RVA Shows You Must See This Week: February 22 – February 28

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Friday, February 24, 9 PM
Drook (Photo by Lucienne Nghiem), The Burning Sun, Strawberry Moon, Lobby Boy @ The Camel – $10 (order tickets HERE)
I’m not normally a person who thinks about astrology, but having recently read a trilogy of sapphic romance novels (I may be a middle-aged lady, but at least I’m a QUEER middle-aged lady) that were full of astrological references, I found myself looking at this lineup and immediately translating it into an astrological chart: Burning Sun, Strawberry Moon, Drook rising (or Lobby Boy rising… either one works). Clearly that trilogy had more of an influence on my brain than I expected.

This evening of music is primed to have a massive influence on the brains of everyone who shows up to The Camel to hear and see what these four bands have in store for you. I wasn’t just using the word “rising” to apply to Drook in order to make an astrology joke — this band really is on the come-up, and anyone who heard last year’s excellent Life In Estates EP knows exactly what I mean. Their integration of a variety of sounds that hark back to the 90s alt-rock explosion into an undeniably modern musical approach that covers a whole spectrum of influences is pretty much flawless, and must be seen in order to be properly appreciated. And then there’s Strawberry Moon, who’ve been making an impression on Richmond for years but really took things to the next level with the release of Habitual Creatures last fall. They’ve clearly grown from a glorified solo project into a solid, cohesive band, and the way they unify the creative vision of several talented local musician really makes their tense, postpunk-tinged take on the alt-rock sound unmissable.

And then there’s Lobby Boy, the third band on this bill to both hail from right here in Richmond and to take their sound to the next level within the last year or so by releasing a really killer new record. Citrus City released Pretty Songs/Pursuit Of Personhood last spring, so by now we should all be hip to its bouncy, poppy new wave sound, but on the off chance you still haven’t gotten the word about what Lobby Boy are up to these days, you’ve really got to make this gig. And hey, even if you already know and love all three of these bands, you STILL can’t safely skip this show, because you’ll be missing your chance to catch Vermont’s own The Burning Sun, who released a great indie/postpunk/pop full-length a couple of years ago called Marrow. Their sound is a perfect pairing with the three local bands they’re sharing a bill with, and if you like all three of said local bands (and you should), you really need to hear The Burning Sun. You’ll fall in love with their sound, guaranteed.

Wednesday, February 22, 6 PM
Future Teens, Macseal, Shallow Pools @ Richmond Music Hall at Capital Ale House – $16 in advance, $18 day of show (order tickets HERE)
Boston’s Future Teens have been known to refer to themselves as “bummer pop,” and it doesn’t take long to see exactly why they’d reach for such a descriptor. On Self Help, the album they released last fall, they delve into some dark, deeply personal lyrical topics, including depression-induced mental breakdowns and struggles with addiction’s many ugly side effects. They do so overtop of gorgeously produced tunes that are full of aching melodies, dramatic crescendos, and excellently harmonized dual vocals by guitarists Amy Hoffman and Daniel Radin. The result is outstanding, and exactly the sort of thing that’s sure to connect with the many emo kids out there looking for a beautiful song to make them feel less alone.

Indeed, while “bummer pop” is an excellent descriptor that paints a whole picture in one’s mind, if I had been left to my own devices, I might just have called this band “emo” and been done with it. If your idea of emo has been shaped by groups like Taking Back Sunday or Dashboard Confessional (who Future Teens wryly nod toward with their song “Doorknob Confessional”), you might not hear it right away. However, if you know and love bands like The Anniversary or Jejune, this band is probably going to ring some bells for you. Even if you don’t, Future Teens have a lot to offer to anyone who appreciates well-structured melodies and heartfelt lyrics. And what music fan doesn’t that apply to?

Thursday, February 23, 8 PM
Tel, Oktas, Druglord @ Bandito’s – $5
The wide-ranging spectrum of amplified heavy music has existed in one form or another for over half a century now, and a lot of sounds have come and gone within its broad purview. One sound, however, has remained strong and reliable throughout that time, regardless of trends. I speak, of course, of doom metal: a sound that moved from just being the default in the early days of metal, when bands like Black Sabbath and Blue Cheer were at the forefront, to being a way to explore the furthest extremes of what was possible in terms of heaviness (see Sunn O))) or Corrupted for good examples of this). Along the way, a variety of different approaches to doom metal have developed. That’s something this three-band bill at Bandito’s this Thursday night will demonstrate. For after all, while all three of these bands are undeniably doom metal, they have very different ways of approaching their chosen genre.

Let’s start by talking about Philadelphia-based quartet Oktas, the sole out-of-town band on this bill. Their take on doom is one of the more original I’ve seen come along over the past few years. Featuring no six-string guitars at all in their lineup, they instead feature two bass players, one of whom sings in a deep, throaty growl, as well as a cellist whose dark orchestral lines both add atmosphere to Oktas’s sound and give it a melodic edge that provides an intriguing contrast to the walls of low-end they lay down. Last year’s The Finite And The Infinite featured four songs and lasted nearly 40 minutes, which should tell you just how epic this band can get. You’re going to want to see this for yourself. It will stand as an intriguing contrast to the music of the two local acts on this bill. Tel may not reach the extremes of slowness that some bands hit, but their spaced-out sludge sound recalls the atmospheric gloom of classic Neurosis. Meanwhile, Druglord keep it old-school with a groove-based approach that harks back to the classic work of pioneers like Saint Vitus and even Black Sabbath themselves. It all adds up to a show that keeps the stoner groove going throughout the evening, without ever becoming repetitive. In other words, it’s the ideal doom metal show. You’re not gonna want to miss it.

Friday, February 24, 8 PM
Anna Leonard, Corey Axt, Tiara & Andrew @ Black Iris Social Club – $7 in advance, $10 at the door (order tickets HERE)
I’ve been intrigued by local singer-songwriter Anna Leonard for a while now, and the fact that I’ve only been at The Auricular for about six weeks and this is already the second time I’m including one of her headlining shows in a column should if nothing else let you know that I hold her in high esteem. If you don’t yet, that’s OK — she hasn’t released very much music over the course of her career thus far. Most recently, she brought out the charming acoustic single “Girlhood,” which keeps the instrumentation minimal but still wraps the listener in layers of beautiful vocal harmonies. Before that, there were two 2022 singles: the moody yet irresistible “Denial,” and the charming pop confection “Candy,” the song that initially drew me into Anna Leonard’s orbit.

Based on the few songs we’ve gotten from Anna Leonard over the past year or so, I can’t help but want her to release a full album, and the sooner the better. That said, right now the only way you can really hear a full set of tunes from Anna Leonard is to go see her play. Obviously, that’s what I’m advising you to do this Friday night for this headlining gig at Black Iris Social Club. You should show up on time too, as fellow singer-songwriter Corey Axt will be giving us a solo set. While you may know Corey from his days in electro-jam group Faceship, or his work with bluegrass group Dalton Dash, he’s recently been doing covers of legendary singer-songwriters like Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell on his Instagram, so that should let you know where his head is at. And of course, Tiara & Andrew are a talented yet often overlooked R&B-soul-pop duo that you really should stop sleeping on. Show up on time for this one, and be prepared to stick around. It’ll be worth it.

Saturday, February 25, 7 PM
J. Flax & The Heart Attacks, Dead Billionaires, Nancy Raygun @ Gallery 5 – $8 in advance, $10 day of show (order tickets HERE)
I’m not sure Richmonders know the name J. Flax & The Heart Attacks too well. It’s been a few years since this group, which was initially based in the Hampton Roads area, has been all that active. During that time, though, bandleader Jeremy Flax moved to Richmond and fell into the creative scene that exists around the orbit of the one and only Prabir Mehta. As a result, Flax has played in a variety of (mostly Prabir-affiliated) bands since he got to Richmond in 2019, including not only Prabir’s current songwriting outlet, Prabir Trio, but also the Tom Petty tribute act Full Moon Fever and 1996, the cover band who focuses on the year they were named for.

Fortunately, all these endeavors around Richmond only fueled Flax’s creative fire, and he kickstarted J. Flax and The Heart Attacks back into action in late 2021 with the four-song Quadruple Bypass EP. It shows off a surf-indebted sound that lands closer to upbeat, catchy postpunk than anything else, even despite its tendencies toward surf beats and Dick Dale-style flurries of guitar notes. The result is a modern take on surf music that is every bit as fun as the original music it was inspired by, while also bringing an original approach that keeps things fresh. This Saturday night throwdown at Gallery 5 is J. Flax & The Heart Attacks’ first Richmond show in four years, and it features a strong supporting cast, namely Richmond alt-rock mainstays Dead Billionaires and Nancy Raygun. This is one you definitely won’t want to miss.

Sunday, February 26, 7 PM
Shormey, Billy Capricorn & akaLUTHER, Kenneka Cook, Ms. Jaylin Brown @ The Camel – $8 (order tickets HERE)
Citrus City have been known to liven up the latter parts of a weekend or even the earlier days of a week over at The Camel for a while now, but this year sees them making it official with the inauguration of a residency on the last Sunday of each month. The fact that it’s a label/booking cooperative who are doing the residency makes things more interesting: unlike a lot of other residencies, this won’t involve the same band in the headliner slot each time. Therefore, it’s even more essential to make sure you catch each and every one of these. Starting this Sunday with a lineup that features Shormey in the headlining position.

Shormey has been quietly dazzling Richmonders with her catchy lo-fi pop production for a while now. Following up the 2019 Citrus City release Boogie Tape Vol. 1 with 2021’s God Bless Bob Ross: A Collection of Low Fidelity Recordings was a bold move, but between the fact that Shormey knows how to make lo-fi sound inviting and down to earth rather than crappy, and the fact that the tunes from God Bless Bob Ross were even catchier than her previous material, this bold choice brought a big payoff. You can expect similar brilliance from Shormey on Sunday night, and if anything the added chaos factor live performance will introduce will just make this evening even more essential. You know what to do.

Monday, February 27, 7 PM
Spooky Cool, Allegra Krieger, Hotspit, Catie Lausten @ The Camel – $12 in advance, $15 day of show (order tickets HERE)
Folks, I’m not sure exactly what an “existential pie” might be, but after hearing Spooky Cool’s long-awaited debut album of the same name late last year, I can imagine that would taste good. After all, my ears really like the taste they get of the Spooky Cool album. And who can blame them? Zac Hryciak leads this group with confidence that is fully backed up by not only his excellent songs but the work of the talented musicians who bring them to life. The sound they conjure on Existential Pie‘s nine songs is psychedelic and spacy, but also full of strong pop hooks and catchy, powerful riffs. Whether you’re a pop-loving indie type who can’t live without strong vocal harmonies, a lysergically inclined individual who’s just here for the psychedelic trip, a fan of heavy guitar riffs and noisy jams, or just someone who appreciates a well-written rock song, this is one band you’re sure to love — as many other Richmonders already do.

The rest of the bill on this Monday night of musical excellence at the Camel is just as worthwhile as Spooky Cool themselves. For example, singer-songwriter Allegra Krieger has an intense sound that turns the subtle acoustic sound of her latest album, 2022’s Precious Thing, into something that evokes strong emotion and maybe even an undercurrent of fear. At different moments, her music vibes with Nick Drake, Laura Marling, and even John Fahey. It may be quiet, but it’s always riveting. With the bill rounded out by the excellent Hotspit and the ever-talented rising star that is Catie Lausten, this show is guaranteed to be significantly better than any Monday night show has any right to be. Kudos once again to The Camel for always making these slow nights of the week worth going out for.

Tuesday, February 28, 7:30 PM
Shockoe Sessions Live presents Eliturite @ In Your Ear Studios – $15 (order tickets HERE)
Just as The Camel is always your best bet for live music on a Monday night here in Richmond, you can count on your Tuesdays to be covered by Shockoe Sessions Live and In Your Ear Studios. By now everyone should know that these shows, recorded live in the studio at In Your Ear, are broadcast live over YouTube every Tuesday night. But if you don’t want to content yourself with watching a live performance from the other side of a TV, computer monitor, or (god forbid) smartphone screen, you can — and should — head over to In Your Ear to watch the whole thing unfold in person.

This week’s a good week to do so, as it represents the return of a Richmond rapper who hasn’t had a very high profile, even locally, for a long time. Eliturite, whose name is pronounced “illiterate,” last released an album a decade ago, but he’s got another one coming this April entitled After Wake, and this Shockoe Session is sure to act as an extended preview for the tunes awaiting us all on the impending release. It’ll also show us that Eliturite, who has been concentrating on a variety of behind the scenes projects — including HearRVA, which he co-founded — for most of the past decade, still has plenty to offer in the field of moody, introspective hip hop. Nothing not to love about that.

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

Also, I’m a freelancer now, and I’m looking for commissions, so if anyone needs press releases, band bios, or even actual articles written, you should hit me up! I work cheap.

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