Concert booking is a slippery business. Right now, it's hard to say just how many great shows could come to Richmond this fall. Many have yet to be announced and could be last-second additions to the calendar. Let's hope, anyway.
We do have a tentative schedule with more than a few highlights: Toad's Place Richmond has the new line-up of reggae stalwarts Culture Sept. 6, featuring Kenyatta Hill, son of the late Joseph Hill.
But Toad's really big draws that month are hip-hop events sure to sell out, featuring legendary rapper Nas appearing Sept. 17 and Grammy-winning rapper Nelly bringing his country grammar Sept. 29.
Headed west on Interstate 64? Charlottesville has a few noteworthy shows for September: critically acclaimed rockers My Morning Jacket take to the wonderful Charlottesville Pavilion amphitheatre Sept. 4, while the incomparable drummer and singer from the Band, Levon Helm, celebrates his recent Grammy victory and life after throat cancer with a show at the Paramount Theatre on Sept. 14.
Over at the National, there's some choice indie rock Sept. 22 with Built to Spill — and don't forget great opening act, the Meat Puppets. A few days later, the National presents a '60s flashback with two of the original Doors, Ray Manzarek and Robbie Krieger, wishing they still had a sexy drunken front man, Sept. 25.
Of course, the big musical happening in October will be the inaugural run of the Richmond Folk Festival the weekend of Oct. 10-12 — full of free, diverse and exotic acts, including soul legend Howard Tate, reggae vocal group the Itals, Inuit throat singers, and BeauSoleil avec Michael Doucet, among many others.
Also in October, the Black Crowes make a two-night stand at the National Oct. 7-8 with hard psych rockers Howlin' Rain opening. Later in the month, the up-and-coming Philly avant junkyard rockers Man Man, with sounds that recall everyone from Tom Waits to Zappa, play the National Oct. 30. Over at Toad's, the club welcomes back the funky New Orleans jam band, Galactic,
If you're around Charlottesville in October, don't miss the heartfelt acoustic troubadour Jonathan Richman and stoic drummer Tommy Larkins at the Galaxy Lounge Oct. 11. — Brent Baldwin
Experimental Brit-duo the Fuck Buttons have generated such buzz that it would be a shame to miss their stop at the National Sept. 16, opening for math-rockers Mogwai, who are sure to impress if the openers fail to knock your socks off.
Another sure bet is indie favorite (and Margaret Cho's favorite band) Broken Social Scene at Toad's Place Oct. 21 for the bargain basement price of $15! Having spawned the solo careers of Feist and Emily Haines, these Canadians bring a lively stage show. Get there early to check out openers Land of Talk.
Also at Toad's, the definitive hip-hop wordsmith Mos Def will bring his lyrical flow Oct. 3 and probably leave a few ladies weak in the knees. Despite her rise to familiarity with the ubiquitous, mediocre hit “One of Us,” Joan Osborne will likely put on an exceptional performance chock full of old soul and funk Sept. 30 at Toad's.
Worth the gas, 90 miles north is the insane double-billing of the Black Kids and the Virgins at the Black Cat in D.C. on Sept. 26 and the impeccable harmonies of newcomers Fleet Foxes a few weeks later on Oct. 3. For the sake of seeing a living legend in your time, check out the divine Tina Turner who is still rollin' at the Verizon Center in late November. — Hilary Langford
Fall jazz events huddle into early October. Musically the summer ended as summer always does with departures (notably saxophonist Jason Arce, gone to graduate school at New York University) and dissolution (relocation for Bogart's, meltdown for Infuzion — leaving in limbo the unlikely pairing of funky goodtime saxophonist James Gates and bracingly improvisational pianist Steve Kessler).
But good things have started too. Bryan Hooten's Ombak, a seasonal replacement at Cous Cous for Fight the Big Bull's every-other-Wednesday gig, will alternate hump days with them in the fall.
And of course there are perennials such as the Virginia Commonwealth University faculty and student recitals (the best free gigs in town): Bryan Hooten Sept.25, Rex Richardson Oct. 21.
There's also Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden's fall garden concert series; Skip Gailes' Thursday gig at the Bank; John D'earth's eternagig at Millers in Charlottesville on Thursday. And the ultimate perennial is Doc Branch's Friday night jam sessions at Emilio's — at the quarter-century mark quite possibly the longest-running jazz gig in the country.
The ebb and flow of regular events swells into a wave of events in October.
The Second Street Festival's massive historic block party kicks off Oct. 3-5, including performances from No BS Brass and the Big Payback. There are, of course, semi-conflicts at the Modlin Center, including the return of veteran pianist Dick Hyman (Oct. 3) and a much-anticipated Sunday night concert assembling percussionist Brian Jones' many bands and projects.
This leads immediately into the VCU Brass Festival (Oct. 6-9), nearly a week of events spotlighting what may be the university's most-improved music department and featuring the phenomenal Allen Vizzutti (local virtuoso Rex Richardson calls him “a Paganini or Michael Jordan of the trumpet”).
The month closes with Jones' second annual Mingus Awareness Project Oct. 26. Dedicated to the fight against ALS, the first event was one of last year's highlights. With the same participants and concert structure, building to a big-band climax arranged and conducted by Doug Richards, this year's model should be no less.
If this embarrassment of riches is still not quite enough, and a road trip isn't out of the question, guitarist Scott Burton's “Glows in the Dark” performs the music of horror director John Carpenter at the Boot in Norfolk on Halloween eve, Oct. 30. — Peter McElhinney