Saturday, April 4, 2015

Celebrate RVA All Night

If I was going to get back in the game after three unprecedented nights off due to woeful retching, I figured I might as well go big.

And nothing in town was bigger tonight than the Gallery 5 tenth anniversary party. For someone like me who's been a supporter since the beginning and a neighbor for nine years, I couldn't very well miss it.

On arrival, it was still fairly civilized with plenty of people but enough space to move around comfortably, so I took advantage of that.

Upstairs was the birthday cake, a fantastical creation by G5 co-founder Amanda and a beaut of baking genius. Besides a layer resembling the red and gold stage downstairs, the four layer cake even had a layer simulating the water-stained walls in the upstairs art gallery. I found musician Prabir critiquing the top layer which was frosted like one of the four P.A. systems the gallery has fried over the years.

Puppet-maker Lilly told me about her new puppet shop on Hull Street and introduced me to the man who owns the Manchester wizard shop a few doors down. A former writer, he recognized my name from past bylines, such a treat to hear from a stranger because no one looks at bylines.

My favorite J-Ward neighbor husband was there, but sans his lovely wife who was under the weather at their flat across the street. I told him about the Dar Williams show I'd seen because I knew he'd be interested.

Downstairs, the floor was packed for Lobo Marino's set, no surprise given the feel-good vibes they put out. When they sing "Celebrate," you can tell they mean it.

Back upstairs, I took a moment to sign the giant pages that will go into the time capsule to be opened in 2025 before catching the always astounding Dave Watkins' set in the acoustically lovely gallery.

On the walls were large format photographs of memorable events from the past ten years, including friend P.J.'s killer overhead shot of the singer from Monotonix astride a drum surrounded by adoring fans.

The galleries were being to swell with people by then so I headed outside to catch some of the fire performers' set, as always marveling at how they effortlessly fling and swing flames within inches of their bodies (and hair!) without so much as blinking an eye.

Lilly and her puppeteers were staging a "no fracking" performance and eventually moved in on the fire performers for a group piece.

On my way back in, things had gotten crowded enough that the doorman was allowing one person in for every one that came out, a sure sign it would be my last trip out.

Spotting people with cake, I hurried upstairs to score a piece and a good thing, too, since they were already down to the last layer. Fortunately it was my favorite: chocolate cake with white icing. I savored my slice while chatting with a favorite music critic about the upcoming Hooray for the Riff Raff show I'm seeing later this month.

"They're the best band I've seen in years," she said. "I'm telling everyone to see them now. Her voice live will blow you away." Good to hear since tickets are already purchased.

In the downstairs gallery were large folio books full of ten years' worth of posters advertising Gallery 5 shows and events. I began from the beginning looking to see how many of them I recalled or attended - "Beautiful Boxer," "Disrobed 2," "Chicago 10," lots of them - before coming across my personal favorite.

It was the "I Dream of a Richmond" exhibit in January 2008 and it was significant for me because I had a photograph in that show so my name was listed on the poster along with those of real photographers. I have a copy of it framed at home but it's not the same as seeing it laid out in Gallery 5 for the whole world to see.

The crowd was diverse. I saw loads of new faces and plenty of people such as me who've been G5 regulars for a decade. T-shirts ran the gamut, too. "Death Metal," "The Beatles: Magical Mystery Tour," "Selfie, Paris," and a Springsteen tour shirt.

When I got near the bar in the back, I spotted Pete the former bartender and teased him that of course he'd be there tonight. Yep, he said he'd taken off from Metzger to attend. "I built this bar," he said with pride, knocking on it hard.

I caught the end of the burlesque show, enough to hear Deanna Danger rhapsodizing about the last performer and her attributes and then turning the floor over to...herself ("Did she just introduce herself?" the guy in front of me asked. Sure did) for a fabulous finale that took everything off except pasties and a g-string.

Lest you think I was only there for titillation, I did pause to sign a "Down to the Wire" petition to encourage Dominion Power to reconsider plans to put 295' power lines across the James River at Jamestown.

Jamestown, for crying out loud! How do we explain that to the busloads of 4th graders who go there on Social Studies field trips to learn about the founding of our country? There were no power lines in 1607, people.

Then in marched nine of the No BS Brass band guys and the party shifted into overdrive. Setting up just in front of the stage, they began their assault of horns and drums with drummer Lance yelling, "Yo, yo, yo, happy birthday Gallery 5!" and launching into "Happy Birthday."

From there, it was straight into "RVA All Day" and the three trombonists were sliding their horns over the heads of the dancers directly in front of them. "Take on Me" had the room singing along and "Thriller" left everyone in a heap.

Cake maker and co-founder Amanda, right up front for it all, nailed it when she yelled out, "Best birthday band ever!"

Already mostly set up on the stage were the Awesome Few, a band I'd heard good things about but had not yet seen. "We're the Awesome Few and this is a red hot f*cking night!" the singer yelled out. Who knew we'd have a 70-degree night for all this?

Their wall of guitar sound was loud enough to send all my DJ and musician friends scurrying for their ear plugs while I foolishly allowed mine to take the pain. The songwriting was good, with much pointed commentary about music and radio. I liked them even if my ears did bleed a bit.

Midway through their set, the scientist came in and we hadn't seen each other in months. Where you been, stranger?

"Holed up, riding bikes, shooting cheap guns," he summed up before proudly pointing at his bicycle jersey emblazoned with "Richmond" across the chest. Asked his thoughts on the big bike race coming here in September, he said he was "cautiously optimistic." Aren't we all?

By that point, the last three days of infirmity were beginning to wear on me, so I decided to head out. On the way out the door, I passed Landon, lead singer of the next band, White Laces, a band so good it's still impressive no matter how many times I see them.

I was just out of steam after three days of barfing.

Right behind him was another music buddy and he looked at me in shock. "Not leaving, are you?" Sadly, yes. Not because I want to miss White Laces, but because this is one of those rare times when my body gets to overrule my love of music.

It's enough to know that a few blocks away in Jackson Ward, one of my favorite local bands is playing music I love for the masses. I may not be there to enjoy it this time, but I have blissed out at Gallery 5 for ten solid years.

I dream of a Richmond where places like Gallery 5 continue to offer all kinds of things to all kinds of people.

And when they open that time capsule in 2025, you know I'll be there.

No comments:

Post a Comment