Celebrating Juneteenth with Norfolk’s Finest at the Smartmouth Juneteenth Solstice Festival

Join the city of Norfolk’s finest for a day full of music, art, food, good people, and most importantly…good beer.

It’s safe to say that after the past year, people are yearning to get back together and celebrate life and all of the beautiful things that come along with it. Luckily, the good folks at Smartmouth Brewery have got us covered with this Saturday’s Juneteenth Solstice Festival.

In honor and celebration of Juneteenth, Smartmouth has teamed up with local NFK brands and organizations to throw a good-ole fashioned block party. The day’s festivities will consist of a black-owned art & vendor market, food market featuring black and POC-owned restaurants, chefs, and food trucks, and a diverse range of musical acts throughout the 757. The festival will be held at the Smartmouth NFK HQ from 12 PM – 10 PM, is free, and welcome to all ages.

Get up to speed with the day’s details below.

Utopia Feni Art Market | 12 – 6 PM

Nomarama Food Market | 3 – 9 PM

Music Lineup

Listen to our specially curated Popscure playlist while you get familiar with the stacked lineup below:

Well seasoned producer Gabe Niles is a household name in the city of Norfolk. When he’s not producing earworm tracks like Shelley FKA DRAM’s “Cha Cha”–or working with his partner-in-crime for experimental outfit, Sunny & Gabe–the producer is delivering larger-than-life mixes that are bound to whisk you away. 

Hot off her latest EP release, “All My Friends,” Koren Grace is more than ready to take on the masses and introduce them to her world. There’s no plane of emotion and existence the singer/songwriter can’t take you with a discography rich in colorful sounds.

Dariel Clark has a powerful, magnetic presence about him that amplifies when he cranks the amp up. Sparing no niceties, the Virginia Beach musician delivers a one-two combo through his weapons of choice—his guitar and voice.

Headed by the musical virtuoso Big Torrin himself, Big Torrin’s Fusion Groove is the sonic definition of the phrase “good vibes.” With tasteful flecks of jazz, r&b, house, hip-hop, and soul, Big Torrin’s Fusion Groove is sure to satisfy every groove nerve in your body.

Rapper/lyricist Cam Murdoch is known for his pensive, neo-soul inspired raps that focus on the ‘self’ as much as they do fictional characters. His latest single, “The Wave,” carries on this wave of introspection through an unlikely combo of soothing ukelele riffs and strong trap beats.

While fairly new, Kyere Laflare is not to be underestimated. Debut single, “How Does It Feel,” brings in a throwback r&b vibe that’s sure to remind you of simpler times.

If you go by 1pump and wear Scott Summers-esque visors, you better come with the heat and charisma. 1pump certainly doesn’t disappoint with a strong, bombastic release in Scott Summers II: The Light Within.

Known for her hypnotic but real delivery, Lex Lucent is ready to put you under a spell with a laidback flow and unique instrumentals. Her debut project, “Incase You Forgot,” solidifies the rapper as one to look out for.


Getting Gritty for a Good Cause with Crime Line

“Loud, fast, snotty rock and roll” is how members of Crime Line describe their sound. Their debut EP released in January includes six punchy, punky songs all under 4 minutes that grab hold and don’t let go – rock for rock’s sake. The group is made up of local artists and musicians prevalent in the Norfolk music scene for years – Steve Marsh, Jared Fritzinger, Andy Harris, Charles Glover, and Raymond Braza.

This Saturday, May 15th, they’re rocking out for a good cause. They’ll be playing at Marsh’s restaurant LeGrand Kitchen with 3 other bands – Raise Hell Over the Summer, Hobots, and Danet Jackson. All proceeds for the event are going to Punk Rock Saves Lives, a non-profit focused on community music events to promote unity, nurturing, and positivity.

We got a chance to catch up with guitarist Steve Marsh and lead singer Ray Braza via email…

Popscure: Tell us a little bit about how Crime Line started.

Steve: Crime Line started when singer and guitarist of Norfolk Nightmares Charles wanted to just solely play guitar instead of singing too. We got together with Jared to mess around with some music and clicked and started shopping around for a dedicated frontman.

P: What led the band to get Ray as the lead singer?

Ray: Steve mentioned how their band needed a frontman while we were at LeGrand and so I came to the next band practice. About a month later we played our first show at Smartmouth!

Ray Braza and Steve Marsh playing at Smartmouth last November

Q: Was this your first musical project? If so, what got you interested in it?

R: Yeahhh! Aside from the garage noise Eric Laginess and I drunkenly made one hazy night, this is my first ever musical project. It’s pretty amazing to see the whole process from beginning to end of a song. I dig it! It’s the creative outlet for me. Ha!

P: What made you all want to go from Norfolk Nightmares to Crime Line? What are some different things you’re channeling in this project?

S: The transition from Norfolk Nightmares to Crime Line is great! I always love the aspect
of a dedicated frontman singer and Ray fits the mold perfectly.. all of us in the band are really stoked about him and the project as a whole!

P: What made you think of the name?

S: We like making references to our area.. Great Dismal Swamis and Norfolk Nightmares… there’s lyrics in one of the song I wrote “see your ass on crime line” thought the name was cool. [You] can tack on the 1-888-Rock-U-Up and it’s golden.

P: What are your songs about?

S: Songs are usually about seedy personal experiences or love and heartbreak. But also skateboarding, drugs, or partying.

P: Do the lyrics or the instruments come first – or do they come separately then see what happens at rehearsal?

S: Usually music comes first but Ray might have lyrics or subject matter already in mind. Me and him might work on the structure of the song before going into work [at LeGrand where Ray is a chef], so it’s more productive when the band gets together for practice.

Songs are usually about seedy personal experiences or love and heartbreak. But also skateboarding, drugs, or partying. 

Steve Marsh

P: Steve, you absolutely shred. How long have you been playing & what got you into guitar in the first place?

S: I’ve messed with guitar since middle school. Stopped for a very long time. When I was early 20s I wanted to pick it back up and play like Johnny Thunders from the NY Dolls… so I taught myself Chuck Berry licks and all that and over the years kinda developed my own guitar identity.

P: Tell us a bit about the organization Punk Rock Saves Lives and why you chose it?

S: Charles chose Punk Rock Saves Lives. Hoyt and him have been best friends since high school and he believed that’s what Hoyt would be most stoked on.

P: Tell us a little more about Hoyt, the drummer from Spells the show is dedicated to.

S: Hoyt March was a dear friend to a lot of people. I met him years ago when he was playing drums in the Larchmont Trash. We hit it off and bonded over hot dogs, agriculture, and skateboarding (he was a farmer/florist). He started growing me produce and we became closer friends. Loved his name so much I named my son the same. He was the most generous person and would go ridiculously out of his way to help you. We lost him last year due to suicide and are still heartbroken about it.

P: What can people expect at the show Saturday night?

S: Saturday will be fun as long as everyone’s respectful. I believe we all need a little fun to blow off steam from the last miserable year and some.. seeing live music and congregating with humans will hopefully help a lot of peoples mental health and well being.

The Wonderfully Weird World of Back Patio Press

Read the latest peek behind the curtain from Popscure writer Jerome Spencer with independent literature press, Back Patio.

I generally just review books I like. No one assigns me books or solicits my endorsement…and I certainly don’t get free books from publicists (anymore). I review a book when only I am compelled to tell others about it. Recently, I was looking at my stack of books that “compelled” me – a stack of unwritten reviews I was putting off – and had this epiphany.

Most of these books – particularly Cavin Bryce Gonzalez’ I Could Be Your Neighbor, No Glykon’s Numbskull, and Venice by TJ Larkey – were all on the same independent press. Back Patio Press. Not to mention, at the time of this epiphany, I was anxiously awaiting another package with Cavin’s latest offerings. So why not just do a feature of the press? If Back Patio is consistently delivering the good shit, why not just shine some light on this operation? Also, let’s be real…it sounds easier than writing four or five reviews.

So I reached out to Back Patio Press’ Editor-in-Chief Cavin Bryce Gonzalez and Managing Editor Zac Smith on Twitter (this is where things happen, folks), and we talked about making books, running a press, and monetizing our hobbies. Of course, it was chaotic and ridiculous and fun, but it also was a conversation with two people who are passionate about what they do and know exactly what they want, yet don’t adhere to rigid boundaries. And it certainly has me looking forward to the future of Back Patio.

Jerome Spencer: Start at the beginning. Tell me who y’all are and what you’ve done.

Zac Smith: My name is Zac Smith and someone on Twitter just recommended I look up this Shins EP that’s not on Spotify. And I’m listening to it now and it’s pretty good.

Cavin Bryce Gonzalez: My name is Cavin Bryce, and I started reading independent literature in 2017 when I was in college and still thought writing could be a job. I somehow found my way to Soft Cartel where I was an editor and when the other team members wanted to move on I was like, ‘Well, shit…I wanna keep publishing because it’s fun.’ Also, I do not listen to The Shins, but I have two of them…2shinzzz.

ZS: I got into the indie lit scene in like 2017, because I had written a novel and wanted to figure out how to get it published. Then I found the stuff that was going on, sort of post-alt lit, and started writing short stuff and got involved in the community. I met Cavin from submitting a long story about a head to Soft Cartel and we’ve been friends ever since.

CBG: Yeah, Zac submitted a story to me at Soft Cartel, and I was like, ‘I’m going to be his friend now.’

JS: So Back Patio comes from the ashes of Soft Cartel. Was there a gameplan there or just the desire to keep it going?

CBG: Absolutely zero fucking gameplan. I loved working at Soft Cartel, and I put together my first book under Soft Cartel. I love making books and working with people. It’s fun. That’s my whole motivation, having fun. There were all these amazing books and stories and poems and nobody was publishing them. So I thought: I can literally just publish these myself.

ZS: Cavin’s a great editor, and I think he and the community both needed him at the helm of a press. When Cavin said he was making books, I got excited and wanted to help because I wanted to make books, too.

JS: A website seems ambitious enough, but books…

ZS: I remember feeling proud of Cavin when he announced Back Patio and all these great people immediately started sending him writing.

JS: Cavin was the first person I ever submitted fiction to. I just felt like he would “get it” and I think that’s a thing.

CBG: I think homies having fun and riffing is the reason Back Patio continues. There’s a drastic lack of real friendship/genuine passion in the publishing scene. I was blown away. I thought Back Patio would just be this little thing, and I’d just publish my friends or whatever, but the support was amazing. I guess people just jive with the movement.

JS: It does feel like a movement. And it feels intentionally cultivated.

ZS: Definitely. I was blown away by his response when I subbed to Soft Cartel. Super enthusiastic, kind and really friendly. I think Cavin brings that energy so hard, and I think it resonates with people who love writing, but don’t feel like they fit into all the academic bullshit or pretentious lit mag drama stuff.

…Back Patio at its heart is just people fucking around and having a good time.”

– Cavin Bryce Gonzalez (Back Patio Press Editor-in-Chief)

CBG: Running a website is cool and fun and all, but it’s the act of making a physical object of art that really invigorates me. There’s something magical about making a book from scratch.

JS: Your starting line-up is amazing. How do you find these authors?

CBG: Just like this, man. I’ll be talking to someone who enjoys reading. We swap stories and manuscripts and when I like something I think, ‘Oh, I’m going to publish this.’

JS: Is that informal method how you plan to continue? Or is Back Patio going corporate?

ZS: We’re selling out, baby. We’re getting that Long John Silvers money.

CBG: Dude, yeah. I’m just gonna publish really boring, marketable books and buy a new car and drive it into the sun. We’ll keep it informal, for sure. More structure moving forward, but Back Patio at its heart is just people fucking around and having a good time.

Watertown by Dan Eastman courtesy of Back Patio Press

JS: Can you tell me what’s next? How many books have you got locked and loaded?

ZS: 2021 is almost all set. We did Cavin’s book with the bonus book. Next is Watertown by Dan Eastman, then Good at Drugs by KKUURRTT and Liver Mush by Graham Irvin. Dan [Eastman] originally sent me a draft of Watertown for advice on sending it as a chapbook to some loser press, and I said, ‘Don’t do that, this is a book.’

CBG: It is cool how many of our books wouldn’t have existed if we didn’t organically motivate our homies to write them. Or publish them. Feels cliché or whatever, but we genuinely love the books we publish. You read something so good that it’s GOT to be made.

ZS: I think there are so many presses around with print on demand and digital printing and everyone seems it as a get rich quick scheme. At Back Patio, we don’t like that churn-em-out mindset or plotting to make money. So, yeah, it’s basically making stuff by and for friends.

I think indie lit can learn a lot from indie music.”

– Zac Smith (Back Patio Press Managing Editor)

JS: So that’s the only motivation?

CBG: Absolutely. Nobody likes working. Back Patio isn’t work, it’s a genuine passion project. I see editors and publishers complaining about shit and it blows my mind. I don’t know why anyone would do this if it wasn’t incredibly fun for you.

ZS: I think my ideals about indie lit is that there’s such a huge discrepancy between the larger industry and indie publishing that there’s some sense of freedom in just saying yes to something weird and new. For so long, a printed book was just so expensive and hard to make, it required teams of people and huge investments. So there’s something really fun about being able to say, ‘Yeah, we can make nearly professional looking books, but when you open it, it’s about liver mush instead of sad New Englanders.’

JS: From the outside, Back Patio kind of looks like a really specific record label.

ZS: I can’t speak for Cavin, but I come from the indie rock world where my favorite labels are small cassette-only or limited edition vinyl-only doing weird, experimental music. I think indie lit can learn a lot from indie music.

CBG: We tend to skew toward real shit. There are so many fucking books already in existence, the same stories and tropes and the same poems getting rewritten. But when you can make a weird book, something totally different, that’s empowering. Zac has been teaching me about modeling Back Patio after indie music labels.

ZS: I think art that speaks to just a few people but really resonates with them has so much more value than broadly appealing art. Like, I really vibe with people who aren’t delusional about their art’s appeal to the mass audience.

CBG: The fewer people who will appreciate an artistic creation is directly related to how vastly they can appreciate it. When you just write for five people, those five people are going to absolutely love it.

I Could Be Your Neighbor, Isn’t That Horrifying? by Cavin Bryce Gonzalez courtesy of Back Patio Press

ZS: Yeah, and I know I rely on small labels and presses to curate art that I know I’ll like. If a band has a tape on such-and-such label, I’ll definitely check it out and four out of five times I end up liking it. I want Back Patio to be that for people because there’s so much out there and it’s hard to find what you like.

JS: That is what Back Patio is becoming for me.

CBG: We’re just lucky to work with writers who have a realistic perception of what INDIE literature is. You see a lot of writers on the indie scene and their dream is to get like…agents and to be on Oprah’s fucking book list. There’s nothing punk about being on Oprah’s book list.

ZS: And I think that we can all acknowledge almost all of us have had that delusional mindset, but I wouldn’t send my stupid shoegazey, demo-quality music to Epic Records or whatever.

CBG: Back Patio Press: send us your shoegaze demo tape. I hope that the transparency and human connection Back Patio oozes continues to establish trust with people. I really want to be just homies having fun. The closer in proximity I get to “the scene” the more I realize it’s just people. No brand, just people. And some people are fucked.

ZS: I know it comes from a place of privilege to say this, but I don’t trust art that’s used as a source of income. I think it’d be impossible to truly write what you feel you need to write or express while knowing that it needs to end up being palatable to some big editor to pay your rent.

CBG: The desire to make money from writing is absolutely insane to me. I like being able to pay authors – that’s the best part – but it circles back to “work.” I fucking hate working. I don’t want to hate writing.

ZS: I like art that comes from people writing in their free time because it’s fun for them and it’s exactly what they want to write. And they’d be just as happy self-publishing or throwing it in a garbage fire at the end of the day.

JS: Isn’t that the loop? I don’t want writing to be work, but I want my job to be writing. Don’t we all want that?

ZS: Yeah? I don’t think I would. I wouldn’t want to monetize my hobbies.

JS: Sure. Me either. But I don’t want my job.

CBG: That’s why independent art is so good. It ISN’T inherently palatable or made to generate income. I’d rather read a book written in the notes app than a book written at a mahogany desk.

ZS: Basically, I think it just comes back to what people have been doing forever; just creating a space or community as an alternative to whatever happens in the boardrooms for the masses. We’re not really pioneering anything. We’re just having fun.

Featured image courtesy of Back Patio Press.

Still not sure where to get your ultimate reading fix??? It’s Back Patio Press—do yourself a favor and click the link!

#StopAsianHate: Support the AAPI Community


  • #StopAsianHate GoFundMe – a central GoFundMe page with fundraisers to support the AAPI community.
  • Stop AAPI Hate – a site dedicated to tracking hate crimes against the AAPI community.
  • Asian American Legal Defense Fund – a NY-based organization dedicated to protecting and promoting the civil rights of Asian Americans.
  • 61 Ways to Donate in Support of Asian Communities – an archive of organizations to donate to
  • Asian Americans Advancing Justice – a nonprofit working to strengthen the Asian American community by providing the tools and resources for building the capacity of local and state-based counterparts and Asian American youth leadership, educating the public and media about Asian Americans, and strengthening the voice of Asian Americans in national politics.
  • CAAAV – a pan-Asian, community-based organization that works to build the power of low-income Asian immigrants and refugees in New York City.
  • Asian Law Caucus – an organization that works to promote, advance, and represent the legal and civil rights of Asian Pacific Islander communities.
  • APIENC – a Bay Area-based grassroots organization dedicated to empowering the queer and transgender Asian and Pacific Islander community.
  • National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum – an organization focused on building power with AAPI women and girls using a reproductive justice framework.
  • Asian American Federation – an organization dedicated to raising the influence and well-being of the pan-Asian American community through research, policy, advocacy, public awareness, and nonprofit support.
  • Asian Americans for Equality – a nonprofit organization that works to advance racial, social, and economic justice for Asian Americans and other systematically disadvantaged communities.
  • Coalition for Asian American Children+Families – the nation’s only pan-Asian children and families’ advocacy organization.
  • OCA – Asian Pacific American Advocates – a nonprofit dedicated to advancing the social, political, and economic well-being of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
  • Hate Is A Virus – a nonprofit community of mobilizers and amplifiers that exists to dismantle racism and hate.
  • Gold House Co. – a nonprofit collective that works to connect and create bonds across professional, familial, and community life throughout the pan-Asian community.
  • Butterfly – a Toronto-based organization that works to provide support and advocacy for the rights of Asian and migrant sex workers.
  • Swan Vancouver – a Vancouver-based organization that works to promote the rights, health, and safety of im/migrant women engaged in indoor sex work through front-line service and systemic advocacy.
  • Red Canary Song – a grassroots collective of Asian and sex migrant workers organizing transnationally with a labor rights framework.
  • WPN Power, Co. – a sex rights advocacy organization working to advance sexual rights and freedoms, address rape and violence against women culture, promote harm reduction, self-care and empowerment for individuals in the sex trade industry in the Atlanta area.
  • Asian American Resource Center – a nonprofit organization dedicated to developing programs (e.g., EL/Civics Class and Rapid Re-Housing Program) for the disadvantaged in the AAPI community.
  • Center for Pan Asian Community Services – an Atlanta-based, private nonprofit dedicated to promoting self-sufficiency and equity for immigrants, refugees, and the underprivileged through comprehensive health and social services, capacity building, and advocacy.
  • Raksha, Inc – a Georgia-based nonprofit with a mission to promote a stronger and healthier South Asian community through confidential support services, education, and advocacy.
  • Asian Mental Health Collective – a collective dedicated to making mental health easily available, approachable, and accessible to Asian communities worldwide.
  • Asian Immigrant Women Advocates – a community-based organization dedicated to developing the collective leadership of low-income immigrant women and youth to organize for positive changes in their living and working conditions.
  • Asian American Advocacy Fund – a grassroots, social welfare organization dedicated to building a politically-conscious, engaged, and progressive Asian American base in Georgia.
  • Asian American Feminist Collective – a collective dedicated to engaging in intersectional feminist politics through public events and resources to provide spaces for identity exploration, political education, community building, and advocacy.
  • AAPI Women Lead – an organization dedicated to strengthening the progressive political and social platforms of Asian and Pacific Islander communities in the U.S. through the leadership of self-identified AAPI women and girls.
  • National Organization of Asians and Pacific Islanders Ending Sexual Violence – a program under the Monsoon Asians & Pacific Islanders in Solidarity with a mission to support local and international community-based programs and governmental organizations in enhancing their services to victims of sexual violence from the Asian and Pacific Islander communities in the U.S., U.S. Territories in the Pacific, and Asia.


A Headphone Masterpiece

Image courtesy of Lou Cambridge
Following the debut solo release of Sunny & Gabe’s Sunny Moonshine, Popscure writer Jerome Spencer got the inside scoop on the record that’s been a long time coming, Listen to Me, Lightning.

“I’m afraid I’m going to say something that’s like, self-deprecating, and I’m trying not to do that,” Sunny tells me when I ask her what she wants people to know about her new album, “I mean, listen to it when you’re in your feelings and in the headphones. And you don’t really need to listen to it with other people around. I kind of feel like I’m secretive about it, and I feel like everyone else should be too, but I don’t know if that’s true.”

I don’t know if that’s true, either. I’ve spent a lot of time with Sunny Moonshine‘s new offering, Listen to Me, Lightning, and it’s pretty difficult to keep it to myself. And I don’t even own headphones, but Sunny’s lush, layered soundscapes and warm vocals make me wish I did so I could catch every sonic detail. From the shimmering bounce of “Coconuts” to the hazy closing-time-lounge vibes of “Drughands,” Sunny makes a big impact in just ten tracks. It feels like an effort years in the making with a lot of painstaking attention to detail, and that’s (sorta) true.

“I had all these demos, and I put them all in a playlist,” Sunny says, “It was maybe 25 songs, and I was like, ‘Well, I don’t really know what to do with these.’ I wanted to figure it out because I’d been putting out demos in SoundCloud, but what would happen if I tried to make them better? Like what would the finished version be? So I posted something on Twitter, and I think I asked for 10 people’s emails and sent 10 people the SoundCloud link. I asked them to give me their favorite songs. I may have said why, but the biggest thing was just finding out which songs people liked before I decided to go and finish some of them. And that’s sort of how I picked the first ones. From there, it was me buying speakers, watching like all these videos on how to mix music, trying to go in and make the beats, which was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.”

I’ve never felt self-conscious like I do with this material.”

Listen, the beats are dope. “Light Years” is one of the stand-out tracks for me, not only for its adventurous, compelling structure and eventual deconstruction of itself but also for the way that beat just sneaks in and out of there, unassuming and subtle until you notice your neck snapping under its uncomplicated endurance. Most of the beats on Listen to Me, Lightning, are insidious like that—nothing too flashy, but getting the job done and doing it extremely well.

“I decided that drums are my absolute weakness,” Sunny confesses, “But I had to do it. You have to do everything to find out what you may be good at. And there was a lot of it that I feel like I was okay. I got a lot better at dealing with my vocals. I got a bunch of extra plug-ins. I downloaded every sound from NASA and just fucked with those. I had sort of an idea of how I wanted my music to be. And it is what I wanted for the most part; besides, I’d wanted someone to go through and redo the drums. At the end, I had Gabe [Niles] and [Mike] Mizzle—I brought them in and said, ‘I’m done. I need y’all to kind of like maybe switch out the drums.’ And they’re like, ‘Nope, you gotta keep your drums.’ And I’m scared because I didn’t want my drums in my songs, but they’re there.”

Image courtesy of Lou Cambridge

And that’s the thing I find most admirable about this album – it’s all Sunny. We all know Sunny. She’s (literally) synonymous with Sunny & Gabe—her wildly successful, genre-bending duo with Gabe Niles—and she wowed the local music scene with her short-lived yet unforgettable band Dapzam—yet she chose to make a true solo endeavor. And for all the right reasons.

“I didn’t want to, but I kind of had to,” Sunny tells me about doing an album mostly on her own, “Because I want to be autonomous. I didn’t want to be always bothering someone; I wanted to see what I [could] do. It was less about having to do everything myself than it was about wanting to do everything myself. Because there was a lot of exploring I had to do in order to build the songs up. I didn’t know what I was doing the whole time. It’s like years long of just…layering guitars and putting things in reverse and discovering automation and Ableton and things like that. So it’s all stuff I wanted to do.”

And that’s probably why Listen to Me, Lightning feels personal. Sunny’s perseverance and tenacity pay off in a culmination of strange beauty, heady soundscapes (those NASA sounds, though), hypnotic melodies, and crisp beats. It also feels intimate, though. It’s as if Sunny has let her listeners behind the curtain—even if it’s just a glimpse.

“It was intimate.” Sunny says, “Like, I don’t know how much of it is like deeply personal about breakups and how much of it is just lyrics that you thought sounded good. You know what I mean? I don’t really know what every song is about because it might be about five different things in one. I just know that it’s pretty much like influenced by just heartbreak of all different kinds.”

Image courtesy of Lou Cambridge

“I wanted to help people. That’s the only reason why I want to release this. Because I feel that being very, very vulnerable, like that is something that people need, too. You can help people to deal with whatever they’re going through. It’s very scary. I’m a wreck about it. I’ve been a wreck. That’s why it’s taken me so long. I’ve never felt self-conscious like I do with this material. Listen to it when you need to be comforted because the last time I was having a day, and I thought, ‘What am I doing with my life?’ all upset, I really did lay there with the headphones. Like it wasn’t mine. And I was like, ‘Oh, okay. This helped me.’ I was like the outsider in that situation. So it really is kind of something for people to like lean on or relate with.”

And that’s beautiful. Sunny really hits home with her headphone masterpiece, but that doesn’t mean it’s short of bangers, either. The Mike Strong helmed “Annalise” is sure to be bumping out of trunks all summer long, and the undeniable bounce of “Icicle” is destined for DJ booths. There’s a delicate balance not often valued in today’s single-obsessed SoundCloud, and it’s bound to keep Listen to Me, Lightning on repeat for a long time…or at least until Sunny drops the next joint.

“Oh, I know what’s next,” Sunny tells me, “Because I’m so far past these songs that I’m at the point where I’m just like finding ways to make fun of them. So I feel like I have to release them in order for me to really move forward. So at this point, I’m finally gonna do it. It’s going to make me feel more free. But yeah, what will be next is—“

You know, maybe this is one of those things I will keep to myself.

Featured image courtesy of Lou Cambridge

Listen to Me, Lightning is available wherever you listen to music and you can probably order headphones on the internet somewhere.

2020 – A Year in Reflection

As we wrap up one hell of a year, we thought it was only best that we took some time to reflect on some of the really goods things that have come out of this year, specifically with Popscure. Thank you all for making this year a special one—here’s to many more.

What was your favorite write-up from this year? Why?

Tyler W: It’s probably a tie between the Dawit N.M. interview conducted by Cam Murdoch and the Q+A I did with members of the Wild Bunch before the “Our Streets” exhibition, both of which focused on photography. Since practically everyone in the digital age can capture an image with ease, it’s really interesting to me to hear how photographers approach it as an art form.

Jasmine R: My favorite write-up probably has to be “Whose Streets? Our Streets!”— a Q+A written and conducted by Tyler. Documenting the (without a doubt) historical summer of activism and unity is so, so crucial to say the least.

Cam M: The Tyler Donavan piece, I just want that guy to win and have his story shared, so it was big for me to see the response he got from that.

Shannon J: From Overseas, Tyler did a great job poetically telling the story of Kevin Sery and made the piece just as atmospheric and grounded as his music. Otherwise, I was excited to have a couple pieces I wrote go out (“Treasure,” “Bubble Ball“). Since I started working full-time, I haven’t had much time to write for Popscure, so I’m glad I can contribute, and I’m excited to have some new writers on this year too (Allison, James and Noah).

Noah D: Oh jeez, I don’t know. I hate to self-plug but maybe the Why Bonnie interview. It was the first time I’d interviewed a bigger name band, and I just really enjoy the chances it gave me, and I was proud to see it get feedback. Other than that, I loved the recent article [“25 Local Places to Get Gifts in the 757”] focusing on shops in the 757. I think it gave some really solid media coverage to businesses that needed it, and I think it influenced a lot of peoples’ decisions in gift buying.

What was your favorite piece to have edited and published? Why?

Tyler W: I really liked how Jasmine’s interview with LEYA came together because I see that as a great example of how Popscure can create connections both online and IRL. We were able to create a relationship with both the band and their label through email correspondence and then reach new readers through social media shares by the band and label. At the same time, we were telling our local readership about this emerging band that was on tour coming to play in our town. And then we were able to go to the show, meet the band, network with local musicians, etc. I also just really like them and their album—their album was one of my favorites this year. 🙂

Jasmine R: One of my favorite pieces that I helped put out was the Shaina Negrón feature by one of our writers, Darryan. It was a super cool look inside the conjoining of art and self-expression from Negrón. I’m also really proud of our Black Experience Collective that we put together as a response to the events of police brutality and blatant murder and injustice that occurred this year. The collective serves as a platform to amplify the black voices unheard in this country.

Shannon J: Jasmine took care of much of the editing, bless her soul, but one of the few I did was “Coronavirus and Why Your Fave Band Tee Is Important Right Now.” Documenting such a shift on the blog was crucial since so much of our content is dependent on live music and the musicians who play shows.

What was your favorite standout moment for Popscure this year?

Tyler W: One moment that stands out for me is posting the Fake Uzumi feature on our new WordPress site in February. Around that time we were leveling up, and I felt proud of the efforts from our newly-formed team. I knew the feature was going to get a lot of exposure, and I remember feeling like our operations were just starting to run smoothly; we had all been working hard getting ready for this new level of attention.

Jasmine R: One of my favorite moments from this year absolutely has to be the Valentine’s Day-themed party we did with Smartmouth Brewing Co. and Citrus City Records. This may sound cliche, but the energy was literally full of love that night. It was literally “nothin’ but love.”

Cam M: Nothin’ but love show with Smartmouth.

Shannon J: Stay Put Fest 2020 was amazing. It was such a fun challenge to translate the exhilaration, fun, and camaraderie of live music onto people’s phones. It was the first time I’d chatted with local showgoers and saw my friends play music in months. There were technical difficulties and a learning process for sure, but I think everyone appreciated it. FlyyScience’s COVID info takeover was super interesting too, and getting to know her and her work was awesome. We just really had to think outside of the box this year with events. No one stole our Instagram account either, which was a plus!

Noah D: I haven’t been on the team long enough to comment!

What do you most look forward to in the future of Popscure?

Tyler W: I look forward to us continuing to grow our team. By adding more contributors, Popscure will expand our investigation into the various aspects of culture and bring our findings to our community.

Jasmine R: Our growth!!!

Cam M: Breaking boundaries and bringing obscure talent to the masses.

Shannon J: Parties, hopefully we can do something fun in the summer!

Noah D: Writing more, editing, carving a voice for myself in the team, etc. etc.

Thank you all for the love and support you showed us this year! On to the next one…

25 Local Places to Get Gifts in the 757

We all know supporting local is important year round, and the holidays are no exception. Skip the Amazon orders and last-minute Target run for something more unique! Not to mention after a year like 2020, our small businesses need us now more than ever.

According to 13 News Now, local retailers predict a 15% drop in holiday sales, and have experienced 50-75% lower sales since shutdown in March. 20% of businesses had to close temporarily or permanently, with 75% closing for 15 days or more. 

Some businesses that did not survive the pandemic include sister bars Saint Germain and Pourhouse in Downtown Norfolk, Peninsula Fine Arts Center in Newport News, and Jones’ Restaurant in Portsmouth, the latter which has been opened for 34 years.

If you’re running around the 757 still trying to figure out gifts for loved ones, here’s a few places to start:

El Rey (photo credit: Realtor Richard Calderon)

Restaurants have been hit especially hard with dine-in service being limited, so buying a gift card to give your loved ones a nice night out is a good option. Here’s some restaurant suggestions:

Dirty Buffalo: With basketball season underway, it’s only right to grub on some wings while watching – they’re currently doing dine-in and takeout.

Kappo Nara Ramen: This place is the real deal ramen joint, starting with the edamame and finishing with the black tonkotsu ramen is the way to go. If you buy their cute t-shirt as a gift, your loved one can wear it in there and get 10% off every meal – the gift that keeps on giving.

Noodeman: Speaking of noodles, this Chinese restaurant is named one of the best in the world with their diverse menu of handmade noodle dishes. Hot and Spicy Soup and the Jalapeño Chicken are the way I roll.

El Rey: With the best shredded beef tacos this side of the border, this family-owned restaurant gets a lot of bang for your buck with $2 tacos on not only Tuesday, but Sunday as well!

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Kobros Coffee (source: company’s Facebook page)

Skip Starbucks, there’s plenty of great coffee shops in the area that need support. Whether your giftee enjoys making fancy french presses at home or knows someone who needs to break from their work from home desk for a few hours, there’s a gift within this option of roasteries and cafes. 

Kobros: With their new location in the works, the veteran-owned coffee joint is sure to be a great spot to unwind. Pop in their location on 24th street during your weekend shopping for a rotating specialty latte.

Fresh Cup Coffee & Tea Company: With their easy-to-use online ordering system, pick out artisan flavored coffee from the comfort of your couch.

Lucky Cup Coffee: This shop is a cute spot to get some work done, or grab a bag of CBD-infused coffee to wrap up. 

DJ Bee of Freshtopia (source: company’s Vimeo)

Looking for that special something for the music lover in your life? Check out one of these locally owned record shops for something new they can spin.

Freshtopia: Home of Real Fresh Radio, this spot is the place for hip hop records and I really want one of those hoodies…

Vinyl Daze: One of the larger collections of vinyl in the area, this place specializes and only sells records. They’ve had to expand not once, but twice to hold their collection! 

AFK Books: A great spot for not only records but a wide variety of books. If you have old records bring them in for consignment to get some extra Christmas cash. 

Local Heroes (source: Travel and Leisure)

Speaking of books… avoid Amazon or Barnes and Noble and shop local book shops! Many of these places have used books, which is a great way to not only support our economy, but reduce our carbon footprint as well. 

Prince Books: Right around the corner from Waterside, this place is a hidden gem with a wide range of titles. It’s a charming place with a good selection of fiction novels and biographies.

Local Heroes: The gold standard of comic shops, full of single issues, graphic novels, and other fun gifts. I can’t help but always get some cute stickers or a mystery box for myself when I go here. Fun fact: This was also named one of the best comic books in the country by Travel and Leisure.

Book Exchange: This place has a wide range of used books, which is a great way to not only support our economy, but reduce our carbon footprint as well. 

Veil Brewing (source: company’s Twitter page)

Beer is one gift you cannot go wrong with! With so many great breweries across Hampton Roads, a six-pack could be the tastiest site under the tree for an indulgent giftee. 

Veil Brewing: Some of the most unique brews in the country let alone the area. Not only is their beer delicious for any palette, but their merch is very cool, too.

Big Ugly Brewing: Over a decade in the making, this spot has some solid brews you can get in growlers or giant cans. If you have someone in your life that loves old cars and motorcycles, this spot is a great place to get a gift card to.

Commonwealth: Armed with the knowledge of European brewers, this family-owned spot went from homebrewing to big time after years of perfecting the craft of, well, craft beer.

Norfolk Country Feed and Seed (source: The Virginian-Pilot)

Plants are the hottest trend right now, and a gift that most folks can appreciate (well, at least I can – I’m pushing 70+ plants in my home currently). Whether your loved one is a self proclaimed black thumb or has accumulated a jungle during quarantine, these are some of my favorite nurseries in the area:

Plantbar: More on the boutique side of the nursery spectrum, this spot is super cute and offers take-home terrarium gifts for a more interactive planty present. Not to mention you get a free alcoholic beverage while you shop, which is very clutch. 

Anderson’s: This huge location is worth the drive to Newport News, and has a lot more than just plants available in their gift shop. It’s a great place to knock out a good amount of shopping. 

Norfolk Feed and Seed: This place has a good selection and great prices, with one section that has smaller plants for $1.50. Plus, there’s store cats, which makes it even better in my book. 

Velvet Witch (Source: company website)

If you’re looking for other unique gift items such as jewelry, home goods, and so much more, these are some really cute spots to get your shop on:

Velvet Witch: If your loved one is obsessed with crystals, is a foul-mouthed feminist, and/or personally identifies with their star sign, this is the spot to buy for them. 

Kitsch: This was my first spot in my Christmas shopping journey, and I knocked out a good amount with their wide variety of items.

Mrs. Pinkadot: I got a lot of my ornaments and Christmas decorations here, so they have a great selection of borderline tacky but utterly charming gifts for everyone.

Hot House Yoga Shoot | Norfolk Virginia Beach Commercial Photographer
Hot House Yoga (Photo Credit: Echard Wheeler Photography)

Stuff is great and all, but what about something fun you can do together? Here’s some interesting activities that can get your giftee out of their comfort zone.

Mambo Room: Get your favorite couple or significant other a different kind of date night. With the clubs closed, anyone can use an excuse to get dancing!

iFly: For those who have a fear of heights, this may be as close as they’ll get to the thrill of skydiving.

Hot House Yoga: They’re offering a 10-class card right now good at multiple locations, and this could be a great gift for someone who has mentioned detoxing and getting more mindful after a crazy year. We could all use a little of that after 2020, couldn’t we?

Quinn Christopherson: Telling Stories and Carving Futures

Quinn Christopherson is a singer and songwriter born and raised in Anchorage, Alaska. He writes painfully humbling and brutally honest songs with a style that takes influence from his Athabaskan family’s storytelling tradition. He won NPR’s songwriting contest in 2019 and has since been working on what will inevitably be a soul-crushing album telling the stories of his life. – by Noah Daboul

What drew you to playing music and songwriting, and what’s it like to play music in Alaska?

I think I started playing music and writing music as a means for therapy for myself to feel better. It helped…it did help. So I just kept doing it, and it’s become something that’s evolved over time. I used to write these really crushing songs because when I wasn’t a musician full-time, I had a full-time job and all the other stuff life throws at you. I had a really small sliver of time for music, and I guess I subconsciously had to use it wisely. All of my music writing was solely just to feel better, like therapy only. Now that I do music full-time and have a writing space…now that it’s my job, my writing has changed too. Not totally, but I don’t have to just use it to get my “sads” out. I can write about anything now, and that’s a big change from not doing music full-time, I guess.

Does being able to write about whatever and not having to keep songwriting as a cathartic experience make it more freeing, or is it overwhelming?

So much more freeing. It was like a job before. It was the only thing I could do with writing, so it kind of put me in a box. Now I’m not in a box anymore; I can chase my passion, and that has been totally freeing.

From the songs I’ve listened to, since you only have two on Spotify and a couple more on your Tiny Desk performance, I’ve realized that your songs and lyrics are totally just…brutally honest. What kind of pushes you into that realm?

I think the way I song-write is what I’ve learned from my family in the way that we storytell. I think that’s really where it starts and ends. I grew up around storytellers, and I see myself as a storyteller, so that’s what I try to do with my songs.

I had a question about being descended from an Athabaskan storyteller, and I was going to ask if that influences your songwriting, but you kind of just answered that.

For sure. It does, though. That’s just how we were raised.

What was it like doing the Tiny Desk Concert at NPR? How did it feel winning that contest? What made you enter in the first place?

I entered because I’m like every other poor kid. I grew up in a small town, and I want[ed] to write a different future for myself and my family. I never thought it was possible, but you kind of just put your name in a hat and try for it. When I entered, it was really more just like a fun thing to do. It’s fun to make a video; it’s fun to play music with your friend and make a day of it—just a fun thing. The first time I entered, I entered with a song about my grandmother, and they did a little radio interview for me. That was kind of the biggest thing to ever happen for me, although it’s really like small potatoes now. Thinking back, it was so special.

The next year [2019], I thought, ‘Well, I’ve got to do this again! Maybe they’ll notice me this time!’ It just felt like something I had to do. When I won, it was the craziest thing I ever could’ve imagined. It changed my life. Maybe I could’ve been a full-time musician before, but being here in Alaska kind of limits that. I never felt like I could ever do that. No one ever told me I could or should do that in a serious way. I never thought it was realistic. That was a turning point for me; I thought, ‘Oh, other people think this is maybe good enough, so maybe I should chase that.’ I did, now I’m here, and I don’t regret any of it.

I mean, I wouldn’t either! Going back to the storytelling tradition in your family, what does it mean to you to be a storyteller and a musician?

That’s all I know. I don’t know what else to write about or talk about. My grandma would tell us stories, and sometimes they would be so short. She would almost say nothing, but we got a whole world view out of like five words. I always remember her saying so much without really saying anything at all, and I just thought that was so powerful. Sometimes when I write songs, and I feel like they’re really dense, I think about what information is there that I just don’t need. How can I say more with saying less words, you know? That really influences me.

Photo Courtesy of Sean Rhorer

Who is the person you trust the most musically? Who’s your go-to bandmate or collaborator?

Definitely my go-to collaborator is my partner, Emma. She’s the most talented person I know. She’s a filmmaker and an artist; she doesn’t do music, but I think that when you’re collaborating with people who do different mediums than you, then all of your art comes out stronger.

The song “Raedeen” is one of the most brutally honest, humbling, and just…cathartic songs I’ve ever heard. Could you tell me the story behind it?

It’s a true story. The story is there within the song. That song for me is really special, too. Something I like to pay attention to when I’m writing songs, or poems, or whatever it is, is the timeline that you’re in. With that specific song, it spans over years. I think with that song, it’s all there. All the information is there. It’s honestly…a lot to put on the table for people. When I put that song on Spotify and Apple Music, nobody was listening to me. It was maybe a few people in Anchorage. It didn’t seem like that big of a deal; I was already singing that song for every drunk person at an open mic with maybe five people in the crowd. It wasn’t a whole lot to give away at the time.

Now that I’ve given that song away and other people are listening to it, not just in my little town, I sometimes think it’s a lot to share with everybody. I don’t regret it, but what I will say is that I released that song because at the time, I hadn’t heard from my sister in months and I was really scared. I had no way of reaching her. I just thought that maybe if I put that on the internet, she would stumble across it somehow and hear it. Here we are, about a year into her sobriety, and she’s really turned her life around. She said that the song helped her to want to chase a different lifestyle. In the end, that song did exactly what I wanted it to. I don’t know if I needed to share it with the world to do that, but maybe I did. Who knows, but it worked.

I’m glad it worked. You’re based in Anchorage, right?

Yes! I live in Anchorage.

Anchorage is a cool town. I remember getting the worst food poisoning possible at the Hard Rock Cafe there. Do you think you’ll end up staying in Alaska, or do you see yourself moving outside of the state eventually?

You know, if you asked me that question a year or two ago, I would’ve said I’m getting the fuck out of here, you know? But over this year or year and a half, where I’ve started this music career, gone on a US and Canada tour, done the whole musician thing-I had a European tour planned too, that got canceled because of COVID…it’s been rescheduled, though-I realized I’m not stuck here, and I can travel around. I’ve had a lot more appreciation for my home and knowing that it’s not about really where you’re at, but who you’re with. All of my family’s here, and we’ve been here for generations.

I realized this place is a lot more special once I knew that I’m not stuck. That goes for a lot of people living here. It takes so much money to get a plane ticket out of here. Just going to Seattle is so expensive…getting out of the country is crazy; it’s a really expensive thing to try to leave this place. A lot of Alaskans will actually go on little vacations to other parts of Alaska because it’s cheaper. I think that can really affect people’s mentality about not wanting to stay here…like you can’t just drive to another city. As I’ve gained more privilege to travel and have gotten more access to that, I feel like this is my home, and I’ll stay here.

Throughout the COVID pandemic, what’s it been like up there with everything going on?

We get everything a little later here. We’re pretty behind with all sorts of things, especially COVID. In some places where it’s been dying down, here it’s actually been amping up. Our cases this week are going up. They’re over the hundreds and people estimate that they’ll be in the 500s as the weeks go on. Right now is when we’ve been seeing the spikes that the lower 48 [states] saw weeks and months ago. It’s scary, but we’ve been on a lockdown level since March. But it is Alaska, a lot of us remained doing our “outdoorsy” things; kept going on walks and being outside. I have a huge backyard, I have plenty of space for myself, and I think it’s nice. We’re all getting really scared because we know that snow’s about to come. It was really cold today; my house was 58 degrees [F] when I woke up in the morning. We haven’t turned on the heat yet, but it’s getting to that point. I don’t know what will happen when we’re all stuck inside and can’t congregate outside.

Cases in the 500s are still a little low compared to the rest of the country, which seems like a silver lining.

We’re still really low, which is really good.

With all the time you’ve had being locked down, have you been writing a lot? Have you been working towards an album at all?

Yes! I’ve been writing a ton. I’m working on my album right now, actually. It’s kind of going with the flow. I couldn’t tell you, or even myself, what songs are going to go on it or what the name of the record will be. I’m working with a couple of producers and continuing to write. I signed with a label, and we’re working on it. I feel like I’ve written the record, I do. I feel like that part is done, even while I’m still continuing to write. I feel like I have a record there, and now I’m just finessing these pieces to get it put together. Hopefully, I’ll fly to go and lay final vocals. I wish I had a timeline, but I’m thinking sometime [this] month, but I’m not really sure. With COVID, it’s all pretty up in the air, but the songs are being worked on. I’ve been waiting a long time for this, so it feels like the gears are really turning. I’m going to release this record hopefully in early 2021. That’s my hope, but I don’t know what’s to come with COVID and what the rest of the year has in store, but that’s my hope—and I’m rocking and rolling with it.

I’m excited for it for sure, I’ve definitely been a big fan since I saw the Tiny Desk performance. Who have you been listening to lately?

Thank you so much! I’ve been listening to Black Grapefruit; she’s a Brooklyn songwriter and artist. She’s amazing, you’ve got to check it out. I think she’s still pretty low-key; she has one EP out from 2019, and she just put out two singles that are just amazing…I can’t wait for the rest. I don’t really know what else I’ve been listening to. I’ve really been on discovery mode. The new Jazmine Sullivan single, “Lost One,” is crazy. If I’m in a bad mood, I put that on repeat, and I’m better. It’s the perfect song. There are no drums, it’s just [the] guitar and her—and the words in it are amazing.

Featured image courtesy of Sean Rhorer

A gracious thank you to Quinn for the heartfelt discussion. Be sure to be on the lookout for his debut album in *hopefully* early 2021.

Staying Golden with Treasure

London based artist Treasure is just that – he’s golden. His family relocated to the countryside in the early 2000s to trade the busy city life for the suburban serenity, a feeling present throughout his catalogue.

With laidback production and lush harmonies, he perfectly blends today’s bedroom pop with 90s R&B, both genres which influence him heavily. Earlier this year he released “Suffocation & Air, his first comprehensive work and full-length album. His single “Isolation” encapsulated all of our feelings during quarantine.

However, he’s not stopping there – his latest work “Nostalgia: The Prelude” is available on all streaming platforms today. We shot him a Q&A to get to know him and his musical process a little better.

How did you first get into music?

It’s something I’d consume tirelessly. When I got my first keyboard around 8 years old, I tried to learn my favourite songs by ear.

How did your move from the city to the countryside change your process – or life in general?

Life became a lot less busy, and in turn, I could clearly think about what I wanted from life.

How does your latest EP differ from your first?

The first is an amalgamation of music, and the second is a sequenced body of work from start to finish.

“Feelings” seems to be a single that blew up with over 1 million plays on Spotify – how’d you get there?

Honestly, I’m baffled myself!

There’s a variety of sounds going on in your music – what instruments are your band playing to create that acoustic/funk/electronic fusion?

I’m a one-man band at the moment! I use drum kits and machines, acoustic and electric guitars, synthesizers and keyboards–so anything I can get my hands on!

“Isolation” (and the accompanying spoken word) is a relatable song for all of the creatives out there stuck in quarantine – what did you hope to accomplish that you didn’t?

I thought I’d be sitting on 7 EPs right now! Which is unrealistic, to be fair.

Do you have anything exciting coming up – virtual performances, upcoming collaborations, or anything else you’d like to plug?

I have a project dropping on October 21st, titled “Nostalgia: The Prelude.”

Sending our thanks all the way to London for this one – go stream Treasure’s “Nostalgia: The Prelude,” OUT NOW!

Black Experience Collective – September

This month’s submissions include a poignant poem (“This Ain’t Even A Poem”) and beautiful art piece (“Love is Thicker Than Blood”) by Chesapeake artist, A-Rae.

To submit your experience for next month click here.

A-Rae | 34 | Chesapeake, VA (by way of Cleveland, OH)

“This Ain’t Even A Poem”

A-Rae | 34 | Chesapeake, VA (by way of Cleveland, OH)

“Love is Thicker Than Blood”