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AVAIL are back! first show in 12 years announced

Avail
photo by Chris Boarts Larson

Richmond, VA punk greats AVAIL haven’t released an album since 2002 or played a show since 2007, but that’s finally set to change this year! They just announced that they’ll play a hometown Richmond show on Friday, July 19 at The National. Two other Richmond bands are opening: Iron Reagan and Asylum. Tickets go on sale Friday (3/29) at 10 AM at availrichmond.com.

At the show, AVAIL will be celebrating the 21st anniversary of 1998’s Over the James, and they’re reuniting the lineup that recorded that album: frontman Tim Barry, guitarist Joe Banks, bassist Gwomper, drummer Erik Larson, and cheerleader Beau Beau. It’s Avail’s only announced date at the moment, but here’s to hoping more get announced.

AVAIL formed in 1988 in Reston, Virginia and went through a few lineup changes before recruiting frontman Tim Barry, moving to Richmond, and releasing their debut album Satiate in 1992. It came out on the band’s own label but eventually helped earn the band enough of a reputation to sign to Lookout! Records, who issued the 1994 followup album Dixie, 1996’s 4AM Friday, and 1998’s Over the James, before Avail left Lookout! for Fat Wreck Chords, who released 2000’s One Wrench and 2002’s Front Porch Stories. Like another great ’90s-era punk band (who also have two albums on Fat Wreck Chords) Dillinger Four, Avail never officially broke up, they just ceased activity until they were finally ready to play together again… which is now.

In addition to being perhaps the most notable punk band to have an official cheerleader, AVAIL helped put the Richmond scene on the map and quickly became one of the most beloved punk bands of the ’90s and early ’00s nationwide. They took clear influence from the neighboring DC hardcore scene, but truly made it their own, honing a sound that touched on traditional fast-paced hardcore, slower and more melodic punk and alternative rock, and just a little of the folk/country sound that Tim Barry would dive much deeper into with his solo career. Following the scrappy but promising Satiate, the AVAIL sound really started to get defined on their Lookout! debut Dixie and it peaked on 4AM Friday, which kicks off with the band’s most iconic song (“Simple Song”) and stays on a high for its remaining 27 minutes. Everything came together for AVAIL on that album — they worked out any possible kinks they had in the early years, learned to seamlessly blend all the sounds they were interested in, and wrote some of the best choruses of their career. Over the James picked up right where 4AM Friday left off, but with better production and even sharper playing.

Over the James and 4AM Friday both remain ahead of their time. I wouldn’t necessarily call them “emo” or “pop punk,” but their blend of hardcore with slower tempos and more melodic choruses were a clear precedent to the emo/pop punk boom that took off in a huge way just around the same time AVAIL stopped releasing albums. And not only did AVAIL’s sound influence tons of bands, their very existence and way of life did. In the 2006 trailer for the still-unfinished AVAIL documentary, members of Hot Water Music, Smoke or Fire, boysetsfire, and Strike Anywhere are credited with saying AVAIL taught them how to be a band. In an episode of Fucked Up singer Damian Abraham’s “Turned Out A Punk” podcast, Converge’s Nate Newton said the same thing.

The albums that followed Over the James saw AVAIL sticking to their guns, never getting stale and never succumbing to the more polished sounds of punk’s mainstream boom. Even all these years later, every AVAIL album is great, but Over the James was AVAIL in their prime so it’s exciting that they’ve got that lineup and that they’re celebrating that album for this comeback. And this isn’t true for all of AVAIL’s contemporaries, but their classic albums like Over the James still sound fresh today and not dated one bit. No matter how many times you listen to them, AVAIL are the kind of band that can knock you off your feet every single time.

In the time since AVAIL ceased activity, Tim Barry has been highly prolific, and though he often shied away from performing AVAIL songs, last year he toured with Hot Water Music and joined them on stage to play “Simple Song,” proving that he’s still got it as a punk frontman. It sounded just like AVAIL’s glory days, so our hopes are already high that AVAIL’s comeback is gonna rip.

Tim has shot down talk of AVAIL reunions several times, and he spoke about changing his mind on the issue in an interview with Noisey:

You did Jonah Bayer’s podcast “Going Off Track” about four years ago and your exact quote was, “If there’s an AVAIL reunion show, I won’t be participating.”
[Laughs]

You’ve always said no to offers for the band to get back together. Why now?
Well, first and foremost, that is an exact quote and you can quote me right back when I say I reserve the right to change my fucking opinion at any point in my life. [Laughs] Truthfully, and I can only speak for myself, the internet notified me that last year was the 20th anniversary of the AVAIL record called Over the James. I don’t listen to my own music. I don’t listen to much rock ‘n’ roll or punk rock music, at all. Shit, I pretty much only listen to classical music at this point [since] my ears are so fucked up from live music over the years. But on that 20th anniversary, my daughters and I were living in this sort of not great neighborhood, in this apartment, and we put it on. They were like, “This is your crazy band, daddy.” And I was like, “Yeah, it’s crazy.” But I started listening and I was like, “This is fucking good.” So we put it on again, and I noticed that my children were singing some of the lyrics, just on the second listen. It stood the test of time somehow. It was at that moment that I said, “Oh man, this would be fun to do again.”

He also mentions in the interview that Iron Reagan let AVAIL use their practice space as they prepared for this show. As for whether or not they’ll add more shows? “I can’t say we won’t do anything outside of that, but I absolutely have no idea.” As for new music? “That’s not anything anybody’s brought up and I seriously doubt it.”

Watch a video of one of the “Simple Song” performances with Hot Water Music in 2018, video of AVAIL playing CBGB in 2006, the music video for “Simple Song,” and the trailer for that abandoned documentary, and stream Over the James below…

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