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We Are Family

The live show becomes a grab bag of genres, so you can finally see flamenco and metal on one bill.

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Flamenco guitarist Frankzig plays shows with death metal bands. There he'll be, weaving intricate acoustic melodies in the high old Spanish style, and when he's done, a band such as Richmond's Battlemaster or Brooklyn's experimental-metal mavens Behold the Arctopus will plug in and blast the audience with massive chords. This arrangement requires a certain kind of flexibility from both audience and musicians.

Frankzig, alias Frank Rourk, enjoys the peculiar niche he's found with these bands. “I started out with mostly wedding gigs. Then I played guitar on some Battlemaster tracks and from there ended up performing solo on bills with Inter Arma, Monarch and a Pantera tribute band.”

Despite being separated by many decibels, the guitarist and the metal bands share admiration. The bridge might be found in their common appreciation for technicality, or the tendency to conjure a dark, romantic mood. “I think my dorkiest music moment was when I went up to one of the guys in Behold the Arctopus and he really dug what I was doing. I was like, ‘I’m awesome? You're awesome!'”

These kinds of genre-crossing shows are not unusual anymore. Although there's something to be said for consistency when putting together show lineups, adventurous minds are willing to mix-and-match styles to avoid homogenizing the live music experience.

As No BS Brass Band co-founder and trombonist Reggie Pace puts it: “We're all friends, we all play in bands, and we're all part of a unique community. It doesn't have to do with genre.” So it just made sense for the band to start a monthly concert series at the Camel called With Our Powers Combined. In its finest mAcnage moment, No BS shared the stage with one-man rock band Gull, leading to a wild double-drum showdown between him and No BS drummer Lance Koehler. “It's never the same thing,” Pace says, “it'll be different every time.”

Future shows will see the funky brass acolytes playing with bluegrass bands (Old School Freight Train) and acoustic singers and songwriters (Dean Fields), but the ultimate boundary-buster would be a show with Frankzig's pals, Battlemaster or Behold the Arctopus. It's not as big of a stretch as it sounds, though. “Behold the Arctopus are basically jazz guys who play metal,” Pace says.

No BS Brass Band has also played with Frankzig, who says “the sweetest moments are when the most unexpected people are turned on by what I'm performing.” Being the perpetual odd man out has made him philosophical. “You have to convince yourself that you're playing the show for a reason,” he says. “Somebody there wants to see you.”

Open-minded audiences in Richmond ensure the survival of the mix-and-match shows. “We rely on feedback from our friends, who just like to go to shows with different kinds of bands,” says Danielle Ahart, keyboardist and singer for honky-tonk heroes the Hotdamns. It also helps that a few of her bandmates come from punk backgrounds, so they end up playing shows with punk and metal bands. Or they get asked to play with other bands that are also difficult to pigeonhole, such as Vermilion Lies or Devotchka.

The result is a more ambitious show, for people on both sides of the stage. “As a band, you have to be willing to put yourself out there,” Ahart says, “and as a fan, don't write off anything before you hear it.”

The mash-up trend should continue to grow. Perhaps it will expand into other art forms, too. Dancer Rachel Warren has been a part of the No BS collaborations and the Silent Music Revival has featured both No BS and Frankzig creating soundtracks to silent films. The Hotdamns, too, will lend their talent to silent films — this Sunday, May 10, at the Firehouse Theatre.  The boundaries are falling, and that can mean only good things for the Richmond community. S

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