Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Subterranean Sophistication

"That was an auditory pleasure," said one VCU student to another as we exited the Listening Room tonight. So what else is new, boys? But maybe they were Listening Room virgins and unprepared for the wonders of this must-hear monthly event. Even my friend Andrew almost always comes out for this one.

The crowd shifts regularly, sometimes younger, sometimes more mature, but always growing and made up of dedicated music lovers. For a change, tonight's bill had only two bands instead of three, making for slightly longer sets. Put on your attention spans, kids.

Blasco led the charge, tall and slender in black, and wearing a hat and jacket he soon shed under the heat of the lights. Even better, two of the lights got turned off, making for a much more atmospheric setting.

Blasco explained that he'd be playing both old and new material and that the new stuff would be recognizable because " it will be in French, so that's how you can tell. Because I'm French." He kept lyric sheets in front of him, he said, because they were still fresh. Even when I didn't understand the words, I got the feelings he was conveying.

It was the LR's first multi-lingual performance and set an interesting tone for the evening. With a tad less lighting, we could have been in a subterranean boite rather than a church basement with an emotive singer/songwriter playing guitar and singing songs of frustrated lives and loves. It felt so...Gallic and I mean that in the best possible way.

Favorite lyric: "He makes me want to miss you."

Next up was ...and The Wiremen, a trio tonight with one New Yorker (Lynn Wright) and two Richmonders (Paul Watson and Pippin). I've seen them before in places as disparate as Poe's Pub and Ghostprint Gallery, so I knew we were in for a treat.

Their music has a dark complexity and with Wright's (Bryan Ferry-like) warble, it makes for a haunting sound. Tuning his guitar, Wright said, "I was told to talk to the audience tonight which I don't usually do. I was also told not to act like a New Yorker."

The man does have a certain blase coolness that could be construed as acting like a New Yorker, but his apparent enjoyment in the performance came across as pure Richmond.

Watson's trumpet-playing and backing vocals add so much to the band's sound, as did his occasional air-guitar strumming on his trumpet. It was only preparation apparently for when he actually picked up his guitar, often alternating playing it with the horn.

Pippin (also of the Happy Lucky Combo) provided the creative drumming and percussion that rounded out their sound. I had just seen him play last week at the Musicircus, although in a band with a very different sound.

Favorite lyric: "Hey, I could be your man and stay to face it."

It was an unusually sophisticated evening at the Listening Room tonight and since a show of hands proved that easily half the crowd were first-timers, they may be surprised on their next visit to discover a completely different kind of musical experience.

But there still won't be any talking allowed. That's just how the Listening Room rolls.


  1. Hey... that was a good show - i got a chair, music to nod off to, AND coffee n cake

    (Paul n Pippin really are the bestest local music guys)

    but 1st guy was so mellow i thought he might do ♫ "votre corps est le pays des merveilles "♫

    note to self: learn Fwench w/out online translation

  2. I loved both, although it was definitely an atypical night at the Listening Room.