When deciding how to approach the music of Virginia, we thought there’d be no better guide than multi-instrumentalist Reggie Pace. He just recently released RVA All Day with the No BS! Brass Band, an album that celebrates the music scene of Richmond. Pace is involved in countless projects, playing with folks like Bon Iver and Matthew E. White. Read his picks of the best Virginia acts below.
Virginia was the home of the Confederacy and the home of one of the most vibrant African American business communities in America. It’s a place of a lot of history. And it’s my home. We mix and mingle here and create art.
The music scene of this state is reflective of the wide range of personalities here also. Punk, country, hip hop, jazz, and rock all converge here. Groups like Lamb of God, Dave Matthews Band, Jason Mraz, Missy Elliot, Timbaland, Pharrell Williams, N.E.R.D and more recently Matthew E. White and DJ Williams have all been a part of the national and international music conversation. There are so many bands and talented musicians here. Here are just of few of the things on the rise. Come here and experience the scene for the rest of them. You won’t be disappointed.
Band leader John Hulley has created a modern big band that actually lives in the present. Surrounded by young talented musicians who play jazz like it’s fun(!), John’s arranged creative covers of Daft Punk, Frank Ocean and Pedro the Lion while still writing originals inspired by Twin Peaks and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Music Nerd Paradise! I’ve just started to play percussion in this group (yay!). Look out for these guys. They’re just getting started.
2. Butcher Brown
This raw hip-hop and hip-hop-influenced jazz comes from incredible young musicians who’ve played with jazz masters like Nicholas Payton and Jeff Watts. These guys are primed to make a huge splash soon.
Download a free EP through their website.
3. DJ Harrison
Beat-smith, drummer, pianist, bassist, producer. A gifted instrumentalist making hip-hop landscapes using live instruments and analog samplers and drum pads. He makes his own sample sources, then samples them. He and his crew Reeverb Entertainment are making a lot of records.
One-man-band Gull is the truth. His vocal mic is inside of that hand-made mask. Experimental rock at its finest. I love the raw energy and sounds—loop station, guitar and drums all played well and with a ton of emotion. This guy is very creative.
5. The HotSeats
Glowing string-band maniacs. Fantastic musicianship and solid grooves. These guys will bring the heat! Tradition meets exploration. This is an older video but the playing is awesome.
6. Marcus Tenney Trio
Serious jazz harmonic virtuosity undeniable time/feel = Marcus Tenney Trio. These guys should be on Blue Note. The jazz royalty would be pleased with these guys. They have a ton of music inside of them.
RVA hip-hop at its best from a prolific musician. His music is everywhere. Do a search and you’ll find a ton of art. Fresh, fresh sounds from a pure, beat-making veteran.
Live hip-hop band. A Fantastic singer, a skilled lyricist and a tight band. What else do you want? Oh yeah… creative material. CHECK.
9. Scott Burton
Photo by Lauren Serpa
Guitar hero and composer Scott Burton is one of the most creative musical minds that I know. He’s composed an entire record of solo guitar works and three albums of hip-hop/movie soundtrack/free-jazz music with his band Glows in the Dark. His latest project is with hip-hop wizard Jneiro Jarel (MF Doom, TV on the Radio, Massive Attack). Melodic hip-hop soundscapes with acoustic guitar magic leads to inspiring sounds.
Stream JJ Burton’s “Ohh Bay!!!” here.
Music from the future that somehow sounds familiar. Soul-influenced harmonies channeled through synths and programming. SnowPanda is creating electronic magic and playing keys on tour with Matthew E. White.
11. Tim Barry
Tim isn’t new to the game, I just want more people to know about this artist. Classic American songwriter. Folk chords with vivid storytelling is something that’s never going to go out of style. Former lead singer of the band Avail. I love how honest and vulnerable this music is. Tours with another great RVA musician Josh Small (get his record Tall).
12. The Trillions
Rock and Roll, pure and simple. I love the way the guitars and bass lock-up rhythmically. The fantastic vocals and drumming really wrap this vibe together.