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WATCH & LISTEN: The definitive guide to the 2018 season of Friday Cheers

Friday Cheers’ 34th season kicks off May 4th. We’ve got the complete guide to who to see and when along the beautiful Downtown Richmond riverfront this spring, along with some fresh tracks to check out from each of the notable artists from this year’s lineup.



If the unseasonably warm Ukrops Monument Avenue 10K wasn’t enough of an indication that spring has finally arrived in the River City, then the fact that the 34th annual Friday Cheers music series starts next week should be all the evidence that you need to pack your sweaters away (at last) and stock up on sunscreen for your weekly Friday afternoon trip to Brown’s Island.

Yes, Friday Cheers is 34 years old, which means it’s just that age where it begins flooding your social media feed with its new horticulture obsession (sweet garden box, bro!) and can definitely recommend the best place to get quality mulch. Despite that, the festival continues to age gracefully and maintain an open-minded attitude towards modern music; neither of which is an easy feat. Heck, I’m 31 and am currently casually researching chiropractors while listening to a Hold Steady record that came out 10 years ago, so I can’t help but respect a Richmond institution that so effectively remains fresh.

Without any further adieu or prolonged self-deprecation, here’s a breakdown of the artists that will bless Brown’s Island with their presence and artistry for the next eight weeks. Ticket prices are listed alongside each week’s lineup and can be purchased individually here. Additionally, Season passes can be purchased for $55. As always, children ages 12 and under can attend free of charge.

May 4th – Valerie June (8:00) with Devon Gilfillian (6:30): $10

This year, Friday Cheers may be putting its best foot forward early, with a hot out-of-the-gate lineup featuring blues and Southern-soul up-and-comer Devon Gilfillian as well as singer-songwriter and critical darling Valerie June.

Gilfillian is relatively new to the national touring circuit but certainly no novice to the stage. Raised in a musical family and influenced by godfathers of R&B Al Green and Ray Charles, he’s spent the greater part of his life performing the works of artists he admires. He’s now made a difficult but necessary transition by putting his own soul on the record and releasing his first, eponymous EP of original works.

Groove to “Here and Now:”

Valerie June is a Memphis-based blues and folk musician who would likely point out the oversimplification of that description. Asked to define her genre of music in a Rolling Stone profile from 2015, June said, “I wanted to call it something magical, and at the core of blues, gospel, folk, and rock & roll is roots music – so that’s what I ended up calling it.”

Though American folk since the late 20th-century revival has almost inherently lyrically leaned towards politics, June abhors the thought of her music being adopted towards any political end. “I don’t turn on the news, I don’t know what’s going on with the world in that sense, I am very protected in my space. It’s very sacred. And as the servant of the song, I don’t want to allow this world to take away the beauty of what I have created by asking me about politics. What in the world? Can we not just have beautiful music? Can we not just create something that is happy and fun?”

You can listen to “Shakedown” off of her most recent LP “Order of Time” which was released in March of last year:

May 11th – Tank and the Bangas (8:00) with Sweet Crude (6:30): $10

Week two of the series will bring a heaping helping of New Orleans funk and swagger that will send you home more satisfied than a bowl of jambalaya and some fresh-out-of-the-oven beignets. Both artists will be hitting the road following appearances at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. Fans of a beat that makes your head nod and your booty shake won’t want to miss Sweet Crude and Tank and the Bangas when they bounce their way across the bridge on May 11th.

Sweet Crude is a group of Southern Louisiana natives who offer a blend of hypnotic percussion and the rich history musical history that defines the Crescent City that, when combined, create the foundation of what could very well shape a new pedigree from a region basked in rich tradition. Their debut record “Creatures” was released in April and features songs in both English as well as Louisiana French (the latter sound just as beautiful even if your Duolingo app has sat idle for the past five months despite your New Year’s resolution to learn a new language).

Listen to the haunting vocals of “Mon Esprit” here (and don’t leave until the full band kicks in at the two-minute mark):

Tank and the Bangas have experienced a head-spinning, accelerated rise into the music spotlight since being selected from over 6,000 entries to win NPR’s 2017 Tiny Desk Concert Submission Contest. The annual event encourages aspiring artists to submit videos of their performances for consideration, with the ultimate prize landing the performer or group behind the now infamous “Tiny Desk” at National Public Radio to perform and have their songs heard by millions of listeners.

Tarriona “Tank” Ball was already an award-winning spoken-word vocalist before the band formed in a local hair salon in New Orleans. The group mixes funk, jazz, spoken word, and soul into a musical gumbo worthy of your next cookout or block party.

You can watch their entire “Tiny Desk Concert,” which at the time of publication has been viewed over 4.5 million times, right here:

May 25th – RVA Music Night featuring Richmond bands: Butcher Brown (8:00), Dharma Bombs (7:00) and Piranha Rama (6:00): $5

Friday Cheers continues its mission to bring local flavor to the ears of the River City with RVA Music Night on Friday, May 18th. The lineup features a slew of scene stalwarts and familiar faces in new formations.

Piranha Rama is a venerable super-group of seasoned scene talent wrapped in a brand new package. Former and current members of Lady God, The Milkstains, Bad Magic, and Talking Heads cover band Fear of Music combine to form an outfit with a psychedelic surf-rock vibe that will feel right at home on a sun-soaked evening on the water. The band just released their first two-track EP “Beach Body” (maybe Texas Beach?).

Check out “Sure Enough” here:

Dharma Bombs dub themselves “authentic Appalachian Dixieland” and possess both the talent, charm, and the musical arrangement to prove that claim true multiple times over. Featuring genre staples banjo and mandolin along trumpet and saxophone, this group is not shy about their desire to get their audience dancing to their jaunty melodies. The band played The Camel on the first Thursday of every month in 2017 and is ready for a little sunshine along the skyline.

Speaking of sun, check out their track “Sunny Always” here:

Finally, Jellowstone Records’ own Butcher Brown will close out the evening with their signature “garage punk jazz funk” that’s guaranteed to keep you on your feet. The group seamlessly weaves complex melodies and harmonies full of syncopation across multiple keys and time signatures (often within a single song) to give their audience an undeniable auditory experience that will keep them vibing long after the ensemble has taken their bow.

Listen to a live recording of their song “Fiat” and just try to deny that groove from the bass and keys:

June 1st – Tyler Childers (8:00) with Saw Black (6:30): $5

While the weather on June 1st might have us staring out the window looking outside, the music at Friday Cheers will have you looking inside yourself as two introspective singer-songwriters hit the big stage.

Saw Black is a local art handler that lives on the South Side of the James River here in Richmond and is part owner of Crystal Pistol Records. Black’s music has that Laurel-Canyon sound that defined a generation of music storytellers while blazing his own trail lyrically with songs about his own unique trials and tribulations (including a bike accident on a bridge). His second LP, “Water Tower’ will be released on May 18th, just days before this performance.

Listen to the title track from the new record below:

Tyler Childers is a Kentucky-born singer-songwriter also looking to blaze a new trail through the musical traditions that have defined the Appalachian Mountains. A friendship that struck up with fellow artist Sturgill Simpson helped Childers find that sound and his second and most recent record, “Purgatory,” got Childers to the musical destination he was looking for incessantly. Simpson produced the record and now Childers is taking that sound on the road.

You can hear his song “Whitehouse Road” here:

June 8th – Rhiannon Giddens (8:00) with NO BS! Brass Band (6:30): $10

Part of the Festival of the River. Both bands performing with the Richmond Symphony.

This year, Friday Cheers will be partnering with “Festival of the River;” a three-day music and arts festival celebrating the James River and the Chesapeake Bay. The greater festival will feature bands, art installations, and educational events, but the Friday Cheers component features hometown heroes No BS Brass Band followed by nationally acclaimed, Grammy –winning artist Rhiannon Giddens (better known as the lead singer of the Carolina Chocolate Drops). Both artists will perform alongside the Richmond Symphony Orchestra in a can’t miss musical extravaganza.

NO BS Brass Band need no introduction in the 804, but they deserve every accolade that comes their way. These talented musicians can be witnessed bringing down the house in just about every venue in town and continue to tour and collaborate and spread their positive attitude across the city, the country, and the world.

Check out their classic track, “RVA All Day” here:

Rhiannon Giddens won a Grammy for Best Traditional Folk Album for  her work with The Carolina Chocolate Drops and has also signed as a solo artist to Brooklyn-based Nonesuch Records (also home to Conor Oberst, who played Friday Cheers in June last year). Fans of the television show “Nashville” might also recognize her as the character Hannah Lee “Hallie” Jordan. Her second solo LP, “Freedom Highway” won Album of the Year at the 2018 International Folk Music Awards  and it will be an absolute treat to hear some of those songs with a full orchestral arrangement.

Listen to the song, “Come Love Come” off of that very album below:

June 15th – Parquet Courts (8:00) with Gauche (6:30): $10

The Friday Cheers lineup the week before the summer solstice really brings the heat with the blistering yet danceable garage punk of Gauche and the hot indie rock spotlight that seems to be following NYC band Parquet Courts.

Gauche hail just north of the Commonwealth in Washington D.C but their furious strumming should cut right through the swamp and into your heart. The band currently has a 7-track cassette to their name called “Get Away with Gauche.” The tape was released in 2015 but new tour dates on the calendar could mean some fresh jittery jams.

Check out “Pay Day” to get a taste of what the trio has to offer:

Parquet Courts were recently dubbed “the most exciting young band in America” by Rolling Stone magazine and appeared on, of all places, “The Ellen Degeneres Show.” Their lack of convention likely did not surprise to fans that have been following the band since their 2013 debut “Light Up Gold.” They’re touring with some new tunes as well as continuing to ride the wave of their celebrated 2016 LP “Human Performance.”

Watch their performance of their new song “Wide Awake” here:

June 22nd – Knower (8:00) with Kenneka Cook (6:30): $5

The penultimate week of this year’s series will feature two exciting electronic artists who have been making digital waves in the vast ocean of self-produced artists that has only swelled in the age of Youtube and Spotify. These artists have proven they have the chops to set themselves apart and will undoubtedly bring that unique artistry to bear when they step in front of the mics on June 22nd.

Kenneka Cook is a local rising star who combines soulful vocals with live and recorded instrumentation to create vibrant soundscapes through a technique known as “looping.” A former choir singer obsessed with space and the great unknown, Kenneka has been making the rounds at venues in Richmond (including the Science Museum of Virginia) and is starting to develop a dedicated fanbase.

Take a listen to her song, “My Universe” here:

Knower is an electronic music duo comprised of Louis Cole and Genevieve Artadi that have gained a reputation for pushing musical boundaries and embracing the experimental. They’ve performed in the form of their electronic duo, as well as a five-piece alternative band. They’re two classically trained musicians that have also released impassioned jazz records and have opened for the Red Hot Chili Peppers. They just like to flex their artistic freedom.

You see that in their “Live Sesh in Some Guy’s House” performing their song, “Overtime” here:

June 29th – Turnpike Troubadours (8:00) with Charley Crockett (6:30): $10

The final installment of this year’s Friday Cheers will have you reaching for some sweet tea and hankering for some delicious barbeque as two roots-driven country artists hitch their wagons along the James.

Charley Crockett was born into poverty along the Rio Grande and spent a lot of his life wandering the American Southwest, much like his relative, American folk hero Davy Crockett. Originally making his name as a blues singer, Crockett has expanded his repertoire to include hints of gospel, Cajun jazz, and honky-tonk. He recently recorded an album full of honky-tonk favorites written by the likes of Hank Williams and Loretta Lynn. He just released a new LP of original songs titled, “Lonesome as a Shadow.”

Here’s the lead single from the new album, called “In The Night.”

Turnpike Troubadours formed in Oklahoma in 2005 and have been rambling the highways of the United States ever since. The band often performs 100 shows a year, but they started small in dance halls in their home state, playing two-step songs to please crowds. That’s where they honed their brand of down-home country that leans a bit heavier on storytelling than the traditional country artists that inspired them. Their latest record, “A Long Way from Your Heart” peaked at #3 on the Billboard U.S Country charts and #1 on the U.S Indie and U.S Folk charts.

Take a listen to a song from that latest effort, titled, “A Tornado Warning,” live from Austin City Limits here:

That’s Friday Cheers for ya, folks! There’s 8 weeks, 17 artists (and one symphony!), and too many musical genres to count. There’s something for everyone this year, so don’t hesitate to pick up your season pass and assemble your crew. The festivities begin this Friday, May 4th!



Scott Castro is a local politico, writer, and unabashed supporter of the Richmond music scene. You've probably seen his signature white hair near the front row of the last local concert you attended. If you ever want to talk at length about the finer points of Conor Oberst: he's you man. Follow him on Twitter at @ScottCastro.

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2nd Street Festival Announces 2021 Headliner Plunky & Oneness

For over 50 years, Richmond saxophonist, songwriter and producer J. Plunky Branch has been at the vanguard of Afro-centric jazz, funk, R&B, house music, and go-go, weaving these interrelated musical forms into a forward-looking message of empowerment, positivity, and cultural awareness.



The 2nd Street Festival will return this fall, live and in person, Saturday – Sunday, October 2-3. Marking its 33rd year, the festival celebrates the rich culture of the historic Jackson Ward neighborhood in Downtown Richmond. This FREE event is produced by Venture Richmond Events.

Over the years, it has grown to be one of the Mid-Atlantic’s largest street festivals. In 2019, thousands visited historic Jackson Ward to reminisce about the days when 2nd Street was the heart and soul of Richmond’s African-American community and was known as “the Harlem of the South.” Today, Jackson Ward continues to be a thriving neighborhood and community. The 2nd Street Festival is an annual celebration and homecoming over two days that features three stages of live musical entertainment along with a Kidz Zone, popular food vendors, a marketplace and Artists Row to shop, and the Richmond Metropolitan Antique Car Club.

This year the festival features headliner Plunky & Oneness on Saturday, October 2. Many other great artists will be showcased over the two-day event.

Saturday’s Headliner, Plunky & Oneness

J. Plunky Branch
For over 50 years, Richmond saxophonist, songwriter and producer J. Plunky Branch has been at the vanguard of Afro-centric jazz, funk, R&B, house music, and go-go, weaving these interrelated musical forms into a forward-looking message of empowerment, positivity, and cultural awareness. As a native Richmonder, he was mentored by local R&B musicians and music educators, including jazz violinist Joe Kennedy, Jr.

Along with his band, Plunky & Oneness, he has appeared in concert with some of the biggest names in Black music, including Patti Labelle, Ray Charles, Earth Wind & Fire, Frankie Beverly & Maze, LL Cool J, Chuck Brown, and more. His song “Every Way But Loose” was a top-ten soul music chart hit in London in the 1980’s and his hit single, “Drop,” was released in 2007. He also wrote “2nd Street Jaunt,” a song that Venture Richmond used in TV commercials promoting the 2019 festival.

In addition to being a veteran saxophonist, J. Plunky Branch has served as an administrator, lecturer and teacher. Plunky is a two-time recipient of National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Fellowships and in 2017 was appointed to the Governor’s Task Force for the Promotion of the Arts in Virginia. Throughout his career Plunky has entertained and taught thousands, and in the process, has developed a broad and loyal following.

More information on the 2nd Street Festival and additional artists performing will follow later this summer as we continue to follow CDC and state guidelines for Covid-19 protocol for large outdoor events. A commitment to safety and adherence to local, state, and federal ordinances and guidelines is crucial.

For up-to-date information about the 2nd Street Festival, please visit:

The 2nd Street Festival is presented by Dominion Energy, Altria, NewMarket Corp., and the City of Richmond

The 2nd Street Festival is sponsored by Virginia Union University, Brown Distributing, CoStar
Group, Community Foundation, Radio One Richmond, NBC12 and CW Richmond



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New murals add a splash of color to Willow Lawn

A mural project recently wrapped up at Willow Lawn, where several new murals painted by acclaimed Richmond-based muralist Ed Trask are on display throughout the shopping center.  



A mural project recently wrapped up at Willow Lawn, where several new murals painted by acclaimed Richmond-based muralist Ed Trask are on display throughout the shopping center.

Richmond-based marketing agency Rocket Pop and Trask collaborated on the design of the murals, which represent Richmond, the history of Willow Lawn, and birds, a common element in Richmond’s populated mural scene.

The project incorporates Richmond skylines and the James River – acknowledging Richmond is known as the river city – and the Blue Ridge mountains.

“There is no better means to connect with people than through art,” said Deirdre Johnson, Vice President of Asset Management.  “This mural provides a unique photo opportunity by featuring elements of the community, environment, and history while engaging with customers as they enter the property from Monument Avenue.”

Willow Lawn, Richmond’s first shopping center, originally opened in 1956. “We incorporated the Willow Lawn arch signage from the 1960s as a nod to the long-standing history of the center,” says Cara Dickens, president of Rocket Pop. “For many Richmonders, Willow Lawn is a nostalgic landmark.”

The birds are meant to give a lighthearted, cheerful vibe. Trask often incorporates birds into his murals and specifically incorporated Virginia’s state bird, the cardinal, into the Willow Lawn project.

“Birds represent everything from environmental health to freedom to a sense of place, but in Richmond, they often convey the fact that Richmond is an urban city with a ton of green space, nature, parks, rivers – a connectedness to the nature around us,” says Trask. “I often use birds to convey a connection to nature, but also the direction the bird is facing is very purposeful in my work…they are looking toward what I want the viewer to look toward.”

Lighting elements were added to the mural to provide a three-dimensional component to the project. The mural design started in May of 2020 and was completed in June of 2021.



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Patrick Patrong named VMFA’s new Chief Diversity Officer

As Chief Diversity Officer, Assistant Deputy Director for Equity, Diversity & Inclusion and HR Strategic Initiatives, Patrong will assist in leading EDIA strategies defined in VMFA’s 2021-2025 Strategic Plan and co-lead the museum’s commitment to the ONE Virginia Plan recently launched by the Governor’s Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (ODEI) and Department of Human Resource Management (DHRM).



The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) has announced the appointment of Patrick Patrong to the position of Chief Diversity Officer, Assistant Deputy Director for Equity, Diversity & Inclusion and HR Strategic Initiatives. Patrong comes to VMFA with more than 25 years of experience as a public service leader.

Currently the lead facilitator for his consulting firm, Patrong Enterprises, Inc., he has also worked as Construction Training Manager for the Virginia Department of Transportation and Director of the Training, Education and Exercise Division for the Virginia Department of Emergency Management. In addition, he led organizational diversity initiatives for seven professional schools of the University of Maryland, Baltimore, while serving as Director of Organization and Employee Development.

“Patrick has a solid background in implementing and managing diversity programs at several agencies in the public sector. We are delighted to have someone with his extensive experience joining the museum’s human resources team,” said Alex Nyerges, VMFA’s Director and CEO. “Patrick will play a leading role taking VMFA’s EDIA initiatives to the next level and ensuring that the values of equity, diversity, inclusion and accessibility are fully integrated into everything the museum does and shared with all VMFA employees.”

As Chief Diversity Officer, Assistant Deputy Director for Equity, Diversity & Inclusion and HR Strategic Initiatives, Patrong will assist in leading EDIA strategies defined in VMFA’s 2021-2025 Strategic Plan and co-lead the museum’s commitment to the ONE Virginia Plan recently launched by the Governor’s Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (ODEI) and Department of Human Resource Management (DHRM).

For more than a decade, VMFA has actively worked to diversify its collection, exhibitions, staff and audience. Building on the success of its previous strategic plan, the museum strives to become a more vibrant, inclusive cultural leader. The museum’s current strategic plan demonstrates its commitment to the principles of equity, diversity, inclusion and accessibility. VMFA’s vision is to be an institution that empowers all Virginians — through art and creativity — to reflect and connect to each other, their communities and the wider world.

“I am excited to join the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts team, to work with employees and the museum’s community on expanding the institutional EDIA initiatives. VMFA’s diverse organizational culture already has unique advantages when it comes to attracting diverse staff and visitors and developing museum exhibitions, art collections and programs that appeal to diverse communities,” said Patrong. “Communication, idea generation, creativity and connectivity are all enhanced through engagement with the museum’s representative communities.”

“Patrick’s knowledge and experience will help VMFA continue to advance towards instilling EDIA values and practices, becoming a more valuable and relevant community resource, and providing even greater access to the arts for all people in the Commonwealth,” said Kimberly Wilson, VMFA’s Chief Operating Officer and CHRO/Deputy Director for Human Resource Services, Museum Operations and Volunteers.

Patrong will begin his position at VMFA on July 26. For more information about VMFA’s strategic plan and EDIA initiatives visit



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