Saturday, June 24, 7 PM
Third Annual First Time’s The Charm, feat. Dad, Lula, Wow Qwn, Where’s Zach, The Circuits, Jade And Kiev, Lettie Nowhere, Amazing Friends, Synthdicate Slimez @ Strange Matter – $5
Elbow Room returns for the third year in a row with an event that’s done a great job over the past two years of injecting energy and vitality into a local music scene that, while always awesome, has a tendency to get a bit static if left to its own devices for too long. OK yes that probably qualified as a run-on sentence, but all of it needed to be said. And as anyone who attended the two previous First Time’s The Charm shows will tell you, going to this show is something you need to do.
But I know what you’re thinking. “Drew, why would I want to spend an evening watching eight or nine bands that have never even played before? It’s like a whole night of opening bands.” I suppose you could look at it that way–if you’re a TOTAL STICK IN THE MUD. Another way to look at it would be that, due to the nature of First Time’s The Charm rules (each band must contain members who’ve never played in a band before or at least who have never played their chosen instrument in a band before, and more importantly, each band must contain members who are not straight cis white men), this is a night full of novel and intriguing approaches to music from typically-unheard voices. Each of the past two additions have brought us multiple bands that went on to make a splash in the local scene, and it seems likely that this night will too.
I can’t tell you much about any of the bands on the bill. After all, none of them have ever played before. I can tell you that, for the first time in the event’s history, I’m not in any of the bands playing. But my non-participation this year does nothing to diminish my enthusiasm for this evening of brand new sounds. It’s nice to hear new people with different experiences and understandings of music bringing their perspectives to bear in configurations that are too often used to produce more of the same shit you’ve heard a million times. You won’t get more of the same from this show. You’ll get youthful energy, inspired enthusiasm, and the freshness of new, unexplored ideas. And you’ll probably get at least one or two bands that everyone will be talking about six months from now. Get in on the ground floor of that shit. Go to Strange Matter this Saturday night and support a whole bunch of bands putting themselves out there for the first time. It just might inspire you!
Wednesday, June 21, 8 PM
Gorguts, Exist, Rotting Obscene, Doubtfire @ Strange Matter – $20 (order tickets HERE)
Aww hell yes. Gorguts are back once again. And I doubt I have to convince any of you true-blue metalheads out there that you need to be present for their performance Wednesday night at Strange Matter. However, those of you who don’t know too much about death metal and are looking a bit askance at that name probably need a little bit of reassurance right now. No, Gorguts isn’t the second coming of gore-strewn death metal freaks Cannibal Corpse. It’s actually a Canadian-American quartet with a penchant for technical, progressive metal and an incredibly talented lineup that brings band founder Luc Lemay together with members of Dysrhythmia, Behold The Arctopus, and Beneath The Massacre. Think early, heavy Mastodon crossed with early, heavy King Crimson and you’re on your way to what Gorguts is up to.
The quartet returns to Strange Matter in support of 2016 EP Pleiades Dust, on which they steal a page from local metal heroes Inter Arma by doing one song that lasts for over half an hour. Progressing through a variety of different movements, “Pleiades Dust” evokes Neurosis’s epic soundscapes and the precision heavyosity of Decapitated to create a sort of metal symphony worthy of both thoughtful study and feverish headbangs. Things will probably tend towards the latter when Gorguts hits the Strange Matter stage, and with DC’s Exist acting as direct support while RVA’s own Rotting Obscene and Doubtfire kick things off, the massive heaviness quotient of this gig will only be driven higher. Whether you’re throwing your hair around in front of the stage or standing a bit further back taking careful notice of Colin Marston’s bass technique, you’re sure to be won over by Gorguts’ brand of brutality.
Thursday, June 22, 10 PM
The Colloquial Orchestra presents: A Night Of, feat. Amplifier On Fire, honeybrandy, Lunar, Ready For The House Band @ Flora – Free!
I definitely like the way things are shaping up over at Flora. More interesting goings-on in the realm of live music are coming our way this week, and this is without a doubt the most unusual and intriguing show I’ve come across in my research for this column. The Colloquial Orchestra is one of Dave Watkins’ many projects; if you know Dave, you probably know him from his solo acoustic folk explorations, or his production work for quite a few local bands. The Colloquial Orchestra comes from a different direction entirely; this shifting-member ensemble, always with Dave at the center, uses electric instruments to explore the possibilities of ambient sonic landscapes through noise.
The Colloquial Orchestra aren’t actually playing this show, so if anything their name just gives us a clue as to the direction in which this evening is aimed. Any hunches you might have about what sort of entertainment is on tap will be borne out by the music of Amplifier On Fire, a solo performance by Ezekiel Reed involving the use of electric guitar and looping effects. Then there’s Honeybrandy (pretend I didn’t capitalize it), a side project of the long running Late Virginia Summers ensemble in which lo-fi electronic manipulation is improvised to create particular emotional textures. Lunar is another exploratory improvisational collective, and the Ready For The House Band, aka the three local musicians who backed Jandek in his last local performance, are engaging in improvisatory explorations of a particularly atonal sort (which is kind of the nature of the beast, at least where Jandek is concerned). So if touching the boundaries of avant-garde sounds created through electricity is something you’re interested in, allow The Colloquial Orchestra to draw you into the back room at Flora this Thursday night.
Friday, June 23, 9 PM
The Creep-A-Zoids, Mistaker @ Wonderland – $5
To tell y’all the honest truth, it can be tough for me to keep up with what’s happening at Wonderland. This punk-as-fuck Shockoe Bottom dive bar is, perhaps understandably, not too keen on keeping their internet presence updated. On the few occasions I luck into finding out what they’ve got going on, I always arrive to encounter a room filled to bursting with the sort of punks who look like they just stepped out of the club scenes in Penelope Spheeris’s Suburbia. It’s not the sort of atmosphere you’ll find in other local venues–the scene around Wonderland is definitely its own thing.
The Creep-A-Zoids are a band you’d be hard-pressed to catch if you never head down to Shockoe Bottom, but for Wonderland’s illustrious clientele, they are a celebrated local favorite who can be something of a house band for the more horror-inflected punk n’ roll gigs regularly taking place down there. While that description might make you think of the Misfits or the Cramps, I’d be remiss in my duty if I didn’t mention that there’s an even bigger dose of dark, spooky early 80s LA punk thrown into the mix where this band is concerned; think TSOL, Agent Orange, or the Adolescents. Regardless of what you hear in their sound, though, if you like raw rock n’ roll, old school hardcore, or anything inbetween, you’re gonna enjoy seeing The Creep-A-Zoids live. And this is the last chance you’re gonna get to do so, so if you haven’t yet, you owe it to yourself to ride your bike a million miles an hour down that big-ass hill and get to the gig. Get there early, too–once I showed up to a Wonderland show at 10:15 and found a sold-out room and a line of two dozen decked-out punk rockers waiting for the first drunk foolish enough to step out for some air so they could swoop in. Hearing sets from The Creep-A-Zoids and openers Mistaker will be way less fun from an East Main St sidewalk. You’ve been warned.
Saturday, June 24, 10 PM
The Milkstains, Pete Curry, Benjamin Shepherd @ Flora – Free!
The tenth anniversary of local garage-punk trio The Milkstains’ formation is already a couple years in their rearview, and yet somehow, they’re rocking harder and sounding better than they ever have before. If you need proof, look no further than their brand-new album, Punch The Sky, fresh out from Trrrrash [is that the right amount of R’s? Tim?] Records. You can preview it right now on Bandcamp, but this late-Saturday-night shindig at Flora is to celebrate the album’s release, so I’m guessing you’ll be able to grab a physical copy of the jams on that very evening (but hey, don’t quote me on that).
You really do want this record, y’all. The Milkstains have always had an inspired way of mingling punk-inspired grunge guitars with surf-garage structures and hot licks galore. But nothing in their previous catalog could prepare you for the sheer knockdown-dragout excellence of new jams like “Shake,” “Perpetual Nuisance,” and the instant classic “Young Scum.” This record is guaranteed top-volume car jams of the summer–it is to 2017 what The Chronic was to 1992–but these songs are gonna kick your ass even harder in a live setting, where the beer Sizemore’s spitting as he sings can and will actually splatter your face! That may be a somewhat dubious distinction, but you’ll be too sweaty, stoked, and rocked the fuck out to quibble over such mundanities; I guarantee it. Come to Flora Saturday night, party hard with The Milkstains, and be prepared to shove a copy of Punch The Sky into your purse before their set. Don’t just put it into your pocket! That shit will break. Trust the voice of experience on this one.
Sunday, June 25, 8 PM
Truman, Supine, Tavishi @ The Comm Room – $3-5 suggested donation
I’m not going to pretend this show isn’t on this list at least somewhat for personal reasons. After all, by now you have probably picked up on the fact that 2/3 of Truman also constitutes 1/2 of the band Samarra, another 1/4 of which is me. I know, I know, I hate fractions too. The point is that a few of my best friends are coming home after five weeks on tour, and I’m really excited to see them. But not just so we can hang out; also because Truman’s been playing shows every night for over a month now and they’re gonna be tight as a goddamn drum.
They’ve been on tour supporting their brand new EP, Ma Doi, a split release between excellent midwestern record labels Zegema Beach and Middleman. This 17-minute, three-song release shows all the growth this band has done over the past couple of years and is without a doubt the best thing they’ve released to date. And they’ve already got a whole bunch of new songs in the pipeline to knock your ass out with. You need to catch this set. I haven’t left myself much room to extol the virtues of Supine and Tavishi, but rest assured they are plentiful. Philly emotional hardcore freaks Supine wowed us all last summer at Swamp Fest, and are finishing up a week or so on tour with Truman by blowing RVA away once again. Tavishi’s intricate, scientifically-minded electronic compositions will be a perfect table-setting change of pace for two bands’ worth of incredible emotionally-fueled noise. It’s all gonna rule.
Monday, June 26, 8 PM
Walker Lukens, Don Babylon, Hill Walkers @ Strange Matter – $8 in advance/$10 day of show (order tickets HERE)
Here’s an interesting night of music I hadn’t previously encountered. The name Walker Lukens was totally unfamiliar to me before I saw it on Strange Matter’s upcoming schedule, but as soon as I looked into his work, I was wowed. Recently engaging in a fruitful collaboration with Spoon drummer Jim Eno, Lukens has released two excellent EPs over the past couple of years. Never Understood and Ain’t Got A Reason both generate a strong indie-funk pulse of the sort that will be familiar to fans of Spoon’s work since their landmark LP Kill The Moonlight. However, there is just as strong a stamp placed on the sound of these records by Lukens himself, whose soulful balladry has an intense charm guaranteed to win over unfamiliar listeners.
So of course, it’s this charm that Lukens and his backing band, The Side Arms, will bring to Strange Matter this Monday night. After all, the producer doesn’t come on tour with you–if you can’t bring it in the live environment, you’ll leave a lot of people disappointed. As their session for Audiotree last year proved, though, this man and his band have their sound down pat and can deliver it with forceful alacrity. They’ll get your body moving this Monday night for sure, as will excellent local indie-rockers Don Babylon and Hill Walkers. Wear your dancing shoes for this one.
Tuesday, June 27, 8 PM
Secret Stuff, She’s A Legend, Born Without Bones, Eaves @ Strange Matter – $8
These types of shows can be tough to write about. By “these types of shows,” I mean shows in which the headlining act is so straight up my alley that I don’t even know how to make their appeal make sense to other people without having them go “Oh, so you say it’s another thrash metal show? How novel!” or “Aha, another emo revival band, go figure.” I’ve already leaped the thrash hurdle this column, and now it’s time to convince you about Secret Stuff, an emo band from Nashville whom I absolutely swear are worth your time regardless of how many other bands like this you’ve seen in the past six months.
I mean, seriously, check out their recent split single with Arizona emo revivalists Sundressed. One song uses intricate guitar leads to act as a brilliant counterpoint to multipart vocal harmonies that perfectly deliver the lovelorn angst of the lyrics. The other brings in an acoustic guitar for a different texture that packs a similar punch. This sort of melody-driven emotional intensity is irresistible, especially when delivered at full volume by a passionate group of talented musicians performing six feet in front of you. You seriously will be unable to resist the power of Secret Stuff’s music. I swear that this is the case. Powerhouses She’s A Legend and Eaves cover the local support end of things, while Milford, MA’s Born Without Bones sneak into the middle of the bill to wow you with another out-of-town export just as promising as the first. Get into it.
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@
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