HomeBlogsJeff Hewitt's blogSomething in the Taphouse: Audiostrobelight with Invaluable, Copper and Stars, and Thomas Mcdonald

Something in the Taphouse: Audiostrobelight with Invaluable, Copper and Stars, and Thomas Mcdonald

April 27, 20191110Views

It's one thirty in the morning and I'm retracing my steps with a flashlight between my condo and the Taphouse, desperately trying to find a six hundred dollar piece of gear that appears to have randomly fallen out of my bag. I need to find it, cause if I don't, I won't be able to replace it for several months. Somewhere in Virginia Beach, Pharrell Williams is likely either fast asleep on five hundred dollar sheets in a fifteen hundred dollar a night suite somewhere, or up late counting all the money he's made off this weekend. He very likely spent six hundred dollars on dessert tonight.

If you're reading this thinking that the comparison with Pharrell is something of a non-sequitur, I'll explain. See, I knew the guy in school. Not well -- I doubt I ever had a real conversation with him. He was in band and I was a theater kid. We'd pass each other in the art wing of Princess Anne High several times a day. I have friends who knew him much better. And if you were to tell me that thirty years later he'd be worth something like a hundred and fifty million dollars, I'd have nodded politely and moved away slowly as to not further irritate your obvious madness. Fate is a funny thing, and how we get to here from there is usually a complicated journey. We make choices in this world, and those choices have consequences.

Time is on my mind of late.

A few minutes ago I walked past what used to be the West End Cafe, which at one point in Norfolk's history was a nexus of creative energy. Folks would stay up all hours of the wee morning and engage in philosophical debates, conversations about poetry and art and music. The walls were festooned with Egyptian goddesses, callbacks to Bohemia, and all sorts of debauchery. Now it appears to be an office of some sort. The walls have been painted white. My heart hurts to peer in through the windows.

. . .

We've covered Audiostrobelight several times but this is the first I've seen them myself. They're a very different band than what I thought they were. I imagined something along the lines of Big Audio Dynamite in my head when looking at photo coverage my people brought in. And certainly there are some elements of that here, but really this a group with a harder edge to the sound. Born out of Virginia Beach a bit over a decade ago, this is a group that understands the value of a slick package. Their merch table is serious business and their design elements are well thought out, but a few minutes into their set I can see what brought the large crowd in tonight -- their music is a party on the stage. Fun and infectious in such a way that it spreads through the audience like a wave of joy. Were this another era, they'd be ten times as big as they are now.

Invaluable is another band I've never actually caught live -- mostly because guitarist Keith Baillargeon is also a contributing photographer for this publication and if he's at a show I'm usually at another show, in order to spread the coverage as far as we can. The group is marvelous, of course. Casting a pure punk shadow throughout their entire set. High energy. Cathartic. The band is a straight blast of everything that made me fall in love with music in the first place. And tight as hell.

Copper and Stars, also from Va Beach, preceded with a solid set of stadium ready pop-punk. A bit of Jimmy Eat World flavor here, a group having some bombastic fun with some very competently crafted music. I'll keep an eye out for them, I don't oft venture to that side of the 757 and I've managed to only now become aware of them.

Thomas Mcdonald and his band convey a careworn, weary sense of hard-won roadhouse rock. The the kind of band you make a movie about and cast Kris Kristofferson in the lead. There's a punk sensibility here, but it's a grown up punk. Punk that has learned a thing or two about how to get to the next screen. Punk that has kids. Punk that has to get up and go to work in the morning. There's something special about Mcdonald's writing. You get a feeling of solidarity, over having survived.

. . .

I had been asked if we wanted to be considered as a suggested press outlet to Something in the Water’s management team, and I would have been out shooting the weekend had we'd been approved. I envisioned putting together a team of some very sharp photographers from diverse backgrounds, if given the opportunity. Ernest Lowery, who shoots for the New Journal and Guide. I would have tapped Keith as it would be interesting to me to get his punk-photo style into a hip hop room. Myself. Maybe Wendy P and Glenn from MonkeyGoose. I think we would have put together a compelling story from coverage on the event had we had the chance. But alas, it wasn't meant to be. Word through the grapevine is that Pharrell's people were keeping a tight lid on media passes, in order to control as much of the narrative as they could. And that's fine. Smart even, given how much negativity has been festering in the weeks leading up to this weekend. But it would have made a statement to throw a bone to one of the few journalistic outlets in the 757 that actually, you know.. Covers the existing local music scene in any real depth. The Pilot maybe publishes.. What? Two dozen articles a year on local bands? If that? We do more than that in a month. And certainly it would have been a boost and helpful to our mission to have been given access.

Further, it's hard not to see missed opportunities with what Pharrell's doing to lift up a lot of local talent. I don't even mean bands like Demons or Ladada or You're Jovian, because he's into what he's into and those genres aren't it. But we could have seen It's Tha Koncept up on an opening stage. We could have seen the Fuzz Band up there. We could have seen Buddha Council. Black Lion Insurgents. Or Seed Is. We could have seen Godchild the Omen emceeing somewhere on the schedule. I get that going for big names brings the big crowds, but surely there could have been some room for local acts that have been holding the scene down for years and years? I'd much rather seen one of them on the bill over Chris Brown -- a questionable choice given the man's transgressions against women over the course of his career. Some of which has been alleged as recently as this year. I've heard that Williams is something of a mentor to Brown, and maybe he knows something about the man's character that I don't. But it seems poor timing to feature him so heavily given his freshly questionable behavior.

Ah well. Maybe next time. I don't begrudge Pharrell his talent or success or the decisions he makes in the course of continuing his story. I wish him the best, and believe he's trying to positively impact the community from which he rose -- even if he missteps here and there along the path.

Right now, I'll just keep covering our scene. And hope that the next Pharrell steps out of it one day.

I'm just happy I found that piece of gear on the side of the road while retracing my steps. I'd have been fairly fucked without it. And six hundred bucks is a lot of money when you're not living the penthouse dream.

-- end transmission --


Va Beach. Alt-Pop.


Va Beach. Punk.

Copper and Stars

Va Beach. Pop-Punk.

Thomas Mcdonald

Va Beach. Indie-Rock.

Words and pictures by Jeff Hewitt