Thursday, June 28, 2012

Playing the Field Every Night

It's a good night when a guy hugs an album.

My plans got scrambled early on when an out-of-town friend called to say she was in Richmond and thirsty. That led to a rendezvous at Rowland, where she walked in with a gash in her leg that looked like it had a story behind it.

It did.

She was just back from a trip to Greece where she'd had the best french fries in her extensive travels (the potatoes were less than five days out of the ground), she'd stayed in a hotel built into the side of a cliff overlooking the sea (the rooms were essentially caves) and she'd gone on a motorbike ride that ended badly.

From what I heard, her beloved's limbs looked even worse because they were now infected. We drowned her wounds in bottles of Mumm Brut Prestige while nibbling on plates of pork carnitas spring rolls with tomatillo sauce.

While the Mumm didn't entirely stop the pain, it seemed to be less noticeable, said she. Such is the beauty of bubbles, said I.

Meanwhile, a woman at the table behind us made a mustache and beard out of her long hair, much to the amusement of her dining companion. Strangers as entertainment.

Because we hadn't seen each other in almost two months, we gabbed right up until I had to leave for Balliceaux. On the bill tonight were Rattlemouth, who were already playing for a bustling crowd when I arrived.

Since I'd seen them before, I knew to expect a world beat sound, dancey in a hypnotic kind of way and with lots of Ethiopian grooves. They delivered all that in the second half of the set which I saw, including their last song, a popular Ethiopian one, described as known to anyone in that country.

Since I know no one there, I can't confirm that.

The Richmanian Ramblers were the stars of the night because it was their CD release show. The first thing I noticed was that there were more ramblers than the last time I'd seen them.

Five had become seven.

Both the clarinet and violin had doubled to two each with the addition of bandleader Nate's dad on violin and the ubiquitous Jason Scott on clarinet (and also as head cheerleader). For the uninitiated, the Ramblers play gypsy-influenced Romanian folk music which is both beautiful and hilarious.

Vocalist Antonia (yes, she of the Speckled Bird and The Bird and her Consort) introduced the first song, saying, "This song is about the worst dowry ever." Can't say I recall the last song I heard about a dowry, good or bad.

It was during the second song about crossing a river and not wanting to pay the toll that I saw a guy in a Smiths t-shirt shush some nearby chatterers. It was a futile gesture. Too many in the crowd tonight were talking non-stop.

And, yes, it's a bar so people will talk but I'd have thought that once they heard the sound of haunting gypsy music, it would abate. I was dreaming.

A dance song followed and the crowd was exhorted to do so and Nate's Mom was the first to take to the floor doing steps that clearly looked traditional. A couple of girls joined in, but Mom had the moves.

Clarinetist Jason was a hard-working guy tonight, leading singalongs and playing beautiful,extended parts to weave the gypsy sound throughout the room.

Later he told me he was just trying to get drunk and have a good time with the crowd. Well done, sir.

In an odd coincidence, Nate, who'd never heard Rattlemouth before tonight, said he knew one of its members because he'd once bought worms from him. "He's a worm enthusiast," Nate explained. Now there's a phrase you don't often hear.

The highlight was a song about a girl in a field pining for a sheep and her beloved (she's knitting him a sweater) and contained sheep sounds, courtesy of Antonia.

If you've ever heard her vox saw, you'd expect that a woman who can emulate a saw would have no trouble at all doing a sheep. She didn't.

I especially enjoyed watching guitarist Clifton play tambourine with his feet. Talent apparently excludes no limb.

They closed with "World, Sister, World," the title track from their new CD but I had to strain to hear over the talkers, sadly including some of the musicians in the room. Bad form, guys, real bad form.

I ran into the poet who said nice things about my form and my friend and admitted that she'd been hungover all day. Ah, the pleasures of summer when school is out.

After saying goodnight to her, I got myself to Ipanema, where it was the final night for the Blood Brothers. And while I've no doubt that something will rise from the ashes of the fabulous Blood Brothers (Blood Blisters was suggested), it won't be the unique dynamic duo of the Blood Brothers themselves.

Duane, the hatted member of the duo, is decamping RVA for Brooklyn, so it was my last chance to hear these two long time friends spin vintage vinyl from the '60s and '70s together.

I always hear a lot of great music and I rarely recognize most of it, but that's the point: to hear great old music I haven't already heard a zillion times. But, like any good DJs, they always toss in a few crowd pleasers just to show they can.

Hence Archie Bell and the Drells doing "Tighten Up" and Patti Smith doing "Because the Night." I was busy talking to Blood Brother Jamie when I heard Duane play the Rolling Stones' "Tumblin' Dice."

Surprised, I told Jamie that wasn't something I'd expected to hear Duane play. "Yea, I brought "Street Fighting Man, but that's not gonna happen now," he grinned.

Blood Brothers never duplicate.

And sometimes they like a novelty, like "Li'l Red Riding Hood," with the lyric, "Li'l Red Riding Hood, you sure are looking good, You're everything a big, bad wolf could want." Try selling that line, Justin Bieber.

I was introduced to a guy who told me about the "butt fries" he'd had at the State Fair (pork butt over fries with fake cheese sauce...blech), I saw a sous chef I've known for years who invited me to a dinner on his new picnic table so he could read about himself in my blog and, as usual, I got hugged repeatedly by a member of Team Sex.

But that couldn't beat Jamie coming over to sit next to me on the bench clutching a copy of the "Nilsson Schmilsson" album with a goofy grin on his face. Yes, Nilsson still makes us smile in delight.

I even saw Duane dance with his lovely wife late in the night (when she was obviously tired) and by dance, I mean he held her up while her feet swung in the air. It was adorable.

At the end of the night, I bade a fond farewell to the Brooklyn-bound, having rolled through meeting a scabbed friend, straining to hear Romanian gypsy music and socializing to the sounds of the sixties before heading back to J-Ward.

Say now, baby, I'm the rank outsider
You can be my partner in crime
But baby I can't stay
You got to roll me and call me the tumblin'
Roll me and call me the tumblin' dice

Rank outsider? Purely in the mind of the beholder.

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