Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Undone and Modern

You'd think there wasn't anything else to do but Bourdain tonight, but 'twasn't so.

Been there, done Tony six years ago. Next!

So when a Maryland friend called to say she'd be in town late this afternoon, I told her I was free until 7:30.

Her default restaurant is the Continental because it's in the neighborhood where she used to live but it didn't open until she'd moved.

Because she's time-challenged, I took my time arriving so she could feel superior about my tardiness.

She wanted to jump into a bottle of bubbles with me, but I was leaning toward soda bubbles instead, and despite the bartender's cajoling ("She can't finish  a whole bottle by herself," he tried telling me, but I knew better), held fast.

Over a plate of nachos and an encroaching crowd of young West End families, we swapped stories of rich people parties, ancient history and mutual friends.

Her best line: "Even though I'm nodding, it doesn't mean I agree with you."

We got so engrossed in philosophical arguments that all at once we looked up and 2 3/4 hours had passed and she needed to get to her dinner plans and I to my musical evening.

I arrived at the Firehouse in time to hold open the door for the woman who'd been kind enough to do the baking for the evening.

As a devotee of the Listening Room (38 of 40 attended), I felt no hesitation in immediately sampling from the three varieties of cookies she'd made.

Hands down favorite: the toffee bars, buttery and crispy underneath and buttery and chocolate on top, making for butter squared.

I'm enough of a veteran to know to go in to stake my claim on my seat before returning to socialize.

The self-proclaimed "old rocker" was munching a toffee bar on the couch, so I joined him, learning that he'd only found out about the Listening Room happening two hours earlier, and purely by chance.

"I saw it and said,  'That's what I'm doing tonight," he said between bites.

Happily, my favorite Jackson Ward couple came in with the good news that they'll soon be back at their Emrick flat after nine months of house surfing while the building was renovated after the fire last August.

Everyone who knows them is as excited as they are to have them back in the neighborhood, hanging out and going to shows as frequently as they used to.

MC Chris kicked off #40 squinting under the glare of the stage lights, reminding us that while it's taboo to talk during the music, it's okay to laugh at the musicians' jokes and sing along when instructed.

Liza Kate came on first and prefaced her set with, "I'm used to playing in bars, so I'm not used to this whole crystal-clear thing. But we'll get through it together," before dedicating the first song to her Mom.

After a couple of songs with just her hushed voice and guitar, she stated the obvious. "I don't know how to write happy songs."

It was then that I noticed the girl in front of me sketching Liza as she sang, alternately looking up at the singer and down at her sketchpad as Liza took form on the page.

A few more in and the singer loosened up a tad, saying, "Every song sung is one closer to dinner time. That's what's getting me through."

To paraphrase John Lennon, whatever gets you through the set.

At another point, she glanced down at her set list and wailed, "I have like 75 more songs," but her songs were succinct, so it probably looked like a lot more than the length of her set would have indicated.

Her last song yielded my favorite lyric.

We're lucky we're only a little undone.

Her low-key set had been a lovely kick-off to the evening.

During intermission, a dimpled friend came in from a beer-tasting event and took the seat nearest me, noting that our mutual music friend was M.I.A.


Hey, I'm not here to judge, but I've got no problems making jokes about absent friends.

Next Chris introduced Anousheh, saying that she, like Liza, had been making music for quite some time now.

The quintet is fronted by the Cupid's bow-mouthed Anousheh, tonight in show-stopping cute platform shoes that never stopped dancing.

And why should they when the band was playing the most delicious keyboard-based pop with her voice soaring over two killer guitars and a kick-ass rhythm section?

No wonder she couldn't stop dancing.

They were playing songs from her new EP "The Trouble I Find," like the longing-filled "On and On" and the knowing "The Trouble I Need," which got my vote for favorite lyric.

But the trouble I find is trouble I need.

Their set was so energetic and almost non-stop that they were almost through before she reminded the crowd that the record was for sale at the merch table, "We have download cards - very modern! - and t-shirts over at the table."

I've seen Anousheh play her songs with her band and I've seen her do them solo and while I love when all the focus is on her terrific voice, I'm crazy about her band's full sound.

I could listen to Tyler play guitar all night long.

But the sketcher in front of me was focused on the other guitar player and when I glanced at her pad, I saw him coming to life on the page, right down to his blue shirt and brown curls.

Glowing a bit with exertion after "My Hands," she took a big swig from her water bottle and said, "Thanks to Liza Kate for playing. We have both been doing this for a long time."

I heard a chuckle or two from some friends behind me, no doubt at Anousheh's interpretation of "long."

When it got down to their last two songs, she said one was new and the other was a cover.

"This new one is even louder than the others, if you can imagine that. And Marcus Shrock's chord progressions are so awesome."

The bass player got an "aw, shucks" look on his face before showing us how awesome they were.

"We're gonna end the night with a real bummer," Anousheh said, taking us out much the way Liza had brought us in.

Not that there's anything wrong with starting or finishing somewhat melancholy, especially when the voices expressing the melancholia are so lovely.

And the platform shoes so cute. Bourdain who?

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