Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Admire my Nachos, But Don't Drown Out my Guitars

Ah, 821 Cafe, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways. For the ever-changing affordable art on your walls. For providing wildly different newspapers for my reading pleasure; five minutes' worth to read the entire RTD and 20 minutes' worth for the NYT Food & Dining section alone.

For being the creative magnet that you are, which tonight attracted Americana singer and ukulele player extraordinaire Alison Self and collage artist Adam Juresko. For the delightful clientele always eager to mingle. The girl who sat down next to me couldn't make up her mind between pasta and nachos. "Well, I'm getting the nachos, if that helps," I told her. "Perfect! I'll get the pasta and I can just admire your nachos." See why I love this place?

After my bohemian meal, I set out for the Singelton Center for some musical enlightenment in the form of the VCU Guitar Festival, celebrating the music of Mexican composer Manuel Ponce. Active in the first half of the twentieth century, he's notable for his melding of classical and Mexican folk music and when he wrote for solo instruments, it was guitar and piano, the only instruments on the stage tonight.

Even with no familiarity with Ponce's music, the performance was notable for the beauty of the guitar playing and the approachability of the music. Its popular folk roots shown through, making it as much an expression of Mexican music as classical, although you'd never have known it by the guy directly behind me snoring and snorting throughout. People in rows four and five in front of me kept turning around to see who was drowning out the delicate guitar playing. I wanted to reach around and thump his leg to wake him up, but I knew my mother wouldn't approve.

When I saw Mexican duo Rodrigo y Gabriela and their rhythmic and fast acoustic guitar playing at the National a while back, their "acoustic metal" made me eager to hear a greater variety of guitar playing. So when the opportunity presented itself tonight to enjoy an evening of music I don't often hear, much less for free, I was all about it. Unlike Snorer Guy, who will never even know what he missed.

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