Friday, February 14, 2014

Modern Vintage

Put on your boots, get out the skis and come to Balliceaux tonight. Free Miss Tess and the Talkbacks show!

When a drummer tells you what to do, you do it.

I'd been hoping against hope that tonight's show wouldn't be canceled due to weather and here was Fate answering my prayer.

I immediately messaged a few people I thought would care, put on my green and pink flowered boots and got over there.

The staff had obviously been anticipating a slow evening. When I ordered my Cazadores, I noticed the bartender's game "Cards of Humanity," brought as a hedge against boredom.

Meanwhile the chef was busy in the kitchen making snow ice cream for himself.

The crowd waiting to get in wasn't large, but it was choice and I was pleased to see my favorite VMFA employee there in her boots, too.

She introduced me to her music-loving friend who not only recognized my name but follows my restaurant reviews, commenting favorably about my style, voice and the nuances of my reviewing.

Now that was an unexpected bonus.

Like me, she had seen Miss Tess before and I told her how I'd been fearing a cancellation based on Chris Bopst's dire updates about the snow and expecting no one to show (stuff like, "I just hope somebody shows up").

"Well, that's not very GWAR of him," she sniffed, a witty and accurate summation.

My companion showed up, drinks were procured and while we were busy chatting, the poet arrived despite my not having messaged her (school's closed, so she's off tomorrow) along with the theater critic I knew of but had never met.

Once in the back room, I saw the sax player I'd messaged arrive and heard about his day - beer, brown liquor, electric blanket, nap - including how he'd awakened to find my message and high-tailed it over, but admonishing me, "They better be good!".

It's satisfying to know you don't have to be a drummer to make people do what you say.

Before long the former Floyd Avenue neighbor I'd messaged showed up as well. It was still a small crowd, but it was a mighty one.

Thomas Byron Eaton opened the show with a hat low on his forehead, a scaled-down guitar he'd just bought and songs off his new record, for sale for the first time in the south tonight.

His set was short but since he's also one of the Talkbacks, he couldn't exactly wear himself out before their two sets.

This was my third time seeing Miss Tess and only my date's first but it didn't take long before he commented on the musicianship and how tight the band - two guitars, upright bass, drums - were.

For me, it's the three-part harmonies, the note-bending Miss Tess does and the eclectic and well-written songs.

He talked about how impressive the rhythm section was, not flashy or grandstanding but solid.

I'll tell you what's impressive, Miss Tess "playing" the trumpet using her voice. When she first began doing it, I looked around to see if people were noticing and smiled at my date, saying, "Right?"

You can look all day, people, but you'll find no horn, only Miss Tess' vox trumpet.

"This one's for the ladies," Tess said before singing, "One for the money, two for the show, three to walk right out that door, Gonna leave that man," the kind of classic honky tonk song women been singing for decades.

It was about three or four songs in when they played a Latin-influenced number and a couple began dancing over by the bar.

Dancers are usually de rigueur at Miss Tess' shows, but apparently tonight they'd all been snow wimps. Their loss, given how dancable the music was.

The band sang songs of Brooklyn ("People Come Here for Gold"), New Orleans ("Adeline") and of course, love.

They dug deep and got laughs, too, with Ted Hawkins' "Sorry You're Sick," about a hungover mate, with the lyric, "What do you want from the liquor store? Something sour or something sweet?"

During the break, I checked in with the sax player to get his take. He liked them a lot. You hate to take a man away from his blanket and not have him enjoying himself.

The neighbor said he'd known about it and forgotten, so my message was timely. Turns out he's on his way to Cat's Cradle near Chapel Hill to see them tomorrow night with Lake Street Dive.

After doing "Everybody's Darling, Nobody's Sweetheart" and getting several people up and dancing, Miss Tess held up her necklace saying that a fan had made several "everybody's darling" lockets and there was one left for sale on the merch table.

Considering she'd already asked if anyone in the room was on an early Valentine's date (nobody admitted to it), it was like she was trying to be an emissary for Cupid.

Keeping to the theme, they did a stellar version of "The Love I Have for You," a classic slow dance song, for those who like to stump and drag.

When their set ended, Bopst put music on, inexplicably starting with an old Lowenbrau commercial. Now that was kind of GWAR of him.

But also irrelevant. Miss Tess and the Talkbacks had set the tone and I don't know what could have been better than wiling away a snowy Valentine's eve with a Brooklyn swing band.

On my way out, my boots and I thanked the drummer for saving me from a second evening at home.

One a season is plenty.

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