What a beautiful night of community!
It began with the benefit for Sub Rosa Bakery at the Roosevelt, where chefs from Pasture, Secco, Julep, Aziza, Magpie, Heritage and, of course, the Roosevelt's own chef Lee made enough food for an army.
Knowing that between the very worthy cause and a buffet made by this crew, this was going to be major draw, I wisely arrived at 5:33 for the 5:30 event.
They'd opened the doors at 5:27 and the line was already out the door with people lined up (a line lasting the next hour and a half) to pay $20 and wait as long as it took to go through the chow line.
I paid and went to find a bar stool and glass of water.
Doing so, a server with an enormous tray of Chef Lee's fried chicken made her way through the mob, headed for the buffet table.
Without even thinking about it, I leaned in to her, inquired if I could grab a piece and got a smiling nod.
Forget that I didn't have a plate, or flatware, I was thrilled.
Sitting in my stool, I made do with bev naps as I tore into the steaming fried chicken.
Licking my fingers afterwards, I spotted Aziza's cream puffs sitting at the end of the bar and making my way there, made off with one of those.
The room was so warm with April and people that the ganache was melting on my fingers.
When I returned to my seat, I noticed the guy now in the stool next to me busy with dinner.
Clearly he was doing things the right way with a full plate of food and not individual items eaten out of hand.
But I didn't hold that against him and he turned out to be a great conversationalist, a treat for me.
He got high points for telling me that I didn't have a cell phone.
I thought him terribly astute, but he corrected me, "It's not laying on the bar. Look around here. If you had one, it'd be out."
That may have been the point when he mentioned that I was odd.
He was there because of Sub Rosa's owner Evrim because they share a Turkish descent and the occasional conversation where he can exercise his pidgin Turkish.
So there was his reason for being at the benefit and I'm sure every other person there had their own reason, whether neighbors, customers and or just eager to help out.
The sense of community in the room was almost palpable.
Someone had donated two kegs of handcrafted beer - an Earl Grey brown ale and a black IPA- and the bartenders were wisely pouring it as fast as they could so as to have cups of it ready when people ordered it.
At one point, they were doing the equivalent of firemen passing buckets of water from team to team, with one bartender handing off two cups to the next bartender who then passed them off to a server for delivery.
Team work par excellence.
Chef Randy from Julep had stopped by and been sucked into the madness, helping Lee in the kitchen when the onslaught arrived en masse.
It wasn't long before the food began running out, a fact politely explained to latecomers, most of whom took it well.
There was the one group who copped an attitude, complaining that they'd driven in from the West end and even using the f-word to express their displeasure, but complaining because a benefit runs out of food seems incredibly petty, not to mention overly-entitled.
But for the other 98% of the attendees, there was much smiling, laughing, talking to Evrim and support for both his bakery and making sure the tenants above him are taken care of.
It was a beautiful thing to behold.
I lingered till the staff began eating, just in case they needed help with anything, but they seemed to have everything under control once the eaters left.
From there I moved on to another community, the musical one, at Bainbridge Collective.
The house show was called Dyad: A Night of Wine and Acoustic Music for Two and featured three bands, each comprised of a man and a woman.
The wine was all from Virginia, something I've never once seen in all my years of show-going, so there was Jefferson, Trump, St. Michele and Horton, among many others.
In a nod to the evening's theme, I went with Horton Norton, as indigenous as it gets.
We began on the back porch of the house with conversation and shared pleasure about the warm, spring weather.
Pittsburgh duo Broken Fences were the reason for the evening as they made a stop in Richmond on their current tour and they were happily sitting on a porch couch talking about how much they like Richmond.
Eventually, the show began in the main room and we took seats so that locals Dalliance could start.
He played guitar and they both sang, a delight because they both had such incredible voices for the literate songs they sang.
I was sorry when they got to their last song "Near" so quickly but laughed when guitarist Kendall said in a martyred voice, "I like this song with lots of reverb, but I guess I can do it acoustic."
He could, they did and I was sorry to see them go.
The reason for the evening, Broken Fences, was next, and I hadn't seen them since June 2011, back at the now-defunct Sprout.
They began by saying they'd arrived early to our fair city, allowing time to rework an old song they hadn't played in a while and half-apologizing in advance for it.
All I heard was two more amazing voices combined in ethereal harmonies for gentle folk songs.
Afterwards, they promised they'd go back to singing songs they knew better.
On "Song for You," Dalliance's Kendall added in foot stomping while Lobo Marino's Laney did thigh slapping, causing Broken Fence's Guy to thank them for the percussion when the song finished.
They mentioned that for a change they were getting to spend two nights in Richmond instead of rising at the crack of dawn to make it to the next city, so they had plans to go to Belle Isle tomorrow.
Boy, if they think they like Richmond now, they're never going to want to leave after a sunny day on the river.
They said the next song was begun before their dog got sick and finished the day before they had to put him down.
It was exquisite, heartbreaking and when it was over, someone said, "I'm sad," while someone else said, "Must be the wine's making me a little teary, too."
I know I was sitting there choking up thinking about the beloved beagle I'd had to put down a few years ago.
Saying, "Let's have some levity," they launched into a newer song, "The Glass is Gone" before finishing with "Stormy Clouds," as evocative as you'd imagine with that title and their voices.
Now that we're older
Can we stand still
And let the world unfurl?
We certainly can.
The other thing we can (and should) do is get this duo to play the Listening Room so dozens of people can hear their intense-sounding songs and incredible voices.
Last up was Lobo Marino playing their usual eastern-influenced tribal music, only this time in front of a black and white wall hanging with flashing colored Christmas lights underneath it.
Everyone in the room was having a blast as Jameson and Laney rolled through some of their songs, including one in Spanish and the much-requested, "Celebrate."
Banging on a jug, squeezing a harmonium, or wailing, these two put every bit of their travels into their music.
Laney's effort was so energetic that when the song ended, she looked at the audience and said, "That's it! We're finished."
But she wasn't finished reminding the audience to go buy Broken Fence's CDs and put some gas money in the jar to help them along on their travels.
"Cause Richmond does the right thing when musicians come through this town," Jameson said, stating the obvious.
We do the right thing whether it's out-of-towners or one of our own.
It's what makes this such a fine community.