Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Forever Is Just a Day

Seven hours in the car today. I covered a lot of ground.

In spite of an early start, it was a beautiful day to drive to the Northern Neck to visit the parental units and see the lilac and Candytuft in bloom.

Among today's accomplishments: planted herbs for Mom on the screened porch, helped Dad locate a nursery that carries the dwarf flowering cherry tree he covets and not only baked a pound cake but taught my clueless mother what patty melts were (they then had them for dinner).

When I got back into Richmond, I had exactly enough time to get cleaned up, answer two e-mails and leave for D.C. Tonight was the Hurray for the Riff Raff show at the 9:30 Club that I'd bought tickets for all the way back on December 16th.

Good things come to those who wait.

While the last thing I wanted to do was climb back in the car, I wasn't about to miss the show. A music critic friend had told me that they'd been spectacular at South By Southwest, impressing those who caught their shows and leaving those who didn't full of regret.

And in what had to be the luckiest of circumstances, I found a parking spot on the side of the venue, four cars from the front door. Not bad at all.

I'd barely found a place near the stage when opener Son Little took the stage. The trio was fronted by lead singer/guitarist Aaron wearing a baseball hat and shirt that said "Rucker" on the front. Since Aaron is black and his bassist and drummer white, the joke could have been a reference to Hootie and the Blowfish. Or not.

All I know is he had a soul-smooth voice and a bluesy guitar while most of the songs were pure pop, well-crafted songs. Even so, he didn't hesitate to mention "kids dying in the streets every day it seems lately," both in lyrics and between song patter.

He was especially excited about playing "Oh, Mother" because the video is being released tomorrow by the Wall Street Journal (he joked about that). "It's got a lot of wolves in it. I get upstaged by wolves."

When he said he was going to play a quiet song so we'd have be quiet, the crowd obeyed. "That's good. If you aren't quiet, I'd have to start abusing the audience."

"Abuse us!" the loudmouth behind me called out. "Now, no," Aaron said, shaking his head in frustration. "Man, I never saw that coming." Mid-way through the quiet song, he moved away from the microphone to center stage and projected out across the room un-amplified.

Favorite song: the heartbreaking "The River."

After his set, I scanned the room, noticing a girl near me with a backless dress and lots of tattoos. In a room full of conservative and prim looking D.C. types, she seemed very Richmond. Then I looked at her date and he actually looked familiar, although I couldn't place him.

After a few minutes, he came over because he'd recognized me, too. It was Zac from the Green Boys and Red Light Rodeo. I told him I always see someone I know when I'm out of town for shows. "That just means you have good taste," he explained matter-of-factly.

For the record, he also made sure to tell me I missed a good show last night at Gallery 5.

After he returned to his friend, I overheard the guy behind me - dressed in a matching tie dye t-shirt and knit cap - tell his companion, "This is so great we can do this on a Tuesday!"

What was so great was that Alynda Lee Segara had just taken the stage alone with her acoustic guitar and thanked us for coming out tonight.

"I'm going to start the set all by myself, if that's okay," she said to a rapt audience who stayed absolutely silent while she sang, "The New San Francisco Bay Blues."

It was a stunning start to a stellar set. Her band came out - keyboards, drums, bass and fiddle - for the second song, "Blue Ridge Mountain," which she called a song about doing more than you thought you could.

I echo that sentiment, albeit not in song given my tuneless voice.

The band's sound was much fuller than on the records I'd heard, a rich complement to hers.

"This is a song about not giving up on your dream," she started and then changed course. "Look at all of you! It's a Tuesday night, do you know that? I never thought this many people would come out to hear me sing!"

The bouncy ode to trouble-making, "I Know It's Wrong (But That's Alright)" got couples dancing and the rest of us moving in place. She dedicated "Body Electric" to the Mayors for Peace participants, with whom she said she'd walked a bit and some of whom were in the house tonight.

Her band was terrific and she'd throw the attention on the fiddle player's solos or the keyboard player's impressive finger work every chance she got. Talking about how close the band was from living in a van together, I envisioned her and the female bass player slipping away on occasion to do girly things. Thrifting, maybe? Talking about the boys?

"I'm one of those un-f*ck the world people," she shared. "Some people say 'f*ck the world' but I say un-f*ck it." With her bangs, long hair and bow barrettes, she looked kind and gentle enough to be on the "un" side of things.

She told us that "Crash on the Highway" had been written while on the road in Germany and missing New Orleans terribly, something that came through in every line.

Saying she was going to do a song about one of her heroes, John Lennon, she said it was also about Yoko. "I'm trying to spread the gospel of Yoko. It's all about love," she said, prefacing the gorgeous song.

Favorite lyric: "Love can make a change in man."

She even thanked the 9:30 Club. "Thank you for the cupcakes. Did you know they do that sometimes?" Sure didn't, but of course they'd do it for someone as charming as she was, someone talented enough to cover Lucinda Williams' "People Talkin" and make it her own.

No one moved when she said goodnight so of course the band came back for a brief encore and another fond farewell to the adoring crowd.

Even the prospect of another two hours in the car couldn't harsh the mellow I had after such a satisfying evening of music. I loved everything about the band's genre-crossing sound.

According to the band's philosophy, that makes me the riff raff. Traveling riff raff at that.

Apparently great taste knows no mileage limitations.

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