Which is tougher, putting up with an obnoxious crowd or saying farewell for now to good friends? My evening involved both.
Months ago I'd bought a ticket for Jimmy Eat World at The National, presuming that not much would be happening on a Tuesday night in February. Although they started out as a punk band, they evolved into what was labeled emo, which I never quite got; to me they're just power pop.
Arriving at the National, the wristband guy greeted me with, "Long time no see! Where you been? Hey, nice leg work," referring to my tights. "I got a pair just like those but I thought it was too cold to wear them." This guy never fails to crack wise with me.
I arrived just in time to score a drink from my favorite musician/bartender and find my spot before David Bazan and band came on stage; Bazan was the creative force behind Pedro the Lion.
It took a few songs to warm up to his voice, but once he mentioned PtL, people paid more attention. He brought out a special guest (Jim Adkins of JEW) for one song, but most of the audience seemed oblivious to who he was.
I laughed out loud when he asked the crowd, "Do you guys have any questions up to this point in the show?" He said that his last stop in RVA had been playing Alley Katz, which he remembered as very dark.
Between sets the masses arrived which turned out to be unpleasant due to their nature. Fortunately, my favorite music buddy also showed up (he'd been looking for me in the wrong place) to provide moral support for dealing with our newly arrived neighbors.
Put as bluntly as possible, the problem was perfume and purses. The clutch of girls around us reeked so strongly of scent that we both were gasping for breath within seconds.
And once the band came on stage, their drunken and incessant dancing pushed their large Louis Vuitton bags into us repeatedly. Obvious amateurs; who needs a big purse at a show?
At one point, a guy behind me placed his hand squarely on my back and pushed me out of his way so he could get by. A simple "excuse me" would have accomplished the same thing. When I turned around in consternation, his buddy shrugged his shoulders and said, "Sorry, he's an ox."
Jimmy Eat World, on the other hand, were tight and terrific, playing a variety of material going back to 2001. Jim mentioned that they'd played Twisters here on his twenty-second birthday. although it seemed unlikely that many in the audience remembered Twisters.
He said he'd gone by there today and found it was now Strange Matter and marveled at how unchanged the interior is. It's true; only the name changes on the outside. That's Grace Street for you, like a walk down Memory Lane.
From the National I high-tailed it over to Sprout for the Lobo Marino farewell show, arriving just in time to catch the last of it, although with no view because of the punctual people in front of me.
Which was fine because I've seen Laney, Jameson and Nathaniel perform many, many times so it's not hard to conjure up their smiling faces in my head. Besides, I was mainly there for the farewell portion of the evening that would follow the show.
The band leaves for 6 months on the West Coast tomorrow and they'd announced that anyone who brought them a mix tape/CD for the trip would get a copy of their latest, "Keep Your Head Up."
Naturally I'd put a little something together to remind them of me on the road. And if they hated it, they'd have to wait six months to let me know in person.
And since I already had their latest on CD, I was rewarded with a cassette copy of it, and a yellow cassette at that. It just doesn't get any more retro than a yellow cassette tape.
Last time they left RVA, it was for a stint in South America and Jameson and I kept in cyber touch. He'd share their adventures and I'd fill him in on the latest goings-on around here in terms of music, films and friends. I asked him if we'd be doing that again this time.
"Yea, but I don't need the gossip," he assured me. "Just tell me what's happening." Pause. "Okay, and the gossip," he grinned.
That was our cue to hug for the third and final time so we did. It's tough saying farewell to people you really like, even if they're supposedly coming back.
But it's a (bitter)sweeter kind of tough than having an ox bulldoze you from behind.