It's a swell life I have.
As I'm sitting on Hermitage Road en route to Hardywood, the evening sun inching toward setting on my left, a ridiculously long freight train crossing in front of me and Chakha Khan belting out "Through the Fire" at all-windows-open top volume, I am reminded of that fact yet again.
At the last minute I'd found out that tonight was Cover to Cover and that the Trunk Show band was doing "The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars" and decided it would be just disrespectful not to give the Thin White Duke my attention.
In no time, I made the acquaintance of a young women originally from Michigan after complimenting her gorgeous blond curly hair. "Yea, it's the best part of genetics," she said, both of us glowing from the warmth of the tap room.
Currently on a four-year post as a political scheduler in Richmond, she admitted to still getting to know the city, which made it all the more surprising that she'd found out about C2C.
"I was in Halcyon this afternoon and overheard someone talking about it and decided I definitely needed to come," she said. Turns out she'd done theater back in Michigan, leading to a comparison of which shows we'd both seen.
When Trunk Show took the stage, I pointed at guitarist Grant in a white short and vest and asked her if he was cute. "Well, he's got a guitar in front of him," she said rhetorically. "But, yes, he's definitely cute."
Then it was showtime. Matt, clad in synthetics with a blazer on top, yelled, "I'm really hot...in more ways than one!" and the show was off and running. When he got to the "I'm a space invader" lyric during "Moonage Daydream," the blazer was thrown off to reveal a symphony in Spandex: a backless, deep-cut purple top and silver skin-tight pants.
A few notes into "Starman," my young Michigan friend turns and grins, saying, "This is one of my very favorite Bowie songs!" Nearby, practically every middle-aged guy was singing along to every word.
Matt, on the other hand, only once forgot the lyrics all evening.
"This backless thing is great in a building that's 90,000 degrees, but the fabric just doesn't breathe!" Matt lamented from stage before going on to explain to the room (and especially newbies like Michigan) that the whole idea of Cover to Cover is to "bring back the idea of the album as a story meant to be heard start to finish, as opposed to his generation's habit of hearing one song out of context and never exploring the rest of the album at all.
Hey, he said it, I'm just seconding that notion.
But it wasn't just the Matt show and stellar vocalists Ali and Maggie (she's the brilliant one who came up with the C2C idea - it's always a woman, isn't it, with the best ideas?) were welcomed to the stage to sing lead in their appropriately glammy ensembles while the rest of us danced in the sweaty tap room to every song.
In the spirit of Matt's admonition, I followed Bowie with an evening of record-listening at Holmes' man cave, drinking "good swill," as he puts it (Graham Beck Brut Rose and French champagne Beloved had planned to save for her birthday) while grooving to "Ricky Nelson Live at the Troubadour," Joni Mitchell's "For the Roses" (after the third time Beloved and I replaced the needle on the start of "You Turn Me On, I'm a Radio," Holmes cut off our needle privileges) and "Court and Spark" and "The Best of Spirit," which reeked of the late 1960s.
But it was Holmes' extensive Neil Young collection that yielded the new-to-me "This Note's for You," a 1988 record by Neil Young and the Bluenotes (which couldn't have pleased Harold Melvin and the Bluenotes) that not only had a horn section, but pulled from the same influences as Stray Cats.
Who knew Neil ever went in this direction? Certainly not me.
Throughout the night, Holmes would spontaneously announce, "Everybody dance!" and everybody did. We were having such a great time that the only reason I left at 1 a.m. was because I knew I had to be up early.
When I got home, my downstairs neighbor was on his porch, contemplating the thunderstorm rolling in, smoking a cigarette and curious about where I'd been. When I told him I'd gone to a show followed by a friend's house to listen to records and talk, he sat up in attention.
"That's so cool that you do that kind of stuff!" he enthused. Do what, have a life? "No, that's more than a life. That you intentionally listen to music with friends and talk about it. I feel like the people I know never do that. No one I know actively listens to music."
To be clear, he graduated from VCU two weeks ago and is a practicing musician and this is his reality, that people can't be bothered to really listen to music, much less discuss it.
Being a millennial must suck in so many ways.
After five minutes of shared storm watching and lifestyle discussion, I bid him goodnight, intent on getting to bed so I'd be up early enough to catch the first hour of Broad Appetit. And, unlike Holmes who cracked me up earlier by deadpanning, "I like to have secure premises when I retire," I closed not a single window before sliding between the sheets
I was not only up, I met my date on the street, so eager was I to eat and escape quickly.
Even at 11:02, Broad Street was alive with people pushing strollers, walking dogs and making the loop in search of the best small plates. Unfortunately, this year's event had a far greater amount of fair-type vendors shoulder to shoulder with local restaurants, but really just taking up valuable space, in my opinion.
In one hour, we ate the equivalent of brunch: Lucy's meatloaf over cornbread and bacon-wrapped chicken with ranch dressing, Amour's duck crepes, potato pancake with applesauce and chocolate crepes with fleur de sel, Maple and Pine's short rib shortcake with mushroom ragout and quinoa salad with avocado mousse over an heirloom tomato, Castanea's paella and Lehja's butter chicken over rice and my favorite, an edamame and avocado chaat.
Just as good as the food I ate was the weather, which maintained a mostly comfortable cloudy overhang the whole hour we strolled the circuit. Only once we headed away from the increasing crowds did the sun make a concerted effort to come out.
It's only 12:03 and the whole day and evening is still ahead of me. Yep, my life is truly swell.