Sunday, February 14, 2016

Rock on Ancient Queens

How cold was it? So cold I wore jeans to celebrate Valentine's Day. Now that's cold...and a first.

The amazing part is that before the night was over, I was shedding layers.

I knew my night was going to be stellar when my favorite artist date and I walked into Hardywod for the latest installment of the Cover to Cover series and the band was launching into the Killers' "All These Things That I Have Done," for me, the song that defines "Hot Fuss."

Another head aches, another heart breaks
I am so much older than I can take
And my affection, well, it comes and goes
I need direction to perfection, no, no, no, no

Help me out, yeah
You know you got to help me out, yeah
Oh don't you put me on the back burner
You know you got to help me out

That was the beauty of tonight's performance. In addition to doing an entire album cover to cover, the first set was all highlights from the past Cover to Cover shows, all of which I'd been to.

So after the Killers, we got Fleetwood Mac's "Dreams" and host Matt's hilarious commentary, "That was a live fade-out, folks. I just wanted to point that out. Drink!" and held his cup of beer high.

From there, they moved through "Gold Dust Woman," then on to Green Day's "Dookie," which got all the young dudes around us singing out loud and another live fade-out.

Amy Winehouse's "Back to Black"  prompted Matt to observe that they hadn't taken song choice into consideration for Valentine's Day given that they'd done the title song and the next song was "Love is a Lonely Game" and then Paul Simon's "Graceland" wound things down.

The backing band has finally given themselves a name - Trunk Show - and were as tight as ever. I'm a big fan of guitarist Grant, who looked great sporting asymmetrical bangs and a Flying V-style guitar. His cool factor was off the charts.

Tonight's album hearkened back to my youth with Heart's February 1976 classic (for guys anyway), "Dreamboat Annie." As my girlfriend and I discussed, neither of us had been Heart fans, although all the guys we knew had been. Apparently, '70s men were suckers for girl guitarists and big-voiced singers in Renaissance garb.

The band came roaring out of the gate with "Magic Man," complete with elaborate guitar solos, setting the tone for the rest of the show. A second guitarist was added to the lineup and my girlfriend was soon swooning over Forrest and his intricate solos and happy grin.

One of the women in front of us, obviously a Heart fan because she sang every word despite her relative youth, said, "They better do "Dog and Butterfly" or I'm gonna hit someone," clearly unaware that that's a song off another Heart album.

No question, it was a rockin' choice of an album, by far the hardest rocking thing they've done, but even so, my friend leaned over and observed, "This music is so white it's hard to dance to." True that, but nobody was dancing to rock in the '70s; that's what disco was for.

They'd brought in the "A" team of vocalists with Debra, Maggie, Katrinah and Ali showcasing their vocal chops to channel Ann Wilson, minus the long velvet gowns.

Oh, and the lyrics! "If you love me like the music, I'll be your song." Wow, just wow.

"Okay, this is where your tops come off," Matt exhorted the crowd before "Sing, Child, Sing," complete with flute solo (which immediately made me think of Jethro Tull and wonder why flutes were a thing in '70s rock bands), but not by the lead vocalist a la Ann Wilson, but by a separate flute player while Forrest showboated like the best of the '70s aces, grinning with pleasure all the while.

For the record, no tops came off that we saw. I saved that for later.

That could been an evening's entertainment in and of itself, but we were nowhere close to through and headed directly to Studio Two Three for their Galentine's dance, complete with Mean Bird fried chicken plus waffles (one of my very favorite edible combos ever) and assorted breakfast pastry washed down by Conde Villar Vinho Verde Rose,

Because of course we're going to drink pink to celebrate. Celebrate what, you ask? How about that Cupid rhymes with stupid and we'll leave it at that?

Of course the women of Studio Two Three had done a magnificent job decorating the place for Valentine's Day, with giant hearts on the walls and hearts (both whole and broken) strung from lines overhead along with lights and  pink, red and white balloons.

Two DJs were alternating spinning vintage soul 45s and women were dancing on the big open dance floor. Only a few men were in attendance as dates and only two of those were brave enough to enter the dance arena, but not so girlfriend and me.

'When's the last time you were dancing?" my friend asked. November, I told her, unless you count slow dancing on New Year's Eve (she didn't). For her, it had been even longer.

So of course we soon joined the masses on the floor, even venturing to do a little turning and twirling with each other. Eventually, one of the other women passed on the "Best Dancer 2016" name tag to my friend, who eventually passed it on to another girl. Before the night was over, we'd both had it hung on our necks, although my friend was sure it was due to our senior position on the floor.

The best dancers were a trio - one in a long lace dress, one adorable in a purple dress and the last with a smile that never dimmed - who danced nonstop and incorporated us into their Soul Train-style dance lines so everybody could show off a little.

After the first half hour or so, I was sorry for the abundance of layers I'd worn, but took care of it nicely by removing one of my under tops without removing the one on top of it. It's like that old trick of taking off your bra without removing your shirt. Not difficult if you know what you're doing. I do.

I briefly considered taking off my jeans since I had fleece tights underneath but checked myself. You can only undress so far in public before people begin to wonder.

When my friend got hot and winded (her layers were not so easily shed), she propped herself up against a wall and I danced in front of her until she cooled down.

It gave us a chance to laugh about the group of high maintenance-looking women who spent more time on their phones than dancing despite taking up a large chunk of the dance floor with their straightened hair, anorexic thighs and lookalike outfits.

Besides them, everyone else was delightful, munching cold waffles and croissants between songs, grabbing people to dance with and generally making my first galentine's dance a fabulous thing.

To close things out, my friend marched over to the DJ and requested one last song as her final dance. Little Richard rocked us happily right up until we headed out into the frigid night which actually felt pretty wonderful after hours of being overheated dancing.

Once in the car, her first question was when we were going dancing again. My answer? Not soon enough. Her idea? Plan a dance party with similar music and lots of dancing types. I'm in.

After she dropped me off, I could have stayed home given what a stellar night it had already been, but why would I when WRIR's Black Valentine's Day show was happening at Gallery 5, a few short blocks away.

Arriving to find the place massively full and strangely warm with so many bodies, I was greeted by a friend in a faux leopard coat and then by another friend, the evening's DJ, sporting a silver sequined blazer.

Seems the drummer of the band onstage, Brown Sabbath (obviously a Black Sabbath cover band), had complimented his blazer (as did I), mentioning that he was in a Neil Diamond cover band and how well it would suit their lead singer.

Neither the DJ nor his wife even knew Richmond had a Neil Diamond cover band, so I brought them up to speed. Come on, kids, Diamond Heist is a blast.

Standing behind a girl in a massive turquoise blue curly wig, I watched Brown Sabbath for about two songs before opting to put earplugs in because I'm not enough of a fan to pain my ears for it. I loved how the lead singer would vape onstage during guitar solos and between songs and pump his fists in time to the drums.

Whether he's aping Ozzy or not, I have no idea. A friend who would have known leaned in and told me she was terribly impressed with how much like Ozzy this guy sounded.

Another friend demurred. "I think they're just too loud." When I pointed out that the room was full, so there must be lots of Sabbath fans in attendance, he responded, "Nah, they're just here for mating."

Not that that's what he was there for. He'd already purchased a date at the date auction earlier in the evening with a plan to spend their date looking for her lost dog.

Romance is in the eye of the beholder. White lightening and wine followed by dancing suited me just fine.

Cue live fade-out. Drink!