From genre-defining acts in the early 90’s like Breadwinner and King Sour to contemporaries including Dumb Waiter, Night Idea and Clair Morgan, Richmond has a long legacy as a hub for all things math rock.
Paired with the constant influx of talented musicians attending the Jazz Studies program at VCU, there’s always new groups cropping up for folks interested in complex compositions and polyrhythmic psychedelia.
But fans specifically at the intersection of math rock and free jazz were in for an extra special treat Sunday night when Chicago’s Crown Larks came to town with local support from Lunar and Private Cry.
Lunar opened the show with a long improvisational piece featuring guest vocalist Hannah Marie Standiford from Rumput.
Aptly described as “soundscapes for a movie yet to be filmed,” the group relished in big, dissonant cacophonies as much as delicate, ethereal passages.
There seems to be a budding scene adjacent to math rock and noise that embraces pure improvisation, including groups like Lunar, Womajich Dialyseiz and KRANG. It’s an awesome change of pace to the traditional guitar/bass/drums-heavy scene, and certainly something worth keeping an eye on as it develops and crosses over into new spheres.
Lunar’s dynamic taste for improvisation set the tone for the rest of the evening, so much so that Crown Larks asked both saxophonists to stay on stage to sit in on their first song.
I’ve seen touring bands thoroughly enjoy their local openers, but this was a really special embrace of Lunar’s talent and a melding of styles that immediately ingratiated the touring act to the local crowd.
Fresh on the heels of their new LP, Population, Crown Larks played one of the best performances in recent memory at the gallery.
The band mentioned that playing at a space with “gallery” in the name normally meant that they’d have to tone down how they built their set, but they quickly connected with the audience, felt their willingness to go down the rabbit hole and kicked things up to 11.
Each member of the group was incredibly talented, but I have to point out the multi-instrumental performance of Lorraine Bailey as a serious standout of the evening.
Whenever a song needed a push in a different direction, they were there with saxophone, flute, keyboard or vocals ready to go. It was truly impressive, and really factors into the uniqueness of their sound and their live show.
Closing out the night was Private Cry, playing their first headlining gig and also their last show before a brief hiatus to work on new songs and, of course, free up their Sunday nights to watch the new episodes of Twin Peaks.
Seriously not kidding here. They opened their set by ripping a cover of the Twin Peaks theme, so I think they might be the front runners in the local “Most Stoked for Twin Peaks to Return” superlative.
You could definitely tell that the group was electrified by Crown Larks and Lunar’s sets, as they played one of their most vital sets to date.
Another thing worth pointing out–in the wake of losing pillars of the queer community like PWR BTTM to their own disingenuous actions, it is important to know that we don’t need to look beyond our own scene to find role models and representation.
Over their brief existence, Private Cry has specifically created a space for queer and disabled people at shows (three of the four members identify as gender nonconforming or non-binary and three of the four members are disabled).
Moments like this are one of many reasons why it is so important to support the work of local creators like Private Cry, Kuni and Dazeases and countless other LGBTQ/POC performers as well as larger organizations like Ice Cream Support Group and Girls Rock RVA.
You can wait for other folks to get it right, or you can be a part of making the community you want to see. And it is obvious at this point that we are hitting critical mass in Richmond where folks are putting in the work to create spaces for marginalized people and art, which is absolutely the most exciting thing happening in town creatively right now.
So while it’s sad to have to wait until later in the summer for another Private Cry show, I feel fortunate to know that they and other folks are out in the scene fighting to keep spaces safe, standing up against bigotry and abusers and doing the damn thing.
So instead of trying to be the next Austin, let’s just keep trying to be the best Richmond we can be.
Check out photos from the show below: