Saturday, June 28, 2014

People Got a Lotta Nerve

Two weeks in a row for me at Friday Cheers. It may be a signal of the coming apocalypse.

Actually, I'd bought my ticket for tonight's Neko Case show months ago, thrilled at a chance to see her for only ten bucks.

J-Ward friends invited me to walk down to Brown's Island with them, but we couldn't align our schedules so I went alone.

Once on the island, I gravitated to a group of familiar faces, WRIR DJs mostly, but within moments, my neighbors appeared and I got to hear about her escapades last week as part of the James River Batteau Festival.

Let's just say now I know how those women pee off the sides of the boats.

We were in the middle of a discussion about the musical "Hair," which I'd seen last night and knew they'd love when I felt a shadow across me and there stood one of my favorite people, a guitarist and terrific conversationalist I hadn't seen in ages.

I accompanied him to get a beer bracelet and beer while we caught up with each other's lives.

By then Laura Viers had begun playing, sans band, so we parted ways and I found a spot under a tree with plenty of shade to watch her.

After a drummer joined her onstage, she brought up a discussion they'd had about the early modern English phrase "believe you me," which she didn't understand, nor did he. Come on, you two, it's verb-subject-object, as any language geek knows.

She did the lovely "Sun Song" and "July Flame," appropriate given how imminent July is.

July flame
ashes of a secret heart
falling in my lemonade
Unslakable thirsting in the back yard
Can I call you mine?

How does a woman who uses the word "unslakable" not get "believe you me"?

Kelly Hogan, Neko case's back-up singer, came out to join Laura, bringing her a cloth to wipe her sweat ("She's a true southern woman," Laura said) and they did a fabulous job on Daniel Johnston's "True Love Will Find You in the End."

I'm counting on it.

During the break, a 20-something guy sitting next to me struck up a conversation, asking me about my musical taste and sharing that he'd driven in from Lynchburg for the show.

A musician, he didn't have much good to say about Lynchburg's scene, meaning he often hit the road for musical reasons.

When he got up to go buy Laura Veirs' record, I made my way to the stage for Neko's set. Not long after it began, he showed up, record in hand to stand nearby.

Neko came out looking fabulous, as always, her red hair recognizable from 100 paces. But it's that distinctively beautiful voice that kills me.

It was during "This Tornado Loves You" that I noticed a guy up on the 7th Street bridge, taking pictures and watching everything from above.

A couple of songs in, she said, "I just want to thank Comfort for not making their cornbread too sweet or putting jalapenos in it. It was so good and now my belly is full," and here she gestured at her flat stomach, "of cornbread with a rice pudding hat on top. I'm like a python who just ate."

Before long she picked up her guitar to play it, the better, she said, to camouflage her "python."

Tonight's weather couldn't have been more different than last week's, the sun hidden behind clouds once she came on and a light breeze blowing over the packed crowd. "Look at that sexy river!" she called out.

"How are you doing, Richmond?" Neko asked. "I'm hot, sweaty and grody!" I was right there with her, especially after having sat on dirt and now sweating in the crowd.

Like the other times I've seen her perform, she'd put her hair up and soon let it down again, catnip to guys in the crowd.

And how's this for odd? I was standing there watching her when all of a sudden, Lynchburg guy puts his arm around my shoulder.

For a minute, I thought it was another friend - I'd seen the Hat, the neighbor, the drummer - approaching me from behind, but when I saw it was him, I whipped around and gave him the have-you-lost-your-mind look.

"I hope she does "People Got a Lotta Nerve," he said in all seriousness. "That song just gets inside my head."

Just keep your head and your hand to yourself, please.

I never tire of hearing "That Teenage Feeling" or the song about her first boyfriend "The Pharaohs" ("Still the best boyfriend I ever had," she said) and the band rocked out hard to "I'm a Man."

It was during that song that a train approached on the overhead track while people waved and the conductor blew the horn.

My high point was probably "Hold On," but at the end of their set, Neko said, "Thank you, Richmond and thank you, railroad train for honking. That may be the best moment of my life!"

I'm not sure about that, but tonight was the sixth time I've seen her in the past decade and easily the most fitting setting for the wild child that is Neko Case. Even she commented on the beauty of the setting multiple times.

After she sent us out into the night, I continued my evening at Holmes' abode for a dinner party, already in full swing when I arrived.

A good guest offers to help and my job was frying corn and tomatoes in rendered bacon fat, an easy enough job to do while sipping Prosecco.

Others manned the grill, steamed shrimp, set the table and changed the music, all with flutes in hand.

Our soundtrack varied from Dylan to a CD of music from the Kennedy White House - "Camelot," Chubby Checkers, Aaron Copland- eventually landing on a CD of the BeeGees number one hits before the night was over, the latter not to everyone's taste.

"None of these songs are in my top five BeeGees songs," Holmes grumbled to no one in particular.

Dinner was a veritable feast: steak, barbecued chicken, fresh North Carolina shrimp, the aforementioned bacon/corn/tomato medley, Asian marinated cucumber salad, two kinds of rice, the ripest sliced tomatoes with balsamic glaze and garlic cheese sticks.

There were toasts to friendship, a tale of private eyes on the divorce trail and stories of boyfriends taking sexy pictures of girlfriends. Dessert was Haagen Daz vanilla with fresh sliced peaches and caramel sauce, the nail in the coffin of the evening for those who'd been up since the crack of dawn today.

I was fine, but we're not talking about me.

Even the usual surefire method of opening a bottle of Graham Beck Brut Rose failed to entice those in a food coma.

And when pink bubbles fail to reignite this group, you'd better believe the apocalypse is nigh.

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