RVA (all day) Block Party is at once a brand spanking new festival and a throwback to the cavalcade shows of the earliest days of rock 'n' roll.
On an outside stage, 10 bands will perform in 12 hours, mostly in half-hour sets, stretching out to 90 minutes for the headlining No BS Brass and the afterparty. DJ Ghozt spins between sets.
This is not Broadberry co-owner and festival organizer Lucas Fritz's first rodeo. Last September he curated a Richmond Symphony pops concert featuring all local bands, as well as working on the multiday, multivenue Shack Up festivals.
"I wanted to do something similar with local bands, with amped up production outside instead of in," Fritz says. "Reggie [Pace, of No BS] and I brainstormed about the big things we could do: a kid's section with face painting, a record fair, yoga, and a craft beer class (the latter two at additional cost). We came up with the bands we wanted to have, and then convinced them it would be the coolest thing ever."
"A spring festival is overdue," says Pace. "Other people tried so hard, with things like RVAfest that went on for a year or two. We thought it would be really dope to throw one ourselves — maybe without the scope of having national acts, but with all the heart and care. And every band a go-getter from here."
- Melissa Brugh Photography
- Thorp Jensen
The day opens with the up-and-coming, Southern-fried Springsteen of Thorp Jenson. After that comes Brunswick, which specializes in fun, big band arrangements of pop, rock and hip-hop songs. Then polymath Prabir [Mehta] a favorite local performer also active with Gallery 5 and the Science Museum. Fritz describes Dharma Bombs as "not quite bluegrass, not quite jazz, but hearty songwriting and a boot-stomping good time."
- Scott Elmquist
- Prabir Mehta
The band Night Idea resurrects driving, angular, polyrhythmic classic prog rock. For Pace, the well-crafted songs of Spooky Cool evoke classic rock band Queen. "Not their sound," he clarifies, "but their epic-ness." With a 2017 major label debut and a rising tide of critical praise, Angelica Garcia's mix of looping and bluesy rock is a fitting lead in to the main sequence headliners, world-traveling Richmond champions No BS Brass.
For those who buy tickets and reserve the limited space, the party moves indoors for Camel regulars South Hill Banks and the accurately self-describing People's Blues of Richmond, aptly shortened to PBR, also the acronym for the mother's milk of some locals.
"I'm honored that Lucas reached out," says guitarist and Thorp Jenson frontman Chris Ryan. Because his bandmembers had conflicts later in the day, he asked if they could kick things off. "That's where I want to be, with all Richmond bands, playing original Richmond music. It's really cool, and I am stoked to be lumped in."
Tickets are going fast, with the price incrementally increasing as the day approaches. Everything is in place, excepting late April weather unpredictability.
"That's just part of the game," Pace says. "Pray to the weather gods."
RVA (all day) Block Party is at the Broadberry on Saturday, April 28. Tickets currently cost $25, increasing to at least $30 on the day of show. Yoga is $15 with separate admission and includes music from Hunter and Josh of the Shack band. Beer School is presented by Hardywood Brewery and costs an additional $20. Both are available for a combined cost of $25.