Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Saudade for a Flip Phone

You know, the traditional gift for a third anniversary is leather.

Tonight was the third anniversary installment of the Listening Room and I counted myself among a very few who were there on that first night at the Michaux House, but I saw no obvious celebration leather.

Instead, I saw lots of new faces for the monthly installment of music that requires rapt attention and absolute silence from the audience.

After a proper mingling period with cookies (raspberry chocolate brownies and pecan sandies, oh, my!) and long-lost greetings (I missed last month's performance while in Italy), the show began.

Emcee Chris, with his newly shorn locks, waxed nostalgic about the early Listening Room days before the first act began.

Daniel Levi Goans and his wife Laura seemed glad to be here, saying, "This is an ideal environment for us to be heard."

They did a Dylan cover for a friend who was seeing Dylan tonight, with Daniel noting, "71 and still got it. Bob Dylan, not me."

"Obviously," his wife Laura said from the stage floor.

It takes a good woman to keep a man in line.

Laura had also made songbooks for the attendeea with each song numbered so we could follow along.

It could have been a little like hymn numbers on a chart in church, except I don't actually know that for sure.

Introducing the song "Enemies," Daniel observed, "This is a song from a real and true story. Hope I remember the ending."

For the record, he seemed to.

I learned about the Portuguese word "saudade" and the longing it implies, so I'd have to say that the Listening Room makes you smarter.

Favorite lyric: "Symphonies of sideways glances, Hands grazed and midnight romances."

During the break, I said hello to the poet and her visiting admirer, the scientist in shorts on this November night, the running sax player and the smiling beekeeper who joined us in the second row.

You see the most interesting people at the Listening Room.

The second act had nostalgic value because the Low Branches had played that very first Listening Room.

As singer Christina admitted, "It was our first Listening Room and probably my fourth time singing out."

Well, judging by how her voice and stage presence have matured, I'd say that the L.R. made for a wonderfully auspicious start for her Richmond career.

Josh was playing electric bass tonight instead of cello, as always adding a depth to their stripped-down sound.

Christina said he was also the one mixing and producing their new album, "One Hundred Years Old," due out at the end of January.

Mid-song, Christina stopped singing and said, "There's an echo. It sounds like there's a lot of us up here."

A minor adjustment, she started up again and it sounded like Matt, Christina and Josh again, the echo faded away.

With a voice as beautiful and hushed as hers, echo is unwanted.

"It's really great to have you with us," Christina said before their last song. "Friends, new friends and friends of friends."

That's about as good a summation of the family tree of the Listening Room as I've ever heard.

The good-sized crowd milled around during the break, brought back to their seats when Chris began talking from the stage.

Next thing, organizer Jonathan was walking onstage with his phone open and in hand.

"Is that flip phone?" a young attendee asked incredulously.

Yes, it was, youngster.

On the line and being amplified through the mic from Portland, Oregon was Chris Edwards, one of the L.R. founders and the original emcee.

"Chris, you're onstage again," Chris 2 told him.

"Oh, god!" Chris 1 responded, clearly surprised.

"We wanted to make you part of our third anniversary," Chris said and applause broke out for the L.R.'s original and well-spoken emcee.

Dave Watkins played third and he surprised long time fans like me by announcing, "I actually have a set list. If you've seen me before, you know that's..." and fading out.

"Unheard of?" asked a loud-mouth woman in the second row.

Okay, I asked that but he agreed.

Dave was playing his acoustic dulcitar, looping endlessly and wowing old and new fans.

He introduced "Pangea's Revenge" as a song written for a girl from Scotland he met in Richmond.

As many times as I've heard him sing that song, I hadn't known its starting point.

You have to admire a man who reacts to not being to drive or ride his bike to see a girl by writing a song about the super-continent.

From Scottish lasses to Scottish bands, Dave covered Mogwai's "Helicon 2," much to the delight of Mogwai fans like my friend's cute husband.

He also referenced the Colloquial Orchestra as, "A band I'm in with everyone else in Richmond."

Several of them were in attendance tonight, like the violinist who usually ends their set by writhing on the floor.

Dave surprised us all by taking out his guitar and playing the song he'd written for his high school talent show, "Square Peg, Round Hole" ("It's pretty wacky") with great flamenco-like flourishes and tapping the body of the guitar.

If you know Dave, you weren't surprised that he won or that he used the prize money  to buy prom tickets.

That's a hell of a date, ladies, talented and practical.

He finished with "Marshall Street" from his latest CD and my personal favorite on the album.

It began with Dave looping dulcitar, including blowing into the body, and then he went on to drum madly.

Just as the song was coming to a rambunctious end, his glasses slid off his face and landed on the stage.

Best. Finish. Ever.

I only wish I'd had some leather to show my appreciation for three fine years.

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