A quick observation from last night’s show at Balliceaux:

Matuto does lots of things well. They’ve mastered their instruments. They get the crowd going. They know more about the history of the styles they invoke than most bands ever will. They write songs that are challenging and catchy at the same time. These were the factors I knew to look for after having seen them in June.

But something struck me last night that I didn’t pick up on the first time, and it’s not even necessarily something they do. It’s more of an effect they have that’s just as exceptional as the abilities listed above. Call it affective flexibility.

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Dead Fame

Dead Fame

Do you like Labyrinth?

Of course you like Labyrinth. That was a stupid question. Here’s a better question: Haven’t you always wanted to be, like, in the movie — especially the scene where everyone gets dressed up masquerade-style and a 39-year-old David Bowie seductively serenades and slow dances with a 15-year-old Jennifer Connelly?

Of course you have! Another stupid question. I’m just going to stop asking questions and let you know that your freakiest, Jim Henson-addled dreams are about to come true this weekend — twice.

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WRIR and Commonwealth of Notions Presents: Volume 3

Commonwealth of Notions

On July 14 of last year, when I was speeding down Monument Avenue on the way to Gallery 5, the air in my Honda Fit was thick with suspense. I was eager to see The Snowy Owls, a band I’d been listening to but hadn’t seen live, and I was just as eager to get my first taste of “WRIR and The Commonwealth of Notions Presents.” Last year was the second for the Shannon Cleary-curated WRIR fundraiser, and it proved to be a dynamite day and night of music, with 10 local bands, multiple stages and perfectly staggered set times. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know the Richmond music scene better at last year’s event, and it’s become clear that this year’s is going to be even more rewarding.

If Volume 2’s format provided a steady stream of sets, this year’s is more like an angry river that’s going to crest on four consecutive nights at four different venues around Richmond. And while we know the where and when for WRIR and The Commonwealth of Notions Presents: Volume 3 — things kick off on Thursday, July 18 at Strange Matter, followed by Balliceaux on July 19, Gallery 5 on July 20 and Bandito’s on July 21 — the who has been kept secret until the last few days, whereupon RVA Playlist, Sounds of RVA and One Way Richmond began revealing the bands who have signed up to participate.

Today, I’m honored to announce three more puzzle pieces — Wolf//Goat, Way, Shape, or Form, and Heavy Midgets. The dates and venues are listed below, along with some sample tunes to get the anticipation flowing.

July 18 at Strange Matter

In Watermelon Sugar

Wolf//Goat — “Lobocabra” [Bandcamp]

July 20 at Gallery 5
Way, Shape, or Form

Way Shape or Form

Way, Shape, or Form — “Tenants” [Bandcamp]

July 21 at Bandito’s
Heavy Midgets

Heavy Midgets

Heavy Midgets — “Golden Cow” [Bandcamp]

Keep an eye out for more announcements, including information about a very special mystery artist who will be returning to Richmond to perform at Balliceaux on Friday, July 19.

Hope to see you there in July!

Toots & The Maytals

Toots sign

I snapped the picture above a little after 10:00 p.m. on Saturday night. A light rain was falling on Brown’s Island and Toots & The Maytals were a few minutes from performing their rendition of John Denver’s “Country Roads,” having already made their way through “Pressure Drop,” “Reggae Got Soul” and a handful of other classics. About 15 minutes later, when “Country Roads” was winding down, someone in the audience threw an empty liquor bottle at the stage, striking frontman Frederick “Toots” Hibbert in the forehead. He was immediately taken to the hospital, and guitarist Carl Harvey announced that the show was over. A few paralyzed minutes later, Mrs. YHT and I started a long and quiet walk back to our car.

There were so many things that I wanted to say then, and there are so many things I want to say now.

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Jonathan Vassar & The Speckled Bird

So often in music, the string-snapping, cymbal-smashing and tonsil-tearing performances are the ones that are deemed “passionate.” However, there was a most intense stillness to the back room of Balliceaux this past Sunday evening as Jonathan Vassar & The Speckled Bird performed their brand of eclectic and, yes, passionate folk music for a raptly attentive audience that filled every available booth, chair and coach seat (as well as the spaces in between).

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