I don’t often take the time to write about events in Richmond, partly because it’s enough work just to cover what’s happening here in town, but also because I spend embarrassingly little time there myself, and am largely ignorant of the week-to-week goings-on. But this event happening today seems too good to pass up, and I’m excited about it and planning to attend it, so I thought I’d mention it here.
It’s the first-ever Shadrock Festival, put together by my friend Don Harrison, whom you hopefully might recognize as the host of WTJU’s wonderful “Radio Wowsville” program. I’m not usually a fan of festivals, whether large or medium-sized, but I have to admit that this one has a line-up that is both short and amazing. For starters, the headliners are De La Soul and Yo La Tengo, two of the greatest, most consistent, and most enduring groups of the past 20~25 years. I’d feel a little silly even explaining who either of those groups are, but let me just say that not only are “3 Feet High and Rising” and “I Can Hear the Heart Beating As One” two staples that should appear in every household, but both groups have managed the incredible feat of still being great well into their careers. YLT seemingly get better with every album, which is pretty rare for a widely-adored indie-rock group, especially an eclectic and unpredictable one. And De La have managed the near-impossible feat of being a hip-hop group that didn’t abruptly become terrible after one or two good albums (or singles), and I can name the number of other hip-hop groups that have done that on one hand. Also on the bill are the Dum Dum Girls, who put out two of my favorite records last year, and whom I’ve been dying to see live. There’s also Shabazz Palaces, whom I had been ignoring like I ignore all contemporary rappers, until I realize that that was the same guy as “Butterfly” from Digible Planets; so, awesome that that guy is still around, and reportedly doing solid work, which I now need to actually check out.
The other acts on the bill are all Invisible Hand (it’s hardly a secret that I’m a big fan of those guys), and some other VA groups whose names I recognize but whom I’m not familiar with: Kepone (Don sez: “fabled ‘80’s Richmond punk group, reforming for Shadrock”), Kid is Qual (“popular Hampton Roads band with weird low-end sound”), and Photosynthesizers (“Richmond band – awesome funk/rap group.”) That’s right, only 8 acts; four killer National acts and four well-liked locals. Seems like the right amount of music to me.
Don continues to explain: “I hope you all will consider coming out. Seriously, I kind of designed the lineup to be something of a dream show for WTJU Rock-ers, listeners and the like-minded. the price is oh-so-right (you’d pay $30 [the Festival cover charge is $35] just to see ONE of these national acts somewhere else) and Brown’s Island – situated along the James River — is a wonderful place to spend a Saturday and to take in great musical events. Just ask anyone who has ever attended a Richmond Folk Festival performance. So this could be the start of something pretty cool if this first year is a success.” Like Don says, it’s $30, it’s happening on Brown’s Island, and it’s going on from around Noon until late-ish (locals in the afternoon, Dum Dums at 5:30, YLT at 7:30, De La at 9:30). More info, and tickets, are on the Festival’s website.