Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Bring Me a Tenor

There are apparent ways I'm part of the 1%.

No TV, no cell phone, no jewelry, no jeans. Obvious stuff.

But sometimes I find out I'm part of an entirely different 1% I couldn't have anticipated.

Theater types have such busy schedules that you have to dazzle them when you see them in order to get their attention.

So when my theater friend asked where we were going, I said Bistro 27, knowing she'd appreciate the a) happy hour prices, b) well-executed food and c) random stellar company.

A) was easily enough accomplished when she arrived and ordered a vodka martini for five bucks.

B) was a shoe-in with pan-fried soft-shelled crabs over grits in a sauce of capers, white wine, red peppers, anchovies and lemon juice.

C) took care of itself when the former opera/Broadway musical theater singer/actor I'd met at 27 a while back moseyed in and joined our conversation.

And then we were three.

Not being the martini sort, I began with a glass of Thibaud Jannison Virginia Fizz and eventually moved on to the Paarl Heights Pinotage, to which I am devoted.

It is, after all, my neighborhood pinotage.

Over conversations about big bands, driving over concrete barriers (no, that's not a metaphor) and my writing  life, we also inhaled a slice of chocolate fondant cake.

And because it's foolish to have one dessert when you can have two or even three, we also got a blood orange panna cotta and a mango panna cotta.

The handsome tenor who had joined us regaled us with his past roles, the ones he'd coveted but never played and details about an Elaine Stritch show he'd seen and loved recently.

"Do you know how many people I could say Elaine Stritch to and they'd have no idea who she is?" he asked, laughing.

Obviously we weren't two of them. So there was another 1% I could claim.

After a couple of hours of wine-fueled conversation, my friend left for her loving hearth and hubby and I for the National.

Waiting for my wristband, I was in line behind a girl in a Jimmy Page t-shirt, which struck me as funny because her age qualified her for a green (aka non-drinking) wristband.

It was cute; Jimmy Page probably has grandchildren her age.

But at least she was there early enough for the opener. I knew I'd wanted to arrive in time to catch Canada's Memoryhouse.

There were maybe a hundred of us there when the set began, but we were rewarded with the kind of dreampop that reminds us that, oh, yes, we've liked dream pop since the 80s.

Well, some of us anyway.

The band also qualified as chillwave, which was why they were on the bill in the first place, I'm guessing.

I took up my usual place in front of the sound booth, ready for some glo-fi.

All of a sudden, there was a pretty face in pigtails in front of me and a friend I hadn't seen in ages was throwing her arms around me.

Before long, another music-obsessed friend came over to join us. We were now the three Ks.

When Memoryhouse covered My Bloody Valentine, both girlfriends pointed out that we were no doubt part of a very small percentage in the room who even recognized it as MBV.

Yet another 1% in which I can claim membership.

When applause after songs became problematic, the guitarist said, "All of our songs have these fake endings where you think the song's over. Sorry about that."

While the band's sound mix wasn't quite what it could have been, on the songs where we could hear lead singer Denise's breathy vocals, they were lovely.

It's hard to overstate how much I like ethereal soundscapes of the type Memoryhouse does, even given their obvious youth at doing this.

They admitted it was only their second show opening up for Washed Out, with whom they share a label. "So we're co-workers," guitarist Evan said.

I'm a big fan of their co-workers, having put Washed Out's "Within and Without" on my best of 2011 list.

By the time Ernest Green and his band took the stage, the crowd had grown considerably larger.

Which meant that once Washed Out began their set, heavy on synthesizers, looping and a big old bass line, there were a lot of people moving.

Not dance party madness, but non-stop movement. I didn't see a single person not bopping in some way.

Between that and the absence of spotlights on the band (there were colored lights behind them leaving them all in shadow), it felt less like a show and more like a club.

It was fine by me.

Since I first got their "Life of Leisure" EP in 2010 through last year's breakthrough "Within and Without," I've enjoyed them sans visuals, so even colored lights were something new.

There was major crowd reaction when they did "Feel It All Around," which surprised me until my girlfriend explained that the song is used in "Portlandia."

So yet again, I could be counted in the 1% since I knew the song only as number four on "Life of Leisure."

Silly me.

Obviously a band with one album and two EPs can only play so long a set and before we knew it, Washed Out was saying goodnight.

They came back for two songs, closing with "Eyes Be Closed," a song I'd specifically mentioned in my Best of post because I thought "it sounds like the beginning of an evening with a lover."

Well, that and one other crucial thing.

How often he's part of the 1%.

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