Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Speak My Name in Whispers

I got called out for truancy again.

Last month I had missed the Listening Room because I'd gone to see music played for Tom & Jerry cartoons, here.

I had no idea that my absence had been noted until this past Saturday when it came up while talking to Antonia, part of the Listening Room Crew.

"Actually I was concerned when you weren't there," she told me. "If I'd gotten up the next morning and not seen a post from you, I'd have been seriously worried."

Like calling the police worried?

"Well, yea, you're always there."

And now I have besmirched my record with one absence.

So tonight's show was non-negotiable.

I had run into a friend on my walk this morning (or rather, he'd almost run into me with his car, yelling out the window, "Hey, nice legs!") and he'd suggested meeting up for dinner because he wanted to talk about something important.

I'd agreed, with the caveat that it had to be an early meal so I could make the Listening Room.

We met at Aziza right when it opened and we weren't even the first customers.

We'd come for the pizza because my friend hadn't had it yet, but we started with a salad of crispy egg, arugula and shaved Parmesan with roasted shallot vinaigrette.

If you have any idea what a crispy egg would be, you're smarter than we were.

It was a soft boiled egg that was then momentarily deep-fried, resulting in the lightest possible crispy shell on an egg that still had runny yolk.

Let's just say it made the salad, spreading its yolky richness over everything.

My friend is dating a rigorously healthy eater, so the first thing that caught his eye on the pizza menu was the nitrate-free pepperoni.

Oh, boy, processed meat and no witnesses, his face seemed to say.

But instead we got our pie topped with the Belmont Butchery hot sausage and caramelized onions (or carmalized, as the menu spelled it, omitting and transposing vowels).

The spicy/sweet combination was wonderful and we couldn't even finish it.

But when the server offered us a cream puff, we magically found room for dessert.

Once again, I was his partner in crime because the girlfriend doesn't eat refined sugar (I am clearly a bad influence).

Being a photographer, he took a picture of this monument to sugar, both untouched on the plate and another of me with my open mouth hovering just above it.

I'd worry about him posting it on Facebook, except that I doubt he'd be so foolish as to provide documentation of his errant eating habits.

And then it was time for roll call at the Listening Room.

I think there were just as many Tim Barry/Avail fans at the Michaux House tonight as there had been at Fine Foods Saturday, here. 

The man has a devoted following, that's for sure. It wasn't long before the room was at capacity.

The show began with Paw Paw, consisting of the brothers Parker.

Their set started with sibling sniping.

Jonathan: "This is a new song called Code Red." Pause. "Well, it's not really called that."

Brother Alan: "Well, it's not really new either."

As former members of local band Pendleton, the two played a mix of that band's material and their newer songs along with a whole lot of guitar.

It was good stuff.

Andy Cobb of the Itchy Hearts followed with his high energy soul/folk and often funny but observant lyrics.

Favorite: "People speak my name in whispers, What finer praise can there be?"

He was joined for one song by Alan Parker of Paw Paw and played a love song written by his best friend.

Tim Barry opened by commenting on the collective awkwardness he was feeling, asking if the audience was feeling the same.

He endeared himself to the audience right off the bat by saying, "So VCU is back in session. What a nightmare!"

I laughed because I had noticed the roving gangs of 18-year olds on the way over, seemingly oblivious to the city around them.

He then launched into a Richmond-centric set of songs he said meant nothing to tour crowds but clearly pleased him to play.

Josh Small joined in on guitar and vocals for the first couple of songs; the two play (all connotations of the word) together often it seems and their voices blended beautifully.

Sample lyric: "I come from Virginia, against the grain and with the wind."

Introducing a song, he said, "If you were ever in Oregon Hill in the early 90s, it was a completely different place than Oregon Hilliamburg is today."

That was just one of many musical references and opinions on everything from Scott's Addition to freight train riding to Fine Foods to 15th Street.

The man admits he's insane, proudly wears his anti-war stance on his sleeve and insists that the only way to stay vital is by taking on challenges that scare you.

He admitted to being scared to perform in front of a listening room- style audience tonight, but mid-set allowed that he was relaxing some.

When the last passionate song ended, the applause was room-filling.

I'd have been an idiot to have been absent tonight and missed so visceral a performance.

Besides, I wouldn't want to worry the people taking attendance.


  1. Thanks for bringing the brownies last night. That crowd can EAT. (and it was nice to have the universe in balance and you in attendance at last night's show!)

  2. Aw come on, brownies are easy. There's never a time I don't have chocolate, sugar and eggs in the house! Next time I'll bring something more creative.

    I'm happy I was able to do my part to keep the universe in balance. Now if I could just get myself in balance...