Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Not Naming Names

In some cases, you have to reach back 18 or 20 years to get to where it all began.

This Monday night began at Stuzzi for dollar margarita pizzas and wine. Italian music was blaring and a guy was saying how he liked teen-aged legs on grown women's bodies. We didn't linger because bar space is precious real estate on Monday nights.

Instead, we headed to Garnett's for dessert, scarfing down buttermilk pie and a cake of two chocolate layers and one red velvet layer, all with coffee icing. No, I don't drink coffee but yes, I can enjoy some coffee icing.

Best of all, it wasn't a butter cream frosting but the not very sweet butter/shortening-based one that I grew up on. Back then it was called Pat's Icing after my mother, or so we thought, but I eventually came to realize that she didn't have a patent on that recipe.

Childhood notions die hard.

The night concluded at Strange Matter for the Cardinal show. The crowd was small but I counted several friends already in place when I arrived.

Locals Palindrone, a band I hadn't seen before, were already playing in front of the stage and I recognized two of the band members from Antlers. Antlers has the dubious distinction of being one of my early Silent Music Revival show bands, back when the event was still held at Rumors Boutique. It's such a small store and Antlers is so loud that once the store filled up, dozens of people stood on the sidewalk and listened from out there.

Unlike those of us inside, they probably didn't leave with ringing ears.

Palindrone wasn't as loud and the focus here was on a psychedelic sound with high vocals and interesting tribal-like drumming. D.C.'s Kuschty Rye Ergot were next and I was surprised when the guy who'd been standing near me during the first set turned out to be guitarist John Stanton.

I'd heard he played in all kinds of collectives and solo projects but tonight it was just him and a drummer. There were no vocals, the better to get lost in the psych rock of their interplay. The drummer had an enormous bass drum, all kinds of percussion and, most impressive of all, a gong.

Be honest. When's the last time you heard gong on a Monday night in Richmond? Besides, I loved watching The Diamond Center's guitarist Kyle studying this guy's intricate and slow-building guitar sound.

The big excitement, despite too small a crowd, was Cardinal, a six-piece led by Australian Richard Davies. Nothing major there, but you need to know that the band released their debut album, which was critically acclaimed, in 1994.

Yes, back in the days of grunge, they released an album of lush pop gems.

I didn't know their music in those days but I can only imagine how amazing it must have been to hear strings and brass on an indie record back then. And lo and behold, this year, 2012, they released their second album.

The way I see it, you take as long as you need to pick up the pieces and recreate the magic. For some, that's eighteen years. I won't name names, but I know of others who took twenty.

Cardinal makes chamber pop, symphonic pop, perfectly arranged and the kind of music that owes a debt to the Beatles and other '60s groups. After explaining that Americans should raise the age to drive and lower the age to drink, Davies sang the gorgeous "Love Like Rain," from the new album "Hymns."

He introduced the band and showed his Welsh upbringing with the comment, "The bloke with the headphones is Malcolm." His humor came through when he said, "If there's any songwriters out there, I'll give you a little tip. Capo on the third fret. It changes everything."

Making fun of their long-awaited second record, he jovially said, "We're going to do a song that's eighteen years old!" Which was just what devotees wanted to hear.

They did one song as a folk song ("This could be disastrous," Davies shrugged) but with symphonic accompaniment. It was magnificent, foreshadowing everything from Fanfarlo to the Decemberists.

"It's Monday night and it's time to go to bed," Davies announced before their last song. "This is a song based on Creedence Clearwater Revival."

You don't hear that everyday. Hell, I've never heard a band say that.

After an all-too-brief set with no encore, friends gathered around to discuss having seen this rare appearance of a band who provided the missing link between the Beatles and Belle and Sebastion. The consensus was that their sound fell somewhere between the Go-Betweens and Robyn Hitchcock and the Egyptians.

One girl said their musical references made her swoon. Another said, "Any band that references the Bee Gees and CCR, I had to experience."

Anything that starts out well, takes a long break and is able to pick up even stronger nearly two decades later, I have to experience.

Like Cardinal's music, we call that a perfect arrangement.

1 comment:

  1. CARDINAL in richmond? how'd I miss hearing about this? HOW???