Friday, February 24, 2012

Bringing Down the Dark Horse

Sometimes you have to sacrifice a gala for a road trip.

In this case, a road trip on a gloriously warm February evening for a drive under a sliver of a yellow moon to Charlottesville to see a swoon-worthy band.

I've been told by someone who should know that my taste in music leans toward the swoon.

So when a friend invited me to the Governor's Cup Gala tonight, I had to decline citing the ticket I bought a month and a half ago to see Other Lives, a band I'd first heard here, at the Southern.

Arriving on the Downtown Mall, I ducked into a Mexican hole-in-the wall for Baja-style fish tacos (lightly breaded tilapia with lime-cumin slaw and pico de gallo), queso and chips and a couple of the most wonderful house made Mexican chocolate icebox cookies imaginable.

At the Southern, I ran into a friend from Richmond who'd also been at the Black Iris show. She and some friends had been smart enough to get a room at a B & B tonight to avoid the drive home.

Note to self: do same for next C-ville show if at all possible.

Australian band Wim was the opener and they couldn't have been a better fit with Other Lives.

"We've come a very long way to entertain you," the lead singer said.

Their glam folk had a layered sound that rose up to meet his big voice (and dramatic hand gestures), but it was the four-part harmonies that won my heart.

That and the way the guitarist used a bow to play his guitar on certain songs.

The singer had a huge key chain on, noting, "It's very jangly, isn't it?  I should use it like some kind of percussive instrument."

During the break, people were talking about how interesting and well-done their set had been.

It was then that my friend introduced me to a C-ville friend she'd suggested come to the show.

We ended up chatting for a while about music and Richmond (coincidentally, he used to live on Grace Street and had some great stories about it).

He'd found Wim to be "too frou-frou" for his taste and I had to assume that it was the glam element it had.

Despite our difference in musical opinion, he was kind enough to hold my spot while I ran to the bathroom.

There, the guy in front of me in line asked if I'd decided to come out tonight just to hear music.

No, I explained, I'd come to hear Other Lives. "Oh?" he said, suddenly seeing me in a new light.

He'd seen them open for Delta Spirit a couple of years ago and had liked them so much more than the headliner.

He was thrilled to have found a kindred soul and talked my ear off about the band before disappearing into the loo.

And then Other Lives came out and I was in full swoon mode.

How do I love thee, Other Lives? Let me count the ways.

I love your castanets, your trumpet, your three violins on any given song, your harmonica, your bells, your French horn, your cello.

I love seeing the drummer put his sticks down and play the clarinet.

I love seeing one member with a guitar slung around his body, holding his violin in his left hand and playing the trumpet with his right. And that's when he wasn't playing piano or keyboards.

Sigh. That's practically a music fan's wet dream.

Unlike the last time I'd seen the band, there was no Ramones cover, but we got to hear much more of their new album, "Tamer Animals" to beautiful effect.

They closed out their set with "Desert" before bandleader Jesse came back for one solo song and the band rejoined him.

"We loved playing here for you guys," Jesse said. "It feels real, so intimate. It's important for us to experience this."

No doubt he was thinking of their upcoming gig opening for the first leg of Radiohead's tour, where the crowd won't be two feet from their faces.

But I can't complain. I've now seen them in a room with thirty people and again with maybe a hundred and been blown away both times.

No doubt they had the same effect on Radiohead.

As I drove home under a canopy of stars before I hit the bright lights of RVA, I couldn't help but think about what a stellar night it had been, both musically and with the spectacular scenery of the skies on this unseasonably warm night.

But we're all just an end to a simple thing
And it's all you see, it's all you see
We're just tamer animals

I'm with Jesse. It's important to experience these things.


  1. I went to and listened to the samples of Other Lives tamer animals CD. I was immediately impressed with their sound. They have a rich, full-bodied, complex sound that reminded me a bit of ELO but more contemporary. The only bad thing for me was the singing. Not that the lead wasn't good. I'm just not big on lyrics. But I loved the music. I'm buying a few MP3 tracks. Thanks.

  2. I love that I conveyed enough to make you want to check them out!

    And you're right about the music. They could be a post-rock band (as in, no lyrics) and still be impressive.

    And live, it's a positively gorgeous sound.