Thursday, January 28, 2016

That's Entertainment

It's when you start thinking well of yourself that the universe smacks you down.

Out walking by the ICA construction site this afternoon, I smiled at a guy on his smoke break and he lit up. "I love your smile! And those boots, wow, with that smile and those boots, you're going to make Spring happen!"

Those green and pink flowered rubber boots, best $2 investment I ever made.

Before I had too much time to revel in my ability to bring on the seasons, I learned I am, in restaurant parlance, a bar loser. Reading Bill Buford's "Heat" informs me that kitchen shorthand for a single diner at the bar is, well, bar loser and it's common knowledge how much time I've spent eating alone at bars.

Hopefully there's no comparable word for people who go to a show alone or I'm dead in the water, no matter the footwear.

Given the still partially snow-strewn sidewalks and monstrous puddles on the way to Gallery 5, the boots put in another appearance, although they had nothing to do with being greeted by the prettiest bassist in town telling me, "You're at all the good shows!"

Truth is, I had zero plans and went looking for something fun, only to find a stellar show of bands I'd never heard of playing at G5. Curiosity compelled me to listen to their three Bandcamp pages to get a feel for the sound of each.

Conclusion? I should have been planning to go to this show all along.

Besides the bassist, I knew only one person, the door guy who's a musician and occasional cross-dressing bingo caller. Most in the crowd had the telltale "X" on their hand signifying youth and device devotion.

Standing next to me were two young women who were pretty much non-stop on Tinder or discussing it, as in, "Tinder is dry tonight." You need to come to a show to discover that?

First up was Erik, who called himself Cat Be Damned which, under ordinary circumstances would no doubt win best band name of the evening, but not tonight.

Playing through his own songs (including one about Virginia rednecks "which I need to explain when I play it north of here, but you guys get it") as well as some by Bon Jovi, Ted Nugent and a friend named Joey who moved away, Erik proved that a guitar and a good voice is timeless.

He also scared himself when, glancing down during a song, he mistook his boot for a rat. Fear not, I've seen many scary things at Gallery 5 over the years, but never any rodents.

Closing with a plea, "If anyone's going to Elvis' show in Charlottesville tomorrow night, I could use a ride. My car crapped out," a girl in the crowd immediately yelled out, "I got you!" and he looked pleased.

It seemed like it was mere moments after he left the stage to major applause that Brooklyn quartet Cende was up there beginning their set and it occurred to me that with a crowd overwhelmingly underage, there was no point in allowing long breaks so people could go to the bar.

With the first few notes, Cende established themselves as one of my favorite musical genres: young man power pop. All four had haircuts that mirrored the Beach Boys circa 1965. Absolutely stellar live, their songs were short, fast and wildly energetic.

"This is our first time playing in Richmond," the lead singer and one of the guitarists said. "I love it. We had the best ice cream at, um, I don't know," and the crowd supplied the answer: Bev's, of course.

Likely, I was the only one who chuckled when we were told that they were going to play some new songs, as if they could be playing some old classics? I don't think so.

Initially, I was surprised to see the bass player center stage in front of the drummer, with a guitarist on either side, but it soon was evident that he was the most animated or at least the most dramatic, putting me in mind of Interpol's Carlos D and his sexy showboating. Good stuff.

Their set was too soon over and I had to go back to listening to the dimwit twins looking for love. "Look at all our shared interests!" one said to the other sticking the phone in her friend's face. "What, music?" she responded. "Yea, but he's ugly," she said, undoubtedly swiping left.

Somewhere, some lucky guy just missed a scrape with an inane and vapid woman.

Headlining and winning the award for best band name of the night was Asheville's Elvis Depressedly, with Mat on guitar, adorable manic pixie dream girl Delaney on keys and half of Cende: the bass player sans his black sweater (whom Mat called his best friend from college and who was playing completely differently) and the drummer (same t-shirt) backing them up.

Mat began by explaining why it had been so long since they'd played here. "I stayed away from Virginia for years because I got a crazy speeding ticket. I finally let it go." He hasn't, though, let go of the resentment of the person who gave him the ticket.

I, for one, was really glad about that since their melodic and melancholic pop sound - shimmering guitar over layers of keyboard, enhanced with bass and drums - brought back listening to indie music on warm summer days that now feel like ancient history (see: boots, also scarves tied around columns on porches, although I'm not sure what that's all about).

But just as satisfying as the achingly feel-good vibes of the sound? The smart lyrics of songs such as "Rock and Roll" or "Madison Acid."

Cause I'm not in the band,
It don't mean I'm square
And if I am,
Then I don't care

Squares or not, their last song was a low-key one, so they dismissed the rhythm section and finished with an appropriately sweet song to send us out into the night. It turned out to be a hella good night of music, like one of the Sprout shows in days of old.

Take it from a show loser, Gallery 5 was most definitely not dry tonight.

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