Photo: Brad Gregory
Richmond, Virginia, is a black hole. It is a sedative. It is gloriously lazy. It’s the easiest place in the world to do nothing and still have the best fucking time in the world. We’ve heard so many times about how LA is laid-back and how Portland and Austin are easygoing, but honestly, nobody can simply just dick around the way Richmond does.
Its unique history as the capital of the Confederacy and of having been burned to the ground twice gives it a shuffling, apologetic national persona: Suffering Michigan-like blight during the middle of the 20th century and regressing to a small forgotten city while Atlanta got its nails done helped raise its much-noticed murder rate. Harboring a hardcore punk scene that rivaled any other city’s in the 80s and early 90s put it back on the map. Being ignored by the rest of the world while it fed on its own culture made it the opposite of everywhere else.
Richmond will never be New York. It will never be LA. It will certainly never be DC, for God’s sake. We could not possibly imagine a worse fate than if the rest of the world actually cared what happened here. Some things need to be left alone like a violent autistic kid playing peacefully with his trucks.
Life in Richmond revolves around a few things. In the summer, it’s the James River. Beer and strong currents shouldn’t go together as well as they do here, but they do. In the fall, when everyone is chasing the freshman girls, it’s house and dance parties. Actually, it’s always about house and dance parties. In the winter, it’s back to the bars. The holidays are when the escapees return to gloat about getting the fuck out of Richmond and paradoxically gripe about how nowhere they ever go will ever match up to RVA’s singular charms. Spring in Richmond is simply the most beautiful thing you’ll ever see.
A few notes about the place if you’re visiting. Know someone that lives there. If you don’t know someone, don’t go. The overarching atmosphere of unwitting secrecy is applicable to the smaller concerns as well. You sometimes have to actually try to figure out where the party is. There is ALWAYS something fun going on. Anyone that tells you different is disliked by his or her peers and not invited to anything. Do not hitch your wagon of fun to anyone that complains too much about having nothing to do.
If you’re moving there, you obviously have given up on being noticed in your career or have figured out that $400 rent and really cheap beer transform a burger flipper into a king. It’s the perfect breeding place for bands that want to work part-time and actually have time to practice and tour. You can be a starving artist without the annoying starving part.
The people there don’t give a rat’s ass about being cool to you or being the capital of anything or the center for anything and are proud you’ve probably never been there. If there is a common thread of dedication to anything, it’s unadulterated, unpretentious fun. They drink and fuck like it’s their destinies. Richmond laughs easy, parties hard, and works very little. Check it out if you get the chance. Getting there is easy. Leaving willingly, not so much.