Natalie Prass (photo courtesy The Windish Agency)
When chatting by email about the 2016 performers for Friday Cheers, Venture Richmond festival manager Stephen Lecky notes, “The lineup is packed with bands that have amazing female vocalists.”
That’s no joke. Out of the 16 bands (headliners and openers) playing the concert series this year, over half have female lead singers. That makes for some real girl power on Brown’s Island. (Note: today, March 31, is the last chance to snag a Friday Cheers season pass, providing access to all seven shows for $40, before the price goes up.)
The series starts May 6 with the Soul Rebels and Mighty Joshua and the Zion #5. Appearing with large acts such as Metallica, The Roots and John Medeski, the Soul Rebels, an eight-piece brass New Orleans band, should dominate the stage with large percussion riffs and smashing horn breaks slipping into brassy covers by Michael Jackson or Miami Sound Machine. Look for some influences from Talib Kweli or Galactic, with whom the group just finished touring.
On May 13, Shovels and Rope will play for the second time at Friday Cheers. The folk duo had a big 2015, releasing Busted Jukebox Vol. 1, featuring 10 cover songs with the help of Shakey Graves and The Milk Carton Kids. In the middle of the music, the two, Michael Trent and Cary Ann Hearst, had a baby boy who joins them on the road.
Cheers-goers will see two Richmond-centric performances in the form of recent transplant Natalie Prass (May 27) and Richmond native Lucy Dacus (June 10). Both women are known for their beautiful vocals and enrapturing lyrics.
Dacus’ first video, “I Don’t Want To Be Funny Anymore” was released March 21 in conjunction with Spin’s Album of the Week honor.
For fans of big bands, The Revivalists and The Suffers will take the stage with seven- and 10-piece ensembles, respectively. Both bands’ sound is huge, featuring numerous instruments including multiple horns, a pedal steel guitar, several drum kits and a piano. But that is where the similarities cease. The Suffers, from Houston, are deep soul and Cajun, with Kam Franklin belting out spiritual ballads about breaking up or making up after a fight. The Revivalists sport NOLA roots-driven rock as a badge and drive up a huge dance groove.
Wrapping up the power season is Drew Holcomb and The Neighbors, the proverbial last but not least. The East Tennessee Americana band tours continuously and is currently promoting its ninth release, “Medicine.” Holcomb began his musical career with Jars of Clay, but has since found a more vulnerable sound with The Neighbors.
The line up in its entirety:
May 6: The Soul Rebels with Mighty Joshua & the Zion #5
May 13: Shovels and Rope with Phil Cook
May 27: RVA Music Night with Natalie Prass, Lady God & Sam Reed
June 3: The Revivalists with Seratones
June 10: Kurt Vile with Lucy Dacus
June 17: The Suffers and Too Many Zooz
June 24: Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors with Major and the Monbacks