Jackson Ward knows how to throw a party, let me tell you.
Tonight was our annual Christmas soiree at Club 534 and, having attended last year (and being J-Ward Girl), I knew enough to be there again to eat, meet neighbors and enjoy the distinctive DJ stylings.
A writing assignment made me later than I intended to be, so the party was in full swing when I arrived. Friends had saved me a spot at their table, also where another couple was sitting.
Coincidentally, he was a guy I see at shows all over town but I had no idea he was from the Ward, and we'd never met. That was corrected, followed by him complimenting me on my tights. The night was off to a good start.
I had to play catch-up, though, so I began by going to get food. They'd already run out of crab cakes, but I loaded my plate with carved turkey, bean cakes and salsa, veggies, meatballs and cheeses. My association dues at work.
When I went to the bar to get a drink, the bartender told me she wanted my pink scarf. A woman standing next to me said, "If you could see her legs, you'd want her tights." The bartender craned her neck to check me out.
Without missing a beat, she said, "If I had a bottle of vodka, I'd get those tights from her." Yes, well, I'm not exactly sure what that meant, but it was probably just as well that she didn't have that bottle with her, whichever way that was going to go.
My favorite part of these parties is after dinner when the DJ cranks the music and the dancing starts. J-Ward is full of rhythm and practically everyone there was a terrific dancer. From little kids who knew all the steps to the gray-haired crowd who danced song after song, these people were all about the dance floor.
And every year my neighbor Larry, an enthusiastic and excellent dancer, insists that I dance with him and every year I remind him that I'm a white girl and not worthy.
It's almost a Christmas ritual for us. This year he actually reached under my armpits to lift me out of my chair as he insisted. That's a man who loves to dance.
When it was time for me to leave for my next destination, the dancing was still in full swing and Luther Vandross' "Never Too Much" came on, delaying my departure while I listened to a song I hadn't heard in a million years, but which I recognized from the first note. That's some classic r & b, in my humble opinion.
Stop number two was Six Burner for music. The show, originally scheduled for 10:00, had been pushed up to 8:00 because of the snow. When I arrived, Josh told me it had been moved back to its original time.
Luckily I had good company to keep me occupied until whatever time the music might start, including tonight's performer David Brookings ("Haven't we met before?") and his Dad.
Brookings was apparently an active part of Richmond's music scene about ten years ago and many of the other musicians who were part of that scene showed up tonight, making for a reunion of sorts. He had long ago moved to Memphis where he gave tours of Sun Studios until he was recruited to move to San Jose and work for iTunes. So this was a homecoming show.
Bartender Josh had long ago given me one of Brookings' CDs (he has five, two of which are out of print), so I knew to expect sunny, poppy songs with some excellent guitar work. He introduced one song by saying, "There are only two songs I get minor royalty payments from and this is not one of them."
Josh looked at me and responded, "That's some random shit." Indeed it was and Josh should know; he produced some of David's albums.
One of his best intros was, "If someone held a gun to my head and said 'Play the best song you wrote that doesn't suck' this is the song I would play." High praise, I thought, as he launched into yet another catchy little number.
Prabir and part of the Goldrush (Matt and Treesa) had come in to join the crowd and Prabir always adds a certain wild card element to any evening. After an old-fashioned, he asked Josh for a drink suggestion, requesting something "tasty," whatever that means in drink terms (obviously I have no idea).
Josh suggested a 1930s cocktail, the Godfather (Amaretto and scotch), and when he delivered it, announced that it might taste like "band aids and candy." It was not to Prabir's taste, but a nearby musician tasted and praised it, saying "These vintage cocktails always have great texture."
Brookings is on day 158 of a 209-day project to record every Beatles song and post it on youtube. At this point, he's halfway through the White album and tonight's song, recorded live, was "I'm So Tired."
Naturally, this led to a Beatles discussion amongst those around me: Sgt. Pepper vs. Magical Mystery Tour and Rubber Soul vs. Revolver (the same arguments Beatles lovers have been having since the albums came out). I shared my opinions and then backed away from the fray to mingle.
A friend told me about his idea for the ultimate RVA bar (it would be in Carver), a sous chef neighbor I hadn't seen lately told me about his upcoming gig and a musician I met tonight gave me credit for skirts and tights in this frigid weather, after asking if I had any sweat pants (I don't).
In a late discussion of neighborhoods with both a Church Hill and a Union Hill resident, I was asked where I live. "Jackson Ward," I told them proudly.
"And that's why you're so awesome," James said.
But not nearly as awesome as my neighbors who can really dance.