Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Over Easy

So it seemed like a good evening to go low-key.

Gone all day, all I wanted was an easy meal and an early night.

Enter Olio, where a Springtime salad of mixed greens, roasted red peppers, walnuts, dried cranberries, red onion, Parmesan cheese and apple slices in balsamic vinaigrette was delivered to my outside table by a server who acknowledged, "That looks so good I'm gonna have to have one of those myself today."

Go for it, man.

Eating at one of the little tables in front of Olio provided some stellar street theater to distract us from the cars tearing up Main Street at way more than the posted 25 miles per hour.

I love seeing old guys on bikes with radios attached to their handlebars.

With Olio's door propped wide open, I noticed that everyone who went in came out looking much happier, no doubt a tribute to the tasty and economical meal they'd just had.

Properly fortified, it was time to return the car to Jackson Ward and wander over to Gallery 5 for some music.

Not sure how long I'd want to stay, I knew I needed to get there in time for the first band, the Colloquial Orchestra, a group I first saw in February 2010 at the Listening Room.

Little did I know at that time what this project was about.

That night it had been a three-piece and over the past three years, I've seen it as grow to as many as eleven.

And it's different every single time.

The constant is the remarkable Dave Watkins and tonight he had assembled nine others to join him in epic music-making.

Let's see, there were four drummers, two bassists (and one of them, P.J., also playing things like a bell and megaphone), two guitarists, two saxophones, a harmonium player and, ta-da, Dave on electric dulcitar and drums.

Dave begins playing, others join in and before long, it's a dense layering of musical sounds creating a soundscape so magical, so complex, that it's hard to believe it's improvised.

Except it is.

Tonight was unique for me because of the addition of the two saxes, adding a whole new dimension to the music, not to mention having Jameson and Laney of Lobo Marino back in town to add their wailing, whistling and chanting to the mix.

There were a lot of new faces in the audience at tonight's show, so I just sat back listening to the Colloquial Orchestra and watching first-timers' minds being blown.

Which, I happen to know, is exactly what Dave sets out to do every time he puts an eclectic bunch together.

By the time their set (one long piece) finished, the room felt like it was 95 degrees in there and I wasn't even doing anything.

Luckily for the musicians who were doing a lot, the air conditioning seemed to kick in during the break.

Next up was Gainesville's Peace Arrow, a guy named Mitch, who had video projections going behind him.

Good start.

Saying, "The Colloquial Orchestra was amazing and there's no way I can follow nine musicians, but I'll try," he did just that.

He began by bowing a banjo and worked his way through songs comprised of pre-recorded music, over which he played banjo, guitar, melodica and sang.

His lyrics were revelatory with bits of melody underneath and an emotional delivery that made it seem a bit like we were in his bedroom listening to his innermost thoughts.

Saying he was thrilled to be part of the tour and grateful to Gallery 5 for having him perform, he said he had CDs for free and t-shirts he'd made himself available for donation.

In other words, he was the best kind of DIY artist, sincere, hard-working and appreciative of every opportunity he was given.

I always enjoy hearing musicians when they're still early on enough to savor the experience of being out on tour and not going through the motions of touring because as a necessary evil.

It was a fine ending for an abbreviated night and walking out outside afterwards, the rush of still-75-degree weather felt like an unexpected Spring gift.

And the perfect reason to go sit on my porch and enjoy it.

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