A Big Night for Music 

Richmond rocked this weekend.

Southern Grittiness at Nanci Raygun

It was a tough act to follow, but headliners Lucero pulled through with a blazing set that went down like the satisfying burn and bite of hard liquor. After starting off with the eased-out "Fistful of Tears," the Memphis four-piece barreled into a series of stinging Southern-rock cuts that spurred the sweat-soaked crowd into a frenzy.

Flanked by gritty guitar, honky-tonk keys and the occasional accordion solo, front man Ben Nichols' raspy vocals remained fervid and solid throughout the night. After a rollicking version of Jawbreaker's "Kiss the Bottle," Nichols suggested, "Let's do some drinkin' songs," which prompted "Drink Til We're Gone" and "All Sewn Up," among others. Pitchers flew, beer splattered and glasses clinked in a makeshift Richmond roadhouse that was equal parts "Hee Haw" and CBGB. Lucero's incessant touring has honed his musical skills and audience rapport, which resulted in a near-perfect live show and warrants the band's devoted following.

This was the first show of a two-night stand at Nanci Raygun. The band is in town working with Cracker's David Lowery at Sound of Music studios on the anticipated follow-up to its acclaimed 2005 album, "Nobody's Darlings." Slated for release sometime this fall, the new disc will be the band's sixth. - Hillary Langford

Style and Substance at Innsbrook

The thing about The Strokes is that it's hard to separate the hype from the reality. The reality last Saturday night was five skinny guys filling the FasMart Pavilion (just shy of capacity) with one of the most age-diverse and enthusiastic crowds to come to a Richmond show.

The hype includes credit for resurrecting garage rock, not to mention drummer Fabrizio Moretti dating Drew Barrymore. (The hype also brought out what looked like the entirety of the Henrico PD, both uniformed and plainclothes, who were perhaps preparing for a rock 'n' roll riot.)

After an almost-immediate rise to stardom and three solid albums, the New York kids have settled into their roles as rock icons pretty comfortably. So when they came strong out of the gates with the first two tracks of their latest album, "First Impressions of Earth," it was apparent that their alchemy wasn't limited to the studio.

Julian Casablancas' baritone coo, along with an assortment of moans and bleats, went out over the crowd, which kept a single beach ball bouncing around, and he chatted up the audience with a casual offhandedness common to restroom lines. Guitarists Albert Hammond Jr. and Nick Valensi traded lead duties, working over a precise sound that reflected the band's late flirtation with pop.

Dipping back into their garage roots kept the show slightly dirty and moving, while excellent covers of Lou Reed and The Ramones indicated The Strokes' fidelity to (a) leather-wearing rock stars and (b) New York rock stars. The sound was actually clearer farther back, where the crowd was dancing, some with babies, some apparently trying to make some.

Sex and style tend to be the common denominators in rock, and the band's look inspired a variety of comments, from Casablancas' black-leather-and-white-shoes combo ("Julian is so hot!") to Hammond's long hair and weird off-the-shoulder number ("Is there a girl in the band?"). But The Strokes remind us that the point of rock is to be both hot and weird, and while these guys aren't yet reinventing the rock wheel, they are doing an admirable job of bearing the torch. — Brandon Reynolds

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