Friday, January 25, 2013

I Got It

Not sure which was more random, Stonewall Jackson or The Stranger.

With a show in Charlottesville tonight, the plan was to hit White Hall Vineyards, eat dinner and hear fuzzed out music.

Kind of a perfect day, actually.

By a lucky coincidence, it had snowed lightly last night  so heading into the mountains was a visual treat.

Fields and pastures were covered in a thin layer of snow so barns sat on white against the brilliant blue sky.

In some shadier patches of curving back roads, there was even still ice on the road at late afternoon.

Arriving at White Hall, we found neither cars nor people.

Apparently the weather had closed them down tight, which wasn't a problem except I'd been hoping to use their, ahem, facilities.

Back up the road we went to Stinson Vineyards, a tiny boutique winery at the foot of the mountains.

The kind of place where you pull up to the tasting room and the owners come running from their house across the driveway.

It was that 1790 house, the one they're busy refurbishing, that had hosted Stonewall Jackson during the Valley campaign. His troops had slept on the lawn.

As if that historical tidbit wasn't cool enough, it turned out that the original vines had been planted 40 years ago by Gabriele Rausse, one of my very favorite Virginia winemakers.

The Mrs. did the tasting with us, saying that she and her husband had moved down from Bethesda and that their daughter was the winemaker.

When her husband heard I was a native Washingtonian, we compared births only to find that we'd been born in the same hospital.

Small world.

We tasted through a Provencal-style Rose, a non-oak monster Chardonnay, both red and white table wines, a lovely Meritage, a late harvest Petit Manseng and a port-style Imperialis, made with Tannat, a rustic grape I'd discovered through a Uruguayan winemaker and loved.

Unexpectedly, we also had a bonus red, Tusk Mountain Vineyards' La Tour d'Afton, a Bordeaux-style blend.

Tusk's wines are not available to the public, but the engineer/winemaker allows Stinson to round out their list with his.

So a pit stop at Stinson had served up all kinds of unexpected treats.

Dinner followed at the Blue Moon Diner, mainly to avoid the downtown mall and because they had so many great album covers in the window.

I'm not going to lie, it was a little cool at our window table, but the vibe was relaxed and clearly most people were regulars with names the staff knew.

Shrimp dumplings came with cabbage and angry mayo, an apt name for a habanero-infused mayo.

While eating them, we realized that Billy Joel's "The Stranger" album was on.

Not a song, or two, but the entire album, which I'd never heard.

When I asked, our sever said he'd been "grandfathered in as the DJ" and he'd chosen the music, gesturing to the long rows of record albums in the two front windows.

I gotta say, any time a Richmond restaurant wants to jump on this trend and play records during dinner service, I will be your devoted fan.

Given temperatures in the teens, I wanted the chicken pot pie, made with Polyface farms organic chicken, carrots, peas, corn, celery and onions with a puff pastry crust.

Personally, I'd rather have  traditional biscuit crust on a pot pie, but the choice wasn't mine.

Digging in deep to the little Dutch oven, I found a bottom layer of mashed potatoes under the meaty pot pie, a filling and welcome addition to a dish that easily served two.

We finished with Barry White on the stereo and the grills-wich, as classic a diner dessert as I could imagine.

Grilled Krispy Kreme donuts were topped with Chaps ice cream (a local thing) and chocolate syrup.

It certainly wasn't ice cream weather, but the grilled doughnuts turned out to be far tastier than you might expect.

On the other hand, I don't need to eat them again any time soon.

As I got up to leave, I heard my name called and there were two Richmond friends having dinner at the bar.

Smaller world.

From there, we headed to the Jefferson to see Yo La Tengo, where I was certain I'd see more people I knew.

I didn't even get inside before spotting an "old rocker" (his words, not mine) at the box office.

Inside, I found a couple of young rockers I knew.

The pace was crawling with familiar faces.

Not enough to sell out, which surprised me, but a good-sized crowd nonetheless.

The stage was set with three green wooden trees before the three members of YLT came out.

"Our Way to Fall" set the tone for the first set with a simple acoustic bent that carried through till intermission.

All slow songs, no screaming feedback. Highly suspicious for YLT.

And the devoted audience got it, shutting up entirely.

It was beautiful.

In between songs, a fan called out a request and leader Ira said, "That doesn't exactly fit the format," before pausing.

"Although I don't know why I said that. We have an a capella version of that song that would knock your socks off."

Of course they do. Only Yo la Tengo.

A few songs more in and Ira told the crowd, "I'm sorry to see the Jefferson go."

What was this?

"Every venue Yo La Tengo has played in Charlottesville has closed. So either this is Yo la Tengo's last show in Charlottesville or this place is closing."

Yo la Tengo humor.

But come to think of it, I'd seen them five yars ago at the Satellite Ballroom and that was long-gone. Hmmm...

Before their last song, Ira said they were going to take a break, move some shrubbery and come back for a second set.

As my guitarist friend had guessed after the very first song, the plan was for the second set to be full on electric.

They came screaming back with "Nothing to Hide" and all the fuzz the crowd had hoped for.

Well, we're gonna wait, wait
See what comes after
Wait, wait, harder not faster

As I heard the first notes of "Sugarcube," my guitarist friend leaned in and beamed. "That's my guitar."

I'm sure he meant the brand not that instrument.

"Little Honda" got cranked up until it exploded into a guitar solo with Ira playing his guitar in the air, on the floor and swinging it 360 degrees around to make sound.

First gear, it's alright
Second gear, hang on tight
Third gear, ain't I right?
Faster, it's all right

Only Yo la Tengo cover a Beach Boys motorcycle song.

Meanwhile, a distressingly large number of twenty-somethings around me plugged their ears with their fingers.

Really, kids? If not now, when?

Haven't you heard that youth is when you destroy your hearing with loud shows?

After feeding our feedback frenzy, the band said goodnight and stayed away until it seemed unlikely they'd come back.

When they did, it was  as their alter-ego, Condo Fucks, a proto-punk band who played "Whatcha Gonna Do About It?" with snarl and volume.

Explaining that Condo had been on hiatus, Ira announced some new material and they did "Bastards of Love."

Because there's nowhere to go after a Condo Fucks set, they finished with a simple version of The Troggs' "With a Girl Like You," sung simply by Georgia.

It was as far away from their screaming guitar sound as could be had, making it the perfect finish.

Only Yo la Tengo.

Completely satisfied, we went to leave, only to have them return for one last song before calling it a night.

A cold night. It was thirteen degrees on the way home from the show.

And totally worth venturing out on such a frigid night.

At least with a girl like me. Ba ba ba ba ba ba ba.

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