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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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Explore Virginia’s natural beauty with new exhibition at Virginia Museum of History & Culture

Celebrate the efforts in preservation and horticulture made by the Garden Club of Virginia (GCV) during its 100-year history with a new exhibition at the Virginia Museum of History & Culture, “A Landscape Saved: The Garden Club of Virginia at 100.”

RVAHub Staff



Celebrate the efforts in preservation and horticulture made by the Garden Club of Virginia (GCV) during its 100-year history with a new exhibition at the Virginia Museum of History & Culture, “A Landscape Saved: The Garden Club of Virginia at 100.”

Featuring photographs and objects from the past century of the organization’s history, this exhibition highlights the work of the GCV and its dedicated members in advancing the appreciation of horticulture and the advocacy for land preservation, particularly regarding the formation of the state parks system.

“As the first conservation organization in Virginia, the achievements of GCV have bettered the lives of all who live in or travel through the Commonwealth,” the VMHC said in a release.

The Garden Club of Virginia is now a partnership of 3,400 community and civic leaders active in 48 garden clubs across the state.

Learn more about the exhibition here.



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The Byrd Theatre hires first ever Executive Director amid COVID-19 pandemic

Stacy Shaw, the new Executive Director, as of July 1, 2020, comes to the Byrd Theatre with 30 years experience as an arts administrator having worked for 2 other historic theaters in her past, The Wells Theatre in Norfolk, VA and The National Theatre in DC.

RVAHub Staff



Closure due to COVID-19 isn’t stopping the Byrd Theatre from continuing to focus on the strategic plan and its long-term future. When closure happened in Mid-March, the Byrd Theatre Foundation was already well into a national search for the first Executive Director to lead the non-profit theatre as part of the Phase 2 Strategic Plan. Thanks to the more than $1,100,000 raised in early lead gifts toward a second phase of the Strategic Plan, funds have been earmarked for both capital improvements and restorations as well as opportunity funds to finance this leadership position at the theatre.

Stacy Shaw, the new Executive Director, as of July 1, 2020, comes to the Byrd Theatre with 30 years experience as an arts administrator having worked for 2 other historic theaters in her past, The Wells Theatre in Norfolk, VA and The National Theatre in DC. She spent the last 6 years at The National Theatre as the Director of Institutional Advancement establishing corporate, capital, endowment, and major donor campaigns while expanding foundation and government support. She lives in Petersburg, VA with her wife who teaches at Virginia State University.

“We are so thrilled to have someone with Stacy’s experience and expertise join the Byrd. We are confident in her ability to lead the organization through the current times and into a successful future.” Said, Ted Haynes, Byrd Theatre Foundation President.

“In my experience, Stacy Shaw is a talented arts administrator who brings an amazing amount of knowledge, passion, and heart to everything she undertakes.  I have no doubt that she will bring that same energy to the Byrd Theatre and its mission.“ Sarah Chaplin, former Executive Director of The National Theatre and current President and CEO of The State Theatre of New Jersey.

While the Governor’s Phase 3 opening date is July 1st, the Byrd Theatre will remain closed for now. Shaw has worked with the Board of Directors to make the decision to remain closed and focus internally on updating cleaning and seating protocols to meet COVID-19 standards. This is a difficult financial decision, continued closure means operating funds are slim, but the increased cost to open and operate the theatre under the COVID-19 standards make the margins challenging. The Theatre was fortunate to get a PPP loan early on that allowed the Theatre to continue paying the primarily part-time staff until mid-June when the funds ran out.

Stacy Shaw said, “We have already reached out to our wonderful patrons for their input to make sure they feel confident about their attendance at the Byrd as well as following updates on cleaning protocols. We are particularly fortunate that the Byrd has a large seating area that social distancing is easily accomplished when compared to the movie theatres of today. Meanwhile, we are utilizing this time to do as much cleaning, updating, and capital improvements as possible. One of the most exciting projects has been the completion of a total renovation of the Wurlitzer Piano in the upper left balcony!”

There are capital funds earmarked for Phase Two capital improvements that will begin to happen late summer and into 2021.

Planned Phase Two Capital Improvements include, but are not limited to:

  • Renovation of the women’s restroom
  • Concession area improvements
  • Replacement of the carpet and expansion of the seat replacements
  • A range of replacements of various systems: lighting, mechanicals, PA system
  • Replacement of rear doors
  • A range of front of stage improvements
  • Further care of the Mighty Wurlitzer Organ and Wurlitizer Piano

Stacy Shaw said, “I am excited to be part of the organization and to be joining at such a pivotal moment in time.” With Phase Two fundraising underway, Shaw also said, “We looking forward to the next multi-year phase of restoration and growth. The Foundation will be expanding its philanthropic efforts to meet the estimated goal of $2.4 million and to offer donors a range of unique naming and commemorative options.”

Phase One projects replaced the roof as well as heating and cooling systems; installed a digital server and state-of-the-art 4K projector; organ repairs; restored historic plasterwork and center seats; and created a wheelchair accessible seating area and ADA family restroom.

While closed, the Byrd Theatre is not bringing in operating funds, therefore, the theatre is actively looking for creative ways to bring film out into the community. Look for the Byrd Theatre to partner with different organizations and spaces for drive-in and other movie night type events throughout the summer and fall. The Virtual Screening Room will remain up and active as well, bringing new films not able to be seen on the big screen to your living room. Renting a film from the Byrd Theatre Virtual Screening Room supports the theatre while you enjoy a film!



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Well known local tattoo artist auctioning off mural of George Floyd adorning Carytown shop

“I didn’t really want to board up my business, but it was recommended so we decided to follow suit,” he says. “After we put it up, I thought, there’s a surface that needs to be decorated. I didn’t want to just write ‘Black Lives Matter’ all over everything. I wanted to create something that was more impactful.”

RVAHub Staff



The City of Richmond has remained an apex of the evolving Black Lives Matter movement. The city is known for its statues and monuments honoring leaders from the Civil War era, but also its prolific and progressive artist community who have come together to deploy a series of creative and uplifting responses during the past month. This includes the owner of Loose Screw Tattoo, Jesse Smith.

When the rest of his Carytown business neighbors boarded up their storefronts in anticipation of predicted riots and looting, Smith followed recommendations and added plywood to the front of his tattoo shop.

“I didn’t really want to board up my business, but it was recommended so we decided to follow suit,” he says. “After we put it up, I thought, there’s a surface that needs to be decorated. I didn’t want to just write ‘Black Lives Matter’ all over everything. I wanted to create something that was more impactful.”

Smith snagged up a couple of cans of spray paint he had laying around in his garage and headed over to his shop. The mural took four hours in total to complete. His George Floyd portrait is one of many new murals related to the Black Lives Matter movement in Richmond. Other mural artists who have added color to the city include Hamilton Glass, Nico Cathcart, Nils Westergard, Emily Herr, and many other artists who have come together to be a part of the Mending Walls Project. Artists around the country have also marked buildings and landmarks with designs, words, and other calls to action.

Smith’s mural will be up for auction to benefit Mutual Aid Disaster Relief – Richmond (MAD RVA) starting July 7. The network launched in 2018 in response to needs associated with public housing.

“We operate collectively and are primarily functioning as a supply delivery for folks who cannot access medicine, food, cleaning supplies, and other life necessities,” says member Tamanna Sohal.

MAD RVA also has a mini-grants program that provides communty members with direct financial aid of up to $125, prioritizing Richmonders who are Black, brown, queer, trans, immuno-compromised, elderly, pregnant, and/or have several people in their household. All funds raised are redistributed through items for their supply drive and mini-grants.

The auction is presented by the Giving Arts Foundation (GAF), founded by Smith. The mission of GAF is to unite the arts community to support urgent and meaningful causes locally and internationally.

Learn more about MAD RVA here.



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