Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Everybody Was So Young

You know I do it for the art.

Feel free to argue the point with me, but the fact is, Richmond is underserved by public art. The real issue here is how it's possible we can have this public art school that's won accolades from all over and still be a city deficient in outdoor art.

But tonight the recently-formed Public Arts Commission convened a public meeting so I showed up to share my feelings.

Actually, lots of people showed up to sit at the map-covered tables, clearly far more than the commission was anticipating since a few tables had no maps and some people wound up sitting along the walls, not even within reach of a map.

The good news is that Richmond requires that all capital projects set aside 1% of their budget for the public art fund., so there's no reason to think our new commission isn't going to get the public art ball rolling a bit more earnestly than in the past.

We began with slides of public art, moving through the different kinds: iconic (the "Cloudgate" bean in Chicago), memorials (St. Louis arch), functional ("Flying carpet," a topographical carpet in the Sacramento airport), integrated (Austria's Muir Island Bridge, a man-made metal island with two bridges linking it to land), interactive ("Crown Fountain" in Chicago) and temporary ("Park-cycles" in San Francisco).

I admit I've only seen the two in Chicago, although maybe "Park-cycles" is in my near future.

A lively group discussion allowed people to share their most memorable public spaces, while discussion of why Richmond is unique devolved into one-upmanship with people trying to show off their knowledge of Richmond minutiae (one woman bragged about our Class 5 rapids, which we don't even have).

I had a proud moment when someone mentioned Jackson Ward as one of our best features. Yes, sir, it is.

More enjoyable and satisfying was getting to put stickers on those giant maps of where we'd like to see public art. At my table, stickers landed on Manchester, the Jeff Davis corridor and Chamberlayne north of Broad, places such as Barton Heights and Highland Park.

Hell, I put stickers over by Shockoe Hill cemetery and Hospital Street. Talk about an area that could benefit from some beautification. One woman put a sticker on Libby Hill, a place I feel already gets plenty o' love and already has public art. I left soon after.

I got home just as a friend was dropping off a book for me, the beautifully titled, "Everybody Was So Young" by Amanda Vaill, a book she thinks I'll enjoy as much as she did. I intend to find out so we can discuss it over absinthe sometime soon.

Despite having seen music Saturday and Sunday nights, I was still feeling a musical deficit, so I told her I was off to Gallery 5 for three bands. Her response? "Of course you are."

The door guy greeted me with a grin and a question. Had I used my gift certificate to Max's yet, the one I'd won at bingo? Nope. Was I coming to bingo tomorrow? Yep.

It was a small crowd, even for a Tuesday night, and as usual, the punctual were punished and the tardy rewarded with a later start to accommodate them. Luckily, the people-watching was good to pass the time.

Up first was We Never, a young-looking band, and the lead singer's parents were in the crowd, meaning that when he took a big swig of beer and followed it with a massive burp, Mom yelled, "Nice!" to correct him.

"Get outta here, Mom!" he called from the stage, trying to salvage a little dignity. Some Moms just aren't cut out for rock and roll. Their brief set ranged from low-key acoustic to a honky tonk barn burner and, yes, when it ended Mom complained loudly that it had been too short.

Overheard during the break: "She loves a good cat video. There's nothing better for her than that."

Brooklyn duo Shana Falana was next and I felt owed them. Although I'd gone to their May show at Balliceaux, their set had inexplicably begun early and I'd missed some of it. Tonight I wanted a full dose of their trippy dreamgaze sound and groovy light show.

Cosmic, man.

With guitar, drums, a bass backing track and lots of reverb, they achieved woozy psychedelic status from the first moment Shana opened her mouth to sing. Even the talkers in the crowd shut up once they realized they were hearing something pretty terrific.

After their set, I was joined by a music-loving couple who were drawn to me by the enticing scent of the clementine I was eating (hey, sometimes a person needs a show snack). Although I've known them for about five years, I knew nothing about their history and set out to correct that.

What a great story! Became platonic roommates 25 years ago and got married five years ago on the anniversary of her asking him if he thought he might ever want to marry her.

My question was why, after ten years together, had she posed such a question? He looked at me, looked at her and admitted that even he didn't know the answer to that one. Answer: She'd gotten a toy ring that day and it got her thinking that he was just the kind of person she'd want to marry someday.

The rest, as they say, is history. Two art kids meet at SCAD, go on a date to see Peter Murphy and live happily ever after.

About then Recluse Raccoon took the stage, but only to tease us with a couple of instrumental songs. The singer had no voice, so Blanks joined them onstage and as lead singer Jessica put it, "We're gonna swallow them," making for a quintet: two guitars, drums, bass and a lovely cello.

Their set was brief - Jessica had been drinking coffee when I arrived, admitting she was seriously tired - but we got a couple of gems out of them, songs such as "Tidal Wave" ("This is more for them than for you," she told us, gesturing at the band) and "Fishing in the Dark."

Ah, yes, I felt so much better.

Some women seek out cat videos and some of us need nothing more than a few hours of live music. There's nothing better for this her than that.

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