Saturday, November 28, 2015

We Thought They'd Never End

Apparently Black Friday puts people in mind of me, resulting in two hard-to-pass-up offers tossed my way today.

One was going to the Altria to see "Ragtime" and the other was going to the Coliseum to see Cirque de Soleil's "Toruk." Naturally, I went to the Camel to see Avers and Rikki Shay.

But only after meeting my most artistic friend at the extremely crowded VMFA to see the recently opened McGlothlin Collection, followed by an Eternal Spring champagne cocktail at Amuse, because what could be lovelier than blood orange liqueur and pomegranate over bubbles?

The collection is awe-inspiring in the truest sense of the phrase, a collection of gorgeous American art spanning 1830
Modernity oozes off the canvas throughout, but especially stirringly in “Yachting the Mediterranean,” a large 1896 piece by Julius Leblanc Stewart (whom I'd never even heard of) showing Americans – wasp-waisted Victorian women and dandified men - aboard a yacht churning through water that seems about to spill out on the viewer.

From Winslow Homer (oh, those watercolors!) to George Bellows (Bud's favorite painter) to Childe Hassam ("Westminster Bridge" was absolutely breathtaking), we walked from painting to painting exclaiming over the McGlothlin's choices. We couldn't even imagine what it must have been like for them to actually live with these works in their home.

"A Gust of Wind (Judith Gautier)" by John Singer Sargent, echoing a Monet painting of a similar subject (the object of the painter's desire), was so splendidly executed that you had to wonder how neither of us had ever laid eyes on so much as a print of it before.

We left there bursting with excitement over what we'd just experienced. Just goes to show what happens when filthy rich people (with either great taste or excellent guidance) are generous enough to collect and donate art to the masses. The McGlothlins are my new art heroes.

Next came music and noshing at the Camel.

When my massive plate of black bean nachos arrived, the charming guy next to me insisted on offering me his bar stool, saying, "You can't attack that while you're standing!" I could have if I'd had no choice.

Once enjoying my new sitting status, we got to talking and of course I asked them the usual, about their first concerts. Now, we're talking about a couple of what looked like mid-20-somethings and their first shows were Hootie and the Blowfish in 2002 (I merely looked at him with pity) and Black Crowes in 1997 (so obviously he was older than he looked).

Hootie guy must have seen the pity in my eyes because he tried to compensate by sharing that his second show had been Aerosmith. When I mentioned that I'd seen them in 1979, his face fell. "Wow, you saw them before the drugs, before Joe Perry and Steven Tyler started..." and punched his fists together.

Son, there was no such time.

They were excited about seeing bands in as intimate a space as the Camel, so I couldn't resist mentioning a few I'd seen there, just to tease them. J. Roddy Walston and the Business, Young the Giant and Frank Turner impressed them hugely while they'd never even heard of Future Islands.

He and his buddy were up from Williamsburg ("Where nothing ever happens after 10"), both getting their masters degrees in business at William & Mary. Why on earth, I asked?

"Dollaz, dollaz, dollaz," one said. "A degree in English gets you minimum wage." Ditto a degree in art history, but at least you get to keep your soul.

Moving to the other room for music, it took forever for Rikki Shay - the new incarnation of what was the Black Girls or perhaps just a name change to address their white guys reality- to soundcheck, get their drink (or whatever) on and finally take the stage for their first show.

The name may be new, but the sound was the same eminently danceable hybrid of rock and funk it always was, with the occasional introduction saying, "Y'all might have heard this one before."

A really big crowd had formed for them but were rewarded with a particularly short set. "This is our last song. We wrote it today. For you!"  A guy near the front began hollering in excitement and the singer called out, "What's your name?" When he answered "Jessie," the singer said, "We wrote this for you, Jessie!" and the big lug went nuts.

In other words, it's still a Black Girls crowd.

Siting near me was a middle-aged couple who appeared to be on a date. They were so nearby that I couldn't help but notice their interactions as they moved through the evening.

Things seemed to be going well and he kept buying them more high alcohol Hardywood beers and by the third one, she was starting to warm up to him, snuggling against him and smiling often.

Then he must have said something drastically wrong, because it was like cold water had been thrown on her. She moved away, she wouldn't meet his eyes, the smile was gone. No telling what had happened, but it didn't stop him from continuing to buy them beers.

They were on their fifth each during Rikki Shay's set, standing on the banquette and attempting to dance when his beer just slid out of his hand like it was greased. It fell under their table, shattering and splashing beer all over my feet, but they never noticed.

Fortunately for him, though, it made her laugh, she offered him a sip of hers and everything was fine again. Fine enough that he began rubbing any body part of hers he could reach.

So fine that he went and got them their sixth beers. I'm not here to judge how much they drank, but when she returned from the bathroom, she leaned a bit too hard on the table to help her mount the banquette and return to her Prince Charming.

All of a sudden, their beers and several people's cocktails went sliding toward the banquette as the table slanted alarmingly and all of us around the table reacted, grabbing for the sliding beverages.

Not the lovebirds. They started cracking up like it was the funniest thing they'd ever seen. I see real potential in this relationship.

Finally Avers took the stage. "We're going to play a whole bunch of new shit if that's okay. We're Avers by the way."

The crowd may have been a bit smaller for them than Rikki Shay, but I feel pretty sure everyone in the room knew who they were looking at. Seems to me when Rolling Stone critic David Fricke told the band they were the best thing he'd heard all week at SXSW, people started paying attention to them.

No doubt he was responding to their dense sound. One of the highlights of the break before their set - besides Romeo and Juliet next to me - was watching each of the musicians lug their massive pedal boards to the stage. We're talking some fantastic effects and reverb in the service of a pastiche of psychedelic, shoegaze, rock and pop.

In fact, one of the bonuses of ordering tickets for tonight's show in advance instead of buying at the door means that we get their new EP delivered to our inbox tomorrow. Seems they've been working on a new album and the EP is the songs that didn't have the same feel as the others. "But we still really liked 'em!"

For this listener, one of my favorite things about them is that they have multiple vocalists and they trade bass, guitar and keyboards like kids used to trade baseball cards. The tambourine always seems to be up for grabs.

With the possibility of four guitars for any given song, it's a constant guitar fest with meaty interludes where everyone gets to show off, the way they also do with the many false stops and precision restarts that characterize their songs.

Listening to songs such as "Love" and "Evil" tonight reminded me again how these guys (and girl) never disappoint sound-wise. Now, if you don't have a taste for an overly-dramatic front man flipping his hair, that's another story.

But not one I'll tell tonight. I left the daters groping, the audience applauding and hollering and bugged out after Avers' set, well satisfied with a stellar night of music.

Someday, I'll be be able to wow another graduate student who offers me his bar stool by sharing that I saw Avers in a tiny bar where the band barely all fit onstage.

Those were the days, my friend.

No comments:

Post a Comment