RVA Shows You Must See This Week: November 15 – November 21
Sunday, November 19, 8 PM
Outer World, Light Beams, Chest Hair @ Bandito’s – $10
It’s always a bummer when a really talented group of musicians decide to hang it up, and I was definitely bummed when Positive No came to an end back in 2020, just before the pandemic shut everything down. A quartet throughout their existence, Positive No were really fueled by the creative partnership of vocalist Tracy Wilson and guitarist Kenneth Close, and Outer World sees the two of them returning to collaborative action in a new and fundamentally different project that shows off a whole new side of their talents. Sadly, Wilson caught COVID early and ended up dealing with some of the worst longterm symptoms of the insidious new disease that seems to be here to stay. Her lungs were damaged by COVID, and that damage took a toll on her voice, forcing Wilson to find new ways to sing. The setback led she and Close to start experimenting with synths, samples, and other computer-based music-making tools, and over the couple of years that COVID kept everyone out of the live music scene, they refined and expanded their approach.
The result is Outer World’s debut album, Who Does The Music Love?, which will be released by beloved Georgia-based indie pop label Happy Happy Birthday To Me in March 2024. For now, only one song is available to hear, but “Forms Of Knowing” is a tantalizing taste of what’s to come, one that’ll surely leave many listeners begging for more. Outer World’s sound mixes a retro-futurist aesthetic that captures the psychedelic Euro-pop vibes of Stereolab, while retaining the driving indie-rock/post-hardcore feel that animated Positive No’s discography. Positive No’s final drummer, Keith Renna, plays drums on the album, and may be part of the live Outer World experience as well — at this point, I don’t really know. What I do know is that it will be a delight to have Wilson and Close making music together again on stages around Richmond and beyond.
You’ll get a great opportunity to enjoy some of that delight for yourself, and hear more of the group’s forthcoming debut LP, when Outer World take the stage at Bandito’s this Sunday night. You’ll also get a chance to enjoy Light Beams, a DC-based project that is the latest effort from veteran postpunk dynamo Justin Moyer. You may remember Moyer from past projects like El Guapo, Antelope, Supersystem, and ED Sedgwick. These days he makes his living as a reporter, and the brand new Light Beams LP, Wild Life, draws on his experiences covering the chaotic political situation in DC (including his time as part of a team covering the January 6th insurrection — coverage that eventually won his team a Pulitzer Prize). While a strong political consciousness animates Light Beams’ sound, the music remains as harshly funky and sharply creative as all of Moyer’s previous projects, so whether you’ve been keeping up with Moyer throughout his 25-year career or are new to his musical efforts, you’re sure to have a blast when Light Beams hits the stage. Minimalist local postpunk duo ChestHair will get this one started in fine fashion. Make sure you’re there.
Wednesday, November 15, 7 PM
Husbands, Work Wife @ Richmond Music Hall at Capital Ale House – $15 (order tickets HERE)
The indie scene is a very sunshine-drenched world of pop lushness these days, and while influences from folks like Brian Wilson and Animal Collective are never unwelcome, I do sometimes wonder why so many of these bands have so few hard edges when the world we’re all living in is so damn tough these days. Thankfully, Husbands have come along to show me that you can make lush, pretty indie pop without sanding off all the raw edges — that it’s possible to make catchy sunshine pop songs without turning into boring, soporific pap. The latest from this Oklahoma City group, Cuatro, integrates influences from garage and grunge rock into their sweet, surf-based indie sound, meaning that things sometimes land in downright Pixies/Parquet Courts territory. I for one really dig that.
Songs like “Face Molt” and “Can’t Do Anything” hit with a subtle power on record, and are sure to hit that much harder once performed at full volume on the Richmond Music Hall stage. Husbands’ set at this show promises to be a real thrill, one that’ll lift you out of the dreary late-fall doldrums that are plaguing Richmond right now. They’ll be joined on this bill by Brooklyn’s Work Wife, who deviate from the indie paradigm of the moment by heading in a more folked-up direction, integrating the twangier heartland sounds of musicians like Kurt Vile and Neil Young into their almost emo-ish take on heartfelt countrified indie moods. Both of these groups do a great job of showing that even in the year 2023, indie doesn’t have to be boring or predictable. Don’t settle for any of that — come to this show instead.
Thursday, November 16, 7 PM
PT Burnem‘s Dustkat Dream Drum Machine, Switchbracket, Mebus, Thumpr, TOS, Guernican Tigers @ Gallery 5 – $10 in advance, $15 day of show (order tickets HERE)
This should get interesting. PT Burnem, an artist who started out as an energetic, politically-informed rapper and has since stretched his sound in a variety of directions (including in such projects as Trauma Lavern and DRONES), is once again on a whole new trip with his latest thing, the Dustkat Dream Drum Machine. Burnem calls the machine “an ongoing musical science project,” one in which robotics, programming, and multimedia creations come together to create a fully immersive experience that must be seen and heard to be believed. The current Dustkat Dream Drum Machine incarnation is called “The Belles Project,” and brings together multiple electro-acoustic bells equipped with lights that surround the audience with a “robotic deconstructed glockenspiel.”
I can’t pretend I know what this is going to be like, y’all, but I can guarantee one thing — it’s going to be a totally unique and unforgettable experience. Gallery 5 is the perfect place to bring PT Burnem’s latest project to life, and I highly encourage you all to make your way down there this Thursday night and bring something totally new and unheard of into your life. There’ll be a variety of other performers on this bill as well, all of which should be fascinating in their own right. From the looping ambient soundscapes of Thumpr (a solo project from Jon Hawkins of Navi and Opin) to Mebus’s noise blurts to the bicycle-powered experimental sounds of Switchbracket, the openers all have intriguing and unusual sounds to offer — and all of it will build up to a remarkable and all-encompassing multimedia extravaganza when the Dustkat Dream Drum Machine takes over. You really don’t want to miss this one.
Friday, November 17, 8 PM
Skyzoo, Kel, Noah-O, Illa Styles, Henny LO, Mud-Gee, DJ B-Rice, Grand Star Haze @ RVA Boombox – $20 (order tickets HERE)
RVA Boombox don’t book a ton of shows to happen in their live performance space. As previously discussed, they are mainly an internet-based radio station that brings us hip hop tunes with a local focus — so you know when they decide to throw a live event, it’s gonna be a big deal for the hip hop heads in town. You can definitely say that about their latest show, which features a headline set from veteran Brooklyn MC Skyzoo. This heavily talented rapper has never had a mainstream hit, but he’s been essential listening for the true heads, making albums with legendary producers like 9th Wonder and Pete Rock between solo projects that are every bit as essential a listen. His latest album is entitled The Mind Of A Saint, and it acts as a tribute to the legendary Black filmmaker John Singleton, who directed legendary films like Boyz N The Hood, Poetic Justice, and Rosewood, as well as co-creating the television show Snowfall, before leaving us in 2019 at the too-young age of 51.
On The Mind Of A Saint, Skyzoo raps from the perspective of Snowfall‘s main character, Franklin Saint, a drug kingpin in 1980s Los Angeles. He shows his skills by only making period-correct references in his rhymes, even as producers The Other Guys create immersive beats that are simultaneously innovative and memorable and retain a vision straight out of hip hop’s golden age. When Skyzoo comes to town in support of The Mind Of A Saint, RVA Boombox is going to be taken to a whole new world, one you’ll want to immerse yourself in through Skyzoo’s killer flows and all-encompassing beats. You’ll also get to enjoy several shining stars from Richmond’s formidable hip hop scene, including local kingpins like Noah-O and Illa Styles, just to name a few. If you have any interest in hip hop at all, this show’s going to be the perfect way to cap off your week and kick off the weekend in outstanding fashion. Don’t miss it.
Saturday, November 18, 9 PM
Die Today, Beggars @ Wonderland – $10
From one rarely-seen venue to another, so proceeds our weekend. In this case, it’s the original Shockoe Bottom punk rock dive bar, Wonderland, who brings us a rare live performance at a venue that used to host quite a few back in the day. Just because they do so less often these days doesn’t mean Wonderland’s any less of an awesome place to see shows, especially ones that are sure to feature an excess of headbanging. That’s definitely true for this album release celebration from Richmond’s own Die Today, a somewhat mysterious local group who sorta came out of nowhere a couple of years ago and immediately started cranking out raging tunes. They’ve now put together a self-titled full-length release — one you’ve actually been able to listen to on the internet for months now, but is finally coming into the world on glorious blood-splatter/beer-gold vinyl. The opportunity to pick up this album, which is pretty amazing to look at even before you hear one note of it, is a big reason to come to this show.
But let’s not pretend it’s the biggest one. Instead, that’s the strength of Die Today’s excellent tunes. Integrating the thrashy crossover swing of Municipal Waste with the dark harshness of early Celtic Frost, Die Today also bring a subtle but powerful undercurrent of melody to their sound, one that brings their take on thrashy metallic hardcore to a level not often achieved by bands within this particular subgenre. The record hits hard, that’s for sure — but this band is gonna hit even harder live. Buying the vinyl is only half the fun; be here for a thrashing-mad set from Die Today. And show up on time, because you’re going to want to catch opener Beggars as well. While this group includes members from Virginia emo outfits Be Well and Fairweather, don’t let that fool you — their recently released debut EP, Follow Me, is a full-on blast of heavy, harsh hardcore. This band’s opening set will hit hard and leave you begging for more. You need to catch every minute of this one.
Sunday, November 19, 8 PM
Golden Apples, Gnawing, Young Scum @ Fuzzy Cactus – $15
We’ll wrap up our weekend by heading all the way across town to Northside’s home of rock n’ roll, Fuzzy Cactus, where Philadelphia’s Golden Apples are coming through town just in time to send our weekend out on a high note. Bringing together former members of Kite Party and Amanda X, among others, Golden Apples is a group that approaches their indie rock sound the old-fashioned way, lacing new LP Bananasugarfire with lo-fi buzz and tasty distorted guitar hooks. Hints of Guided By Voices at their mid-90s best bleed through, as do aspects of Black Tambourine and other tasty indie-shoegaze vibes. But really, this band’s got a sound that’s all their own, and they make it a lot of fun to listen to.
The same can certainly be said of the two Richmond groups who join Golden Apples as support on this bill. I don’t know about y’all, but I’m still getting a big kick out of Gnawing’s latest LP, Modern Survival Techniques, which dropped back in the late spring in case y’all missed it. If you did miss it, you should really come out to this show and find out why this band’s take on late-80s slacker grunge vibes is actually awesomer than most of those bands from back then. And if you’ve been rocking with it the way I have, you know what you’re in for and you’re already stoked. High fives to you. And more high fives to Young Scum, whose highly melodic yet upbeat and driving sound always reminds me of listening to releases on Sarah Records back when I was in high school in 1991. Fans of Boyracer and St. Christopher really need to show up to this one as early as possible — you’ll want to hear every note Young Scum has in store for you.
Monday, November 20, 7 PM
Shahzad Ismaily/Peni Candra Rini/Curt Sydnor/Andy McGraw, Anthony Pirog/Janel Leppin/Mike Kuhl @ Spacebomb – $20 (order tickets HERE)
Monday night is apparently a good night to take in some avant-garde jazz sounds here in Richmond, because Spacebomb are jumping into the spot Artspace and Out Of Your Head Records filled last week with a strong outing of their own. It starts out with a formidable quartet of musicians who, for all I know, have never even played together before. Shahzad Ismaily, an experimental musician from New York who has previously played with Marc Ribot and Laurie Anderson, among others, will join up with Javanese composer and performer Peni Candra Rini — who, I should note, was also involved with last week’s Second Mondays showcase at Artspace. The same is true of Andy McGraw, a percussionist and educator who currently runs the music department at University Of Richmond. Rounding out this quartet is local composer and organist Curt Sydnor, who has grabbed quite a bit of attention with his unusual and always intriguing contributions to the vibrant world of Richmond music over the past few years. What do you get when you add all of these formidable talents together? I’m not exactly sure, but I am sure it will be transfixing.
We’re on surer ground with Anthony Pirog and Janel Leppin, who have played together for quite a while. They recently joined up with drummer Mike Kuhl, who gained fame in Baltimore’s improvisational music scene, and are currently working on a set of original material that they intend to turn into an album sometime next year. The experimental and improvisational nature of all three of these musicians’ usual work means that you really can’t be sure what you’ll get when they come together. However, Pirog studied jazz guitar at Berklee before going on to play surf music, while Leppin is a conservatory-trained classical cellist who later played bass in multiple rock bands, so we can be sure that whatever direction their music ends up going on this Monday night, this trio will be highly skilled at what they’re doing. That’s really what this night at Spacebomb Studios will be all about — seeing what a bunch of talented people can get up to when they come together and do whatever they’re inspired to do. And isn’t that music at its best?
Tuesday, November 21, 6:30 PM
Hellzapoppin Circus Sideshow presents Hellzapoppin Holiday Hullabaloo @ The National – $23-$33 (order tickets HERE)
OK, OK, I know what you’re thinking: “Drew, this isn’t exactly music.” And I could split hairs and say something obnoxious like “The column technically doesn’t promise music, it just promises shows.” But I’ll cop to it — this performance by the Hellzapoppin Circus Sideshow isn’t exactly what people come to this column expecting. However, I can’t help but be drawn to it. There’s a strong tradition of freakshow craziness in the world of rock n’ roll, from wild garage bands like The Cramps to the frankly disgusting antics of GG Allin. What’s more, in the early days of Lollapalooza, the Jim Rose Circus Sideshow was an essential part of Perry Farrell’s traveling alternative rock extravaganza, featuring a punk-rock twist on all the classic freakshow acts you’ve heard about from the legendary circus sideshows of a century ago: sword swallowers, a man who hung heavy weights from a variety of piercings all over his body, a dude who was tattooed over every inch of his skin from head to toe (OK, that’s not so unusual anymore).
It’s this modern punk twist on classic sideshows that Hellzapoppin bring forward into the 21st century with their act, featuring performers like the legless daredevil Mr. Short E. Dangerously and sword-swallowing stunt woman Mrs. Willow Lauren. The show also features escape artists, a man who holds the Guinness World Record for pulling the heaviest weight with his eye sockets, and even a guy who does really wild yo-yo tricks. OK, I admit it, it’s not for everybody — but the same is probably true for some of the metal shows I write about. Meanwhile, if this one is for you, you know you can’t possibly miss it. And for those of you who are on the fence right now, I encourage you to tip over to the dark side and give this one a shot. After all, how often do you get the chance to see a holiday-themed circus performance that includes sword swallowing and human cannonball action? Don’t live in regret — go see the Hellzapoppin Holiday Hullabaloo.
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