It’s happening. My absolute favorite time of year — when Mrs. YHT and I bolt out of work on Fridays; throw the kids, a stroller, and a couple of lawn chairs in the car (except when we forget the lawn chairs, which is more than 50% of the time); and zoom down to Brown’s Island as fast as we can to catch the start of Friday Cheers.
The folks at Venture Richmond are kicking off this season (Cheers’ 35th!) with a humdinger: Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real is headlining, with an opening set from standout Richmond artist Landon Elliott. If you’re not familiar with Lukas Nelson, “Find Yourself” could be a good starting point. The band I play in covers the song regularly, and while the lyrics convey romantic dissatisfaction, there’s an infectious bounce to it that makes it a joy to play. And Nelson’s dad is the great Willie Nelson — not crucial for appreciating Lukas’ tunes, but still fun to know.
As for Landon Elliott, I had the good fortune of interviewing him for River City Magazine earlier this year and left that conversation impressed and inspired — by his story, by his strong sense of community, and by the way music is woven throughout his own family’s fabric. A quick snippet I saw as especially meaningful:
Were your parents into music when you were growing up?
My dad and his family are from Ohio, and they all love 1970s and 1980s classic rock and roll. My dad raised me on Journey, Def Leppard, AC/DC, Whitesnake, Mötley Crüe. My first concert with my dad was KISS at eight or nine years old. So there’s a ton of rock influence there… My mom loved country music. I remember [her] singing karaoke, and she’d sing at music festivals. We even moved to Nashville for two years and she pursued a music career… She recorded this really beautiful single during her time there, so that’s a gem for our family. I remember being six or seven years old, watching my mom doing the thing and thought it was so cool.
[My grandfather] was a deep-sea fisherman for 30-plus years of his life… the acoustic guitar that I play was the guitar that he took around on his boat. That guitar has been more places than I have. It’s been all the way up [and] around to Alaska and back. He would come home and people would want to see him after these long trips. We’d do these big fish fries at the house and a guitar would inevitably come out at some point and he would sing and play Elvis and Johnny Cash. That was how it all started — watching my family doing it and [thinking] “I could do that.”
Check out the rest of the interview here, and click here for ticket’s to this Friday’s Cheers show. A guaranteed good time for any music-loving family.
Have y’all checked out Dust Up Mag yet? Some truly talented and dedicated folks have set their sights on covering live music in Richmond and beyond (the site’s motto is “Get to the gig”), and they were kind enough to let me review the Friday Cheers finale from last week. Here’s a link. This was my third time seeing Car Seat Headrest since Teens of Denial came out, and I walked away wildly impressed yet again. Hope a fourth time isn’t too far off — there’s something beautiful and therapeutic about singing along with Toledo’s songs. Read the full review here.
Car Seat Headrest — “Fill In The Blank” [Spotify/iTunes]
We’re just a few hours away from one of the Friday Cheers shows I was most psyched about when the schedule was announced, and while it was Conor Oberst’s name that first got my attention (big fan of Bright Eyes, never seen him live… been enjoying Salutations…), I’ve been getting more and more jazzed about seeing Big Thief’s opening set.
Just a couple of days ago, NPR posted a new Big Thief tune called “Mary,” and I’m totally in awe of it. The word “perfect” comes to mind. It’s stately but not staid… carefully crafted yet natural… complex in spite of the fact it was recorded in one take… It actually reminds me of the Devon Sproule tune I posted last week, only it strings together the past instead of the present.
Fingers crossed we get to hear it tonight. See y’all on Brown’s Island.
Big Thief — “Mary” [Spotify/iTunes]
“It’s the most wonderful time of the year…”
-Christmas song written by someone who hasn’t witnessed a Friday Cheers schedule rollout
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Friday Cheers is my favorite part of the year. It’s warm but not sweaty, the weekends feel longer, since the early Cheers start times mean you’re outside and enjoying yourself ASAP… it makes me so happy. Here’s the full schedule. Things are going to be a little nutty this year, given that Mrs. YHT is set to deploy Baby YHT #2 in early May, but here are three of the shows I’m hopeful that we/I/y’all will be able to make:
Lee Fields & the Expressions with Kings — May 5
This show being announced was my Lee Fields wake-up call. I see his records nearly every time I go to Steady Sounds, and I keep meaning to learn more about him — now’s the time. I’m doing it. You can’t stop me. Friday Cheers has hosted two of the best soul shows I’ve ever seen — Charles Bradley and the late great Sharon Jones — so this one shouldn’t be missed.
Conor Oberst with Big Thief — June 2
Already snagged a ticket for this one. I wrote a short time ago about how psyched I am for his special-guest-heavy upcoming album Salutations, and since it’ll be out by the time this show rolls around, I’ll almost certainly be spending some quality time at the merch tent on June 2.
Car Seat Headrest with Gold Connections — June 30
OK, so I saw them twice last year. I don’t care — as Toddler YHT’s hero Ariel once said so poignantly “I want more…” Speaking of wanting more, I managed to find a used copy of Teens of Style, the album prior to Teens of Denial, and I was surprised by how many of the older (relatively speaking — he’s released ocean of material already) songs I knew. I recommend prepping for this show by diving into Will Toledo’s earlier stuff, which can be found on Bandcamp.
Hope y’all are getting excited as well. Here’s another link to the full schedule and here’s a link to an article I wrote last year about Friday Cheers that includes an interview with Venture Richmond Festival Manager Stephen Lecky.
So I’m going to attempt to end this jerk of a year with five wrap-up posts in five days. Fingers crossed this works. I tend to overwrite these things until they become albatross-y, so I’ll try to keep things snappy, starting with a quick list of links to music writing I did in 2016. Add in weekly contributions to the Off Your Radar newsletter and an August appearance on Sound Gaze and I can definitively say that this is the most blabbing about music I’ve done in a year.
Many thanks — seriously, too many to mention here — to the people I interviewed and the people who made what I wrote sound better and look prettier. Y’all know who you are, and I hope you also know how awesome and appreciated you are. Lots of fun stuff in the works for 2017. Until then…
Featured Off Your Radar weeks:
For Boomer Magazine:
For Richmond Navigator online
For River City Magazine
For RVA Magazine
For West End’s Best
I’m having a really hard time breaking out of my Brexit WTF stupor, but here is a picture of my daughter wearing a hat that’s way too big for her, and here are a few news and notes items, for what they’re worth:
- CD Monday update: Loved Mudcrutch’s second album. It’s tighter — doesn’t have that loose, spontaneous feel the first one had — but it’s a testament to the enduring efficacy of well-written rock songs. They just work. Remember when people would say things like “Rock and roll is here to stay” when the genre was first getting started? This is what they were talking about.
- Congrats to Sleepwalkers on wrapping up their tour with the Lumineers. Joey Wharton’s photos continue to roll in, and they’re stunning. Funny story — I just missed them in Chicago. The last stop on that stretch of the tour (you might have seen the marquee in Wednesday’s record store report) was at the Chicago Theater the day after Mrs. YHT’s brother’s wedding. I think we were even in town at the same time. Not sure what hotel they stayed in, but I think ours was next to the ping pong bar in this Instagram post…
- Sara Watkins’ new album is well worth the First Listen. I was trying to remember if she played any of those songs when I saw her share the Modlin Center stage with Patty Griffin and Anaïs Mitchell… Not sure, but Young in All the Wrong Ways is definitely worth checking out.
- Jason Isbell put on a pretty much perfect rock show at the Altria on Tuesday. This may sound hyberbolic, but I really believe it: He’s entering the Beyoncé zone, where you look at someone and say “You just can’t do that specific thing any better.” I hope y’all get to see him on this tour. Playing songs from two A+ albums, singing loud and clear, even during the quiet sections of songs, multiple standing ovations… It’s a demonstration of how firm the ground below your feet becomes when you speak and write and play from a place of self-knowledge and truth.
- One more quick thing about that show: Frank Turner was great. I didn’t know a ton about him, but he was so engaging and fun, and his songs have this great spirit. Defiant. Resilient. It totally clicked why he would have called his last album Positive Songs for Negative People. I didn’t get a copy there, but it went on my Discogs wantlist.
- Friday Cheers comes to a close tonight with Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors and Norfolk’s Major and the Monbacks. I’ll be gigging tonight at Triple Crossing, so I’ll have to miss it, but I’ve heard excellent things about Holcomb. And Fear of Music at the Broadberry would make a nice after party…