Friday, July 18, 2014

Soul Provider

There's a reason Thursday is called the new Friday.

Seems to me that Thursday has a habit of kicking Friday's ass. Like tonight.

Pru and I began at the VMFA for an artists' talk with Sonya Clark and Robert Pruitt, both of whom have pieces in the current "Identity Shifts" exhibit.

Which, I might add, I've seen three times and can't recommend highly enough.

The two artists, who met for the first time last night, had much in common in their hair-centric work. ""It was like meeting a brother of another mother," Sonya said fittingly.

A Texan, it was Robert's first time in Virginia, but his paintings of women with Afros shaped liked atomic bombs, starbursts and pyramids were second only to those with guns woven into the hair.

Discussing how nothing is neutral and all subjects are seen through the life experiences of the viewer, their discussion provided an interesting look at how two black artists about a decade apart in age work with loaded cultural symbols.

Engaging the mind is always a fine way to begin an evening. So naturally we followed that with pure indulgence.

Snagging seats at the bar of Amuse upstairs in the museum, we both began with pink, although mine was bubbly (Montand Sparkling Brut Rose) and hers was still.

"Feeling sparkly, are you?" Pru asked. Aren't I usually?

She's a bit under the weather with a summer cold (although  a trooper to go out anyway), so left ordering to me. I chose the housemade beef jerky and a beautiful summer Caprese salad with burrata and tomatoes of every color.

Only problem was that our food arrived prior to utensils, so I had to request of the trainee serving us to provide some flatware so we could eat with dignity.

Just as we were finishing up our food, we began eavesdropping on the conversation between the woman next to us and our sunny bartender.

Next thing you know, the blond stranger was offering us the remains of her cheese plate and why would I turn down perfectly good stinky cheese when it's offered?

I wouldn't. As part of the paying it forward credo, I'd recently shared a basket of onion rings with a stranger once I was full and here was my payback.

Katie, who'd recently moved back here from Chicago, quickly joined the fray - our fray- for discussion of dating younger men, large families (don't waste food) and lookalike women (apparently plentiful in the windy city).

I knew I'd found a soulmate when while discussing Wrigley Field, Pru said, "Men put pork chops in their pockets for a snack," and Katie roared, saying, "That's the line of the evening. I'm going to put that in my phone!"

Some of us know that we must document certain things or they are lost forever.

She got almost as excited during a discussion of past love lives when I said, "I didn't marry them all," a reference to dating men my junior. For all I know, that may have gone into the phone as well.

Not long after, Pru had everyone in stitches with her rendition of a song set to the music of the TV show, "Rawhide," that went something like this: "Get it up, get it in, get it out! Don't mess my hair doooooo."

I don't know where she gets these things, but she's pretty hilarious even when under the weather.

Because we were at Amuse and because there's no reason to be there and not, we ended with a visit from the green fairy, sipping our absinthe while talking about the new sous chef, who was kind enough to come out, say hello and talk sausage-making.

By the time we tore ourselves away from the museum, it was her bedtime and time for me to go to Balliceaux for the Commonwealth of Notions, Volume Four, a benefit for WRIR curated by DJ Shannon Cleary.

Walking in, I saw a friend who was considering leaving because the band wasn't set up yet. Don't be hasty, my friend.

I convinced him otherwise and we went to get drinks ("Where are my manners? What would you like?" he asked like the gentleman he is) and chat about the art lecture I'd just heard.

His girlfriend has been wanting to see "Posing Beauty" at the VMFA and he's been putting her off. I think I helped convince him that she's right.

Then the band was onstage warming up and he began geeking out over singer Eddie P's unusual guitar, pointing out that it was mahogany and that during WWII, spruce was only used for the war effort so many guitars were made of other woods like mahogany instead.

"You don't really want to hear this, do you?" he asked, stopping his informational spiel mid-sentence.

Oh, but I do want to hear. How else would I know why Eddie's guitar looks different than all the others I've seen? I'm a research nerd of the highest order.

Familiar faces showed up - the sax player who claims he doesn't always hear about good shows, the pig-tailed songbird just off work and needing a drink, the bespectacled editor, the jazz drummer I seldom see out- and then it was show time.

First up was Eddie's new project, Microwaves, with a drummer, percussionist, and three horn players, all from Bio Ritmo, including sax, trumpet and a tuba player wearing a tie, .

I've been a huge fan of Eddie's voice since I first heard him in Amazing Ghost, so from the initial notes, I was all about their soulful sound.

Asking my friend if he was glad he'd decided to stay after a few songs, he said, "This kind of music is not my thing, but they're good." He changed his tune when he found out this was their first gig. "They're really good!"

Yes, they were and, unlike my friend, right up my alley musically. I was already dancing in place as the crowd grew around me. I was only sorry when the set ended.

During the break, he left but a friend and former Floyd Avenue neighbor came in and took his place so my company was seamless.

The next band was even bigger, with the same two drummers, but also a keyboard player, two guitarists, bassist, and three horns: sax, trumpet (again Bob) and now the tie-wearing tuba player had morphed into a trombone player.

It was magic!

The singer of Todd Herrington's Things was familiar to me as the guitarist and singer of the soul cover band, the Hi-Steps, but this project was doing all original, funky material, presumably Todd's.

Some songs had vocals (and multiple vocalists) and some were instrumental, and stylistically they varied, but all powered along like a well-oiled R & B machine with some serious musical chops.

My friend turned to me and shared, "When I first came to Richmond 40 years ago, I saw Tower of Power at the Mosque. This is like that!"

Damned if it wasn't.

All I can say is praise be to Shannon Cleary for kicking off his four-day music extravaganza with two stellar soul outfits on the bill.

I only hope that this is a trend and more local bands are picking up the mantle of R & B. And, if not, at least I've got two new groups to follow.

They're just the kind of dance-worthy bands that'll end up having shows on Thursdays, I bet.

Not that there's anything wrong with that. Even if it messes up my hairdoooo.

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