First Time’s the Charm is back for a third year this Saturday night at Strange Matter, and I couldn’t be more excited. This is one of the most important and special music events in Richmond for a number of reasons.
Every band that performs at FTTC is playing their first show, and the crowd is more positive and encouraging then any I’ve seen elsewhere. Diverse new bands come out of the experience and go on to play even more, enriching our scene. As someone who has participated in Richmond’s music scene as a promoter, musician and show-goer, it doesn’t get much better than that.
The event takes particular measures to cultivate that atmosphere. The FTTC season begins with meet-a-bandmate events hosted around the city where folks can meet, talk shop and start the process of building a lineup and scheduling practices.
Taking inspiration from the original First Time’s the Charm—held in Philadelphia in 2013—there are specific criteria that a band must meet to participate. It must be someone in the bands first band, or someone must be playing an instrument they have not performed before. The other, more important criteria, is that the band must include “women, people of color, queer and/or trans folks, or someone who is differently abled in any way.”
This requirement may offend some fragile egos, but as someone who has toured and seen show after show, festival after festival dominated by bands made up entirely of straight white men, I and most others in the local music community welcome it wholeheartedly.
Rock and roll has been good to white guys, but they aren’t the only people in my community. And they didn’t even invent rock and roll. So why should they be the only people represented in my music scene?
RM Livingston, a member of the collective Elbow Room, singer of First Time’s the Charm alumni Atta Girl and primary organizer of this year’s event explains the value of the access and representation the event offers to those marginalized groups.
“Most DIY scenes these days are white and male dominated, so even if you have the resources to buy your own gear, you have a practice space, you still run into these sort of barriers of assholes,” Livingston said. “Having this environment where it’s supportive of you, of literally you, is a great way to start a band.”
So far, the idea has been wildly successful.
Philadelphia has continued holding First Time’s the Charm events, producing exciting and vital new bands such as Cayetana, who performed at the original event in 2013 and have gone on to tour extensively and release two full length albums. Their most recent LP, New Kind of Normal, was released last month, and they played an awesome set at Strange Matter not too long ago with Lemuria and Mikey Erg.
In Richmond, band’s like Livingston’s Atta Girl, Fetish Gear and Hoarsees have remained active and released great music. This event–and these bands–are changing the landscape of our music scene for the better. But as they continue forward, they surely don’t forget the importance of FTTC in making them feel welcome in a sometimes unwelcoming scene.
The goal of First Time’s the Charm is in part to help people get past nervousness and put themselves out there in a way they have traditionally been afraid to.
“Everyone’s nervous,” says Livingston, recalling Atta Girl’s experience in the Richmond event’s first year. “Even if you’ve been in a band forever, you’re nervous at your band’s first show. When the room is packed, it is an actual venue, you’re on a stage, the sound is good…anyone’s going to be nervous in that situation.”
Two years after their first set, Livingston laughs as she explains, “I know that was our worst set, but that’s normal.”
This year’s event will feature nine brand new bands. Doors open at 7 pm and the $5 admission will benefit Richmond Conexiones and the production of Elbow Room’s open submission zine. For more information check out the Facebook event page here.