The monthly Live at Ipanema show is a regular event on my calendar and, whenever possible, it's preceded by dinner with a fellow Gemini music-lover. Because it had been a while since we'd gotten together, we added in an extra stop just to have more time to talk before the show.
When I'd suggested Bistro 27 to her for dinner, she wrote back, "Can we have a cocktail at Tarrant's too?" Had she forgotten who she was dealing with? I replied, "We can do it all, honey!"
And it wasn't cocktails we had, either. The bartender, a good friend and one who knows both our habits, had suggested Vino Verde upon our arrival and we allowed him to twist our arms into drinking our favorite summer grape. We took our time sipping and sharing what had been going on since we last met. Let's just say men occupied the bulk of the conversation.
When we asked for our bill, my bartending friend mentioned that a nearby bar sitter, new to the area, had asked him for suggestions on what to do in RVA and he'd recommended my blog (turns out he does this frequently).
It was at that point that the woman introduced herself to me, saying, "You write really well," as she continued to scroll through some recent posts. Glad to be of service and welcome to Richmond, stranger.
Dinner was just down the block at Bistro 27 because my friend is a huge fan of their Ceasar salad and thinks they have the best Italian-style polenta in town (it comes under sauteed calamari). In addition to those two prerequisites, we also shared the Rappahannock oysters gratine and I got the rabbit and veal sausage with Manchego over potato cakes.
My friend declined to share that dish with me because she doesn't eat rabbit. "I'm not as adventurous as you are," she claimed, missing out. Too bad for her because as our server had warned me, "You're going to love that" and I absolutely did. It's new to the menu so it was the first time I'd had it, but it won't be the last.
By the time we'd finished those four taste delights, it was time to make our way to Ipanema for coconut cake and the Cinnamon Band from Staunton. From the second they opened their mouths, the crowd closed theirs. A foursome walked in and one looked at the other and loudly asked, "Why is it so quiet in here?" Well, my friend, perhaps it's because the band is knocking the socks off of every person in the overcrowded room.
Guitarist John led with, "Actually we're electric, but tonight you're privy to something extra-special." That was the colossal understatement of the evening. These guys are known for being loud, all shimmering chords and bone-shaking drums, but that aesthetic was tamed tonight and the result was magical.
My friend thought that of all the talented bands that have played Live at Ipanema, the Cinnamon Band sounded most likely to be the breakthrough act. Their voices blended beautifully and lyrically the songs were stunning, It was easy to lose sight of the fact that all that sound was coming from only two guys, a guitar and drums.
And while their usual M.O. may be loud, tonight's show was a thing of subdued melodic beauty, created by the slow build that defined their songs. I don't know that I've ever seen so many rapt fans at a Live at Ipanema show and I've been to all but one.
Favorite lyric (of many): Easy does it doesn't cut it when you want someone.
We had to sit outside afterwards just to talk to other people about how impressive the show had been. To a person, everyone was blown away.
That's why Live at Ipanema is a non-negotiable entry in my datebook. And yes, I still carry one of those artifacts, those relics of another era. Make fun of me all you like (everyone does when I pull it out) but I don't miss much, now do I?