A title I’ve heard a few of my concert-going friends throw around is “honorary local band.” Deeming a band an “honorary local” could seem kind of strange, but I’ve always felt that it affectionately meant a band or performer had found a second home in Richmond and worked hard to give back to the local scene.
That being said, it’s pretty infrequent that I hear people actually say this about a band. It’s a badge of honor in that way. But it was obvious Saturday night at The Camel that Harrisonburg duo Illiterate Light have earned it.
The first hint of how much love Richmond has for these Harrisonburg boys was in the super-sized bill of (mostly) local groups that was willing to squish together sets to play the release show for Ego Flora I; the first in a series of three EPs set to come out over the next six months.
Getting the night of amazing music off to a super solid start were RVA transplants Colin Phils, a trio of expats who bounced around Korea and China before settling in Richmond around a year ago. Their loop-heavy math rock takes them somewhere between TTNG and El Ten Eleven, with dueling vocals and some serious toe-tapping pedalwork. It was a great way to start the night with a lot of energy and heart, which continued throughout the show.
Next in the lineup was the rollicking, weird, soul infused rock and roll of David Long’s Hot Reader. Long commands the stage with his spindly, blues infused guitar lines and pitch perfect vocals while the rest of the band held the shifting rhythms and melodies together.
Drummer Zack Riviere and bassist Kevin Eichenberger played the role of rhythm section glue while keyboardist Calvin Brown made a strong debut with the group. But he isn’t an unfamiliar face as Long explained; they’ve known each other since the fourth grade.
This was definitely a strong set for Hot Reader, and it always makes me smile when they throw in their cover of The Beatles’ “Happiness Is A Warm Gun.”
After Hot Reader, the crowd was treated to the sounds of NJ’s Invalids, the only other touring band on the bill. Some friends of mine in both Philadelphia and Richmond had told me how awesome these guys were, so I am glad I finally got the chance to see them lay out their super complex music.
As they blazed through an energetic set filled with more time signature shifts than I’ve heard in quite awhile, they brought to mind bands like Piglet, The Para-Medics, Algernon Cadwallader and even a little early Tera Melos. While pulling from the great sounds of those groups, Invalids still managed to have a really unique take on their emo influenced math rock. They definitely aren’t a band to miss when they come through town.
Speaking of bands I haven’t caught before, Magnus Lush went on after Invalids and wow did they blow me away. They stomped and creeped through a set of really dynamic and well composed songs featuring the powerful, sometimes eerie voice and guitar playing of Age Shurte, the warm goth tinged synth playing and singing of Tori Hovater and the driving, heavy rhythm section duo of Christian Monroe and Kyle Atreides.
Combining sharp and sometimes distorted guitar lines with ethereal synths and building, tricky rhythms, this group really taps into something unique with their sound. I’m not sure I’ve heard anything quite like them come out of Richmond.
Then it was finally time for the Harrisonburg boys to debut their new EP in Richmond. This was the second of a double-date of release shows, the first the night before at the Golden Pony in Harrisonburg with RVA’s Camp Howard and The Trillions as well as fellow Harrisonburg native Zooanzoo.
Illiterate Light were revved up and ready to go when they hit the stage, opening with the harmonized vocals of “I Came For You” and blasting through their new EP from start to finish. Jeff Gorman and Jake Cochran make the perfect pair of performers; they seem to effortlessly make the musical conversations in their songs tangible from the crowd without taking themselves too seriously or feeling inauthentic.
After the EP, they closed off their set with a new song called “American Boy,” which starts by building on the refrain “Everybody’s saying there’s no other way of living, but I hate this whole system and I wish it would go away.” A lot of us found some comfort in singing that together, considering it’s a sentiment I’ve heard pretty often.
Closing out the night were hometown favorites Night Idea. They rocked through a set that seemed inspired by the energy of all the previous bands of the night, taking the opportunity to throw a little more improvisation into some of the brain-bendingly technical compositions off their forthcoming album Riverless.
Having played together for nearly a decade (with individual musical histories that go back even farther), it’s always such a pleasure to get to see these guys have a little bit of fun and cut up on stage. Their long-established connection as players means they can seemingly read each others’ minds as they improvise, which makes for a really cohesive yet playful atmosphere in their already tight tunes.
Night Idea’s sonic explorations made for a fantastic ending to a night celebrating a true honorary local band happily living and wishing the whole system away.
Check out photos by Craig Zirpolo below: