Friday, April 18, 2014

Just Like Heaven with Chandeliers

It's not about the bands, it's about the momentous occasion.

Richmond now has a mid-sized venue, something it's been sorely lacking, and tonight was opening night.

When a friend inquired if I was going to the new Broadberry tonight, I asked the same of him. Nope. "I am, among other things, registering my disapproval of them being so goddamn predictable in their booking," he wrote.

Here's the thing, my friend. What matters about the Broadberry is not what bands play the night they open their doors.

What matters is all the bands that can now play Richmond because we have a venue the right size to attract their audience and fill so they don't skip over Richmond and go to Charlottesville.

So quit yer bitching.

After feeding my hired mouth, that's where I went, happily finding loads of familiar music lovers there.

The music writer offered me some of her candied bacon and observed, "All our people are here.". The theater lover complained that he hadn't seen me since Hardywood back in January. Then there was the bass player saying, "My goal is to get Karen to grin." Plus the dimpled drummer, the multi-instrument playing physicist, the lovely hospitality manager. All my people.

And to a person, they all said they were there to celebrate that we have a new venue.

The former Nu nightclub means that the new Broadberry retains far more glitz than your average venue. Four massive chandeliers hang along one wall and the lighting system over the stage is worthy of a drag queen's catwalk.

There were tables and chairs, already filed with seated people, all along the length of the extensive bar with a pit up front for those who wanted to stand to see, hear and dance to the music.

And, perhaps most impressively, there were people of all ages there, a far broader age range than a Camel or Strange Matter show. A really good sign.

While talking to Goldrush's handsome bass player, bandleader Prabir came by, set lists in hand. When I tried to look at them, Mr. Bass insisted that the songs be a surprise.

'There are no surprises in a Goldrush set," Prabir corrected him, a statement I can agree with, having first seen them back in 2009.

The band took the stage and after the first number, "The Exit Song,"Prabir proclaimed, "That's the first song ever played at the Broadberry." As a girl near me noted, the sound was good.

"Anyone bummed about missing the lunar eclipse Monday?" science geek Prabir asked of the noisy room. "We 're going to play a song that says f*ck the clouds!" and played "Pale Blue Dots."

After playing "Roll One," he finished by entreating the audience, "Roll one more, folks. Let's legalize that shit. Let's also legalize critical thinking."

Let's. It's statements like that that and that he uses phrases like "your kith and your kin" in his lyrics that make him a Richmond treasure.

When their set finished, a musician friend walked by and we talked about his upcoming outdoor music series starting up again in a few weeks.

I went to a bunch of them last summer in Scuffletown park and this summer he's expanding the series to all kinds of things, not just music. Ah, the pleasures of outdoor performance.

Prabir wandered by after that, complaining that there weren't enough girls at the show. I pointed out a few within easy reach.

"That one has Daddy issues, that one has three exes, that one can't even pronounce my name," he said, eliminating them all. I suggested he eliminate anyone who didn't understand the phrase "kith and kin" but he told me not to be hasty.

A friend I rarely get to see was sitting at the bar and called me over, surprising me by telling me how much he liked my writing. "I love reading you because you make me feel like I'm there," he said. "All the details you include, the way you talk about what you saw and heard makes it so real." I could have kissed him.

Instead I thanked him and told him I was going back up closer to the stage. "Of course you are," he said grinning.

Black Girls took the stage next, a far more assured band than when I first saw them at Sprout in February 2011.

Just back from a tour of the southeast, with tonight's show being the final night of the tour, the singer asked, "Hey, Richmond, we've been on tour. What's new? Nothing? Cool!" and then launched into a tight set no doubt honed by this recent set of dates.

Two guitarists, bassist, drummer, keyboards and singer, they were all sweating by the third song. Their influences are interesting, shot through with '60s soul, Steely Dan, '70s rock and somehow making it all sound dirty. Snuff rock, they call it.

"Time to get a little looser," the singer called out, hoisting his plastic cup of red wine. "If we don't start now, the night will be over before you know it." Dancing in place began in earnest at this point.

The crowd was thick by now, at least up near the stage where I was and a very short friend and I were continuously being bumped into and stepped on.

A guy with a gorgeous red beard and piercing blue eyes came by me twice, the second time looking me right in the eye and saying, "I just came by to step on your toes again."

Do what you have to do, my friend.

Finally after a string of upbeat songs that had some people all but pogo-ing, the band slowed it down, bringing in a trombone and trumpet for a song I'd have slow danced to if I'd had a date.

They couldn't leave us there, though, so there were two more upbeat danceable songs, including one where one of the guitarists got down into the crowd ("If you can't beat 'em, join 'em!"), getting everyone all aflutter.

During the second break, a blogger I'd met a while back joined me, leading to some satisfying music talk about the evolution of soul music, the sheer amount of information available on the liner notes of older albums and the pleasures of flipping through record bins, even if, like me, you don't have a turntable.

Describing his record buying habit as "being so far down the hole, he can't see daylight." he was excited about finding an original Supremes album recently. Needless to say, he was bowled over when I mentioned still having all my old Supremes albums.

Soon after, No BS assembled onstage, minus Reggie Pace who's out of town and whose smiling face and enormous energy were missed and David Hood who was apparently quite sick tonight. Of tonight's bands, this is the one I've been following the longest - since 2007.

Drummer Lance Koehler took charge, instructing the crowd, "We need that rumpus to be shaking!" and taking off with enough brass to ensure that that happened in short order.

One girl, perched on table, danced with every part of her body while sitting down. Most of us just danced in place as Bryan Hooten took the mic and rapped the next song.

"This is like heaven," Lance yelled. "We have chandeliers, we have beer! Here's to the Broadberry!"

It's a toast worth making. We've entered a new stage of Richmond's music scene and it's exciting to think of what's to come.

Tonight wasn't about predictability, it was about celebrating all the bands who will play there in the future.

You can be sure I'll be there with all my kith, getting my toes stepped on and enjoying every moment.

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