At 12:07 a.m. on April 18, the NO BS! BRASS BAND prompted the 400 or so folks in attendance at The Broadberry’s opening night to raise their drinks and usher in a new era in Richmond’s music scene.

“Raise your glasses high, folks,” said drummer Lance Koehler. “We’re going to wish The Broadberry a happy birthday. She’s zero-years-old today.”

With that, NO BS! BRASS’ nine-horn attack launched into an extended version of “Happy Birthday”. Though The Broadberry’s soft opening had taken place two days prior, this was its true grand opening; the night the new mid-sized venue officially put itself on the Richmond music map. A quick glance at the high-powered lineup confirmed the importance of the occasion: local favorites GOLDRUSH and BLACK GIRLS were set to play the first two slots, while heavyweights NO BS! BRASS BAND were slated to bring a booty-shaking coda to the evening’s festivities.

The opening of The Broadberry was a collaborative effort between Rand Burgess, who is also the owner of The Camel, Lucas Fritz, who is the events manager at The Camel, and Matt McDonald, who is the owner of Joe’s Inn. The 350-ticket venue is located on West Broad Street in The Fan. The black-paneled building that formerly housed Nu Nightclub is located directly across the street from the Science Museum of Virginia. It’s also within walking distance of several outstanding foodie destinations, including Emilio’s and The Pig and the Pearl.

The grand plan for The Broadberry as put forth by Burgess, Fritz, and McDonald is to host well-known regional and national acts that draw too large a crowd for The Camel, yet lack the following to fill a spacious venue like The National, which has a maximum capacity of 1500 people. The Broadberry, then, satisfies what many Richmond natives perceive as a gaping hole in the local music scene.

Equal parts class and practicality, the venue—with its curiosity-arousing black exterior and its comfortably modern interior—seems destined to become one of Richmond’s most frequented live music destinations. It’s cozy, roomy, and hip. The open floor plan and mile-high ceiling invoke a welcomed sense of spaciousness. The mutedlighting is seductive and meditative. The stage is located close enough to the bar for patrons sipping on brews to feel involved with the music, yet distant enough for them to carry on conversations sans shouting. There’s a generous craft beer selection, and the menu features distinctive choices like candied bacon, waffle cheese fries, and Havarti croquets.

As Drew Gillihan, who is the lead singer of BLACK GIRLS, insightfully pointed out, “Richmond finally has a venue-slash-bar and not the other way around.” That statement is truer perhaps than Gillihan realized: The Broadberry, in fact, will only be opened when events are taking place.

GOLDRUSH kicked off the night’s festivities, bringing their heavy-hitting blend of indie/classical/delta blues to a fully-lit stage that flashed green, red, and blue. After their second song, stand-up bassist Matt Gold downed a shot out of a plastic cup. It was, by all accounts, the first alcoholic beverage consumed on-stage at the Broadberry—a milestone quickly noted by lead singer/guitarist Prabir Mehta. Gold proceeded to saw away at his instrument for the remainder of the set, making the thing growl while thick veins protruded from his neck and a devilish smile crept across his bony face.

“Fuck yeah,” he screamed to Mehta at one point.

Matt Gold, stand-up bass player for GOLDRUSH, lets the music take him away during his band’s opening set.

Mehta fed off of Gold’s energy, plowing through heavy riff after heavy riff. Violinist Treesa Gold screeched away in the corner and Gregg Brooks abused the drums in front of a giant white banner that read: “THE BROADBERRY.” It was a high-energy selection of songs, an apt primer for the acts that would follow.

“Here’s to the Broadberry,” Mehta said before launching into the final song. “One more reason to bring us together for drinking and hooking up.”

Mehta chucked his sunburst Epiphone guitar down on the stage at the conclusion of the set. The resulting feedback acted as a prelude for the appearance of the six sassiest white males in today’s local music scene: BLACK GIRLS.

If there was ever any wonder whya group of six white guys would name their rock band BLACK GIRLS (apart from the obvious irony), the tension was resolved the moment the group took the stage. These well-dressed, articulate white dudes have the collective soul of a Motown R&B singer and the swagger of a brash young ebony chick.The sassiest of them all is undoubtedly lead singer Drew Gillihan, who was in top-form on this evening. He played the part of a vocal chameleon—one moment making love to the microphone with a sweet falsetto, the next moment shoving the thing in his mouth and howling like a hellcat. Bassist Jeff Knight was nearly Gillihan’s dramatic equal, occasionally joining the lead singer at the front of the stage and letting his inner “black girl” illuminate his Caucasian exterior. The atmosphere was opaque with sass and soul as BLACK GIRLS grooved their way through a set of psychedelic southern soul tunes, which is a genre the band has dubbed “snuff rock.”

“Who’s drinking wine tonight?” Gillihan asked mischievously, swilling some red stuff around in a clear plastic cup. “Anyone?”

“Only you, dude,” responded one his band members. “Only you.”

Drew Gillihan, lead singer of BLACK GIRLS, croons into the microphone while grasping a cup of near-finished red wine.

The highlight of the set came during the final song, when guitarist Fletcher Babb hopped into the audience to give his mother a bear hug, all while nary missing a note on his guitar. After the song concluded, a sweat-soaked Gillihan bade the receptive crowd farewell.

“No BS! is comin’ up, and if you’re not wet and ready for ‘em, we’re not gonna be too happy,” he joked.

The arrival of the NO BS! BRASS BAND was preceded by the arrangement of nine microphone stands across the front of the stage. When the varied group of instrumentalists—some dressed in business attire, others in street wear, etc. and so forth—began their set, the artificial fog had reached a near-toxic level. “Whoever’s in control of releasing the fog could you, um, not do that anymore?” joked Koehler. But the minor inconvenience didn’t stop “Richmond’s Favorite Band,” as they’re often referred to, from burning down the house.

“Trumpets!” shouted Koehler like a general commanding his troops from a stead behind the drum set. Right on cue, his band mates raised their instruments and issued the first bellowing notes that struck the crowd with the force of a rolling avalanche. They played a collection of fan favorites, including “Runaround” and “RVA All Day” while sweat dripped from Koehler’s beard and saliva flew from Brian Hooten’s trombone.

By the time the boys christened The Broadberry with a “Happy Birthday” salute, the venue was already beginning to feel like the newest home-away-from-home for Richmond’s music lovers.

Members of the NO BS! BRASS BAND raise their glasses high to christen the opening of The Broadberry.

“A place like this has been a long time coming,” said Hooten before diving into “RVA All Day,” the final song of the set. “I hope we will be playing here for years and years, and I hope ya’ll will grow old with us.”

For more updates on The Broadberry, be sure to “like” their Facebook page, follow their Twitter, and visit their website. You can visit the venue at 2729 West Broad Street, Richmond, VA 23220.

Mike Schoeffel

Mike Schoeffel

Mike’s passion for music took root at the age of 13, when he a hijacked a booklet filled with hundreds of CDs from his best friend’s older brother. Mike graduated from Christopher Newport University in December 2011 with a B.A. in English and a concentration in journalism. He has a loose grasp on AP style and harbors an unhealthy obsession with the band Radiohead and its front man, Thom Yorke. He is considering seeking treatment.

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