RVA Shows You Must See This Week: March 15 – March 21

 In News

Saturday, March 18, 7 PM
Ostraca, Arid, Bomb Threat, Humanitarian Deficit @ Powers BMX – $5
As someone who has lived in Richmond for three decades, I can tell you firsthand that this city has become way less affordable over the past 15 years or so. The thriving Richmond music scene of the 90s was driven to a great extent by low rents in big old houses with basements where your band could practice, and even play small DIY shows on weekends. People were able to focus on their bands, take months off from their day jobs in restaurants and bookstores to go on tour, and still afford their rent when they got home. And while no one was getting rich, it never felt like one wrong move would leave you homeless. That’s not really true anymore; these days, everyone who’s doing music on a serious level has to do everything they can to maximize their financial returns. It’s tough to do the kind of extended tours that used to be standard for underground bands — a lot of people don’t do them at all anymore. Where houses, art galleries, and other DIY community-run spaces used to be the main venues for Richmond’s independent music scene, bars are now the order of the day. And when was the last time you heard about an all-ages show? I have the luxury of not caring, but I hate to think how hard it is for 17 year olds moving to Richmond today to find a show they’ll actually be allowed into.

At a time when all of this is true, Powers BMX, otherwise known as The Bike Shop, feels like a major throwback. This is a DIY space in a building covered in murals, where bands play on a nailed-together platform in front of bike ramps and halfpipes. It’s in one of the few Richmond areas that hasn’t been reached by gentrification yet, so you can rock out without feeling like your yuppie neighbor is five minutes from calling the cops. And it books cheap shows featuring small bands with strong connections to the local scene. Spaces like this feel like a dying breed, at least in Richmond, so it’s really nice to see The Bike Shop thriving and bringing in killer shows like this one. As longtime readers of the column know, I have a soft spot in my heart for Ostraca. Not only are the band members friends of mine, their music and their shows helped pull me back into the DIY screamo scene circa 2015, when I was at loose ends and in need of a supportive community built around music I could get stoked about. The three albums Ostraca released between 2016 and 2018 — Deathless, Last, and Enemy — were some of the best music being made in Richmond at that time. The way their complex songcraft saw Ostraca veer from intense explosions of speed and noise to extended melodic interludes full of melancholy beauty, all of it driven by passionate performances full of emotion… well, it just knocked me on my ass. It still does.

That’s why I’m so glad to see Ostraca returning to a more active presence in the local scene. They’ve been playing more shows lately, and they’ve even done a couple of brief tours this winter. Can new material be far behind? Boy, I sure hope not. For now, though, I’m more than content to just have them playing shows again. This show, a benefit for Antifa Seven Hills, also features two touring bands, Chicago’s Arid and Pittsburgh’s Bomb Threat. The former are an out-of-control freight train of speed, chaos, and guttural metallic hardcore energy, of the sort that should greatly appeal to people who were really stoked when Tragedy finally put out another record a few years ago. As for Bomb Threat, I don’t actually know that much — their first release, a demo, actually comes out tomorrow as I write this. By the time you’re reading it, you should be able to click the above link and hear it for yourself, but even without hearing it, the fact that it features songs called things like “Eat Shit Pitt” and “Affirmations For The New Urban Guerrilla” leads me to believe that I know what it’ll sound like: pissed-off hardcore, perhaps with some biker-crust influences. Richmond’s own Humanitarian Deficit will kick things off with their intense brand of screamo noise, and just like every other band on this show, their set will be absolutely essential to your enjoyment of your evening. Praise be to Powers BMX. If only we had a dozen more like ’em.

Wednesday, March 15, 7 PM
Cowgirl Clue, Lustsickpuppy, Kumo 99 @ The Camel – $16 (order tickets HERE)
There’s a new musical movement that’s arisen over the past few years called “hyperpop,” and I’ll freely admit that I don’t fully get it. Considering I’m 47 years old, though, I think it’s good that the zoomers are all out here dabbling with music that confuses me. Music can’t continue to progress as an art form if it focuses on making middle-aged people happy. Anyway, the reason I’m telling you all this is because when I listen to Cowgirl Clue, I find myself wondering if her music counts as hyperpop. At the end of the day, I have no idea: as has been established, the entire genre confuses me. I know “Doritos and Fritos” by 100 gecs is an outstanding song; beyond that, I’m clueless.

So why am I getting hyperpop vibes from Cowgirl Clue? Primarily because her music integrates futuristic electro touches that also feel weirdly retro, and seems simultaneously based around classic songwriting chops and pounding dancefloor raves. There’s also a tongue-in-cheek element to some of her songs — but then she’ll turn around and give you a straightforward emo-pop classic like “Trailblaze,” only to follow it with a Peaches-style electroclash goof like “Teacup.” The end result is a confusing, constantly changing sound that is extremely hard to pin down — and yet, is always entertaining. You might not know exactly what genre Cowgirl Clue is dipping into at any given moment during her set, but you’ll always be able to dance and smile along to what you’re hearing. And isn’t that what great music is all about? In the face of all that, who cares about genre labels?

Thursday, March 16, 7:30 PM
Howling Giant, Restless Spirit, Book Of Wyrms @ Get Tight Lounge – $18.19 (order tickets HERE)
If a night spent banging your head as a trio of psychedelic metal bands roll over you with a succession of killer fuzz riffs is your idea of a good time, then your weekend definitely needs to start on Thursday this week, as Nashville’s Howling Giant roll into town that night to top a rager of a triple bill over at Get Tight Lounge. While the sci-fi/fantasy aspects of Howling Giant’s presentation are sure to leave a strong first impression, it’s the songcraft that really sets this band apart. They’re able to dish out epic riffs with the sure-footed talent of legends like Blue Cheer or Blue Oyster Cult (the latter of which they cover on their most recent single), but their original tunes also carry a strong melodic sense that can sometimes sneak up on you with a powerful chorus you definitely won’t be expecting. Moments like these are some of the best on their 2019 LP, The Space Between Worlds, and are just as worth your time as the big headbanging riffs.

As for New Yorkers Restless Spirit, they’re probably the most straightforwardly metal group on this bill, capturing a Judas Priest-ish spirit that will bring metalheads of a certain age back to the way the genre sounded right before the thrash metal wave took over. Their most recent LP, 2021’s Blood Of The Old Gods, is moody and dark, full of riffs that are both heavy and mournful. Songs often stretch beyond eight minutes in length, but their epic construction justifies the extended running time every time. This is exactly why veteran Richmond stoner-psych metal quartet Book Of Wyrms are the perfect opening act for this show. They strike the perfect balance between epic riff masterpieces and psychedelic atmosphere — and, as 2022 EP Sodapop Glacier made clear, they aren’t afraid to experiment with their sound. Every one of these bands knows how to write a killer song, but none of them stick to a formula, instead choosing to keep things interesting and unpredictable. That said, it’s easy to predict that these bands will keep your head banging all night. And isn’t that really enough?

Friday, March 17, 7 PM
Blackwater Drowning, Seraph, Murderhorde, That Which Sleeps @ Another Round Bar And Grill – $10
This one should be a blast. As someone who loves metal of all types, I particularly enjoy metal bands that manage to bring together multiple metal genres and create a sound that isn’t all that easy to pigeonhole. There are elements of death metal, black metal, melodic death, metalcore, and more all working within North Carolina quintet Blackwater Drowning’s sound, and that helps keeps things interesting throughout their debut full-length, Sonder//Satori. I also really dig the fact that Blackwater Drowning breaks away from the typically testosterone-driven metal paradigm by featuring two women in important roles within the band’s lineup.

Vocalist Morgan Riley is really the star of this show; she’s able to veer without warning from harsh screams and guttural growls to operatic melody lines, showing off her incredible range even as she adds to that of the band as a whole. Obvious touchstones for Blackwater Drowning’s sound include Arch Enemy and Children Of Bodom, but really, they should appeal to fans of everything from Iron Maiden to Lamb Of God. And if that isn’t enough to get you in the door, the presence of Richmond deathcore veterans Seraph on this bill should act as powerful additional inducement. After spending most of the past decade on almost total hiatus, the release last month of “Not A God,” the first new Seraph single since Embrace Your Demise came out back in 2014, gave longtime Seraph fans a reason to celebrate. The question remains, though: is there more new material where that came from? Given the track’s tremendous quality and crushing heaviness, we can certainly hope so. At this point there’s only one way to know for sure, though: see them at Another Round this Friday night. You won’t regret it.

Saturday, March 18, 6 PM
Loudon Wainwright III (Photo by Ross Halfin) @ The Tin Pan – $42.14 (order tickets HERE)
Loudon Wainwright III is a legend. These days, he’s probably best known among younger music fans for the fact that he’s Rufus and Martha Wainwright’s dad. His moment of greatest mainstream success came 50 years ago when one of his earliest singles, “Dead Skunk (In The Middle Of the Road),” made it to the Billboard Top 20. For nerds like me, he’s best known for writing “Motel Blues,” a song Big Star covered on their 1974 Live album, Alex Chilton turning it into an achingly sincere plea from a lonely musician. But that’s ironic, because Wainwright meant the song to be a snarky satire of rock n’ rollers taking advantage of female fans. Irony and snark are modes that have served Wainwright well throughout his career, even as his brutal lyrical honesty has served to alienate him from those closest to him in his life. He’s not exactly a saint, but the very fact that he’s always been so upfront about being a flawed and fucked-up human being has always resulted in his most interesting and memorable songs.

As of 2023, Loudon Wainwright III is 75 years old. He’s been releasing albums for over 50 years, and age hasn’t slowed him down at all; his latest release is 2022’s wryly titled Lifetime Achievement. As usual, he’s raw and straightforward, and at times hilarious. Subject matter tackled on the album includes: aging and being old, the COVID-19 pandemic, strained familial relationships — the usual uncomfortable stuff that’s always inspired Wainwright. He’s still dealing with it all with the same sardonic wit he’s always displayed, though, and after over half a century of Loudon Wainwright music, that’s a minor miracle in and of itself. He won’t be around forever, so if you haven’t had the pleasure of seeing Wainwright play at least once, you should definitely shell out for one to see him at The Tin Pan this Saturday night. It’s sure to be an unforgettable experience.

Sunday, March 19, 5 PM
Too Soon Jokes, The Octavias, Rough Ideas, The Daze Ahead @ Garden Grove Brewing – Free!
I know I complained earlier in the column about too many shows being at bars these days, but I honestly love the shows Garden Grove Brewing brings to Richmond from time to time. I mean, it helps that they’re usually free, but what I really appreciate is the eclectic sensibility they show in their booking, and the overlooked/underrated groups they often bring to the attention of the wider RVA scene. Too Soon Jokes, a Baltimore band with a postpunk fuzz-pop sound that harks back to classic indie groups like The Dentists and The Bats, is a great example. Their name makes me think of that era in the mid-00s when people started making 9/11 jokes, but I have exactly the kind of dark sense of humor that always found those jokes funny, so I ain’t mad at ’em. And as soon as I put on their 2020 EP Golden Boys, I go from not-mad to actively stoked. The four songs on this EP are a ton of fun, and songs like “The Comments Section” show that their blackly comic sense of humor extends beyond the subtly macabre band name.

Too Soon Jokes will be joined on this bill by a trio of Richmond bands of various styles. The most prominent of the three is The Octavias, who released a self-titled EP last summer full of hyperactive fuzz-rock that owes a bit of a debt to the garage rock revival of the early 00s but fits much more snugly in the alt-rock scene of the early to mid 90s. The four songs on their first EP are a lot of fun, and seeing the Octavias blast them out at top volume from the Garden Grove stage is sure to be even more so. Rough Ideas are a much newer band, with only one song available online that I could find. From the evidence of that one song, it seems this band has a way with moody, intense rock tunes — which is a good start. As for The Daze Ahead, who recently migrated from Harrisonburg to Richmond, they’ve got a more emo feel, but rock is still the biggest part of their sound. And rock is always awesome. This show will be awesome too.

Monday, March 20, 7 PM
Vicious Rumors, Wolf Legion, Savior, Project Leo @ Another Round Bar And Grill – $12 in advance, $15 at the door (order tickets HERE)
It’s probably not hard to imagine, considering what sort of career I’ve gone on to have, but I’ve been a voracious reader of music-related books and magazines since I was a child. I had a subscription to Rolling Stone by the time I was 12, and by the time I was 16, I was buying every punk rock zine I could find. Inbetween these two eras was a period when I was in eighth and ninth grade when I was really stoked about metal. At that time, glam metal was all the rage, so I used to buy all those glossy metal mags you could buy in supermarkets back then, with bands like Poison, Motley Crue, and my forever faves Guns N’ Roses on the cover. But what was really great about those mags was, once I got past the stories about the poofy-haired bands I could hear on the radio, I found a variety of stories about more obscure, and often heavier, metal bands of the day. This is how I came to discover 90s power metal legends Vicious Rumors: through an article in an issue of RIP Magazine from 1990 or so.

Vicious Rumors were at the height of their career back then, releasing a series of killer metal albums on Atlantic Records. They had the pyrotechnic guitar power of Geoff Thorpe, the dramatic vocal attack of Carl Albert, and some really well-written songs that always took you in new and unexpected directions. They never quite broke through to the mainstream, but albums like 1987’s Digital Dictator and 1990’s Vicious Rumors became cult classics. Unfortunately, Carl Albert died in a car accident in 1995, but Thorpe kept the band going with a variety of other vocalists, and they’ve maintained their talent and creativity over the course of more than a dozen albums in the past three decades. Now they’ve got a new vocalist with quite a pedigree of his own: Ronny Munroe, formerly of another cult-classic 80s power metal band, Metal Church. On their current tour, the first with Munroe in the fold, Vicious Rumors are spotlighting the material from their classic Atlantic Records LPs. So if you’re like me and you have fond memories of listening to the self-titled Vicious Rumors album on your Walkman when you were in ninth grade, you’re definitely gonna enjoy this show. Having missed out on this band the first time around is no excuse not to come out to Another Round this Monday night, though: it’s high time Vicious Rumors got the credit they deserve. Once you see them, you’re sure to agree.

Tuesday, March 21, 7 PM
Militarie Gun, Dazy, Snow Channel, Wallpaper @ Bandito’s – $15 (order tickets HERE)
Hardcore has always been more like a state of mind than a musical genre, and groups like Militarie Gun are just one way in which that principle is repeatedly proven. Featuring members of Regional Justice Center and Drug Church, among other modern hardcore luminaries, Militarie Gun has a sound that, at first glance, wouldn’t seem hardcore at all. With a driving energy that feels like classic punk and a sense for distorted guitar hooks that mimics that of classic 90s bands like Seaweed and Pegboy, Militarie Gun don’t come across as hardcore in any conventional sense. And yet, the hardcore kids love them. Once you give a close listen to their 2022 debut, All Roads Lead To The Gun, you’ll understand why, even if you can’t quite put your finger on it. It’s something about the harsh vocals, the compact song structure, the dramatic tempo changes… Honestly, even I’m not quite sure what it is. But I certainly can’t deny it.

Richmond’s Dazy have a similar hard-to-explain-but-very-real connection to hardcore and punk. The solo project of former Hold Tight/Teen Death axe-slinger James Goodson, Dazy features a strong acoustic indie sensibility on their latest LP, Outofbody, but it’s delivered in a very punk way, covered in a layer of lo-fi surface noise that makes me think immediately of Guided By Voices, as well as the material Jay Reatard was putting out in the last few years of his life. The way these pop songs are simultaneously harsh and distorted even as they display massive amounts of sincerity and charm feels totally punk. Dazy will be well paired with Militarie Gun for that reason — and for the reason that the two bands released a collaborative single, “Pressure Cooker,” a couple of years ago. Will we get a Dazy/Militarie Gun team-up on a live version of said single? We can certainly hope so. Even if it doesn’t come to pass, though, this is going to be a great show, especially for a Tuesday night. Don’t miss this one.

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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