The Devil Whale

Teeth

I had a weird realization while having drinks with a friend a few nights ago. I don’t have a single active concert ticket right now. Not a one. No PDF printouts waiting to be scanned, no tickets sitting at will call… nuthin’.

How did this come to pass? Summer concert burnout is partly to blame, not that I have anything to complain about. The stack of yet-to-be-used tickets that usually lives on my wife’s desk at home got plenty thick during the past few months, and seeing Radiohead, tUnE-yArDs and Neko Case, each for the first time, The Alabama Shakes for the second time, Justin Townes Earle for the fourth, Old Crow Medicine Show twice and The Lumineers three times is pretty damn good way to spend the summer, if you ask me.

But looking forward with a clean slate is exhilarating, and it didn’t take long to find a show that has me excited to start chalking it up all over again.

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Goldrush

Promo photo

There’s being excited, there’s being really excited, and then there’s being so excited you pre-order a record the moment you can find someone who will take your money for it. That’s exactly what I did when I found out that Goldrush had recorded a 3-song single for Making Moves, a series of 7-inch records released by Drexel University’s Mad Dragon Records and curated by Motion City Soundtrack. With the release date set for August 28 and a record release show taking place shortly thereafter on September 2 at The Camel in Richmond, violinist Treesa Gold and frontman Prabir Mehta were kind enough to answer a few questions via email about recording the 7-inch, SXSW, and more.

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Dead Fame

Frontiers

It’s incredibly satisfying when a band you’re seeing for the first time meets the expectations that took root when you listened to their recordings. You know what’s even better? When those expectations are totally obliterated, the band is even better than you could have hoped, and you walk away feeling like this.

I’d been trying to make it to a Dead Fame show for months, and the big moment finally came last night, when supporters of Richmond Playlist packed the Camel for the blog’s super-fun birthday party (yes there was cake, and it was delicious!). DF took the stage as the second of three bands, installing a snazzy light show that included a roving, green laser that, while the band was working out a few technical difficulties, became the subject of a fantastic English-majors-talking-about-science conversation between my wife and me about how the laser seemed to be moving the smoky air it touched, and whether this was actually possible. Our conclusion? We have no idea what we’re talking about.

Dead Fame’s set got underway a few minutes later and, within the first few moments of “Glass Jacket,” I was floored. Blown away. Gobsmacked.

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Bettye LaVette

The Scene of the Crime

When I wrote this past weekend about Black Girls’ new album Hell Dragon, I mentioned that one of my favorite parts of seeing live music is expecting the unexpected. Even if you’ve seen a band before, you never know what you’ll find at their next show. Coincidentally, when I was finishing dinner before heading over to the Hell Dragon release party at the Camel, I was blindsided by a totally unexpected musical surprise, but it was a piece of recorded music — one that I’d heard a zillion times, for that matter — that did the blindsiding. To be painfully honest, I first heard Bettye LaVette’s “Somebody Pick Up My Pieces” by accident. I needed to listen to “Pick Up the Pieces” by Average White Band (don’t ask) and absentmindedly let Spotify play through the song title search results. Quick side note — Spotify searches make for the strangest playlists you’ll ever hear. When “Somebody Pick Up My Pieces” came on, I heard LaVette’s deep, expressive and soulful voice placed against a sweet, southern backdrop of twangy pedal steel and lazy drums, piano and bass, and I fell for the juxtaposition right away. It was a powerful moment of discovery, one I got to relive when I finally found a used copy of The Scene of the Crime, the album on which “Somebody Pick Up My Pieces” appears, at Deep Groove Records on Saturday. At dinner a few hours later, I shared news of my vinyl find with Robbie, a friend whose brain is a musical encyclopedia, and that’s when he blindsided me. “Oh yeah, The Scene of the Crime. You know her band on that album is Drive-By Truckers?” Bam. In that moment, a wormhole opened up and two treasured parts of my musical universe were suddenly and permanently connected. I couldn’t believe it, nor could I wait to give the whole album another listen, this time with the knowledge of who was providing that sweet, southern backdrop. Listen to the song below to see what I mean and click here to buy The Scene of the Crime. Who knows what surprises await when you do!

Bettye LaVette — “Somebody Pick Up My Pieces

Black Girls

Hell Dragon

I love live music. There’s the feeling of community, the sensory overload, the expectation of the unexpected… And one of the greatest gifts a band can give is a recording that captures those feelings, so you can take the live experience with you throughout your day. On the way to work. Walking down the street. Raking leaves. Raking more leaves. If you have a pair of headphones, all of these moments are just crowded, sweaty dance parties in disguise, and Black Girls’ new album Hell Dragon is a 9-song invitation to say “Fuck it!” and make those dance parties a reality.

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Cotton Jones

Tall Hours in the Glowstream

You like penguins? Me too! They’re adorable, usually friendly, always dressed for success, plus they’re the stars of my favorite scene of any halfway-decent nature documentary series — the obligatory Antarctica scene. You know, the one in which thousands of male penguins huddle together in negative-bazillion-degree-temperatures for months without sunlight, taking turns on the group’s extra-chilly perimeter, all while playing the world’s most boring game of soccer with the unborn child that rolls around between their legs the whole time? Seeing footage of this rotating huddle always blows my mind,  but this act of extreme parental endurance isn’t even my favorite penguin fun fact. Did you know that after all those soccer balls hatch and form a giant field of thousands of cute, fluffy, pretty much identical penguin chicks, the parents identify which is theirs by listening for their chick’s distinct call? In a sea of screaming voices, one cuts through. It’s incredible. So what does this have to do with Cotton Jones? Well, this folk-y/rock-y/whatever-y band (Thought Cotton Jones was the dude’s name? I did too. The curse of Jethro Tull strikes again…) from Cumberland, MD wrote a song that may very well be my illegitimate musical penguin baby (DNA tests are pending). I wasn’t terribly familiar with the Cotton Jones catalog before seeing them at the Camel this past Thursday, so a few hours before heading out, I rushed through some of their albums, enjoying them immensely but moving too quickly to commit the songs to memory… except for one. One tune stood out as I hurriedly listened, a sweet and timeless-sounding river song from their Tall Hours in the Glowstream album called “Somehow to Keep It Going.” The same thing happened at the Camel, as hearing the chorus produced such a strong reaction of recognition mixed with excitement that it’s hard to believe I’d heard the song for the first time just hours before. In a sea of unfamiliar music, “Somehow to Keep It Going” cut through and connected, and I can’t wait to explore more deliberately the rest of what Cotton Jones has to offer. Listen below and click here to snag Tall Hours in the Glowstream from iTunes.

Cotton Jones — “Somehow to Keep It Going

The Rosebuds

Loud Planes Fly Low

If you’ve been to a fair number of concerts, you may know this feeling: You’re at a show, you’re having fun, the band is playing great, but you can’t escape the notion that you’re seeing the same performance that the Navy kids in Norfolk saw two nights earlier, which was the same show that plaid-clad Portlanders saw two weeks before that, the guests of Hotel Boulderado two months before that, and so on. Often there’s nothing deficient about these shows, but there’s still an unmistakable and indelible portability to them. If you know this feeling, then I bet you know its polar opposite: The notion that you’re seeing something that cannot be replicated, something that will inspire jealousy in the people who couldn’t make it out that night. Friday at the Camel was one of those nights for me. In fact, the Camel seems to be a magnet for these one-of-a-kind shows. One of the most memorable concerts I’ve ever seen happened there this past April, when Justin Townes Earle put on an emotionally-charged post-rehab performance that was equal parts frightening and brilliant. Though it wasn’t frightening (thankfully), Friday’s Rosebuds show was definitely brilliant, full of moments that stand out in their uniqueness, and I won’t soon forget it. Moments like…

…Landis Wine and Jay Ward of White Laces performing “Calcutta.” Wine and Ward kicked off the show with a special acoustic opening set, and I felt very lucky to be there to see it — not just because it’s fun to see talented musicians showcase their flexibility (Wine embraced the “VH1 Storytellers”-esque vibe, relaying stories about the songs they strummed, and Ward seemed perfectly at ease with a guitar in his normally bass-laden hands, even busting out a mandolin for one song) — but also because we were treated to a harmony-splashed rendition of  “Calcutta,” a track they covered for Love Me When I’m Gone: A Tribute to Ross Harman. It was a touching performance of a painfully beautiful song written by their late friend. You can listen to Harmon’s version here, and you can click here to contribute to a Kickstarter fund that’s raising money to have Harman’s music pressed to vinyl.

…Treesa Gold playing 1,243 notes in the span of 4 seconds (all numbers approximate). I liked Goldrush when I saw them at September’s RVA Music Fest, but I was standing too far away to fully appreciate some of the qualities I saw up close on Friday, like Matt Gold’s booming and brilliantly bowed double bass, Prabir Mehta’s swift guitar playing and pure frontman personality and Treesa Gold’s blindingly fast violin. I mean good lord, there were a lot of notes coming out of that violin. I’m pretty sure I looked like this for a while. The group offers songs that balance that type of complexity with fun and catchy melodies, many of which I could recognize right away from having heard them in September. I highly recommend a trip down YouTube lane to see and hear what I mean.

…someone in the crowd buying the Rosebuds shots. I didn’t know this until singer Ivan Howard mentioned it during their set, but Friday was the very last stop on the Rosebuds’ lengthy American tour. With a rear view mirror full of dates all over the country, some opening for Bon Iver, the Rosebuds seemed to be having a great time, and they sounded outstanding while they were doing it. The band paints such amazing pictures with their recorded music, and I’ve really enjoyed exploring their most recent record, Loud Planes Fly Low, so it was a thrill to see those pictures come to life in such vivid color and texture. There were so many moments to love — a captivating performance of “Cover Ears,” a Camel-wide singalong during “Nice Fox,” and, in what may have been my favorite episode of the evening, a good samaritan buying the band shots (I don’t know for sure what this person bought, but I heard someone say “Goldschläger,” which has to be the most hilarious shot to buy for a band), which they graciously knocked back and chased with a minute-long, improvised, bass-fueled jam. In those moments, the concert wasn’t just a concert — it also felt like the wrap party for a successful theater production, and I’m so glad to have made the trip to the Camel to help them celebrate. Check out the album version of “Cover Ears” below and click here to grab Loud Planes Fly Low on iTunes. Or, if you’re feeling frisky, head to your local record store, where you can buy the album from an actual, living, breathing human being who will be on your side of the Great Human-Robot War of 2034.

The Rosebuds — “Cover Ears

Josh Small

Juke

Important Life Lesson, Part II: Yesterday, I made a case for going early to concerts, because you never know what the opening act gods will send your way. This goes double for Justin Townes Earle shows. First it was Joe Pug at the Southern, and then Friday at the Camel, I found out about Richmond local Josh Small. Within moments of starting his opening set, his passionate singing and foot-stomping steel guitar playing made it feel like we were all sitting on the back porch of a cabin deep in the woods, soaking in his intricate and energetic brand of southern-influenced folk. I picked up both his albums (sound familiar?), and am so happy I did. His most recent is called Juke and features the same passion I saw live, but with the added bonus of eclectic instrumentation.