Storm clouds are looming. "It's a hard rain's a gonna fall." Forming up in the field adjacent to the Thank You Gallery -- Josh Coplon has a hell of a show starting up if the sky will let it happen.
. . .
The opening is a bittersweet thrill -- this is the first time I've managed to catch Order. It's a classic good news / bad news situation. On the plus side, the group launches a sonic attack of massive ferocity. Formed from shuffled members of True Body (Isaac Moreno on bass, Sam Ramos on guitar, & Nathan Byrum up front) with the addition behind the kit of longtime scene vet & indie label head, Ryan Stoner, Order is a 180 degree hardcore flip from the post-modernist influences that shape their alternate incarnation. Byrum is a beast of a performer, which is a bit shocking as he's always come off as pretty reserved with TB. And Stoner lays down a savage beat that fuels the group's fire.
In the red column, sadly, the grapevine whispers that by the end of next month True Body is moving on to the greener pastures of the River City. They're getting a place together and focusing intensely on breaking through to the next level. Which is great. I've long said that I believe the group has serious national potential. But it's also sad to think we won't see as much of them. Order will continue, but the miles between their drummer and the rest of the band means that the group will probably be on something of a hiatus for a bit. Word on the street is there's going to be a farewell to Norfolk show in the last week of July for True Body before they head on out -- their last as a local band. We'll have to read about them from RVA publications after this.
I have a special fondness for these kids, and wish the world to them as they take this next step of their journey to conquer bigger stages.
. . .
I'm standing out front with fellow photographer, Matt Pitts. We're watching lightning and debating on how far off it is while he fiddles with the slow motion capture on his phone. "That one looks close," a passerby offers. "Nah," I counter, "We'd be hearing thunder if it was close." Then the rumbling starts. Our faces grow grim at the sound.
. . .
This is also a last show for Heliotrope, the first time I've seen them as well, and it's a group that's also made up of members from another band -- in this instance, Esbern Snare. From what they said on the stage, I gathered that one of their number is heading off to higher learning. They treated us to some competent instrumental post-rock, something of a unique genre choice that stands out. It was an interesting sound with a lot of potential, but not every band needs to live forever. Kudos to the trio for doing what they could, while they could.
. . .
The aforementioned threat of rain is here. It looks serious. Folks are starting to pull in under the tent, which is holding together admirably as the wind picks up.
. . .
It's time to talk about Wandcarver, a band that stretches my ability to describe music -- mostly because there's not much out in the world that resembles the sounds they make together. Honestly, I don't know a whole lot about how they formed or what the circumstances of their story is. I posit that they were accidentally summoned during a post-witchcraft ritual gone horribly awry. Like, maybe some hedge magician was trying to make a deal with a demon for the power to rule Wisconsin and instead he got Seth McPherson. Who probably ate the dude and then came here to start a band, because.. Why not?
That music like this exists at all is a miracle. That it rocks this hard is a one in a million happenstance. Imagine.. Fuck, I don't know. What if Frank Zappa had founded P-Funk instead of George Clinton? What if DEVO was a death rock band. What if the Bay City Rollers married the Rocky Mountain Women's Choir and spawned an unholy amalgamation of psychedelic offspring who then all learned how to play drone instruments? Throw in bits and pieces of the Talking Heads, Nick Drake, Skinny Puppy, and the Velvet Underground? Make it shred? And you begin to approach something that might sound like Wandcarver does. The group is a rotating cast of top-notch musicians anchored by McPherson's six string pyrotechnics and the utter abandon with which he approaches the mic. But it's Melissa Power's tastefully understated playing on bass amidst sprinkled vocals that to my ear holds the provides the underlying glue that holds it all together.
They're supporting a new record which you should just go fucking buy. I mean.. You’ll likely love it. But if not, you probably own at least one Mariah Carey record or know the words to 'I Like Big Butts" or whatever it's called and this will atone you for that.
Released this past March, it's titled From Tower To Tower. The cover art depicts the ruination of the referenced Tarot card, which is perhaps apt. This is a group that gloriously trashes musical boundaries. And their live show this go-round was a force of nature. From a sheer standpoint of musical invention? Wandcarver is the most interesting band to come out of Norfolk in living memory.
. . .
The rain is moving horizontally now. There's a moat around the stage. Moshers test the depths. I think the wind is auditioning for a lead vocal position. We've huddled closely together under the tent. The pool is up to the wall at the Westgate. The Watcher in the Water took Óin. We cannot get out. The end comes. Drums, drums in the deep. They are coming.
. . .
Shy Low is on. I'm not an expert on instrumental post-metal, so I don't know what to say here. I think they're very good at what they do, but I don't know how qualified I am to make that statement. I'm struck by the cinematic quality to this music. Like the band is a soundtrack for a film about surviving something. Which probably makes sense. That's what all of us are doing right now. Every minute of every day.
. . .
The typhoon has broke and we're able to wander out from the tent. I've gotten the shots I want and so take up a position by the fence to listen from a distance. I pick up an overturned folding chair, shake the water and mud off of it, and sit my ass on down. I'm exhausted.
It's been a tough few months, you know? With Bourdain's suicide and the steady trickle minute by minute of developing news in the story of how this country is taking its last few steps towards unadulterated fascism.. I'm just worn out. I'm tired on the easiest days and it takes a lot out of me to come out for these shows. For a few moments, overwhelmed with sadness for no one identifiable reason, I've tucked myself away in a corner of this church of sound, trying to pull it together.
. . .
Demons are playing. I've written extensively about them elsewhere, and there's no new news to parse here. Suffice it to say that they're the best live band in the seven cities. No one else puts so much mind, body, and soul into their shows. Anytime you see their handle on a bill? You should be there. It's that simple.
Midway through the show, bandleader Zach Gehring paused in-between songs. "It seems like every time we play a show lately something terrible is happening in the world. And I.. Don't know what to say about it.."
Me neither, Zach. But that's okay man. As long as we keep making things like words or songs or music or art or what-the-fuck-ever? There's a chance we'll happen by accident on the magic that can fix this broken world. You just keep being you. And we'll keep coming to the shows. And maybe somewhere along the line something will change. And if not?
At least we will have rocked the fuck out on the way to oblivion.
. . .
I'll walk to the depths of the deepest black forest.
Where the people are many and their hands are all empty.
Where the pellets of poison are flooding their waters.
Where the home in the valley meets the damp dirty prison.
Where the executioner's face is always well-hidden.
Where hunger is ugly, where souls are forgotten.
Where black is the color, where none is the number.
And I'll tell it and think it and speak it and breathe it.
And reflect it from the mountain so all souls can see it.
Then I'll stand on the ocean until I start sinkin'.
But I'll know my song well before I start singin'.
And it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard.
It's a hard rain's a-gonna fall."
Post-Punk, Sludge Metal. Norfolk, Va.
Instrumental Post-Metal. Richmond, Va.
Avant-Garde? Psychedelic Death Rock? Richmond, Va.
Instrumental Post-Rock? Richmond, Va.
Post-Punk Hardcore. Norfolk, Va.