Skyway Man

So I’m late to the party here, posting about a show just a few hours before it starts, but this Skyway Man album has my adrenaline racing. I’m on my first listen, and it feels like someone’s slowly reading off winning lottery numbers that keep matching the ones on ticket I’m holding. It’s bonkers… all the sounds I’ve been gravitating toward are here.

A few data points:

  • I picked up a copy of Cosmic American Music at the Numero Group’s pop-up sale at Strange Matter in April.
  • Thanks to an especially fruitful Goodwill haul, I’ve been heavy into gospel the last few weeks, from Sister Rosetta Tharpe to Billy Preston’s Gospel in My Soul album to early 1980’s Savoy Records stuff.
  • I’m also in the middle of a big William Tyler kick. A BK Music Instagram post prompted me to play Impossible Truth in the recovery room after my son was born a couple weeks back, and miraculously it was still there a couple of days later, along with his earlier Behold the Spirit album.
  • We named our son Ryland, so I’ve been making my way through my father-in-law’s Ry Cooder albums, marveling at how simultaneously timeless and of-their-time they sound, especially Borderline and “Why Don’t You Try Me.”

Seen Comin’ from a Mighty Eye is tailor-made for someone embroiled in exactly these obsessions, with the spacey aspects of Cosmic American Music, the voluminousness and spirituality of gospel, Tyler’s exploratory spirit, and references to early 1980’s production that remove songs from the present moment, like they’re wandering untethered by time. It’s all here, along with the signature Spacebomb sounds that consistently fill my heart with joy.

As mad at myself as I am for posting this so late — and as ashamed as I am that I haven’t been listening to James Wallace’s stuff all along — I can’t help thinking that Seen Comin’ from a Mighty Eye and I met at exactly the right moment. Many, many thanks to Alexandra Spalding for the heads up.

Doors open at Gallery5 tonight at 7. Twain and Big Kitty will be there as well. Click here for more info.

Skyway Man — “Wires (Donny Angel and the Opening Wide)” [Spotify/iTunes]

Positive No

Alley Cat

Ever wonder what it looks like when an alley cat tries to gatecrash a music festival but is repeatedly denied entry by a volunteer who can’t resist adding insult to injury by taking pictures and speaking in Eric Cartman’s “No kitty, this is my pot pie” voice? Well, wonder no longer.

A stink eye for the ages, if you ask me.

When I reported for duty at Gallery 5 just before 4 p.m. on Saturday of Fall Line Fest weekend, my first task involved hovering around the door and making sure this little guy/gal didn’t sneak in. It was heartbreaking work, but the official doors-open time hadn’t arrived yet, and the cat didn’t have valid I.D., so there wasn’t much I could do. A short time later, I helped Positive No drummer Willis Thompson unload gear from his car, kicking off a cycle of load-in creation and tear-down destruction that, much to the delight of my ad-hoc bosses Tracy Wilson and Kenny Close (also members of Positive No), stayed on schedule all night long.

It was a great experience.

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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!

The Low Branches

The Low Branches

Near the end of August of last year, I had the opportunity to interview Christina Gleixner about the home recording project she’d undergone to help pay for the next Low Branches studio release. At the time, not many details on the album were available, other than the fact that they’d done some production work with John Morand at Sound of Music, some themselves, and that the final product was to be titled One Hundred Years Old (or 100 Years Old, as I styled it at the time).

Exactly four months after that interview was published, the album’s title track hit the interweb via Richmond Playlist, and I haven’t been able to get over how much I love it… in large part because I can’t seem to get it out of my head.

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White Laces

“One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain.”
— Bob Marley

With all due respect, Bob is wrong on this one.

I mean, I get what he’s saying, that music wields a special type of nonviolent power, but some of my favorite songs are the ones that hit you where it hurts — on gut-churning topics like mortality, heartbreak and loneliness — with intensity that you can actually feel. Those are the songs I find most vital. They’re the records I’d grab first before escaping from a burning building. Their impact is essential, in every meaning of the word.

Before I’d even had a chance to listen to it, my experience with White Laces’ debut full-length Moves could already be described as “impactful.”

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Snowy Owls

Does one song give you enough information to write an entire concert review? No, it doesn’t. But can one song give you enough information to get ridiculously excited about a band? You betcha.

The plan was to make it to Gallery 5 in time to catch my first glimpse of The Snowy Owls, who were participating in this past Saturday’s “WRIR and The Commonwealth of Notions Presents:  Volume Two” — a 10-band sampling of the Richmond music scene organized by WRIR’s Shannon Cleary. Unfortunately, I spent the majority of The Snowy Owls’ set eating trail mix while driving east on Monument Avenue, because I failed to leave on time AND forgot to eat dinner. Not my finest moment. The silver lining to my gold-star-worthy failure was extra shiny, however, because I made it to Gallery 5 in time to pay the $10 admission fee, snag a beer and settle into a spot near the back of the room as the first few notes of set closer “Yr Eyes” were starting up. In the four and a half minutes that followed, I learned a few important things…

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I (|>) RVA Music

How’s that for some quality punctuation manipulation in the title? OK, OK, I admit it’s a sorry excuse for a play button. And that it looks more like a sideways Andy Capp, purveyor of the finest vending machine hot fries in all the land. My homemade “rock on” hand, however, is no joke…


Awwwww yeah! Soooooo… what we were talking about? Right! Tonight’s “I Play RVA Music” fundraiser! This is quite the action-packed Friday, with the Lumineers/Brandi Carlile Groovin’ in the Garden show I mentioned recently and the last installment of Friday Cheers, but I’d urge anyone and everyone to head to Gallery 5 at some point this evening for their summer fundraiser, which starts at 8pm.

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The Trillions

(Editor’s Note: This past Saturday was such a great day for music that I’ve split up my reaction into three posts. Check out the second one below, and click here if you missed the first.)

Because of the shindig I mentioned yesterday, I wasn’t sure if I could make it to Saturday night’s Trillions CD release show at Gallery 5. And by the time I got there, I was pretty tuckered out and had already missed Kid Is Qual’s set (more on these fine folks to come in a future post). I definitely needed a pick-me-up, and having recently gone cold turkey on Red Bull certainly wasn’t working in my favor. But I’ll tell you two things that were working in my favor: Worthless Junk labelmates Black Girls occupying the second opening slot and the Trillions kicking ass/taking names.

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