ve lost track of some of the newer groups making waves in this deeply underground scene. With this show, I’ve been introduced to two new screamo bands from elsewhere in the United States that I’m sorta ashamed I didn’t know about already. Better late than never, though, right? First and foremost, there’s Brooklyn band Trophy Hunt, who released an excellent LP in 2022 called The Branches On Either Side. In today’s screamo scene, I’ve grown used to bands incorporating strong doses of metalcore into their sound, but this LP is less metal than most modern screamo I’ve grown used to. Instead, these leaven their harsh screams and speedy blasting drums with guitar melodies and ambience that take things in a more melancholy, emotional direction, bringing to mind a mix of 00s “epic screamo” projects like Welcome The Plague Year and Funeral Diner, as well as Portrayal Of Guilt at their less metallic moments.

As for Baltimore’s Euclid C Finder, a band that’s apparently named after a weapon in Fallout: New Vegas (I had to google that), they definitely bring the harsher metalcore elements that are common to modern screamo, landing somewhere in the neighborhood of Callous Daoboys or Nerver on their recently released LP, The Mirror, My Weapon, I Love You. But don’t get confused — that’s definitely a good thing. This band shifts rapidly between choppy, complex breakdowns and hyperspeed raging thrash noise, always overlaid by the harsh, panicky screams of their remarkable vocalist. The result is fucking outstanding, and anyone who enjoys heavy music will get a big kick out of it. In fact, even if you (like me) find the term “screamo” to be kinda cringe, you’re sure to find a lot to love in both of these bands. The same is true of our local openers, monstrous doom metal mavens Le Morte and frantic screamo duo Humanitarian Deficit. The latter in particular just released a killer split EP with Geronimostilton, so look for some rad new tunes from those folks to kick off the night. I for one can’t wait.

Sunday, February 18, 8 PM
Wade Wilson, MC Homeless, Knowitall, Impulse, BlaQ, Unruly @ Bandito’s – $10 (order tickets HERE)
Wrapping up your weekend at Bandito’s is always a solid move, especially when you score some nachos while you’re there. This weekend will be a particular treat for the hip hop heads, though, as a truly formidable lineup is hitting the Diablo Room stage once the sun goes down this Sunday night. At the top of the bill is Wade Wilson, a relatively young rapper from Brooklyn who has a taste for old-school beats and hard rhymes that should please fans of legends like MF Doom and Mobb Deep. You might think this guy’s rapping under his government name, but the Marvel Comics fans out there will tell you that his MC name is taken from Deadpool’s secret identity. On 2023 LP Mia, Wade Wilson demonstrates that he’s a true superhero of modern hip hop. We’re lucky to have this chance to see him right here in our hometown. So y’all, don’t blow it.

Meanwhile, another touring act coming to town on this bill is North Carolina rapper MC Homeless. If you’ve been around the local scene for a while, you might remember this guy from the days when he played shows with Swordplay and had a notorious battle with Swerve 360. He’s got quite a bit of hip hop history, but these days he’s at a career peak, having released two different collaborative EPs with the legendary Kool Keith in the past two years. He’s got self-assured styles and flows for miles, so whether you’ve seen MC Homeless multiple times over the past two decades or are just catching on to him now, be prepared for his set to blow your mind. New York’s Knowitall is also on this bill, and his aggressive, raspy flow is always memorable and hits particularly hard on his 2023 full-length collaboration with Barto100, Hand Painted Realities. All three of these touring acts have excellent sets to lay on us, and Virginia-based openers Unruly’s two LPs, 2022’s Black Graffiti and 2023’s Don’t Go Outside, are both excellent examples of menacing, atmospherically dense modern hip hop that should come to vibrant life in a live environment. As for Impulse and BlaQ, well, I couldn’t find them online. But at this point, this bill is so stacked, it’s essential regardless. Be there. And get yourself some nachos. You won’t be sorry.

Monday, February 19, 6:30 PM
Capstan, Sleave, The Fan @ Richmond Music Hall at Capital Ale House – $15 (order tickets HERE)
Florida’s Capstan is a band who has had quite an interesting progression over their decade or so as a band. Generally labeled as post-hardcore, their early EPs hewed relatively close to the template created by bands like Knuckle Puck and Real Friends. However, on their first full-length, 2019’s Restless Heart, Keep Running, they began integrating a more metallic undertone, moving toward the modern metalcore sound of bands like Dance Gavin Dance or The Devil Wears Prada. Melody remained a strong undercurrent in their music, and indeed, the songs they’ve released thus far from their forthcoming third LP, The Mosaic, show them dipping into more electronic textures and coming closer to out-and-out balladry — even as one or two of their most recent songs are at least as heavy as anything they’ve done before.

But I suppose that’s the sort of evolution you can expect from a band who has retained the same lineup for over a decade — a notable achievement in a genre where constant lineup changes are the norm. Instead of always bringing in new people whose goal is to recreate the old hits, Capstan have constantly progressed in their sound, and now have a strong, variable catalog to draw from, even as they explore new facets of their sound on their upcoming third LP. Hear more of what’ll be coming from these folks in a few months now by going to see them this Monday night at Richmond Music Hall. This is sure to be a treat for longtime Capstan fans, but new ears will find a lot to appreciate as well. Richmond emo-rockers Sleave, who are still riding high off the recent release of their excellent EP All These Songs Are About You, will provide some excellent support sounds. And Jim Ivins’ latest project The Fan, who are definitely from Richmond and may or may not be named after a local neighborhood, will get things started with some catchy melodic alt-rock tunes. Get stoked for it.

Tuesday, February 20, 7 PM
Apes Of The State, Doom Scroll, Boygirl Rising @ The Camel – $20 (order tickets HERE)
It’s late in the week and I’m late finishing this column but we’ve got one more of these shows to go so let’s knock it out, quick and dirty style. “Quick and dirty” is the sort of adjective that might be applied to the entire genre of folk-punk, a style of music that evolved when crust punks realized they actually had a lot in common with folkies — plus it’s cheaper and environmentally friendlier to play instruments that don’t need electricity to run. And god knows punks are always looking for ways to get by on less money.

With all that in mind, you can expect some catchy acoustic tunes with a lot of punk rock heart from Apes Of The State when they come through The Camel this Tuesday night. This Pennsylvania folk-punk band got its start when founder April Hartman realized that folk-punk is closest to punk’s original idea that “anyone can do it.” Folk-punk’s simplicity can lead to things getting boring quickly, but Apes Of The State fight back against that possibility by writing vital, real-life lyrics that are delivered with a lot of spirit overtop of energetic riffs that demonstrate what a lot of rock n’ rollers of all stripes have known for decades — the catchiest riffs only need a couple of chords. Apes Of The State have only released a couple of songs since the whole pandemic thing, most recently on their split with Sister Wife Sex Strike, They Can’t Kill Us All, but they’ve apparently got an album planned for later this year, so this set at The Camel is likely to act as a preview. You can be stoked for that, as well as for the support sets from ska-flavored acoustic punk group Doom Scroll and queer folk duo Boygirl Rising, which will wrap another week of shows in fine fashion. Now let me text Doug that the column is finally done. Have a great week everyone!

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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