Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Of Language and Love Songs

It's a rare night when I can sandwich in Tennessee between Romania and Prague.

Things got rolling at the Grace Street Theater where the VCU Cinematheque series restarted for the semester with a Cannes double award winner, "Police, Adjective."

I've stated for the record that I'm a huge fan of this (free) film series which shows independent foreign films that never quite made it to Richmond.

Tonight's gem played to a nearly full house and given that it was Romanian New Wave, deservedly so.

The movie about an undercover cop who is tailing a high school kid suspected of selling hash had less to do with cops and crime and everything to do with language.

When his superior insists that he initiate a sting operation to arrest the kid, the hero resists because he doesn't want to ruin the kid's life merely for being irresponsible.

The payoff comes when the boss challenges him on why not. The hero doesn't want it on his conscience that he's ruined a kid's life.

It's at that point that the dictionary comes out and the boss has him look up conscience and discuss it. Next comes looking up moral, then police.

Everything comes down to interpretation of language and, frankly, this language geek couldn't have been more amused at a black comedy about the language police enforcing word usage.

As if that wasn't pleasurable enough, I found myself seated next to a former Media General colleague (and his partner) who was also let go in the great recession of 2008.

When I asked what he'd been up to, he regaled me with stories of his travels since he retired/got laid off.

Their last trip had been to Rome, Florence, Sienna and the hill towns of Tuscany.

Telling me a hilarious story about a bus driver who drove them up a mountain in his own car because it was a holiday and the taxis and buses weren't running, he advised, "You have to go to Florence."

I'll get right on that.

Their upcoming trip is to Amsterdam, the Riviera, the Loire Valley and Paris ("because it's on the way," he insisted).

I like his version of being laid off even more than my own.

After bidding the travelers goodnight, I headed over to City Dogs for a Tennessee slaw dog with mustard, onions, chili and cole slaw.

Pig and cabbage was just what I needed to fortify myself before the next portion of the evening.

Meanwhile, a quick stop in the ladies' room provided a wealth of reading material on the chalkboard walls.

My favorite: "Love guys with beards? Become a whiskerina! Visit"

Somehow I wasn't surprised to learn about the Follicles of the James Stache and Beard League. I know I have more bearded male friends than not.

Why shouldn't they have a fan club?

And on that pleasant note, I got myself to Balliceaux for Oceans versus Daughter, which is usually three Americans, one Brit and one Czech who came together in Prague and have been making music ever since.

For the recent past, though, lead singer Flanna has been back in the colonies and touring the northeast with two members of our own indie royalty, Kevin and Marshall of Marionette while her band is back in Prague.

She did the first couple of songs solo, pairing her lovely voice with just keyboards before having Marshall and Kevin join her onstage to fill out her sound.

Telling us she was going to sing a song about poison cake, she called to the guys in the kitchen, asking if they made poison cakes.

Somehow they heard "poison snakes" and there was some back and forth before the song began.

And the songs were exquisite; "Fire" was about being destroyed by a  guy ("You hurt me, I hate you. I hope that you die in a fire") while she said "Don't Try" was about listening to that little voice in your head.

Midway through she told the crowd that she had CDs (pay what you will), T-shirts and tote bags.

"This is my QVC moment," she explained before suggesting that Marionette do the same.

"It's over there," Marshall said with his usual understated charm. "Y'all know."

We do.

We were also treated to Flanna joining them for two Marionette songs, including the first track off their upcoming EP, a song called "Shades of Doubt."

It was quite a song. In the over four years that I have been seeing this band, they continue to impress me as they develop musically and lyrically.

Then it was back to OvD and the trio finished up  with "Take Care," a fitting close to their set.

When the night is through
The light of the moon awakens you
And the day has come again for you
I'll take care of you

Despite the happy ending, the crowd (me included) called for one more and Flanna alone returned to the stage for "Lips of Justice."

I've been several places
In my heart you've come along
My trailing train

And then the show was over and the room was filled with people raving to each other about what we'd just heard.

A friend summed it up. "When I look back on my twenties, I'm going to think of how lucky I was to have heard shows like this at Balliceaux."

The fact is, at any age a person could look back and remember how lucky they were to have nights like this.

I'll send you a letter
I'll write you a song
Please hold your horses
It won't be too long

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