Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Full Moon over Phantogram

What happened was I won.

One minute I was listening to public radio and then I was caller number five and got two tickets to Phantogram.

I then traded one of those tickets for a ride to Charlottesville and the pleasure of my company.

When you're suddenly gifted with tickets to a show you were considering seeing anyway, you have to make the most of it.

The drive to Charlottesville took us straight through hard rain and back out in about a minute.

Our destination was Starr Hill State Park, which I'm sure even most of Charlottesville doesn't know about, was positively sylvan.

Tucked  away in a neighborhood of the tiniest houses on the narrowest streets, it was a grassy field.

The simplest of parks. A field.

Okay, with a garden including trees, Johnny Jump-ups and weeds near the back. And two benches at the top of the hill where the park sign was.

Benches are for park amateurs.

We spread a blanket facing the little woods for a Spanish/South African culture exchange (Manchego and Mulderbosch Rose).

The sky went from overcast to bright blue to roiling storm clouds while we enjoyed grapes on the grass.

But music called and dinner first, so we made our way to the mall.

We ended up at Bijou, a place I hadn't been since 2001 when I ate there with an old boyfriend during the Virginia Film Festival.

It was the year I heard Gena Rowlands speak.

To be honest, it didn't seem to have changed in a decade.

At the bar we had the distinct pleasure of being served by the host, also known as the owner's son.

It was his first might and he admitted he stumbled a few times. Luckily, not with the Prosecco.

I found his learning curve endearing.

Describing tonight's soup, he said it was a chilled tomato with crab when it was actually a charred tomato with crab.

"I was wrong," he came back soon after saying. "It's hot soup not cold."

We got it anyway, finding tons of crabmeat inside the thick broth,

A blue cheese salad was just that, more stinky cheese than anything (greens, candied walnuts, blueberry vinaigrette), which suited us fine.

Tuna ceviche tacos with ginger cucumber salsa, creme fraiche and baby greens in crispy flatbread taco shells had good crunch and flavor.

"They've been on the menu forever," the bartender said. "We can't take them off."

I wouldn't be surprised if they'd been on the menu last time I was in.

Dessert was a last minute call and two people said it was a house favorite.

Grilled banana bread with vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce won't win any novelty awards, but delivered meal-end sweet.

The odyssey ended at the Jefferson Theater where I walked in and the wristband guy immediately began giving me one.

Don't you want to see my I.D.?" I asked, being a good, law-abiding citizen.

"Nah," he said, waving his hand and smiling. "I've seen you in here before."

Frequency makes it easier to flout the law apparently.

Openers Ki: Theory were playing their high energy electronica when we found our places in front of the sound booth.

Known for his remixes, we were treated to his of Ladytron's "Runaway."

In between sets, we were amused to see that coming soon were The Police (Experience) and Squeeze (Us), adequate cover band names perhaps but not in the league of Even Better Than the Real Thing.

And I'm not just saying that because my friend is The Edge.

A couple of WRIR DJs came in and said hello and with the other friend I'd seen earlier, I thought it was a decent RVA representation.

We were (I'm presuming) all there for Phantogram's beat-driven psych/dream pop.

They'd already earned points with me by citing Cocteau Twins, the Beatles and Sonic Youth as influences.

All my limited musical vocabulary can say is, whatever their guitar influences were, I was on board.

Swirling guitars (screaming post-punk like sometimes), spacey keyboards (what everybody's doing these days), lots of echo (Karen lovers her music from a cave) and airy vocals.

They were courtesy of the fishnetted keyboardist/singer Sarah, she of the swinging bob and expressive legs.

Nancy Wilson's legacy will live forever.

Saying,"We haven't played this in a long time," they played "Voices" and the crowd's enthusiasm seemed to please her.

The lights were integral to the set, the patterns and colors making it sometimes feel like a dance party in an abandoned building.

They encored with "Nightlife" and the show was over by 10:42.

Street beat psych pop bands wrap it up early in C-ville on a Monday night.

Fortunately, it left plenty of time to admire that huge, full moon hanging over the mountains on the drive home.

And once in my apartment, I found moonlit-flooded rooms in both the front and back.

We call that a winning evening.

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