Saturday, April 20, 2013

Safety Pins and Fireballs

Thank god it finally rained before we all succumbed to death by pollen.

When I walked over to my neighborhood record store, Steady Sounds, the wind was whipping around every Jackson Ward corner, but only hinting at, not delivering, rain.

Inside the store was an array of punk music lovers, appropriately clad in black, studs and, in one case, with a large safety pin through the ear.

To quote Paul Westerberg, "God, did it hurt."

But that's punk rock, right?

The band was Barren Girls, a North Carolina quartet scheduled to play Strange Matter tonight.

They began thrashing away, knocking out two songs in the first five minutes, before multi-tattooed lead singer Carla said, "We're tired and we're hungover."

So what else is new in punk rock?

Each song was a full-on blast of guitar, bass, drums and keyboard, but never lasting much more than three minutes, if that.

The all-ages crowd was enthralled for the most part, with heads and bodies shaking throughout.

"She Devil" was the biggest crowd pleaser and most melodic, and may even have clocked in at a record three and half minutes.

The entire set couldn't have taken much more than fifteen, but then they were tired and hungover.

I only hope they were planning to eat hearty before the show or it was going to be a long night for the girls.

The brevity of punk left plenty of time for art and 1708 Gallery was having an opening.

Of course, by then it was raining cats and dogs, but I'm willing to brave ankle-deep puddles for the sake of photography.

"Still Action!" explored space and time in unique ways, essentially having the artists perform in some way for the camera.

Or, as one of the curators put it, "We were looking for the ways artists could complicate light."

They found 'em.

Sharon Harper's "Moon Studies and Star Scratches" was like seeing through a telescope.

Looking at Geoffrey Short's "Untitled Explosion #6CP" was like looking at a sculpture of a heart of fire, moving and weighty.

At "Untitled Explosion #XCF18," I found myself next to two other women who wanted to discuss what we were seeing.

I was the first to admit that I saw an horrific creature coming out of the fireball's center, causing the two women to nod and agree.

It was the kind of terrifying natural image like a tidal wave, something so big and fearsome that you sensed no human could survive near it.

There were two video pieces by Kevin Cooley, an interesting thing to throw into a photography mix.

"LaGuardia Landing Pattern, Brooklyn" showed an apartment building at night, with the business of life going on inside the window views.

Overhead, light streaked the sky showing the flight patterns over Brooklyn; it was a marriage of still photography and movement.

It was especially eye-catching because the screen had been turned vertically, much the way a painter might turn his canvas sideways.

In his other video, "Empire Lightening," there was a static skyline with images of lightening around the Empire State building and in the foreground, cars busily traversing a roadway.

I stayed for the curators' talk, hearing fascinating details about the thinking behind the show and the process to accumulate pieces to reflect the various aspects of it - performance, sculptural and socially conscious statements.

It's a very cool show and they seemed justifiably satisfied with the final result.

Leaving 1708, it was still raining but now more like kittens and puppies, so not nearly as bad.

I found a restaurant with a bar and ended up by default next to a couple from Atlanta in town for a wedding.

They weren't a couple as in romantically, but co-workers here to see another co-worker married tomorrow.

They were eager to talk about their first day in Richmond, gushing about the beauty of the Capital and Shockoe Slip.

They'd lunched at Lift, marveling at the "eclectic" crowd and stellar coffee and sandwiches, saying they'd intended to grab and go and ended up staying for an hour and a half because it was so enjoyable.

He said they hadn't expected such diverse, interesting people in Richmond.

The wedding they're going to is at St. John's and the reception at the Jefferson, so I gave them the scoop on both.

"You're a regular tour guide," the man gushed after my spiel.

Aw, shucks.

When I heard where they were planning to have lunch tomorrow, though, I had to intervene, suggesting instead that they try Mama J's for a more satisfying meal at a far better price than where they'd intended to go.

Somebody's gotta steer the tourists right.

When she noticed I was drinking tequila, the conversation took a whole new turn because she was Mexican by birth, having moved to Atlanta when she was nine years old.

It's rare I get to discuss tequila with someone as knowledgeable and she said it's rare she meets someone who appreciates a good sipping tequila.

When we found out we were both oldest children, our bond may as well have been sealed with blood.

We instinctively knew each other's childhoods and the trials and tribulations of having to be the good child with endless restrictions.

Because they'd been into their meal when I sat down, I thought they'd be long gone before me, but once we got to chatting, they lingered, ordering more drinks and digging in.

When she went to the bathroom, he started telling me about his marriages, his job and his plans for the future.

Apparently tequila makes for fast friends.

She came back with a souvenir shirt ("Kiss Me, I'm Mexican"), saying, "My sisters will be so jealous, but I'm not going to buy one for either of them."

I told her that was their tough luck.

We made a toast with our tequila to oldest sisters.

When their cab arrived, they both hugged me, saying I had made their night with my sparkling company.

Maybe it's time for my own t-shirt.

Kiss me, I'm talkative.

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