Saturday, June 4, 2016

Do It for the Girls

Our little scene is all grown up. Anybody got a tissue?

At least that's how I felt after waiting out the hardest of the rain to walk over to Gallery 5 in flip-flops and a drip-dry dress under an umbrella accidentally "borrowed" from an Air BnB in Portland, passing a photographer friend who called out, "Enjoy the show!" as we passed in the murky wetness of Madison Street.

To my surprise, I was greeted by a clutch of people at the door and an experienced doorman carefully managing a line, allowing one in for every one who came out. There was a time when a downpour would have kept Richmond from making any effort to bother going out at all.

Not so anymore, hipsters. Tonight's First Friday gallery opening was for Jennifer Kennedy's Girls Rock! benefit show with four of the artists' favorite bands and subjects (with at least one woman in each, coincidence or no?) performing while upstairs, people leaned in for a good look at all the familiar musical faces Jennifer had captured over the past few years.

Perhaps most noticeable about the pieces was how varied the state of completion was, some partially sketched out and others fully colored in and realized. The secret is that she only draws during the band's set, so if they stop playing, she puts her pencils down.

Avers' set had just begun when I finally made it inside, but something was off. Finishing a song, Alexandra (who resembles no one so much as a millennial version of Sheryl Crow in white jeans) explained, "If you've seen us before, you know Charlie is missing. He's in North Carolina at his sister's wedding where he's probably rocking out. Because Charlie is always rocking out somewhere."

Truer words were never spoken.

As good as the band's polished music-from-a-cave sound played tonight, Charlie's energetic presence, enthusiasm for playing and those outstanding chops were missed. Not to mention that glorious mop of hair, which even fellow guitarist Adrian's shoulder-length hair flipping, intentional and as frequent as breathing or blinking, could not offset, much as he might try.

There was a lot of it when he sang lead on "Girls with Headaches," which winds down with glorious three-part harmonies to further add to Avers' charms.

Set over, I head upstairs to ogle the art, immediately sucked in by the game of trying to identify the artists depicted without resorting to the key before choosing my favorite and supporting Girls Rock! by buying myself a piece of art that completely captured the energy of my friend and favorite instrument-maker, Dave.

As I was completing the paperwork, a couple approached, eager to buy their own drawing, only to learn it had been purchased but not yet marked sold. When it appeared they were going to give up on the idea, I insisted they find a second choice. In true Murphy's Law fashion, that, too, had been sold and not marked.

I sent them out again, entreating them to support the cause and find something they wanted, my second contribution to the Girls Rock! cause this evening.

It was upstairs that I also ran into the soon-to-deliver classical musician couple, with the magnificently-maned Mr. pointing at his wife's rounded belly saying, "Look at what I did!" with obvious pride. My chat with her involved the vagaries of laying out plans (say, for a healthy pregnancy) only to have life rudely intervene.

When I heard the first notes of Christi, I headed down and stationed myself on the landing of the staircase for a fine view of the band rocking out in the best pop punk marries girl group way and even covering Chris Isaak's "Wicked Game" complete with '90s guitars and two front women in jean shorts, not that the youngsters in the room recognized the song until halfway through.

From my bird's eye vantage point, I saw the sound guy dash to the bathroom  and moments later the lead singer called out, "Can we keep playing?' The crowd cheered their approval and the sound guy, presumably, sighed in relief behind a closed door, oblivious to anything other than delayed relief.

They closed with "Get You Offa My Mind," because what woman hasn't had that annoying problem? Our foremothers could have saved us a lot of trouble by throwing themselves in front of buffaloes and ending the species when they had the chance. But alas.

Then who comes down the stairs grinning happily but the art-seeking couple who had finally decided on one of the many drawings of Gull? Turns out she'd been intent on buying a piece from a show where she'd attended and seen Jen drawing.

That hadn't occurred to me as motivation in choosing, although it was a happy accident because I had been at the WRIR fundraiser at Strange Matter in March 2014 when Jennifer had sketched the piece I'd bought.

After their set, I mingled. The post-punk wife had bought her husband's image and the dulcitar player's sister had bought one of him.

The PK (preacher's kid for those of us not raised in the Bible Belt) and I enjoyed a lively discussion of why I don't and he does engage people about their religious beliefs ("I love going down that hole with so-called believers," he said) and why he's convinced that the planet's salvation involves convincing the large Christian population to embrace environmentalism.

Think about how many people that would be if he could get them on board, even just the American Christians. Only a PK would even want to try.

There were other friends - the DJ from last night's show, the subject of my new art purchase, the organizer of the event with whom I discussed feminism briefly ("I said, 'Dad, you have three daughters, you're a feminist," she tells me), the earth mother, loopy after two 8.5% beers she got for performing, which I'd missed waiting out the raining cats and dogs portion of tonight's weather.

Lady God had the closing spot on the bill and the friend who claims to be an introvert but always chats through every show informed me, "The crowd's going to like them, They're good." What's not to like about a garage rock/pop band heavy on the bass?

They kicked off their set with "Rattlesnake" before bassist Chrissie asked sweetly of the sound guy, "Can I please get a sprinkle of guitar and a half teaspoon of bass more in my monitor?" The results of the tweaks were quite tasty as the band finished out the night with as big a crowd as Lobo Marino had had three hours earlier.

It's funny, more than one person tonight mentioned how Gallery 5 had been at capacity pretty much since the doors had opened. Several others, including two performers, commented on how Jennifer's show was a perfect example of how interwoven and mutually supportive Richmond's artistic scene has become these days.

Richmond is rocking out somewhere pretty much every night of the week, have you noticed?

Look what we did.

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