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Richmond's Aural History: The 2000s

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Ward Harrison
Musician, ex-Hackensaw Boys

I was touring a lot that decade. The restaurants that hire musicians — Jason Alley at Comfort, Manny at Kuba Kuba, Edo's, Mamma 'Zu — there's great support in the local restaurant industry for artists. We could take off anytime we wanted to go on tour. Millie's had a T-shirt that read, "employing the unemployable for however many years." It was filled with the names of all these great musicians who had worked there. I felt like the restaurant community was without parallel. That was an awesome shirt.

Mark Richardson, Editor in Chief, Pitchfork Media

I moved to Richmond in late 2001 and it took me some time to figure out what was going on with the local music scene, specifically the experimental music scene, which is where my head was at the time. I knew that it had a very interesting history, with bands like Pelt, Labradford, Hotel X, and I remember hearing from a few people about the semi-legendary Sliang Laos. But I was new in town and had no idea what was happening at the moment.

At some point I remember going into Fan Video and seeing some flyers on the counter for a show by some drill’n’bass producer I’d heard of. I want to say it was Venetian Snares but I’m not sure that’s right. But I saw that the show was happening at a gallery in town and it was being put on by an organization called 804Noise. And I kept an eye out and caught another 804Noise show at Art Works. Birds in the Meadow played, Marty McCavitt with Darius Jones. I was immediately drawn to their music, Marty’s intense and abstract noise agains the saxophone. And there was a two-person band from Germany called Incite that I thought were pretty cool.

At the show I introduced myself to the 804Noise people, including Kenny Yates, and I could tell that they were doing something interesting. Several people involved with the collective were very political and saw music as an extension of political action, but that didn’t interest me so much. I was interested more from an aesthetic angle. But there seemed to be room for everybody.

So soon after that I DJ’d a couple of 804Noise shows to open, and I was hugely impressed and inspired by the whole scene. It was well organized and the music was really creative and I was very happy I’d found this in Richmond. I missed the first couple of 804Noise festivals but I was there in 2005 and 2006, and I think I actually DJ’d both of those to open. By this time they had a really nice mix of noise and experimental artists from Richmond and other places in Virginia, as well as bringing in some people who are now recognized as giants in the field, like Pruriant and Carlos Giffoni. There was a group called Ting Ting Jahe that I thought was just incredible, but they were at the other end of the spectrum, focusing attention by making really quiet music with things like Tibetan prayer bowls.

I have a very strong memory of pulling up to the festival later in the day in 2006, and being in my car, and it was so loud inside the car that it was hard to speak, and the windows were rolled up and the music was inside! Definitely had to bring earplugs. I left Richmond in 2007 and from what I understand there was a schism of some kind in the collective, differing ideas of what it could be. It kept going but from what I could tell following along never quite regained the energy of that mid-2000s peak. A special time.

Carl Hamm
DJ Carlito

Since WRIR has been on the air, there has been a huge rise in DJ culture — partly because the music shows on WRIR basically are each two-hour DJ sets, and people who host these shows have developed niche specialties that also quite often translate into unique and exciting themes for live dance parties. … Come to think of it, it's kind of interesting that, when I first started DJing, I was playing all this Afrobeat in that old Farmers' Market with so much history tied to slavery and the African diaspora.

Coby Batty
Actor, Musician in the Fugs, NRG Krysys

The memorial service at the Byrd [Theatre] for the Harveys was an amazing moment. We sang "All Things Must Pass" with Johnny Hott, Charles Arthur, Steve McCarthy, a bunch of people. We chose it because it seemed like the perfect song. [Bryan] loved George Harrison and knew every Beatles song. We were on the precipice — every one of us.

I remember taking incredibly deep breaths and trying to hold on. Doing that song kept us together. It felt like one big beating heart together, that whole room. Kevin Pittman who was in the Dads, when it came to his part, he said to me, "Coby, get behind me and hold onto my shoulders, just hold on." He didn't think he could make it. And I held onto him and squeezed.

During that service, there was no wind outside. It was calm. But those huge metal doors that go into the alley behind the Byrd, 8 feet across, during the service, they suddenly just blew open during that song. No wind at all, they just flung open as if his spirit had been in there with us. … After the show, we were all listening to music, dancing actually, at a friend's house — just trying to keep it together. That was the night they found the [murderers] in Philly.

Randy Blythe
Lead singer, Lamb of God

When you play in Richmond, there's 50 dudes in the audience looking at you with their arms crossed thinking that they can do better than you. And the funny thing about that is that most of 'em could. If you want to impress where we live, you really got to bring it. Richmond doesn't put up with bullshit.

Lamb of God - STEPHEN SALPUKAS
  • Stephen Salpukas
  • Lamb of God

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