When I left the house tonight, the Goodyear blimp was flying directly over J-Ward. I mean it was making a beeline between Henry and Monroe Streets headed north and not very high in the sky, either. I stood in the middle of the street to admire something so ridiculous. And so my evening began.
I was going to the Bottom for a party and even that got off to a good start with a compliment from a cutter. Walking down 18th Street, a guy in a barber shop smiled at me through the window and I smiled back as I passed.
Moments later, I heard from behind, "Miss, you look amazing tonight," and turned to see one of the barbers standing in the door of the shop in his white coat, pointing his scissors at me. Such is the power of not wearing black I'm finding.
One of my favorite Virgo men was celebrating his 40th birthday tonight with a big party at Julep. And if you know anything about Virgo men (and I know plenty) it won't be any surprise that the food and drink were impeccably planned and the mix of people exceptional. He even adjusted the light periodically to ensure the proper ambiance.
Coordinating with master mixologust Bobby, the birthday boy had designed a menu of unique mixed drinks to get the party rolling. Being a non-cocktail drinker, I started with Vouvray, and later segued to good tequila.
Meanwhile, a surprising number of people ordered Mint Juleps either because they were at Julep for the first time or because they hadn't had one in ages. I felt a little sorry for Bobby; that's a labor-intensive drink.
The food was impressive; there were fried green tomato beignets, samosas, mini-crab cakes, pork tenderloin, cornbread, a variety of cheese and fruit and every one's newest obsession, sweet potato salad (so creamy! so orange!).
The crowd was diverse (although mainly couples) and represented the various aspects of our host's life: work, grad school, tennis and random (the category I fall in to). Everyone wanted to know how the two of us had met and no one was surprised that it was over food (pork belly) at a trendy restaurant (Balliceaux) and that I'd done the initiating (he and his girlfriend are introverts and I'm, well, not).
I enjoyed mixing with so many new people because it resulted in far-ranging conversations (the unfriendliness of Hartford, Connecticut, decadent shakes and architecture). I asked a guy what his connection to our host was and he jokingly responded, "I used to be his lover." I trumped him with more humor, "Wait, me, too." We made the birthday boy's night when we shared this dishonest exchange with him.
A male guest told our host that I was a fun person, a female guest asked how I stay in shape given all my food writing and a charming and handsome baker invited me to his shop to treat me to a sweet. Now that's a party I was reluctant to leave.
But leave I had to because of the impending Broken Social Scene show at the National . The last time they played RVA at Toad's Place, they'd come on at 10:00 and played till 1:15 and I'd loved every minute of it. I was looking forward to more of the same.
Tonight's show was just as mesmerizing and only a little shorter. The collective has such energy and their songs are so well done. The subject of it being September 11th came up and lead singer Kevin Drew called for a collective hug of "Americans and Canadians" and threw himself onto the crowd; Brendan Canning followed suit and they were passed around for a bit to the delight of the adoring audience.
Stripping down to his muscle shirt, Drew explained that "This is what I wore to the rocks and the bridge when we went swimming this afternoon. I couldn't bear to take it off." An audience member handed him fluorescent sunglasses which he wore for most of the rest of the show.
Because the collective is large and has so much talent, something interesting was always happening. A guitarist would begin removing his guitar mid-song and another musician would rush over to pick up that guitar and finish his part so that the first guitarist could now play trumpet. Lisa Lobsinger provided the necessary female voice to complement so much male talent.
At one point Drew commented that it was "a Saturday night dance in Richmond" and that was absolutely true. The crowd was in motion pretty much non-stop, even during the occasional ballad. During the protracted encore, the crowd was all but bouncing off the walls.
Blimps, barbers, birthday boys and a show my favorite bartender at the National (and a musician to boot) described as "probably the best I've ever seen here." And he's seen a lot of them.
But it was Kevin Drew who nailed it with, "Saturday night's alright for fun." Isn't it, though?