Saturday, August 20, 2016

Here We Go Loop-de-Loo

They're baaaack!

Three of the female variety stood in front of me at Steady Sounds.

My favorite had long, curly red hair tied up in a black scrunchee, a black and white striped t-shirt over black shorts and low-top white Converse, but she won my heart with her violet cloth bag which was a copy of the original cover of Virginia Wolf's "A Room of One's Own" worn earnestly and un-ironically.

Three, or maybe it was four, of various sexes, all talking over top of each other like in a Robert Altman movie, spilled out of a house on Marshall Street as I walked home from the record store.

I heard one laughing voice asking, "Did you have fun today?" while another squealed, "Where are we going now?" and a third exclaimed, "I had so much fun today!"

Pure, unadulterated exuberance.

Three of the male persuasion of varying heights and one female with a skateboard awaited on the corner of Clay and Harrison.

Clearly new to city life, they were so hesitant as to be paralyzed about crossing the street, despite the red light that kept me from moving until they did, so I waved them across, garnering grins and thank yous. Their mothers would be so proud.

You guessed it, Richmond is suddenly lousy with incoming gringos freshmen and you can barely swing a dead cat without hitting one so inevitably when I leave my apartment, there they are.

As opposed to my three-block walk, Philly quintet Honey Radar said it took seven hours to get to Steady Sounds, which seemed to be a surprise to them but is really just common sense to anyone who knows I-95 on a Friday (especially during the summer).

Walking in, the first friends I saw there were the living room show hosts, still recovering from the high of Wednesday evening's show and the requisite celebrating that followed. On the other hand, they were there.

The band's catchy sound was short, jangly (hello, three guitarists), lo-fi and, at least one friend heard Guided By Voices influences as we listened to older stuff and songs from their new album. Most songs didn't so much end as fall away, as if their attention was already on to something else.

Midway through their set, the store owner slid a couple of beers across his counter in the direction of the long-haired guitarist (as opposed to the other two with wholesome short hair) who, without taking his right hand off the guitar used his left to give his benefactor a thumbs up, open the beer one-handed and take a swig before returning to the song.

That's talent, folks.

Even so, the in-store performance at Steady Sounds was merely the appetizer for the show at Hardywood that became my next stop.

I found the photographer minus his cute wife at a picnic table outside, chowing down while inside, the crowd was summer-small, meaning I scored a table and chair with no effort at all.

Kenneka Cook had just begun playing when I arrived and while I'd forgotten her name, immediately I recalled first seeing her al fresco at the Valentine's music in the garden series. Using her rich voice, she layers it with beat boxing until there's a full-bodied soul song with harmonies coming out of one woman.

"This is one I wrote the words to but not the music," she teased. "You'll recognize it." The theme to "Mission Impossible" turned out to be not only familiar but also a fine music bed for her songwriting.

Extroverts are always happy when the break between music is full of company.

I was soon joined by a dapper friend and comedian, fiendishly attired in sunglasses, a seersucker jacket with a pin on the lapel and a harmonica in the pocket. Occasionally he'd withdraw a black handkerchief and dab dramatically at his forehead and neck like a true Southern gentleman despite his Indian heritage.

He wasted no time trying to make me laugh, explaining how refers to Hillary Clinton. "I call her Hi C, but I know that's not a good name because no one likes Hi-C," he deadpanned.

When I responded, "Well, they like it better than Tang," his eyes grew wide and he laughed because he though its was so hilarious.

Hilarious to the point that he later told the story to another friend, with attribution, of course (despite me telling him he could use it), assuring me, "I don't steal jokes, well, except for that once and that was from a magazine article."

We all understand situational rationalization, don't we?

A musician friend came over to say hello and ask how my summer is going, to which I said it's been fabulous.

Her surprised look was followed by admitting that she tends to focus on the lame parts rather than the great bits when asked about her summer. Wednesday I'd been asked the exact same question and had responded the same way, only to have that friend lament, "Maybe mine has been fabulous and I just don't say it."

Why the hell not?

When Patrice Rushen's "Forget Me Nots" began playing, my body took over but I also told Mr. Dapper that I was the only one in the room who not only knew the song title, but the artist.

Not content to believe me, he pulled out his phone and moved toward the speaker to Soundhound it, but I insisted on telling him what it was before he could tell me what his device said.

 Just then I spotted a nearby woman dancing just as hard as I was to it.

Naturally, she was soon added to my circle, saying she'd forgotten Patrice's name despite dancing to it like it was 1982 again.

Originally a native Richmonder, she'd spent 20 years living in Miami Beach and when I asked what lured her back, she put it succinctly. "I'd gotten too old for clubs, I was too young for Century Village, so I came back because Richmond got hip while I was gone."

On that topic, the photographer and I discoursed long and hard after he told me about a couple of record compilations his record label is putting together along with photographs, show flyers and video archives that trace the arc of the rise of RVA's scene the past seven years.

Well, butter me up and call me a biscuit because there's a project I intend to get behind 100%.

A big reason I'd come tonight was to hear Nelly Kate do her looping magic with voice, keyboard and knobs, which she did despite technical difficulties that would have beaten a lesser artist.

The haunting songs, though produced similarly to Kenneka's, sounded like they were from another universe, but her set was too short considering the gap between shows now that she's living out of town for a while.

She called Dave Watkins up to join her for one song before ceding the stage to him and his dulcitar looping magic. Guitar geeks and guys in general made up the front row, all agog at Dave's mastery with his handmade instrument.

Once he was finished, I got a sweaty hug and a chance to chat with him about summer, which must be close to over because there are three parties on my block tonight which is a sure indication that they're back.

But ask me how my evening went and I'll tell you it was fabulous. Because it was.

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