Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Of Dogs and Men

This ain't a scene, it's a lifestyle.

Actually, it's getting to be enough of a scene that a music lover has multiple options on a Tuesday night.

I took bees and fish over Shakespearean tragedy and loud estrogen, but that was just me.

Well, me and the friends who said they'd seen enough really loud shows lately to want something more ear-friendly tonight.

Actually, I started at the bar at Bistro 27 where a group immediately took me in, saying, "Welcome to the party."

When they departed for a table, I stayed put for Meiomi Pinot Noir and a satisfying dish of vegetables, cannellini beans and duck confit.

You can never go wrong with duck poached in its own fat.

Or with a dessert plate that featured chocolate hazelnut torte and chocolate mousse.

But you can go wrong with a nearby bar sitter with deplorable manners.

Unfortunately, my dearly departed party was replaced with a girl on a cell phone.

And by that I mean from the second she walked in she was talking on her phone.

She talked on it through wine, carpaccio and cheesecake. She talked on it while ordering.

And eating.

Didn't our mothers teach us that that was rude?

In fact, she talked so non-stop that she never took off her jacket, scarf or hat. She ate with her right hand and held her phone with the left.

Unfortunately, it made it easier to leave because I was tired of hearing her incessant chatter.

The fact that I had a great show to go to didn't hurt, either.

Sponge HQ, on the top floor of the Anderson Gallery, was playing host to a double bill of the Low Branches and Brown Bird.

And one of the benefits of going to Sponge is the beehive. Another is the burbling fish tank, the lights of which dimmed only once the music started.

You just can't get that kind of ambiance at most venues.

Mingling before the show, I asked a musician friend where his lovely wife was.

She was home with their dog, a rescue he said had lost her skittishness with the magic formula , according to him, of "love and parameters."

Like what men need, I asked. Grinning, he agreed.

The Low Branches started the show with their achingly beautiful songs, four of which were new to even us long-time fans.

After the first song, lead singer Christina apologized, "The first song is always rough, then it gets better. It's not getting better yet, though."

Truth be told, it was mesmerizing everyone in the room with lyrics of love and longing.

The spell was broken only when Christina decided to do a song not on the set list, throwing off guitarist Matt who was still going with the plan.

"I'm usually the one who screws up," Christina laughed.

On my way to the bathroom during the short break, a guy looked at me and inquired, "Were you in Charlottesville recently?"

Why, yes, I was at the Other Lives show, I told him.

"I thought I saw you there!" he said before we discussed what an excellent show that had been.

I have no idea who he was or how he recognized me.

Break over, Rhode Island's Brown Bird took command of the room.

It wasn't my first time seeing them, although the last iteration had been as a trio and tonight they were a duo.

The friends sitting next to me hadn't seen them before, but knowing their taste, I was certain they'd love Brown Birds' genre-bending sound.

Part folk, part gypsy music, part bluegrass, part blues, the music benefits from two strong vocalists and more instruments than any two people should be able to play.

Upright bass, guitar, violin, cello, drum, percussion and banjo. The only thing I could think of that was missing was dobro which they'd had when they were a trio.

Leader Dave, who could apparently do at least three or four things at any point in any song, wore a most handsome black beard that got noticed in a room city full of great beards.

After a couple of songs, he commented, "The percussion is rally loud in this room. I wish I could turn it down."

His band mate, MorganEve, looked at him wryly and said, "So do I."

But that percussion was central to their sound, at times as key to their eastern European-influenced sound as the string instruments.

Tonight was the first night of a three-month tour and before one song, Dave apologized, saying they'd only played this song out once or twice before and never with a violin.

I'd wager that not a person in the room would have known that had we not been told.

When their set ended, people made a beeline for their merch table, always a gratifying thing to see. I'd done the same after the first time I saw them.

A small group was going to Cous Cous afterwards, so I agreed to go along even though I usually limit my presence there to worthy shows.

In yet another unlikely twist, a couple of us celebrated our fine evening of music with Cokes.

Without a music crowd, the place was practically dead, but our little group made the best of it with any number of unlikely conversations.

Nutrition? Check. Living your passion? Check. Soccer branding? Check.Shoegaze gods in sunglasses? Check. Drawn-out birthday celebrations? Check.

But when it came time to go on the hunt for some pie, I bowed out.

I honestly didn't need another pleasure to close the book on tonight's chapter of lifestyles of the poor but passionate.

Besides, the pie will be there for me.

It's just another part of the scene.

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