Monday, February 22, 2010

Black Sheep, Camel and Mad Music

Yesterday was one of those practically perfect days for so many reasons. It's hard not to be happy about temperatures close to 60 after the winter we've been through. I used every excuse in the book to be outside throughout the day and after a while, even the beagle was wondering why we were going on our tenth walk of the day.

So you take a warm day like that and finish it with a terrific meal and amazing music and, well, just stick a fork in me; I'm done. If there's a way it could have turned out better, I don't have the nerve to imagine it.

My companion and I deliberately chose a dinner destination to which we could walk, so we strolled over to the Black Sheep behind a weed-scented cluster of guys, obviously enjoying the night air as much as we were, just in a different way. At the Black Sheep, we were put at the middle two-top, the better to observe the room and feel like a centerpiece.

Because the soup du jour is always outstanding at BS, I can seldom resist it and last night was no exception. We both got it, a chili variation with white and red beans and cilantro. Oh, it was good. He followed with the lamb kebab (Moroccan-spiced skewered grilled leg of lamb over buttered Israeli cous cous with a chickpea stew); he said it was one of the most satisfying meals he's had in ages and the bite he offered was out of this world.

I opted for the pomegranate-molasses poached dried figs over locally grown organic arugula with Belgian endive, toasted walnuts, bleu cheese and an aged sherry vinaigrette. I told myself I was being virtuous getting a salad, but the richness of the figs, walnuts and bleu cheese belied that while at the same time being the ideal counterpart to the peppery arugula and bitter endive.

Post-dinner we went to the Camel to see Frank Turner, as did a fair number of others, like us, incredulous that we were getting this guy on a Sunday night in Richmond. He's currently on tour with Flogging Molly and had a free night and some savvy promoter snapped him up for us. You may know him as the former lead singer of post-hardcore band Million Dead, but since they disbanded he's an acoustic-based folk/punk singer.

And is the man ever passionate! Whether it's an anti-love song, a lament about not growing up or a song dedicated to a former love who was "deeply disturbed," the skinny Brit sang with such enthusiasm and meaning that there was no doubt where the songs were coming from. He feels especially strongly about there being no separation between the audience and entertainer (he disdains referring to himself as an artist) and encouraged singing along (referring to us as his backup singers) and pulled an audience member on stage to do a harmonica solo. His excellent band was deservedly acknowledged repeatedly by the singer.

The audience was made up of die hard fans; most people knew every word. A lot of WRIR DJs were there, a testament to Frank Turner's talent by those who really know and love music. I met a woman who spent her summer vacation in England, traveling from town to town, following Frank on tour (obviously much easier to do in a country the size of England than here). That's the kind of people this show attracted. The singer said he expects to be back through rva in September; honestly, you'd be a fool to miss a chance to see this guy live.

A weekend that begins with seeing Mission of Burma with 100 other people and ends with an intimate show by Frank Turner is a stellar one by any city's standards. That's it's happening these days in rva is a gift, one which I'm happy to tear the wrapping off and enjoy. I'm feeling lucky for a whole lot of reasons lately.


  1. Ah, I love Black Sheep. Your writing is always do descriptive, so visceral. I wrote a post about my newly acquired Richmond Noir today!

  2. One more thing we have in common! Thanks for the compliment about my writing; it made my day.

    I read your post about Richmond Noir. Don't you love it when a book sucks you in for hours like that?