Sunday, January 10, 2016

We're All Standing in the Same Sunlight

Magical moments happen in this town with surprising regularity, but sometimes you realize it's more than just a happening or an evening.

It's the good vibrations of people who live here. It's that people here do things because they love doing them, because they want to share or find like-minded souls. Because they see a need and set out to fill it. Because they're passionate and can't help but spread it around.

Like the Good Day RVA folks, who were putting on a show at Hardywood this evening. Their story is simple:  they're a film collective dedicated to capturing live local music performances using Super 8 and digital to showcase just how completely cool this place is.

One thing I knew for sure about tonight's show was that while it wasn't my first show since I got back to Virginia five days ago (or even my second), this would be the one where I'd see the most friends, the greatest number of people I've known through the music scene the longest.

So I was 100% correct.

There were over half a dozen of the long-time Listening Room participants like me, an interesting coincidence since the LR has been a hot topic online this week with people lamenting the absence of a dedicated space where people really do shut up and listen.

Among our group, one recurring theme was how we continue to be surprised when out at shows that (unlike in the past), we no longer recognize the majority of the audience, a good thing since it means more people participating in the music scene than before.

The evening got off to a great start talking to a friend about the unlikely circumstances that had landed both of us in California last week, albeit opposite ends of the state. That led to mutual bemoaning about the weird weather happening the past few weeks and the news that the North Pole's temperature had risen above freezing.

He wasn't shy sharing his fears about how quickly things are changing and that it's clear we're hurtling toward the planet's end with insufficient efforts to adjust our behaviors. Cue tonight's theme.

I was happily catching up with all kinds of friends for the first time in 2016 (my wool and a friend's corduroy hot pants were a major topic, to our fashionista friend's delight), loving the fact that so many of us were there when Blanks took the stage. Turns out none of my friends had sen them before, surprising to me since I first saw them last June and several times since. There are just so many more bands worth seeing.

Leader Jessica has a terrifically husky voice and, according to my friend, they're a band with not just talent, but great hair, perhaps taking a cue from their leader. It was funny, as we admired the guitarist's long mane, she read it as a '90s throwback where several of us saw it as straight-ahead '70s. It's all in your perspective, no?

The wild card turned out to be cellist Zoe (also with fab locks) who demurely took over lead vocals for one song, kicking butts and taking names unexpectedly given her low-key demeanor. "Rock star!" someone in the audience called out when she finished and returned to her chair to wrap her legs around the cello for their last song.

During the break, the dance party king and I reveled in the recent announcement that LCD Soundsystem will be touring this year, right up until Dave Watkins took the stage to blow minds.

If the man was at all jet-lagged from his recent return, he managed to channel it into his usual killer set layering sound until the unobservant might think that there were multiple people on stage, not just one guy with mad skills and gorgeous curly hair.

And at Hardywood, there's so much head room for all that sound to move around in. The bad news was how many people talked the whole way through his set, including a trio of long-haired blond women who set up camp right next to us and annoyed the hell out of those of us trying to hear Dave. Ah, well, it is a brewery.

In line at the bathroom afterwards, the woman in front of me commented when the woman in front of her went into the loo. "So now I know every detail of why her daughter went to film school," she said, sounding a bit weary. "The things you learn standing in line for the ladies' room!"

When I got back to the stage, the Good Day RVA collective was just about to introduce two new videos, the first of which was of Dave performing, shot at the old GRTC bus depot, the one with all the colorful murals done for the RVA Street Art Fest.

With swooping overhead shots and close-ups of Dave playing (and even hitting various pedals on his board) alternating with imagery from the murals, it was enough to make a Richmonder's chest swell with pride about how rad this place and its art-makers are.

But here's the interesting part: partway through, I realized how respectfully hushed the room had gotten. Now that there was a visual on a screen, they were quiet, when mere minutes earlier, they'd been babbling through his live set.

Somebody needs parental guidance.

Next came Lobo Marino's video, shot at Yogaville in Buckingham County, an attempt to protest the natural gas pipeline Dominion wants to put in through Virginia, West Virginia and North Carolina.

Shots of the band - augmented by cellist Zoe and violinist Jessica - playing outdoors in hats and coats at Yogaville were interspersed with footage shot all over the Commonwealth and intended to convey the scope of the proposed project.

It was incredibly moving to watch them perform "Awake" and look at scenes shot everywhere from Highland County to Suffolk County. In many ways, it was a call to action.

After the video, they took the stage to do a live set beginning with "Celebrate," a reminder of appreciating what we have in this planet."We wrote this about the Ganges River, but it's really about the James," Laney said as they launched into the rousing "Holy River."

Having walked the Pipeline Walkway today for the first time in weeks, it was easy to visualize the river while they sang.

Afterwards Laney laid the issue out for the crowd, explaining that preventing this pipeline is our issue. "It's not Dominion's issue, it's not the Virginia State Senate. It's up to each of us to cut back on how much power we use, to responsibly reduce our power usage."

This is one area where I can salute myself because I'm already on board by forsaking air conditioning usage back in 1993 and consistently keeping to 64-degree heat during the winter no matter how many layers I have to add. I may not be off the grid like Laney and Jameson, but I'm certainly doing my little part.

Dave Watkins returned to the stage for a mind-blowing jam session finale with the expanded Lobo Marino that had Dave and Jessica singing into their dulcitar and violin respectively, while Jameson wailed on the mouth harp, Zoe plucked her heart out and Laney tied it together on harmonium.

When they passed around petitions for us to fill out to send to Dominion, I pulled out a pen and made my opinion known and then shared it with friends so they could do the same. Power comes from the people.

"They are so cute," my girlfriend whispered to me. "They make me want to be a better person." They remind me of people I knew back in my college days, people who were trying to effect change from a grass roots level by living differently than the masses and I love that about them.

It's like the '70s redux. We can affect change.

Only at the grooviest shows in Richmond are you absorbing local film-making, being entertained with live music and adding your signature to those of others trying to make our voices heard by the people who would negatively affect our planet and therefore our lives.

We are stardust
We are golden
And we've got to get ourselves
Back to the garden...

The things you learn in Richmond going to a show! How to be a better person, for one.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you Karen for the great write up on the show last night! I am deeply grateful for your faithful documentation of our Richmond scene.