"Ruin your Thursday @ the VCA" the invitation read and I had every intention of doing just that. Tonight was the opening of American Ruins, a collection of almost 50 black and white images of ruins from the east coast to the west, showing at the Virginia Center for Architecture.
Arthur Drooker's photographs were artistic beauties, with crumbling walls and roofless columns framed by bare branches and leafy trees. I was shocked to learn that some of the ruins had been destroyed as recently as the last forty years; for some reason, I had presumed that these were long-time ruins, but then we're barely a long-time country. In most cases, fire was the culprit.
The Virginia ruins site represented on the walls was Barboursville and their winery was pouring tonight, but the exhibit is worth checking out even without a touch of the grape. It's up through the end of November. I even took the time to stroll the back garden of the Branch House for the first time tonight. It's a lovely, tranquil place.
As always, the opening was mainly male (architecture being male-dominated, I suppose). Of note was that I only ran into one person I knew (and fortunately I wasn't wearing black), but he knows me well enough to ask what the rest of my evening held. Telling him reminded him that he had also intended to be at my next stop (I'm as good as a calendar reminder sometimes).
That stop was The Empress for the Richmond Business Alliance champagne reception to celebrate the launch of the city's online directory of LGBT-friendly businesses. The Empress was being publicly designated as such tonight and the room was full of other LGBT business people. For the most part, it was a room full of attractive well-dressed men well-versed on all kinds of interesting topics.
I talked theater with actors and directors, restaurants with a real estate agent, and local bands with a writer. I loaned a book about coffee to a fellow blogger. I ate some of Chef Carly's delicious appetizers and sipped bubbles from bottom-heavy glasses. I like to think I was an asset to the party (Kevin, correct me if I'm wrong here).
Everyone wanted to know my connection since I don't own a business, so I shared my ties to the sponsor. My only regret was that I didn't get to stay for the cake, but happily I did satisfy my sweet tooth with a taste of the frosting and it was to die for. That's all I'm saying.
I had to cut out early and leave such charming company and such a culturally significant event in RVA to catch the opening band at the Canal Club, Marionette. These locals have been on a roll this summer, opening for The National, the Whigs and now Tortoise. It's the kind of resume-building a local band dreams of.
For the first time in years, the show was held upstairs instead of on the downstairs stage and no one seemed to know why. The show had originally been scheduled for the National, but a NASCAR-related corporate event had trumped Tortoise and they'd been moved to the smaller venue. Driving down to the show, I'd seen a lit-up race car in front of the National and a line of people down the block.
And given the size of the crowd, the Canal Club was big enough. Despite Tortoise's 20-year music-making history, the crowd was surprisingly small. Two different people said to me, "I'm disappointed in Richmond," referring to the low attendance.
But the fans who came were devoted and almost all of them were male. What we can glean from this is that jazz and prog rock-influenced post-rock bands are favored by those with a Y chromosome. A musician friend (a drummer) said that they are a drummer's band as a way of explaining all the guys.
A female attendee said to me, "It's all dudes, which is cool, but they're so into the music they don't want to talk to a chick." I gathered that she was saying that it was not a good place to pick up a guy. Luckily I wasn't there for that.
The band was tight, all excellent musicians and I liked all the percussion. A musician friend was turned off by the extensive use of synthesizers, but loved the vibes. But when it came right down to it, I just didn't possess enough testosterone to fully appreciate Tortoise it seemed. They were good, but they weren't rocking my world.
Walking to my car after the second encore, two guys almost bumped into me coming out of Wonderland. One said, "Don't you love this weather?" to which I said no and placed my cold hand on his arm.
"Damn!" he said. "Where's your wristband from?" I told him the Canal Club. "Aww, man, the Tortoise show? Was it awesome?"
He was a guy. He knew Tortoise was playing even if he hadn't gone to the show. I knew what I had to say.
"Yea, it was awesome," I told him. "Why weren't you there?"
A look of pure male guilt crossed his face. It was the perfectly appropriate ending for my Tortoise experience.