Friday, May 16, 2014

Heaven Knows

Sometimes a gamble pays off.

After seeing a link to band Johnnyswim's Tiny Desk Concert on NPR Monday, I gave them a listen. Why not? She's Donna Summer's daughter and they were playing UR tonight, so it seemed at the very least worth a look.

I got up from watching the NPR clip and drove directly to UR to buy a ticket for the show even though a half hour before, I'd never heard of Johnnyswim.

Sitting in my third row center seat tonight, a woman sat down next to me, also by herself. When I asked what had brought her, she told me she'd driven from Hampton after months waiting for them to play anywhere close to home.

She'd seen them open for another band last year and had been on a mission ever since to see them headline. Another good indicator that I was in the right place.

The husband and wife duo of Amanda and Abner came out with a drummer, guitarist and bassist behind them and proceeded to flirt and sing with each other while their music crossed genres of soul, country, Cuban, pop and folk.

It didn't hurt that both of them are gorgeous and obviously madly in love. Not that there's anything wrong with either of those things.

The show began with them facing each other to sing "Falling for Me." He had his acoustic guitar in hand (although Hampton woman told me he's a classically trained violinist) and she would grab the fullness of her skirt as she leaned forward and into him to sing.

I'm looking for a hand to hold me
You're just looking for a chance to bring me to my knees

After that first song, he shrugged and said, "We're Johnnyswim. This is what we do."

By that, he meant they sang well-crafted songs, both of them with fabulous voices, she swayed and sashayed and between songs they told stories and shared bits about their relationship and life.

Unlike me, there were people in the audience who knew of these guys before Monday, including one who, while they were singing "A Million Years," took it upon himself to sing the "oh, oh, oh, oh" part to perfection.

In a million years, tell me, will they think about us, dear?
Tell me will the star keep shining even when our bodies disappear?

Abner was so impressed he entreated the rest of us to join that guy and sing more of the "oh, oh" part.

"I think we can all agree that you're super sexy when you sing in Spanish," Amanda said to her husband before turning back to us. "Wouldn't you like to hear a Cuban song?" We would.

He cracked wise, asking if anyone in the crowd spoke Spanish. "Okay, so about a dozen of you will know I'm making up words," he joked before doing a beautiful song he said was a favorite of his tone-deaf father.

When he sang alone, she crouched nearby, the folds of her skirt covering her legs, staring intently at his face.

There was what he characterized as an angry song that he stopped mid-strum because he'd noticed in his shadow that his hair was looking crazy. Running his hand through it, he said, "Okay, now back to that dark, angry place."

"Live While We're Young" might as well have been their anthem as they traded off lead vocals.

Make no mistake, we'll live while we're young
We'll chase down the sun
hands off the brake
We can die when we're done.

Together they told the story of how they got engaged which involved ten days in Paris and her not knowing that's what they were going for. He was resolved to propose on the third anniversary of their first date and equally resolved not to do it at the Eiffel Tower.

They ended up on a lighted bridge after she suggested it and he said it was then that he learned that she's always right.

No wonder she said yes to his proposal. If a man thinks you're always right, he's worth hanging on to.

That experience led to "Paris in June" because everything that happens in their life is fodder for a song (or a blog, as the case may be).

Oh how lovely you seem
Each day I fall for you 
and you keep falling for me

At one point, they moved away from the mics and came to the very lip of the stage, which was only a few feet in front of me, saying they were going to take us to Nashville, where they'd originally met.

They then sang off-mic, doing the classic Nancy Sinatra/Lee Hazelwood song, "Jackson," although it was impossible to imagine that the fire in their marriage could ever go out.

Their first album just came out two weeks ago and it was obvious they were bursting with pride about it. It occurred to me that I was catching them at exactly the right moment, just in case the starmaker machine eventually wears them down and out.

I hope it doesn't because theirs are not only two voices that stand out head and shoulders above so much of current music, but their charmingly sweet mutual attraction is a delight to witness.

Driving home from UR, I decided to make a pit stop at Curry Craft because today is (drum roll, please) National Aperitif Day and I had nothing better to do than celebrate that.

Some would say I need to get a life.

The bartender, sure I wanted wine, was overjoyed to hear the occasion and that I was in search of a mixed drink, something I usually disdain.

The lovely pink colored libation started clean and light and as it warmed up a bit took on notes of grapefruit peel, a lovely thing to have in a glass.

As I sipped it, I struck up a conversation with a nearby bar sitter who was two days back from a week in Costa Rica, where she'd been part of a fishing group that had caught a 10' blue marlin.

Explaining that the boat captain usually did "catch and release," this time the fish became dinner because it had swallowed the hook, making release impossible.

As we chatted, it occurred to me that an apperitif is intended to whet the appetite and now that I had a bit of one, what I wanted was dessert.

The chef had recently come up with a new flavor of kulfi, so I took a chance on banana and lime, a delicately nuanced combination that sang with fresh flavor.

Trying new bands, drinks and desserts. I'm Karen and this is what I do.


  1. I also went to the Johnnyswim show solo and sat next to another girl that was alone and we were fast friends. I just recently came across your blog so as I started to read this post I thought for sure you were the girl I sat next to! But nope, although were just a couple rows behind you in the fifth row. It was such an awesome experience. I have a feeling they're going to do big things.

  2. Agreed! My editor wrote to me today, saying, "Wish I’d gone to that Johnnyswim show last night. Your descriptions were heavenly," and I responded, "Johnnyswim was fabulous, truly memorable and likely to make it big. She sounded so much like her mother's big, throaty voice." So we agree about their future.

    I"m so glad you discovered my blog and left a comment! Since you obviously have great taste in music, maybe we'll meet at a show eventually.