Third Ear 

Hot Lava and a sock hop.

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Hopping Into Lava
Local bands are hot right now. Metal wizards Lamb of God's latest album recently dropped at No. 2 on the Billboard 100 chart — close enough to American sweetheart Taylor Swift that she had to get rabies shots.

But only one local is molten hot: Hot Lava, the Bar/None recording artists who rocked the blogosphere last year with their album, “Lavalogy.” The indie-pop gem was built upon layers of crappy Casios, effects pedals and singer Allison Apperson's slightly distorted vocals driving catchy, technocratic songs such as “Apple+Option+Fire” and “JPG in the sun.”

Earlier this month, Apperson, 24, seemed largely unaffected by her band's popularity among computer geeks, or its prominent appearances at the South by Southwest Festival, which ended last week in Austin, Texas.

“A lot of people have asked about our new album,” says Apperson, a Williamsburg native who studied design at Virginia Commonwealth University and works as a graphic artist at Richmond Camera. “We've had interest from producers, but I wanted to keep it like the first album which took six months — a long, slow process with lots of demos made on GarageBand.”

So far, the band has about five songs written, and she says the new tunes may sound “more clean” considering the first album was a grungy affair made with an accessible computer program. “Some people are put off by the GarageBand thing,” she says, “but it's free — and we use good microphones.”

One can forgive Apperson for working slow; it was only a couple of years ago that she even learned to play guitar. But her confident singing and playful melodic sense sound beyond her years. Among her major influences: Grandaddy, Electric Light Orchestra, and especially the Pretenders — she's also in a cover band devoted to them.

Hot Lava sounds unique partly because of the way it mixes older garage rock influences with a modern synth approach, like on “The Mummy” — which sounds simultaneously old and new. Richmonders get a chance to hear some of the classic rock that inspires the group Friday, March 27, at 8 p.m., when Hot Lava and others — Great White Jenkins, the Color Kittens, the Sad Cobras from Roanoke — stage a sock hop benefit for Gallery5, featuring a mix of originals and cover songs from the '50s and '60s. $5. 644-0005.

He Wobbles, But He Don't Fall Down
In November local Hackensaw Boys guitarist Ward “Spits” Harrison was riding his bike to Kuba Kuba restaurant when a turning vehicle plowed into him, breaking his pelvis in three places. He's since incurred a mess of hospital bills — $35 grand and counting — while missing a lot of work as a carpenter, not to mention some shows with his heavy-touring band. Recently I spoke with Harrison (a former college housemate at James Madison University) who told me he's feeling much better. “I'm mobile, but not running any marathons anytime soon,” he says.

During his recuperation, he is staying busy working on his own solo record — “more rocking” he says, “with an Oasis influence” — as well as recording a new Hackensaw Boys album at Sound of Music studios, in hopes that it's ready for a summer release.

Harrison is also upbeat about his new honky-tonk band, the Ruinaires, performing classic covers by the likes of George Jones, Waylon Jennings and Hank Williams at Comfort restaurant every Wednesday night in March and whenever he's in town thereafter. The band also features artist Kriss Krull on drums, B.J. Williams on bass, and Tim Stanton on pedal steel.

“People know I'm busted, so I've been living off the kindness of others, picking up shifts at Comfort and Kuba every now and then,” Harrison says.

He's also using the spare time to get a bunch of cavities filled by Virginia Commonwealth University dental students at discount rates. Now there's a honky-tonk country tune.
 
“Busted Up (But At Least My Fillin's Were Free)” — maybe?

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