RVA Shows You Must See This Week: March 8 – March 14

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Friday, March 10, 7 PM
Twin Drugs, Opin, Ett Eko @ Gallery 5 – $10 (order tickets HERE)
It’s really tough to keep up with all the new music coming out in any given year. Indeed, that’s true even if you limit yourself to the cultural production of just one city. This is one thing I’ve learned very well over the past quarter century (!) of being a music journalist in Richmond. It feels like every year there’s at least one record everyone in town is talking about, and I didn’t even know had come out. That happened to me at the end of 2022, with Twin Drugs’ new album, In Now Less Than Ever. It hit the streaming services in the fall, and I just… missed it completely. Didn’t hear any mention of it until The Auricular‘s fearless leader, Doug Nunnally, mentioned to me that he’d really been enjoying it. “Oh whoa, I didn’t know that was out,” I said. “I guess I better listen to it.”

I’m really glad I did, because it’s a tremendous album, full of big, powerful songs that both embody the shoegaze genre and transcend it through creative twists and new approaches. It’s got that same hazy guitar sound that embodies the whole shoegaze thing, but submerged beneath all of those loud walls of guitar feedback are some fascinating melodies that get outside the typical pop song structures, as well as integrating samples and abrupt, unexpected changes that keep you guessing. Sure, it’s easy to lay back and just let this one wash over you, but it rewards repeated listens, and even though I dug it from the first time I heard it, it’s nonetheless been steadily growing on me over the past month or so.

All of this is my way of saying that, if you haven’t caught up with the new Twin Drugs LP, it’s high time you did so. And their official record release show at Gallery 5 this Friday is the perfect time to do it. While it did hit streaming services last fall, the vinyl version of the album is finally available, and you’d be well served to pick up a copy for yourself at this show. You’d also be well served by showing up on time, to check out Opin’s experimental soundscapes and Ett Eko’s intriguing postpunk vibrations. Plus, it’s at Gallery 5, and shows there are always a good time. Really, this one’s got it all. Don’t be like me — don’t sleep on what Twin Drugs is up to. Go to this show and achieve enlightenment for yourself.

Wednesday, March 8, 7 PM
Sunny War, Will Overman @ Richmond Music Hall at Capital Ale House – $12 (order tickets HERE)
Pitchfork will tell you that Sunny War’s brand new album, Anarchist Gospel, is “by no measure a punk record,” but that just shows that a lot of otherwise discerning music journalists in the world have an incomplete understanding of what it means for music to be punk. Sunny War’s a great example of the place where people lose track. When you listen to her new album, you’re going to think the same thing a lot of other people think: folk, blues, roots music, a bit of country soul… and yeah, that’s all in there. Anarchist Gospel feels like it could fit right in alongside early My Morning Jacket, the best Alabama Shakes material, or even classic Aretha Franklin records. And it certainly could. God knows it’s every bit as excellent.

But there’s something else going on here, something that’s sure to come through in Sunny War’s live performance. You can see it in the title of Anarchist Gospel, the Crass quotes on the album’s closing track, and in War’s backstory — she started out as a folk-punk busker who’d spend five hours a day playing music on street corners, and the anything-goes spirit of her busking days shows up at least once on Anarchist Gospel — in her memorable re-imagining of legendary Ween track “Baby Bitch.” So yeah, come see Sunny War, and expect excellent music in the folk-blues-Americana vein… but don’t expect her not to be punk. Punk is a state of mind, and Sunny War definitely has it. And even though she’s an incredibly talented singer, songwriter, and musician, that still might be the best thing about her.

Thursday, March 9, 7 PM
Holy Locust, My Singer My Songbird, Cassidy Snider & The Wranglers, The Great Beforetimes @ Bandito’s – $10
From Richmond Music Hall Wednesday to Bandito’s Thursday, we move from one punk’s take on folk Americana to another, as Holy Locust rolls into Richmond with acoustic instruments in tow, wearing Carhartts and frayed black denim. If you were involved in the DIY punk scene in the mid-00s, this might make you a little nervous — god knows the scene overdosed on folk-punk for a while there. However, luckily for us all, Holy Locust are coming from a very different musical place than all those bands were. Instead of mixing three-chord punk with acoustic bluegrass and old-time singalongs, Holy Locust summons a decidedly darker feel, dipping into Eastern European folk music and Appalachian darkness on their 2018 album Fever Dream. And things get even more intense on recent single “Trash Pile,” which reminds me of everything from punk takes on klezmer to Sixteen Horsepower’s doom-folk apocalyptica.

In summation, there’s no need to worry — Holy Locust are not going to bring you yet another dose of folk-punk to make you feel like you never left that smelly punk-house basement back in 2005. They’ve got an original sound that is well worth hearing even if you never want to hear Defiance, Ohio again. And they’re paired on this bill with formidable local talents including Cassidy Snider & The Wranglers, whose rootsy take on old-time country is infused with a great deal of modern heart. Plus, it gets the dancefloor moving like the best Western swing bands of the mid-20th century. You oughta know by now. The bill is rounded out by scrappy folk duo My Singer My Songbird and Richmond’s own The Great Beforetimes, whose introspective acoustic tunes are… maybe a little bit emo? Don’t get confused, y’all — coming from me that’s a high compliment.

Friday, March 10, 7 PM
Their/They’re/There, Sweet Pill, Frames @ Richmond Music Hall at Capital Ale House – $13 (order tickets HERE)
To get personal for a sec: the world looks different when you’re trans. For example, I look around at everything happening in domestic politics right now and worry that people will be trying to put me in an internment camp by 2025. But let’s not get too dark right now… all I was really trying to say is that even though I’m sure no one else thinks this way, it was a surprise to me to encounter a band called Their/They’re/There that doesn’t have a single non-binary person in it. I got over it quick, though, because while Their/They’re/There is made up entirely of cis dudes, one of them is Into It Over It’s Evan Thomas Weiss, a man with a lengthy track record for writing incredible emo tunes that are always a cut or two above the average. His track record remains unblemished with Their/They’re/Three, the first official full-length and third overall release by Their/They’re/There, which came out last October but somehow got past me until this very week (first Twin Drugs, now this… what WAS I doing in October?).

If you remember Their/They’re/There’s origins in the mid-10s as an emo supergroup, you may be a little dismayed that Mike Kinsella (Owen, American Football, Cap’n Jazz, etc) is no longer in the group. However, I can assure you that your fears are groundless. This group has not lost a single step due to either their five-year absence from activity or from the replacement of Kinsella with Jared Karns (Hidden Hospitals). Indeed, their new LP is a rock-solid listen full of affecting lyrics, powerful choruses, and incredible melodies. I’ve never seen them play live before, but considering how good Weiss and co. were when I saw Into It Over It eight or so years ago, I’m expecting amazing things from Their/They’re/There’s set at Richmond Music Hall this Friday night. You’ll want to be there to see for yourself. And you should show up on time, because not only is excellent Philadelphia emo-pop combo Sweet Pill along for the ride, the massively underrated RVA emo group Frames will be opening this one up — and getting there too late to catch their set is almost as much of a crime as missing this show entirely. Word to the wise: don’t do either one.

Saturday, March 11, 7:30 PM
Keep, Ethanol, Pearloid, Wallpaper @ Get Tight Lounge – $10 in advance, $12 day of show (order tickets HERE)
This is a big week for new releases from Richmond bands. Not only do we have the Twin Drugs record release show Friday night, Saturday follows it up with the release party for Keep’s new full-length, Happy In Here. This is the long-awaited follow-up to their self-titled EP, released three years ago by formidable Richmond indie-pop label Citrus City… just in time for the pandemic to hit and leave these guys unable to tour behind it. But you can’t keep a good band down. During their forced isolation, they wrote an entire new album, one that focuses on the hardships of passing time, and the difference between our idealized aspirations and the cold, hard realities of life. That they chose to title it Happy In Here may reflect an ironic sensibility, or a mature ability to accept the parts of the world that are less than ideal. It’s up to each listener to figure that one out.

One element of Happy In Here that should achieve consensus among all listeners, though, is the extremely high quality of the songs on offer here. While it’s not that far from what Twin Drugs will be offering us all only one night earlier, Keep seems to me to be on the other side of a hard-to-pin-down spiritual border between shoegaze and postpunk. Instead of their guitars creating hazy walls of sound, they pick out glittering arpeggios, which accentuate the melancholy air of the vocals and lyrics, even as the band’s rhythm section keeps things moving with an energy and drive that focus on the “punk” part of postpunk. This will doubtless make for an energetic live performance, one that’ll liven up your Saturday night and ensure that anyone who walks into Get Tight Lounge on the fence about whether they’re buying a copy of the new Keep LP will walk out with Happy In Here under their arm. Unlike so many other sure-fire winners in this bankrupt modern world, Keep is definitely a good investment.

Sunday, March 12, 7 PM
Rikki Rakki, Josh Small & Andrew Alli, The Great Beforetimes, Asking For Flowers @ The Camel – $10 (order tickets HERE)
Over the past few years, I’ve noticed residencies — long-term gigs in which the same band plays a show at the same club once a week for a month, or once a month for a year — becoming more and more common. I think this is a good thing; in a world where inflation and, in particular, always-unpredictable gas prices make touring a riskier and riskier proposition for bands, it’s good to bring in an alternative model through which bands can get paid steadily without having to take a huge gamble on leaving their hometowns for weeks at a time. The Camel’s new Staff Picks series, which buzzworthy local rockers Rikki Rakki are inaugurating by playing The Camel every Sunday night in March, is the newest example of such a thing, and considering how many Richmonders I know light up whenever Rikki Rakki’s name is mentioned, I’m sure it’ll be a big hit.

What I really appreciate about Rikki Rakki’s residency is that they’re not just giving us four Sunday nights in a row of the same ol’ thing. Instead, different Sundays this month will feature different themes. This Sunday night, for example, is Twang Night, on which Rikki Rakki are bringing in local opening acts that have more of a country-folk element to their sound — and, one would assume, giving us a twangy version of their own material during their headlining set. Seeing Rikki Rakki is always a good idea, and their new material just seems to be getting better and better if latest single “Crying In An Uber” is any indication. But hearing this unusual spin on what they normally do will be a particular treat for the many local Rikki Rakki fans, and if you’re one of those fans (I’m sure you are), you aren’t gonna want to miss it. Plus, Josh Small & Andrew Alli will be playing one of their increasingly rare and always amazing live sets, The Great Beforetimes will be regaling us with their introspective emo-folk melodies, and Asking For Flowers will find Richmond singer-songwriter Rachel Epp combining her talents with those of Pollen Bomb’s Per Ohrstrom to bring us a set paying homage to legendary singer-songwriter Kathleen Edwards. All of it is gonna be great. You know what to do.

Monday, March 13, 7:30 PM
Out Of Your Head Records presents Second Mondays at Artspace, feat. Michael Hawkins & The Brotherhood, Adam Hopkins’ School Work @ Artspace Gallery – $15 suggested donation
In a city that seems best known for punk, metal, indie, and (lately) hip hop, jazz might not be the local branch of the Richmond scene you pay the closest attention to. That’s certainly understandable. However, if you don’t keep at least occasional tabs on what the Richmond jazz scene is up to, you’re sure to miss a lot of great music. Out Of Your Head Records is a prime example. Having released some memorable works over the past few years from Richmonders like Scott Clark and Curt Sydnor, as well as from formidable jazz and experimental talents around the country and the world, Out Of Your Head has also become one of the main instigators for really great live performances in the jazz and experimental music world, a lot of which take place at Artspace Gallery.

For example, there’s the recently launched Second Mondays series, which follows up on last month’s excellent Scott Clark solo performance this week with a more traditionally jazz-themed installment, in conjunction with the “Jazz” art exhibition currently on display at Artspace. Michael Hawkins and the Brotherhood are at the top of the bill for this one, and this jazz quartet, led by Hawkins’ formidable acoustic bass stylings, brings a hard bop sound that should please fans of iconic players like Miles Davis and John Coltrane. They’ll share this bill with an ensemble headed by another bassist (and one of the owners of Out Of Your Head Records), Adam Hopkins. With his School Work sextet, featuring members of Bio Ritmo, Agents Of Good Roots, No BS! Brass, and more, he’ll be leading this talented group of musicians through a series of avant-garde jazz classics from folks like Eric Dolphy, Albert Ayler, Charles Mingus, Ornette Coleman, and many more. I don’t know about the rest of you, but this is my favorite kind of jazz, and this lineup’s sure to give all us jazz heads a real treat — one that will make it well worth your time to head out on a Monday night.

Tuesday, March 14, 9:30 PM
Shockoe Sessions Live presents Ant the Symbol @ In Your Ear Studios – $15 (order tickets HERE)
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I’m so glad these Tuesday night Shockoe Sessions at In Your Ear continued after the dark days of the pandemic live-music quarantine, and I’m even gladder that a limited audience from the general public can attend them. On a night of the week that can sometimes provide pretty slim pickings where live music is concerned, Shockoe Sessions Live ensures that there’s always at least one guaranteed hit on Tuesday night.

Even having said that, though, this upcoming Tuesday is going to be a particular treat with Ant the Symbol in the studio. In the world of hip hop producers, he’s a true all-around talent. Whether it be mostly instrumental beat tapes (like 2022’s We’re All Here), star-studded albums full of guest MCs (2021’s Ant Hasn’t Heard Of You Either), full-length collaborations with talented rhymers (2022’s The Great White Hype, which pairs him with Gritty City rapper Johnny Ciggs), even scoring short films… Ant The Symbol has done it all, and always with massive amounts of creativity and talent on display. He brings out the best in his collaborators while always challenging himself to improve and hit new heights. So what’ll he bring to our ears on Shockoe Sessions Live? I don’t know the details, but I know one thing — it’ll be something you won’t forget anytime soon. I know you can watch this one from home, but why do that when you can be in the room while it happens? Shell out for the tickets, folks — you won’t be sorry.

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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