Saturday, May 21, 2016

Seagreen Serenades

This weekend, it's Jackson Ward, not Ashland, that's the center of the universe.

So after wandering through "Celebrate Jackson Ward: Past, Present and Future" at Abner Clay Park for a bit, I headed up Adams, looking for a slice before a show. A guy in round-framed glasses sat on the railing of his porch playing an accordion against his bottle green shirt, one leg crossed over the other.

What, your neighborhood doesn't have serenading accordionists?

On Broad, I saw a guy approaching half a block away from Tarrant's with a full bucket of ice, headed toward Max's. What a method, I commented sarcastically. "Yea, right?" he asked rhetorically.

A sleek stretch limo took up all the real estate in front of Tarrant's and a guy in a silver tux posed next to a girl in a lavender gown outside the restaurant. I continue to the back door where, while waiting for pizza, two women came in looking for the sit-down Tarrant's.

Go down the block and make a left at the prom kids, I instructed them. Full service awaits you. The young bucks behind the counter found this hilarious.

Once I'd scored my dinner, I walked it up the alley and over a block to the wooden steps behind the Renaissance Building. My view included blue sky and the two arched towers of the Jefferson while being entertained by snippets of conversation from passers-by.

A sextet of West End-looking young millennials (a distinction I've learned matters to older millennials) passed by, with one woman saying, "When you grow up in the suburbs, you never even think about the city. Then you grow up and find out it's a big city." Cue enthusiastic chatter about how cool Richmond is.

As I munched my pie, clutches of prom-goers appeared in the parking lot headed to their cars post-dinner, pre-prom. All of a sudden a girl in a blue gown ran by in flat sandals at top speed, a boy's green jacket flapping on her shoulders.

The second time she sprinted by, the hem of her gown clutched in one hand, I opened my mouth and out came a comment about all her running. "Yea, I run track," she said without breaking stride or even breathing hard.

Yes, but in a long dress?

A crowd had already begun to gather at Gallery 5 when I arrived and was asked if I'd pre-ordered a ticket, which I had, but the printed list of ticket buyers was not in alphabetic order. "And with 107 tickets pre-sold, it's a pain," the girl said, scanning for my name.

Behind her, a sign clearly laid out the band schedule and stated that the capacity was 150 and not a person over. Good luck to the remaining 43 is all I can say.

I was delighted to run into a favorite older millennial who now lives in Forest Hill and is counting the days until WPA Bakery opens. It was the second time in five days I'd run into the dulcitar player but tonight there was time to actually catch up with him on all fronts: work, love life and music. The scooter queen and entourage showed up, along with a smattering of WRIR DJs.

You could definitely say the older hipster crowd was representing again, no surprise really given that electronic pioneer Silver Apples - formed in 1967, for heavens' sake - was headlining.

Before the big guns we got two hits of Richmond electronica, first Jon Hawkins of Navi, performing with bass and drums as trio Thumper and then the ultra-groovy psych folk vibes of Father Sunflower and the Golden Rays. Guitarist Christian's epic beard and breast-length hair made for a mountain man look while Stephanie channeled Janis in fringed suede boots and rose-colored glasses.

But flute and tambourine player Sara took top prize with her orange, white and blue paisley maxi-dress which (naturally) tied in the back. Their effects-laden set was full of good vibrations.

During the break, my friend shared that he'd been given a Silver Apples CD a decade ago by a musician who thought he should know about the band. He'd been blown away. I admitted that my first exposure had been when I'd gotten the invitation to the show.

This much I knew: drummer Danny died in 205, leaving Simeon to play his homemade synthesizers and sing as Silver Apples. He walked out wearing a black cowboy hat, a wide silver cuff necklace and a black t-shirt, ready to prove that the electronica world owes much to this 76-year old.

I'm honestly not sure how anyone could not move to the music he was making.

I don't even know what was on the table, but what all the playing and knob-turning resulted in was sixties psychedelia filtered through a club beat and Simeon grinned with obvious delight after finishing each song to applause and enthusiastic shouting.

He's having such a great time, I told my friend. "That makes it even better!" he enthused.

Simeon didn't just push buttons and turn things, he did it all with high drama, freezing into a pose for a second or two before changing a sound, reacting as if electrified when hitting something, throwing his head back to mimic a sound.

At one point, he pressed something and what sounded like a ship signal filled the room. Whatever this primitive sound-making machine was, it had a hell of a lot of personality.

But so did Simeon and as my friend pointed out, his enthusiasm could be seen as a reminder of the importance of doing what you love.

Even better methinks if you can do it right here in J-Ward.

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