Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Enjoying Time with Myself

Gallery 5 After 5 achieved critical geek mass tonight and, yes, I include myself in that mix.

There were comic geeks, engineering geeks, computer geeks, music geeks and, for all I know, cheese geeks (Cabot is a sponsor and a table was laden with the stuff).

All in the name of culture, learning and cheap drinks.

This monthly series always includes music and a lecture and tonight was no different.

pH Balance was supposed to provide the musical entertainment, but I'm here to say that they did not perform a funny and fine set.

They did not have a theme song and they were not present on the stage.

Yes, they told me to say that.

After they didn't perform, Patrick Godfrey of Velocity Comics on Broad Street led a round table discussion with a couple of illustrators and a publisher.

It was interesting hearing the different perspectives of people passionate about comics.

All four of them made it clear that it's a business you have to love because you can't count on making the big bucks doing it.

Or, as Patrick put it, "It's not all limousines and super-models."

I'm not sure if this was disappointing to the dozens of artists in the audience, all of whom had their notebooks open and were drawing throughout the evening.

Tonight's program had a bonus component, a drum-off between a robot drummer and a human one.

This stroke of brilliance was conceived of by none other than local musician Prabir as he sat on his front steps with friends one night.

I feel certain alcohol was involved.

But he'd gathered a quartet of students to create this drumming robot from (wait for it) used HP printer parts from thrift stores.

The paper rollers were attached to drumsticks; that alone is brilliance, in my opinion.

And what does a drumming robot look like, you ask?

It's big and there are drums and high-hats, lights and shiny parts and, because this is RVA, a PBR tallboy in its clutches.

Yes, really.

A sign on its front reads "future artist."

They probably got that idea from some kid at VCU.

Human drummer Kevin Willoughby played and then the robot played. Kevin was much better, but he's been playing since 1994 and the robot since, well, a few days ago.

But he did play and that alone was worth seeing.

I was craving pizza after absorbing all that educational material and non-performances, so I made a bee line for Aziza's.

It appeared to be girls' night out because several tables had clutches of women talking away.

Sliding into the bar, I was greeted by my favorite server who immediately asked if I wanted a glass of tempranillo.

Within minutes, she was telling me about her recent forays into dating again.

Now here was someone I could relate to.

She told me of the overly agreeable one ("No matter what I said, he agreed with it, even if he'd just said the opposite") and the still-wounded one ("He had everything I wanted in a man but he's just out of a relationship").

Coincidentally, I'd met both those types myself within the past couple of months, so it wasn't hard to understand where she was coming from.

She reminded me that you have to wade through a lot of mediocre men before finding a good one.

I somehow devoured my white pizza (despite the rack of ribs I'd had at lunch) as we were talking.

It's so simple yet always so perfectly executed that I never have any slices left for a to-go box.

It would have been easy to linger longer, but I was going to a show at the Camel, so I declined a cream puff and more wine, tempting as they were and said good night.

And damned if the Camel show hadn't started on time, meaning I had missed Liza Bance's performance completely.

Luckily, I hadn't missed Benvolio Wilson's set and he was the main reason I was there.

From his days in We Know, Plato! to his current stint with Exebelle and the Rusted Cavalcade, I have been an enthusiastic fan of this guy's voice, his songwriting and his skillful keyboard playing for a good three years.

I was just sorry I had missed any of his performance.

Headlining was Benyaro, an indie folk duo from Brooklyn, but I heard as much roots rock as folk in their sound.

Ben played guitar and harmonica and Bobby played upright bass; both had soulful voices and played percussion with their feet.

They played a lot of material from their new CD, my favorite of which was probably "Time with Yourself" or maybe "New Orleans."

Boasting a solid sound, they were enthusiastic about playing the Camel for the first time in three years and the crowd responded in kind.

After being introduced by Ben, Bobby self-deprecatingly said, "I really don't know what the f*ck I'm doing, but I'm trying to look good doing it."

I'd be the first to agree with him; he had a fluid move with his hip when he was hitting the drum pedal while playing bass that was awfully appealing (if I were one to notice such things).

Try and recreate that with a robot, my geeky friends.

Or better yet, don't.


  1. sounds like i missed a great show at thee camel. can't wait to check these guys out!!

  2. Benvolio is local, so keep an eye open for him playing out (and maybe with Exebelle & the RC). He's most definitely worth catching!

    Benyaro aren't local, so it may be a while before they're around again.

  3. For the record, all the Drumbot's creators were graduates. Not students. Two Computer Science, one Computer Engineer and one Graphic Design.

  4. I should have known that you guys were graduates and not students to have created something so magnificent. My apologies for the error.

    It was really impressive to see and hear, btw.

  5. Thanks! It was fun to make, very glad we got asked. We also have another show-thing at Plan 9 on Feb 29th!

  6. We're all glad you liked it! If anyone else would like a taste, I made a short video of the performance: And for the record, the Plan 9 show is on the 25th. It should be even more fun!