Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Tonight I Have to Leave It

Swedish pop and German Leonardos are apparently not everyone's cup of tea.

That would explain why despite inviting no less than three different people to join me on an excursion to D.C. today, I got no takers.

It mattered not.

I'd bought my ticket for the Shout Out Louds back in mid-February and had been eagerly anticipating the show ever since.

It turned out to be a less than ideal day for traveling, with rain on and off the whole way up 95.

Even so, I managed to make it to the National Gallery of Art's east building in time to catch the last hour they were open and see the show of the year.

"Albrecht Durer: Master Drawings, Watercolors and Prints from the Albertina" represents the largest exhibition of Durer's drawings and watercolors ever exhibited in the U.S.

Despite the eleventh hour visit, plenty of other tourists were right there with me, eager to see the magnificent images on the blue-gray walls before the museum closed today.

The notes for the show referred to Durer as the "German Leonardo," a nod to his role as the master of the northern Renaissance and his visits to Italy to study the artistic developments happening there.

The show began with "Self Portrait at Thirteen," an astonishing piece of drawing for one so young and moved through much later works.

The watercolors were a revelation, like "A Great Piece of Turf," a nature study in greens that constantly had a gaggle of admirers around it.

There were many anatomical studies he'd done, part of a quest to figure out the dimensions and proportions of the human body.

I got a real sense of his mastery looking at two prints he'd done based on earlier works by Andre Mategna.

Although they were labeled "after Mategna," Durer's were so much more refined and delicate as to have only a passing acquaintance with Mantegna's.

At 5:00, the bells began ringing to notify visitors that they wanted us out and I reluctantly left the German master behind.

Planning to park once and party twice, my next stop was U Street for happy hour and dinner.

Exactly three years ago, a friend and I had come up to Washington for another Shout Out Louds show and that time we'd gone to Marvin for a splendid meal.

Tonight I'd set my sites on Brixton, the less-than-a-year-old English pub from the same guys as Marvin, one of who is half of Thievery Corporation.

At least I knew the music would be good.

And it was.

After a walk up and down U Street to stretch my legs after the arduous, rainy drive, I found the corner door and entered the appropriately dark, wooden atmosphere of Brixton.

The music was full-on dance and funk, with some remixes of Boz Scagg's "Lowdown" and Hall & Oates' "I Can't Go for That" thrown in for good measure.

My bartender was a friendly guy in madras shorts (I later found out he went to Georgetown, so that explains it) who introduced himself and shook my hand when he asked my name.

He asked what brought me in and I told him I'd driven through intermittent rainstorms all the way up from Richmond just to see music.

Chuckling, he said, "I live six blocks from here and I walked through three separate rain storms just to get to work."

The happy hour white wine was a Quinto de Aveleda Vinho Verde, a no-brainer for me.

Looking at the happy hour menu, I figured why go to a British pub and not get fish and chips, so that was a given.

"That's the only thing that's been on the menu since we opened last July, " Eric said as a recommendation.

For good measure, I also ordered a Thai chicken salad of pulled chicken, ginger, shredded cabbage and carrots, soy and chili sauce.

The roasted peanuts were missing in action, but, oh well.

Bar stools continued to fill up as I ate and drank, causing Eric to come over and tell me that over half the bar was also going to the show with me.

When he inquired if I needed anything, I told him some conversation would be about all I needed and twenty minutes later, I'd had one of the best music discussions I've had in a while with a stranger.

He'd just been to a Hot Chip show with lots of dancing. When he heard I was going to see Tame Impala next month, he told me about seeing them last year.

He's stoked to see Dirty Projectors and was blown away when I told him I'd seen them four years ago next month.

He told me about the Sweetgreen Festival he's going to, full of under the radar bands.

When I told him I was excited to hear Haerts (who were opening tonight for Shout Out Louds), he was beyond thrilled; they're one of the bands he was most looking forward to at Sweetgreen.

I finished out my meal with more Vinho Verde and chipotle chocolate cake, evidently making it look good enough that the couple next to me asked for "whatever she's having."

And I wasn't even making orgasm noises.

Walking into the 9:30 Club, I saw that the stage had been pushed out, meaning the show hadn't sold out.

While it seems inconceivable to me in a town as big as D.C., it was a refreshing change not to be packed in like sardines.

Parking myself in front of the sound booth as usual, I struck up a conversation with the girl next to me, who couldn't have been taller than 4'10".

We commiserated about not being able to see at shows, but she said her trump card was her camera, because she was there to shoot for a local music blog and had a press pass.


She was also excited to hear Haerts, saying, "I love them. I've only heard the one song where she sounds like Stevie Nicks, but it's amazing!"

And they were.

The New York quintet combined 80s-influenced music (lots of synth and guitar) with her distinctive voice that had that lost little girl quality the photographer had fallen for.

"This is the first night of our tour and it seems like a good place to start," lead singer Nini said in her black trapeze top and bare midriff.

Despite having only heard three songs before tonight, I was completely enraptured with everything I heard during their 45-minute set.

I'll definitely need that CD soon.

In front of me during the break, two Swedes were beside themselves at the prospect of seeing Shout Out Louds for the first time.

It was my second time, but I was just as excited and when the lights went down and the backdrop was lit to reveal a spacey Shout Out Louds banner, it was game on.

"Welcome to the preview of our U.S. tour," singer Adam yelled.

So we were going to be the guinea pigs. I was happy with that, knowing it would probably be a loose show.

Of course they began with stuff off the new CD, including "Walking in Your Footsteps," the song that assured me I was going to like the new CD as much as the first three.

They started on "Fall Harder" when Adam stopped, looked at the bass player and asked, "Am I playing this in the wrong key?"

He was and they began a second time. Another pleasure of being the first night audience.

And if you're gonna break, just let it break
I'll pick up the pieces and mistakes

After "Normandie," Adam reminisced about their first show at the 9:30, back in 2005, opening for Futurebirds.

"So this was our first stop on our first U.S. tour ever. We didn't know shit about touring then."

A lot has changed for the band, including that regular drummer Carl was at home "making babies" and they had a new drummer tonight who looked impossibly young and incredibly happy to be there.

The already-dancing crowd went crazy with the first strains of "Impossible" and Adam saying, "This one might ring a bell."

After telling us to buy the new CD ("It's a good album"), we were rewarded with "a really old one," from 2003, "The Comeback."

After they did the exquisite "Blue Ice" off the new album, Adam explained, "That's our slow dance in Sweden. We call it polska."

It was one of the few times the floor wasn't having a full-on boppy dance party all night.

I only wish I could have been slow dancing to it.

They returned to upbeat and driving with "Hard Rain" and Adam did his guitar part standing on the drums, making for a fine return to form for the band.

Or maybe it was just a way to get back into the touring groove.

They said they'd toured the Air and Space Museum today, no doubt influencing the backdrop with its suggestion of planets and stars.

Damn. So while I was at the National Gallery, I could have been a few buildings away at Air and Space and run into these guys.

Double damn.

The encore was killer and ended with the magnificent "Tonight I Have to Leave It," which tonight meant leave the stage.

Adam stepped off and into the waiting arms of fans, then was deposited on the ground to sing a few lines while people like me rushed up to watch him sing up close.

Don't come up to me and say that you like it
It's better if you say you hate it, that's the truth exactly
When we go out dancing, I don't want to be bothered
Just want to be bothered by real love

He got back up on stage to finish the song and say goodnight before we were turned out into the misty streets of the capital.

Too bad no one chose to join me tonight or they'd have seen me walking on air down V Street.

Today was so my cup of tea, that's the truth exactly.

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