Going to shows 4 or 5 times a week, you get into a rhythm of what to expect.
There’s a Facebook event page with some DIY memes, bands show up early and load in their gear and each venue or house has a somewhat regular crowd that you hope shows up on time and throws some dollars to the touring acts.
But every once in a while, things don’t go how you planned at all. Navi‘s reunion show with YOINK, Friend Roulette and Night Idea was one of those nights.
The evening started uncharacteristically on time with an early set from Night Idea who had just returned from a sweaty and energetic performance at Everybody’s Birthday the night prior.
Maybe it’s just my building anticipation of their upcoming album, Riverless, but their recent sets just sound better and better as those songs get tighter and their nuances shine.
The quartet has honed their sound over the past ten years to a fine point now, and the new record showcases the best aspects of their dynamic, brooding soundscapes from dueling guitar lines by Reid LaPierre and Carter Burton to tight grooves from bassist Joey Anderson and drummer Ethan Johnstone.
After their set, folks cycled out to the back yard, and shortly thereafter Friend Roulette started.
A longtime favorite of RVA crowds, the band was touring without a drummer, so Night Idea’s Ethan Johnstone came to the gig early and practiced 5 or 6 songs with them to join them later in their set.
Friend Roulette finished their first song, and most of the crowd in the back yard hadn’t even realized that their set started. Then it happened: the house’s landlord popped by for a random visit, saw the commotion and shut down the show.
At first it seemed like a bad dream, but it was totally happening. And it was a serious bummer. Friend Roulette packed up their gear and walked back to the van. Folks filed out to the alley and started making calls to find a new location to finish the show.
After a few minutes and no luck, two of the attendees decided that they were going to run home, clear out their living room and host the show themselves. And with that a game of telephone began as their address was passed among attendees and folks on the way to the show, and everyone shipped across town to the second location.
When I arrived at there, folks were already pitching in to carry tables, chairs, plants and all sorts of goods out of the living room to clear space for the bands to load in.
Within an hour, Friend Roulette was back on stage.
The rest of their set featured songs from their LP I See You. Your Eyes Are Red as well as their new EP, The Matt Sheffer Songbook Vol. 1. Johnstone, again sitting in after only practicing with them for an hour or so earlier in the night, absolutely crushed his parts as the band played crowd favorites “Dutch Master” and “Stoned Alone.”
Even with the morale boost from a successful round of Friend Roulette house roulette, it was hard for the audience to prepare for the flurry of mathy grooves from Brooklyn’s YOINK.
The trio, led by guitarist/pianist Justin Talbott, masterfully cut through a set of angular, breakneck rhythms that kept even the guys in Night Idea and Navi on their toes as they headbanged along.
There’s not much more I can about them, other than I am really, really glad that their set wasn’t canceled, and by the time Navi came on they seemed like a relaxing breath of fresh air (and those familiar with Navi know how ridiculous of a summary that is of their shows).
Finally, we arrived at the moment we all never thought we’d never see: guitarist Jon Hawkins and drummer Kyle Flanagan were ready to join forces once again as Navi.
The crowd went characteristically apeshit for classics like “Explosions in the Guy” and shouted at the top of their lungs during “Black.”
The energy was high, and for a brief period that living room transcended time as we were all transported into that magic space that made the duo one of the most sought-after DIY bands in Richmond for years.
It wasn’t the craziest Navi show I’ve seen, but it was a triumphant return nonetheless. And damn did it feel nice to share that with a room full of people who really wanted to be there and made sure it happened, even when the world seemed hellbent against it.
Check out photos from Craig Zirpolo below: