I drove up to Richmond this past Saturday not really knowing what to expect. I had never been to Richmond, much less the Canal Club. I was a fairly new fan to all of these bands, and the only soul I knew there was my buddy who came with me. All I knew was that I was excited to see how the night would turn out. After a two-hour drive, I pulled into a parking lot near the venue and got in line. The Canal Club is in a pretty sketchy part of Richmond, to say the least. However, the staff had a really great attitude. They were all very courteous and really kept the line moving once the doors opened. The club itself was large with a decent-sized stage in the very middle of the room. It was a perfect venue for a show of this size. Even though this was my first time going to a show in Virginia, I could tell right away there was a strong sense of community in the scene. All the people I talked to were very friendly and seemed really enthusiastic about the show. I felt right at home.
Onto the music. First up was Into It. Over It., which just contains singer/songwriter Evan Weiss. Personally, I was more familiar with II.OI., as well as Evan's other band Stay Ahead of the Weather, over the other two acts. He played a 30-minute set that consisted of songs from II.OI.'s three releases this year: Twelve Towns, his split with Koji, and his new full-length, Proper. He even played a cover (?) of Stay Ahead of the Weather song, "No Sleep Till Humboldt". Everything sounded great and it was cool to hear the songs done acoustically. Evan even explained what most of the songs are about. My only major problem was a lot of people were talking throughout his set, like he was playing in a coffee shop. Some people even kept conversing when he talked about the passing of his good friend Mitch Dubey. It was just flat-out rude. Distractions aside, Into It. Over It. played a good set to kick off the night.
Up next was Andrew Jackson Jihad. I had only started listening to the folk punk duo earlier that week in preparation for the show. Man, have I been missing out. The guys tore through a 45-minute set favoring tracks off the Only God Can Judge Me EP and their newest release, Knife Man. I found it very interesting that the band had no actual setlist. They would actually just talk away from the mics and decide what they wanted to play next. It was an interesting dynamic and though I can understand why people would be annoyed with it, I think it made the band seem more genuine. I was also very impressed with the skills of standup bassist, Ben Gallaty. Even though I haven't seen very many standup bass players live, he was by far the best. The only incident during their set came after the song "American Tune". Someone, clearly not a fan of AJJ or satire, exclaimed, "They're going to write a song about that and they have Jihad in their name! I'm leaving." He then preceded to flip off the band and walk out. Fortunately, the band and most of the crowd didn't notice his rude departure. Other than that small incident, the rest of the set went off without a hitch and secured my future as an Andrew Jackson Jihad fan.
Finally the night closed with Frank Turner and his backing band, the Sleeping Souls. I had only started listening to Mr. Turner this year with the release of England Keep My Bones, but I have gone back and listened to some of his earlier material. The well-dressed band played a little over an hour covering material from every one of his releases. I was amazed how spot on Frank and the Sleeping Souls were. With the exception of a 30-second malfunction on the lead guitarist's amp, I heard absolutely no mistakes from the band. It really sounded like you were listening to a much louder version of the record. The crowd was loving every second of it, singing along to every word. The band ended their set with a cover of Queen's "Somebody to Love". Hearing Frank trying to hit that note at the end of the song was hilarious as well as a highlight of the show.
Of course there was an encore where Frank came out alone and did a Tim Barry cover. During the middle of the song he changed up and started singing Whitesnake's "Here I Go Again", then returned to the Tim Barry song. It was as odd as it sounds but he pulled it off very well. Then the rest of the band returned to play one last song, "Photosynthesis". Before the last chorus of the song, Frank called out everyone in the room to sing along. "I don't care if you're a plus one who got dragged here by friends, someone who just decided to come out to the Canal Club to here what this Brit has to say or if you're a part of the fucking bar staff! Sing this with me!" Suddenly, the guys from Andrew Jackson Jihad, Into It. Over It., and even some of the club staff were on stage singing along. "I won't sit down, and I won't shut up, and most of all I will not grow up!" I can't think of a better line to end such a wonderful show.
Overall, I had a great experience. I look forward to returning to the Canal Club for more shows and I hope to see all these bands again in the near future. I will definitely be more familiar with their older material next time around though! At any rate, be sure to check this tour out if you can!