RVA Shows You Must See This Week: January 17 – January 23

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Quick author’s note: My most heartfelt thanks to everyone for the kind words on the occasion of this column’s 10th anniversary. It was a welcome and humbling surprise. I’m really glad this column is still finding a receptive audience after all this time. You keep reading ’em, and I promise I’ll keep writing ’em.

And on that note, I would like to awkwardly point out that I make my living (such as it is) as a freelance writer in an industry that’s rapidly dying. I could use any support anyone wants to offer me, and the best way to do so is by supporting me on Patreon. I’m attempting to increase my content production as 2024 gets going, including possible video content, so you have that to look forward to. And if nothing else, supporting my Patreon helps allow me the time I need to make this column the best it can be. Thanks again, y’all. –Drew

Saturday, January 20, 7:30 PM
Serious Saturday, feat. Ant The Symbol, Antoine Archer, AR3A51, Bigg Thumbs, Camp Diamond, Chaotik, Controlled Chaos, Cottontop, Grim Smilezz & Knowledge, PGB Renegade, Scutti, Sneeze, VRO Ave, 20 Twin, music by Chopstix @ Black Iris Social Club – $15 (order tickets HERE)
The hip hop scene in Richmond and around Virginia can be tough to keep up with — there are a million small cliques and crews that all work together, and a ton of surprisingly active scenes coming out of small cities and obscure neighborhoods. If you’re not in a whole bunch of right places at a bunch of different right times, you’re gonna miss as much as you catch. Years ago, there was one guaranteed way to get a crash course in what’s going on around the city, the state, and beyond — show up at the monthly Face Melt Fridays showcases at Strange Matter. These were loosely organized around BlackLiq and the New Juice Crew, but everyone was welcome, and you could always see talented MCs you’d barely heard of rapping right before or after some of the best-known spitters in the city. Those shows were great. But then Strange Matter shut down, and the pandemic killed live music for 18 months, and there’s just been nothing to replace Face Melt Fridays since.

Luckily, I’m not the only one who recognizes what we’ve lost, and now some folks have come together at Black Iris Social Club to create Serious Saturday, an overt homage to the glory days of Face Melt Fridays. Based on the lineup they’ve pulled together for the first edition, this series seems poised to bring the feel of classic Face Melt bills back to Richmond — and that’s just about the best news I’ve heard in 2024 so far. Just like FMFs of old, this one features a ton of performers, who will doubtless storm the stage one after another, with barely a moment to take a breath, as Richmond-based DJ Chopstix keeps the music rolling throughout. A few of these folks probably don’t need too much introduction; for example, veteran Richmond production whiz Ant The Symbol, or hyperactive upstart local MC Sneeze. There are a ton more that I’m sure will be as new to some of you as they are to me, though, and that’s always great.

For example, there’s Chaotik, who released a heavy-hitting LP called Better Late Than Never back in the fall and has a sinister vibe I really appreciate. Bigg Thumbs has an outstanding name, and the tracks he has uploaded to YouTube are aggressive and full of low-end rumble. Cottontop will hit the sweet spot for those of us who dig the screwed and chopped purple vibe. And VRO Ave, who appears to be masterminding this whole thing, only has a couple of singles out, but they showcase a hyperspeed flow of the sort we hear way too rarely these days. Of course, we’ll find out what all of these folks have to offer when they hit the Black Iris stage this Saturday night, and I’m sure some will make more new fans than others. But you’ll walk away knowing a lot more about what’s coming out of Virginia in 2024 than you did before you got there, and that’s really what this is all about. Bring a few bucks to buy some mixtapes, and get ready to find your next favorite local rapper.

Wednesday, January 17, 7 PM
Deathcat, Art School, Rat Fight @ The Camel – $12 (order tickets HERE)
Time for some good old punk rock fun. It’s happening at The Camel tonight, and it’s being brought to you first and foremost by Deathcat. I still haven’t managed to see this young trio yet, so I’m going by what I can find on social media, but it seems to me that they’re going for at least a bit of a Demolition Doll Rods vibe, in that the band is two women and a man but all three of them wear matching girl-coded outfits (white wedding dresses, or black tank tops and cat-ear headbands). Musically, it’s not that garage, instead channeling a bit of that Bratmobile/Bikini Kill riot-grrrl energy, only with the more upfront pop sensibility of, say, The Donnas circa Get Skintight. On the whole, it’s pretty fucking sweet.

The other two bands on this bill are also local Richmond groups, and neither of them have been around for very long, but they’ve both got that youthful punk vitality that’s always so thrilling. Art School bash out some upbeat, catchy three-chord punk on their first EP, Right Off Of Work Demos. The EP is ragged but right, with a sound that should work for those who enjoy classic first-wave American punk bands like The Dils or The Avengers. Rat Fight, who are starting the evening off, are probably the heaviest group on this bill, and are definitely the only one that favors screamed vocals. Harsh edge notwithstanding, though, this band’s sound will still click in a big way for anyone who enjoys old-school hardcore punk. This will be a great way to spend a midweek evening, so hop to it, hepcats.

Thursday, January 18, 7 PM
Sam Reed Sings The 80s, feat. Sam Reed @ Gallery 5 – $15 in advance, $20 day of show (order tickets HERE)
These days, if you know Sam Reed, it’s probably because of her role as part-time lead vocalist for No BS! Brass Band, which she joined in time for 2022’s Undying. However, if you’ve been around for a while, you know she’s been a powerful voice in the Richmond soul, jazz, funk, and R&B scenes for over a decade now. Her 2015 solo album, This Is Love, was a powerful statement that turned a lot of heads at the time. And even though she’s spending a lot more time with No BS! Brass these days, she’s been stepping back out on her own lately — first with a Shockoe Sessions Live! appearance back in November, and now with a six-month residency at Gallery 5. The first three installments of this residency happened in the fall, but now, after taking two months off for the holidays, she’s returning for the fourth edition. This one follows up on the first three shows of this series — in which she took on rock (Janis Joplin), jazz (Nina Simone), and funk (Sharon Jones) — with a powerful program of 80s hits, apparently with a special focus on the music of 1983.

The buzz on these monthly Sam Reed Sings performances has been building ever since the first one back in September, and after two months off, anticipation for this set has reached a fever pitch. It certainly looks like Ms. Reed will deliver on the promise of her earlier performances, especially since she’s put together a crack backing band featuring members of Dance Candy and The Flavor Project, among others. I’m not sure what the set list will consist of, but considering the year that’s being focused on, I’m guessing Prince, Michael Jackson, maybe David Bowie or Lionel Richie? Who knows, really — it’s enough to know it’ll be Sam Reed singing. Once you know that, you know you’ll be getting an incredible set full of top-notch performances. Come out to this show and I guarantee the good vibes will carry you straight through until Friday night.

Friday, January 19, 7 PM
Sicard Hollow, Chris Leggett & The Copper Line @ Richmond Music Hall at Capital Ale House – $15 (order tickets HERE)
I’m not a follower of modern bluegrass, so I really can’t tell you how closely Sicard Hollow comes to the mainstream of the bluegrass sound in the 21st century. If it all sounds like Sicard Hollow, though, I should probably be paying more attention, because I really dig what these young fellas are doing. Sure, it reminds me of the music I heard as a child being played by old men at county fairs, but the thing that really intrigues me about Sicard Hollow is the ways in which they don’t conform to that ancient folk tradition. To an extent, they remind me of Richmond’s own Josh Small, who uses traditional acoustic folk instruments to play lovelorn tunes that are almost more emo than Americana. To another extent, they remind me of the folk-punk bands coming out of the British Isles in the late 80s and early 90s: the Pogues, The Waterboys, The Levellers, all that upbeat acoustic stuff with an undeniable punk energy behind it all.

Really, though, Sicard Hollow isn’t doing any one of the things I described above. Instead, they mix all of these elements and more into a sound that’s undeniably modern, undeniably traditional, and undeniably theirs. Their 2022 LP, Brightest Of Days, is full of memorable songs with catchy choruses and indelible vocal melodies, paired with quick tempos and energetic riffs that’ll keep your feet tapping and a smile on your face. Local boys Chris Leggett & The Copper Line will open things up with a set of their lovelorn alt-country charmers, which are sure to make you feel good and get you excited for the main event. Get stoked for this one, y’all.

Saturday, January 20, 7 PM
Films On Song, False Nectar, Catie Lausten, Soft Catch @ Cobra Cabana – Free!
Seeing a show at Cobra Cabana on a Saturday night is always a fun time, and it’s even more fun when the show is free. That’s the case for this Saturday night showcase of Virginia indie sounds, which frees you up to spend the scratch you would’ve thrown down on the door price to get some Strange Mac & Cheese instead — a delicious bonus for an already delicious evening. The most delightful taste on this four-artist bill is that of the headliners, Charlottesville group Films On Song. Having recently released an excellent album entitled Slightly Nightly, this quartet is building on the great shoegaze, indie, and alternative rock sounds they set out for us all on the album. We’re in luck — the fact that they only live 90 minutes away from Richmond allows them to make a casual trip down on a weekend for a show at which we can all keep our money in our pockets and still get down to some outstanding tunes.

There are three other artists on this bill, all of which hail from right here in the river city, and all of which should provide an outstanding counterpoint to what Films On Song is bringing to us. False Nectar is the first of these, and while I can’t tell you too very much about their sound — they have a Bandcamp page, but there aren’t any songs on it! — I can tell you that this quartet features members of Ten Pound Snail, Spacemere, and Sleave, and describes the type of music they play as “loud music.” I’m here for it. I’m much more familiar with what local songwriter Catie Lausten brings to the table — I was a big fan of her catchy, witty take on alt-pop that she showed off on 2022’s Love To Love to Love EP. She’s released several singles since then, all of which make clear that she’s continuing to build on the significant potential of her early work. While we wait for her to give us a new collection of tunes, we can’t go wrong seeing her play her best material live at Cobra Cabana, now can we? Soft Catch will start things off with some moody power-pop, which should sound great as you polish off your mac & cheese. Hit this one up.

Sunday, January 21, 5 PM
Neonach, Pain Generator, Acheleg @ Garden Grove Brewing – Free!
When I was young and first heard about experimental noise, I expected it to be the logical conclusion of the continuum I was on at the time, from punk to metal to death metal to… what, radio static pumped through a stadium-sized PA? Standing in front of a jet engine just as it starts to take off? What I’m saying is that I expected an intolerable, pain-inducing sonic attack. In the 30 or so years since I started delving into this whole world, though, I’ve been surprised and intrigued to discover how many experimental noise artists go very much in the opposite direction, creating subtle, beautiful atmospheres of soaring melodic hum. At his most stretched-out, Massachusetts experimental noise artist Neonach does that sort of thing, evoking touchstones like Brian Eno’s legendary Music For Airports.

At other times, it seems he’s much more song-focused, as on 2021’s Neonach II. That album is full of programmed industrial pop, which leavens the obvious influence of artists like KMFDM, Front 242, and Sisters Of Mercy with a melodic sensibility that feels closer to something like Clan Of Xymox or Dead Can Dance. It’s these moments in Neonach’s discography that fit best with the two Richmond-based openers on this show. The first, Pain Generator, comes a lot closer to that jet-engine/radio-static harshness I expected when I was still a naive teenager exploring noise for the first time. On recent single “Dying Is Easy,” they infuse pounding industrial beats with Charles Manson samples and the sound of speakers overloading and blowing apart. If you like noise when it’s heavy, you will definitely like this group. As for openers Acheleg, they sort of split the difference, foregrounding squiggly analog synth sounds and programmed beats that wash across waves of ambient hiss. The final result is a triple bill that should please anyone who enjoys experimental noise, industrial music, or unexpected musical juxtapositions. Come out and soak it in.

Monday, January 22, 7 PM
DBB, The Get Off, Pfft, Paradiso @ Bandito’s – $10
Folks, let me be honest — it pains me just a bit to pick against the Wednesday show happening at The Broadberry on this same night. If you’ve already got your tickets, believe me, I understand. However, if you’re too metal for an alt-country-infused shoegaze show, or if you want to hit up a show with a stronger connection to the Richmond scene, this is the one I gotta send you to. Headliners DBB — which stands for Drive-By Bukkake, an image I don’t wanna dwell on too long — come from Worcester, Massachusetts, and feature members of other grindcore projects from the area like Hivesmasher and Goblet. Their latest record, Bastards Of Slime, came out in summer 2022 and features a ton of hyperspeed blastbeats, harsh guitar riffs, and throat-rending screams. You’ll be banging your head with abandon when these folks hit the stage — with occasional moments of hard-as-hell mosh. Can you do spinkicks in steel-toed boots? We’re about to find out!

Three Richmond groups join DBB on this stacked bill, all of which have a lot to offer in their own right. The Get Off are closer to hardcore punk than the grind and metal laid down by DBB, but bring plenty of energy to all their performances, which will fit right in on this bill. As for Pfft, this two-piece grind outfit featuring members of The Get Off and Cremains bring a similarly goofy, wrestling-obsessed, and occasionally gross vibe to that of DBB, and have a similar sound as well — though these boys are way closer to uptempo thrash than outright grind most of the time. The evening will kick off with a set from Paradiso, a recently formed local ensemble with an alt-prog-metal approach that avoids predictability in favor of entertaining songs that hit you with some delightful musical curveballs. Not only will this show allow all of Richmond’s metalheads a chance to get familiar with the irreverent grind awesomeness of DBB, it’ll provide many of us with an excellent update on where the local metal/punk scene stands in 2024. Be there — you can catch Wednesday next time they come through town.

Tuesday, January 23, 7 PM
Ross Wright, Sophie Colette, Kenneka Cook, Velvet Kove @ The Camel – $10 (order tickets HERE)
I don’t know too much about singer-songwriter Ross Wright, and I suppose if my google searches are any indication, he has remained mysterious to a lot of other music journalists as well. There aren’t really any good interviews out there, no significant biographical details. All I know, I learned from his Bandcamp page — he lives in Richmond, he writes keyboard-driven pop songs, and he has been releasing albums for over a decade now, even though I just started hearing his name last year. That’s all very intriguing, and even more intriguing is the sheer emotional power of his most recent EP, Glow In The Water. It’s full of unforgettable melancholy pop songs that feel like they were huge hits in some alternate universe’s version of the 1980s. Once you listen to it a few times, its hold on you will be permanent.

So I guess my only question is… why aren’t more people talking about this guy? I have no answer for you, but I do have a hope: that this show will make a difference, will start to get people here in Richmond talking about this talented yet overlooked singer-songwriter right here in our midst. If there are people there to hear this music, it’ll surely win them over. Wright’s recent duet partner, Kenneka Cook, will also be on this bill, and one would certainly hope they’ll take the stage together at some point to perform the aforementioned duet, “What A Difference A Day Can Make.” Kenneka Cook’s set will no doubt be interesting in its own right — Cook’s had a strong following around Richmond for quite a while now, and although it’s been five years since her incredible full-length debut, Moonchild, hit the streets, she’s continued to display a formidable talent that only grows as her career continues. If you haven’t seen her lately, you’re gonna want to be at this one to catch up on what she’s been up to. Sophie Colette is also on the bill, and this Brooklyn native’s been making noise around Richmond ever since she arrived here a year or so ago. Expect big things from this talented singer-songwriter. Newcomer Velvet Kove opens things up with some catchy, bouncy electro-pop that’s definitely worth showing up on time for. So hey — do 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

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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