Saturday, November 15, 2014

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun

When the working day is done, girls just want to hear about Japanese landscapes and listen to Postmodern Jukebox.

Oh, Daddy, dear, you're still number one, but some nights just get away from you.

It began earnestly enough at the VMFA for the Kendall Brown lecture, "Kawase Hasui: The Importance of Water and Shadow," a tie-in to the new exhibition of Hasui's prints.

Brown was doing his third lecture in 48 hours, but was confident enough to wing it without notes ("Hold that thought, we'll come back to that"), hardly surprising for one of the country's pre-eminent scholars on Asian art.

First thing I learned was about the earthquake and great fire of 1923 in Japan and the subsequent mission of artists like Hasui to keep alive the places of the past destroyed in the fire. His serene landscapes were considered an antidote to the modern life of industrialization, not fully traditional and not avant garde.

Beginning as a graphic designer - considered low culture because it spoke to the masses - Hasui moved on to watercolors and painting of screens and scrolls, all the while creating prints that were successfully sold in Japan and here.

Brown shared his semi-random thematic categories of Hasui's prints, explaining that they were conceived of after a few drinks. I was liking the guy.

Moving through a series of Hasui's prints from the new exhibit, he explained that research had shown that there was a universal preference for landscapes in blue and green with water, trees and some kind of human presence. Hasui included all of them.

By the time the lecture ended, I was very much anticipating seeing the show upstairs. As it turns out, so were three quarters of the people in the lecture hall.

Rather than see Hasui's prints with the masses, I instead took myself to Amuse, planning to return to see the print show I was now so curious about.

There was only one man at the bar, so I had no problem finding a stool and ordering a glass of Renegade Rose to get the evening started. As I took my first sip, a woman joined him and it didn't take long to see his true colors.

Everything she did was wrong. She didn't speak loud enough when he asked her a question. Her food was slow in coming when he was anxious to eat with her and his had already arrived. It didn't matter if she wanted dessert and coffee because he was ready to go.

I don't know how (or why) she put up with him.

Trying to ignore his rudeness, I ordered the General Tso's sweetbreads with tempura broccolini on the staff's recommendation and chatted with them rather than be a party to all the unpleasantness beside me. Let's just say I was glad when they left but sorry for her for putting up with such a boor.

The bartender asked what my next destination was and all I knew was that I might end up at Ballcieaux for music. It was enough for her and I said goodnight.

Staying in the neighborhood, I decided on Amour, where I found a lively contingent at the bar. Settling in with a glass of the big, rich La Tour Chambert Cahors 2011, I found myself in the company of an anthropologist, a Yankee and a guy born on the southside and determined since his teen years to escape it. They were great fun.

They'd been there for a while so two of the trio were already moving on to whiskey (or is it whisky?), discussing the appeal of Scotch, his love of peat monsters and why blends are to be shunned.

But the best discussion centered around mindfulness, living in the present and about how few people are capable of that anymore. What's the attraction of filming or shooting something you don't actually experience first hand?

We digressed into the perils and successes of gentrification and how so many people abandon city living once they have children. About how southerners can't walk down the street without making eye contact and acknowledging strangers.

The male in our group gave me major props when I included myself in that southern category given that I was born south of the Mason-Dixon line. "I'm glad you realize that," he said, surprised. Duh.

Things really got fun when the music went from gypsy jazz to the fabulous Postmodern Jukebox and from solely audio to audio and video.

Even without being familiar with the source material, I found their cover versions of pop songs done in jazz, swing and ragtime stellar. It was "All About the Bass" that sucked me in - wholly and enthusiastically - with Kate Davis' languid voice and ace bass playing, but I'm not ashamed to say even the songs I knew captivated me (yes, that included T. Swift's "Shake It Off" - don't judge).

I have to admit, even the 2012 mash-up they did in the Cosmo offices was killer and I only recognized "Roar" and "Royals" out of the half a dozen songs they did with a host of different lead singers.

When a vintage '30s rendition of Wham's "Careless Whisper" came on, one of the (young) servers, observed, "I don't know this song." Were you alive in the '80s, I asked politely. Nope.

She did recognize "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun," but you'd have to be brain dead at this point in pop culture not to know that one.

It's not just the rotating cast of alluring lead singers (some even male) that make it all so compelling. The keyboard player Scott Bradlee, who arranges all these songs into vintage-sounding classics, assembles a crack band of musicians and back-up singers to get the effect he wants. It's so well done.

By the time I got home, I found a message asking if I was going to make it to Balliceaux for music.

Only problem was, I'd already had a superb music fix. Some nights it is all about the bass.

No comments:

Post a Comment