A hardcore farewell to Strange Matter

Photos by Jon Mirador

Ada Romano, Contributing Writer

Strange Matter’s last hardcore show Nov. 17 marked an end to the venue’s nearly 10-year run as a staple of the Richmond music scene as the facility’s closure date nears.

Since the genre was formed in the late 1970s, hardcore has been an outlet for people looking to let loose either through screaming lyrics or jumping off stage into the crowd. Strange Matter, located at 929 W. Grace St., played a significant role in Richmond’s hardcore music scene in recent years. Its last hardcore show featured Blind Justice, Take Offense and Cruel Hand as well as Virginia natives Red Vision, Watchdogs and Outsider.

Photos by Jon Mirador

Ace Stallings is a promoter, the vocalist for the band Break Away and, with 10 years of experience as a promoter, a key figure in the Richmond hardcore music scene. He was responsible for organizing the show.

“Three bands needed a tour date; Blind Justice, Take Offense and Cruel Hand. A couple of bands from here had new records and they wanted to use that as an event to release those records,” Stallings said. “It just so happened that the venue was closing as well so it wasn’t planned to be the last hardcore show at Strange Matter, it just ended up happening that this is the last scheduled one.”

Some prominent hardcore shows hosted by Strange Matter since its 2009 opening include the return of one of Richmond’s original hardcore bands, Fire & Ice, and a show starring the iconic crossover band Cro-Mags.

“The Cro-Mags show I did last year was pretty crazy because I had never seen them in a spot that small,” Stallings said.

With the artwork, arcade and vegan food options, Strange Matter stands out from other venues in the area. Richmond is home to a large straight edge community, which is a movement that emphasizes sobriety and a clean lifestyle. Stallings said Strange Matter is “easy to do stuff at,” for this subset of Richmond.

“Venues want people to buy stuff at the bar because they make more or an equal amount in bar sales as they do in ticket sales,” Stallings said. “With a lot of stuff I do there, they are under the understanding that they won’t do as well at the bar as they normally would with alcohol sales and they never really cared that much.”

Stallings does not believe that the venue’s closing will decrease the impact of the hardcore community in Richmond. He pointed out that venues are constantly changing and moving, and the community still continues to thrive — hardcore music fans are dedicated and will find a way to see bands they support whether at a big venue or someone’s basement.

Local hardcore enthusiast Taylor Berry has been attending shows since he moved to Richmond. He remembers his first Strange Matter show in 2013, and laughed at the fact that he got a black eye from participating in the mosh pit.

“Since moving to Richmond, Strange Matter has always been my ideal venue compared to other spots,” Berry said. “It’s close to home, no security, no barricade and a semi-low stage to sing along with bands and stage dive off of.”

Berry shares Stallings’ sentiment in regard to the closure of the venue — he doesn’t think it will affect the city’s hardcore community.

“I think there could have been a lot more fun times to be had at Strange Matter but them closing down will not slow down the Richmond hardcore punk scene,” Berry said. “Maybe a new venue will pop up soon. If not, more house shows and shows at the warehouse [will] keep things rolling.”

A schedule of the venue’s last events is available at strangematterrva.com.

Photos by Jon Mirador

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