Thursday, February 24, 2011

Swedish Pop Rocks

People who go camping are really intense. That's what was on the TV screen when I walked into Lemaire this evening to meet a friend.

My only basis for agreeing with that sentiment is that a few years back, I had a date with a guy and we were chatting about something unrelated when suddenly he said, "Do you camp? Cause my ex-wife didn't camp and I love to camp." Fairly intense, I thought. First and last date for sure.

My friend was running late so I went ahead and ordered a bottle of Sicilian wine, the 2006 Fuedo Maccari ReNoto Nero d'Alva/Syrah, so her glass was filled and waiting for her when she arrived.

It had been a month since our last date and she'd had both flu and a crisis of relationship in that time. But what she couldn't wait for was details of my recent dates, so we alternated with our stories until we both knew everything that had happened in the other's world.

One of the funniest moments was when a suit walked directly up to us, stopped a foot away and made an abrupt right turn, apparently having just realized that he didn't know us after all. We looked at each other and laughed out loud.

As usual for the two of us, the discussion lasts as long as the bottle and cheese (tonight Midnight Moon and Humbolt Fog) do before we both have places to be, but not before I've been thoroughly grilled.

My plans were at the University of Richmond for a screening of The Desert of Forbidden Art, a documentary about a secret art museum in Soviet Uzbekistan where, in defiance of the KGB, a driven and dedicated curator assembled an enormous collection of paintings by avant-garde artists who settled there after the Russian Revolution in 1917.

This man was such a fanatic about collecting the forbidden art that he made twenty 1700=mile trips to take the art he bought from Moscow to Uzbekistan. Interestingly, most of the artists have no name recognition because of the Soviet government having banned them.

To an art history lover like me, this documentary was fascinating, made more so by all the archival film and still footage the government had taken, stored and forgotten. It fleshed out the historical parts of the film in such a compelling way.

The director, Amanda Pope, took questions afterwards and told of years of trying to get the money to make the film.

Once she saw an out-of-print book of the museum's contents, she was driven by a desire to have Western documentation of the extensive collection for fear that something may happen to the outlying museum and its unparalleled collection; Islamic fundamentalists have been known to destroy art in the region.

The film was a sobering reminder about the role art plays in culture and a gift for the look at some of the magnificent canvasses, many of them never before seen. It'll be interesting to see what kind of response the film gets once it is in theatrical release (it premieres in NYC this weekend).

From the far reaches of UR, I drove to Balliceaux for music, parking the car on Hanover and heading down the street. I was stopped in my tracks in front of Pie by their sign touting avocado nachos- $6. Sold!

I'd never heard of such a thing, but I'm a big avocado fan and a certified nacho lover, so I was game for something different. Inside, there was only one other couple downstairs and I was invited to have my choice of tables.

In no time at all, my nachos were in front of me and showing plenty of sliced avocado throughout. They also had jalapenos, tomatoes, shredded lettuce and the requisite cheese and sour cream, but it was the nature's butter that made these special.

I didn't recognize the music, so I had to inquire of my personable server what it was (DJ Shadow) and that led to a most excellent discussion of music and photography. We discovered we have a mutual admiration for Swedish pop and even exchanged recommendations.

It makes my day when that happens. As I write, I'm listening to Mike Snow at Adam's suggestion, reveling in being introduced to music I'm seriously enjoying because of a chance encounter with another music lover.

At Balliceaux, Ombak's set was already audible when I walked in, but I stopped to chat with Austin who's enjoying rubbing my face in the fact that he's seeing Beach House this weekend and I'm not. I have seen them, but not since "Teen Dream" came out; I adore that album and would love to hear it played live.

Also at the bar was musician Marshall and I made the colossal error in judgment of throwing my arms around him.

Within seconds I was sneezing and he asked, "Are you allegoric to cats?" Um, yes. His jacket was covered in cat hair it turned out and I continued to react to him even as we went into the back room for music.

Ombak is so full of A-list musicians that listening to them is like being privy to a master class. Everyone - Hooten, Jones, Kuhl, Pollard and Ralston- is so amazingly good that it's fun just to watch them eyeball each other as they take off in unexpected musical directions.

Brian Jones was playing Chris Farmer's drum set (Chris was headlining) and noted that it was fun to watch Brian play his set and have to make adjustments throughout because they weren't his usual drums.

I pointed out that given his virtuosity, Brian probably enjoys the challenge of it and both Chris and Marshall agreed.

Farmer's drumming, played to recorded tracks, is hard hitting. A video of a train passing over a camera on the tracks played repeatedly during his first song; it seemed like an apt metaphor for being run over by the sheer amount of energetic sound he produces.

Eventually my sneezing became a royal pain and I excused myself, satisfied at having heard some outstanding music after a delicious take on an old favorite dish, following a moving and revealing documentary once I parted from my friend and some important girl talk.

Just don't call me intense because I don't go camping.


  1. Well, of course, but it also tends to be true, which is more humorous than the word play!