Friday, June 27, 2014

Early Morning Singing Song

"You're the best date ever!" my girlfriend said when I dropped her at her car.

It had been a pretty terrific evening, if I do say so myself.

Our first stop was at Metzger Bar & Butchery in Church Hill where, despite the early hour, almost every seat was taken. And this is only their second night in business.

Looking at the heavily Austrian and German wine list, my eye went right to Anton Bauer Rose Zweitgelt, as did my mouth after being poured a glass of the crisp, pale pink wine. Pru followed suit despite no familiarity with the grape.

She's a trusting one.

Being book nerds, we couldn't help but try to discern the titles of the books stacked on shelves behind the bar - "The Germans," "Berlin" and, best of all, "The Complete Works of Kafka" while another shelf held more utilitarian subjects such as meat and fish.

I felt a tap on my shoulder and it was a former co-worker, actually two of them, asking for cocktail recommendations. I demurred to the bartender but enjoyed a bit of chit-chat with them anyway.

It was warm in Metzger, probably partly because of the crowd but also because its windows face westward and the late afternoon sun was doing its thing.

Eventually, one of the servers closed the window shades, but that still left the glass door radiating its greenhouse effect, so he taped butcher paper (appropriate, huh?) over the door and scrawled "We are open" on the outside of it.

The music was lost to the din, but the bustling staff kept us hydrated while we chose a few things from the kitchen.

Carrot salad, a standout of whole baby carrots, parsnips, frisee and caraway in a parsnip puree was so good Pru observed, "If someone served that to me every day, I would eat it."

True story.

Like the couple next to us, we ordered the smoked trout rillettes (because they'd already run out of head cheese, an amazing and encouraging thing for Richmond) colorfully adorned with pickled onion and parsley.

When I asked why they'd come in, they said it had been to get a chicken. "Now, four drinks later and two appetizers, we're going to get that chicken and get out of here." When I heard how close they live, I told them I foresaw danger with Metzger for them.

When the former co-worker friend went to leave, he stopped by momentarily. "Stay gorgeous, stay articulate and keep writing!" he said by way of farewell.

Always my goal, friend.

I saw several Church Hill residents come in and have to wait for tables, and while we felt their pain, we just ordered more wine and dessert.

First come, first served is a cliche for a reason.

In our defense, we wasted no time gobbling up small pieces of chocolate doppelbock cake (because you know it had to be chocolate) resting on salted caramel (be still, my heart) aside buttermilk ice cream with pretzel crumb for textural contrast scattered around.

Yes, it was as fabulous as it sounds.

As we went to leave, I saw another former co-worker (what is this, RTD old home night?) waiting for a table and stopped to catch up with her. Pru amused herself by chatting with a couple she didn't know after she heard the woman ask for Chardonnay.

By the time I turned to fetch her, the woman was happily sipping a glass of Anton Bauer Rose Zweitgelt and Pru, who an hour and a half earlier had no knowledge of this wine, was now clucking with satisfaction at having made a fan of this stranger.

Leaving the hungry masses to an able kitchen (and knowing we'll be back soon), we were westbound to the Firehouse Theater to see the tribal love-rock musical, "Hair."

That's right, it's the dawning of the age of Aquarius and Pru and I had been beyond excited to see this play, me especially because I'd never seen even the film.

For that matter, I'd never seen the Firehouse without a raised stage, but tonight it was just assorted rugs on the floor and pieces of fabric in door openings. Very atmospherically groovy.

Director Jase Smith came out, explaining that he hadn't yet been born in 1967 when "Hair" debuted. Luckily, his parents had been hippie types, so he had a frame of reference. "Are you ready to rock?" he roared and we answered affirmatively.

I'll be honest, I'm a big fan of Nick Aliff's and he did a superb job in the role of Berger the free spirit, his big, beautiful voice singing to the rafters and his playful personality - he dances with abandon, something I love to see -pervading the group.

Plus he took off his pants after the first song and it's hard to argue with a man's partial nudity right off the bat.

One thing I would argue with was that some (not all, some were spot on) of the costumes were wrong, just wrong. As in, they looked like the misconception of someone who wasn't around in the '60s re-imagining the '60s, maybe from bad movies or TV. The belts, for example, some of the women wore were just ridiculous looking.

But patched jeans? Absolutely realistic. Referring to it as pot and not weed? Right on. The Afro on one of the black guys? You bet.

But the story of a tribe of kids trying to figure out life, love, the sexual revolution and Vietnam was fascinating for how many cultural buttons the play's writers made sure to push, like the friendly musical competition of "Black Boys" and then "White Boys."

And maybe it's my age, but the songs held up. "Aquarius/Let the Sun Shine In," "Hair," "Easy to Be Hard" and my personal favorite, "Good Morning, Starshine," were thoroughly enjoyable to hear reinterpreted in the 21st century.

The play even ended with a be-in, and the cast inviting members of the audience to join them onstage to dance.

Tonight was preview night, so the cast was looking for audience reaction to help them develop the production. My wish (besides attention to those few awful and incorrect costumes) would be for the cast to project better, as many lyrics were lost to anyone beyond the front row.

I'd love to go back in a couple weeks and see how the young cast settles into their characters and the era. You gotta believe that the earth says hello.

When we left the love fest of "Hair," it was only to head down the block to the Camel, where I immediately ran into a favorite songbird for the second time in four days. "Are you here to see the Hi-Steps?" she asked eagerly.

You bet, I am, sweetheart. What could be better after a rock musical about the '60s than some vintage '60s soul music?

There wasn't much time left in their set, but any time listening to the Hi-Steps is well worth it (see: Curtis Mayfield's "Movin' on Up"). Even Pru, a first-timer, had to marvel at their polished sound and soulful male and female vocalists.

When the band began the slow burn of "Try a Little Tenderness," she didn't even look at me, she just murmured, "Ooh, good song!," smiling all the while.

But they're all good songs and with a three-piece horn section blasting and the bass line thumping, it was a fitting way to end our eventful hot date.

Never let it be said that I don't know how to show a date a good time.

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