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Photo of band People's Blues of Richmond.

Courtesy of Covington Imagery

Richmond band builds energy through relentless touring

People’s Blues of Richmond is a vigorous rock band that focuses on its very loud and very entertaining live show.

By Morgan Magid | March 13, 2015

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Ripping guitar, aggressive drums and fast tempos all fashion People’s Blues of Richmond’s raucous sound.

PBR, who is playing at Rose Music Hall alongside The Main Squeeze on March 14, is a rock band with a sound that constantly fluctuates but keeps its brand of rowdy fun a common thread.

Bassist Matt Volkes and guitarist Tim Beavers II started the band when they were 19 years old back in 2010. They didn’t know it was going to turn into a business.

“At the time, we just wanted to play music, and it felt good,” Volkes says.

Beavers says that when the band was first starting out it’d play for just about anyone: punk kids, hippie kids, frat kids — basically anyone that wanted PBR to play would get it.

“We were playing house parties for zero dollars or up to a bottle of cheap whiskey and playing four hour sets without breaks,” he says. “Anything we could do to get in front of people and play.”

Five years later, the band has two albums out, various songs released and plays over 150 shows a year. Drummer Nekoro Williams has also joined the fold.

One word that seems to be always been thrown around when others talk about PBR is psychedelic. While they do have a song titled “Cocaine,” Volkes says they don’t go into a room and say, “Let’s write a psychedelic song.”

“I think even more than psychedelic, 'manic' might be the real word,” he says. “Musically, it’s a roller coaster. There’s a lot of contrast, a lot of really intense moments then a couple of seconds to breathe, and then we’re right back into it.”

Volkes cites Latin American music, Ukrainian and Russian folk punk, blues and funk all as influences in the band’s songwriting process because this eclectic idea doesn’t limit their sound in any way.

This high energy pervades every aspect of band’s music, especially its live sound. The group carefully plans its shows to ensure that the songs that translate the best live are performed constantly.

“There are some songs off of our first and second records that we don’t play live because they’re not necessarily fit for the show that we’re doing now,” Volkes says.

The band tests new songs in their live environment first and use touring as a way to practice all of its material.

In terms of songwriting, PBR uses its insane touring load as its practice time, as well as time to create new music. Like the band’s laid-back demeanor, its songwriting process is also very casual — a trait that is not to be mistaken for not working hard.

“We’re not going to limit ourselves to how a song can be written,” Volkes says.

After coming from an extremely supportive Richmond, Virginia music scene, PBR has formed strong connections all across the country.

Beavers says that the scene in Richmond is “an unbelievable thing,” filled with musicians of every genre and talent.

“Any given night you’re not going to have a dead show in Richmond if you’re a part of the scene, because if you go out and see all the other bands, they’ll also go out and see you,” Beavers says about the family-like nature of the city.

The group just signed with Madison House booking, allowing it to focus on a more national level now. Previously, Volkes says, the band worked on building a strong fan base in the southeast because of the small size of the group.

“We’re on fire right now,” Beavers says. “Our first five shows of this tour were absolutely ridiculous.”

And it’s a good thing that PBR is at the top of its game — it’s playing at the famous South By Southwest festival in Austin on March 20.

At SXSW 2014, the band played six unofficial shows and made a ton of new fans, friends and connections. This year, partially in thanks to its booking agency, which has its own stage at the fest, the band submitted to Sonic Bids and was chosen out of hundred of bands.

Festivals have become a bit of a favorite for the group because of the huge scale of their crowds and lack of structure.

“We tend to throw down a little bit harder,” Volkes says. “If it’s a bigger crowd, our energy gets boosted up. You tend to find us roaming the campsites with a bottle of whiskey trying to hang out with everybody and let them know what time we’re playing.”

This dedication to its audience and fun-loving attitude makes PBR the ultimate Saturday night gig. The band’s show at Rose Music Hall starts at 10 p.m.

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