This past month, I had the opportunity to be a judge in the XL102 Local Exposure contest at the Canal Club that had nine local bands compete for a chance to open at Big Field Day on May 2. Big congratulations to the winners Big Mama Shakes for winning the competition and opening at Big Field Day. Congrats also go out to runner-up Hot Air Affair for winning a spot to open at the BFD Afterparty at Canal Club with Smallpools and Coasts.
The best part about judging this competition was that I got to experience a slew of new acts on the Richmond scene that I hadn’t had the chance to see before. Out of the nine bands performing, I had only heard of three of them. And of those three, I had only seen one live. So this was a treat to see an often overlooked segment of Richmond’s music community.
The Blue and the Grey
If you haven’t checked out this group yet, you’re missing out some amazing Southern indie-folk music. They mixed it up a bit and offered a little more edge to compete with the harder rock bands, but I really dug their sound.
Hot Air Affair
I was thoroughly impressed with this band. Most of the members I believe are still in high school and there is a definite amount of talent here. They managed to fill the place with their fans and it felt like a 90s alternative rock dance party (And there was a sax solo!). Looking forward to see more from this group.
I’ve heard the name for years, but never managed to see them live. Downbeat Switch didn’t disappoint. They were very polished and knew what they were doing on stage playing funk rock tunes that the crowd loved. And their songs are so incredibly good. I need to catch these guys more often.
HyeTension was a brand new discovery for me and once that I really enjoyed. As they moved into their set with ease, they really captured the audience with their indie meets pop rock style. The potential for these guys is huge.
The Hoodoos took me back to the grunge filled angsty rock days of my youth. There were mosh pits and stage diving and the crowd was starting to lose their minds. Great energy from this band who really knew how to throw a party.
I love the newer direction The Ivins brothers are taking with their music. Their distinct pop rock sound was great to see on stage. The Canal Club stage felt too small to hold all their energy. I see them on bigger stages in the future.
Brighter the Moon
I really liked how well together this band is. They’re entertaining and poppy but can still bring the rock. I’m also in love with the incredibly catchy “Castles” and will listen to this on repeat before I see these guys live again.
Big Mama Shakes
These guys used their Southern-filled Americana sound and worked over the crowd like no other band (hence why they won). Big Mama Shakes seemed to have come out of nowhere and barreled down the gates of Richmond’s music scene with “Hey! We’re here and you’re going to like us!” And we do.
Those Manic Seas
I’ve seen Those Manic Seas a number of times and every time I see them, they always manage to crank it up a notch. They put on one of the most impressive shows I’ve seen. The band definitely focuses on its performance and makes it an experience.