Eric Bachmann played my friends' house during a summer storm. How was your night?
Pretty much just as good since I'd become a ticket-holding guest for the show two months ago, knowing chances were slim that I'd ever get invited to see the lead singer of Crooked Fingers and Archers of Loaf play a living room show again anytime soon.
And not just any living room, but an open floor plan design in a mid-century modern house with some of the grooviest art and furniture you're likely to see in Richmond. It wasn't hard to understand why the tour organizers had quickly agreed to let them host a show in such a funky and stylish place.
I'd shown up, as directed by our delightful hostess, with libations to share and a (recently purchased at Diversity Thrift) folding chair, only to abandon the chair in the laundry room when I immediately ran into friends.
Lots of good ones, too: the music writer recently back from San Jose where she was underwhelmed, the recently single, looking-to-move DJ, the poet/novelist, the book store owner, the cute couple from Northside, the historian with great hair.
One guy, a stranger to me, had driven five hours from Pennsylvania for the show. I got that. After all, how many living room shows does a person get invited to?
A little later when the room was beginning to fill up with people's chairs, I went to collect mine and secure a place on the floor. In front of the dryer I found our hostess and a man sitting in my seat. I politely explained that I needed my chair in order to reserve a good spot for the performance.
"Karen, this is Eric," she said introducing me to the guest of honor, coincidentally the same man I'd just asked to vacate my chair. So, yes, that was me asking the person I'd come to see to please clear out so I could secure a fine spot from which to watch him sing and play guitar.
I'm not saying it was right, I'm just telling you what happened.
The incident, the chair, my nerve, they all became moot when the photographer insisted I take the chair next to his cute wife since he'd be moving about shooting throughout. I told him my chair was there for him if he needed it.
Eric was seated in a chair in front of a large, curved window with 44 panes, with the window seat covered in lighted candles with all kinds of plants there and on the floor in front of it. Twinkling lights were strung from the top of the window, and through the glass we could see distant lightening.
A banjo stood in its stand next to the guitar's stand, their cases arranged fetchingly between larger plants.
There's chaos in the violins
This tableaux is why PJ was taunting online friends with his casual post about how magical the evening felt. Another friend put it even more directly after the show. "I felt honored to witness that."
I don't know who wouldn't agree with her on that - his lived-in voice, life experience lyrics, between song humor - after an evening listening to songs off just about all of his albums.
He'd told us at the start that he was more than happy to take requests, but it wasn't really that simple.
People would yell out songs and he'd demur because he no longer knew it, or it was a piano song, or he needed more power (he used only an acoustic guitar and once, only once, his least favorite instrument, the harmonica) so he couldn't pull them off.
He did his Mom's favorite song, which happened to be about cheating ("I didn't ask," he said), admitted that one song was very difficult to make not sound like McCartney's "Silly Love Songs" ("We must have plagiarized it, but we didn't know it") and admitted to coveting the red-laced, black Converse hi-tops with white stars Paul was wearing directly in front of him.
The lion doesn't mind if the lamb takes its time
When he grabbed his banjo to play a few songs, he shared that he and his fellow Crooked Fingers banjo player had considered starting a Bon Jovi cover band called - wait for it - Banjo- Vi to play bad Bon Jovi covers.
"What pisses me off is that I know it would make us rich," Eric said with a grimace. Ain't life a bitch sometimes?
When the thunder outside got fiercer, he told us about his little dog in her crate in a back room. Since she's afraid of storms, he worried about whether he should bring her into the room for reassurance. What's her name, someone called out.
"Lupe. Like Guadeloupe without the Guada," Eric explained and the crowd called for Lupe to join us, which she did, in receiving line fashion, going person to person for a back scratch, tummy rub or ear petting.
How do you save a thing that's meaning to die?
The crowd was pretty interactive, but when someone called out, "Is that song autobiographical?" Eric shot back, "You don't ask that, man." Ooh, damn. Then he admitted that they're all autobiographical.
Toward the end of the evening, he said, "This is great, you yell out songs and I don't play them. There's a lot of power in that." When he announced he was closing with "White Trash Heroes," there was some excited applause and a guy near me inhaled, "Nice!"
When he finished, he looked at us and said, "I'm going to do two more. This is the encore. Pretend I left and came back."
He finished for real with a new song off this year's album, the one that everyone's raving about, bringing us back to why he was touring living rooms in the first place.
Afterward, it became a party as people mingled and discussed what a lovely thing we'd just experienced.
I kept going back to that moment when my raven-tressed friend had called out, asking if he'd cover Prince's "When You Were Mine" and while Eric continued strapping on his banjo, he'd also looked at her strangely and said, "I was just about to play that song."
Eric Bachmann just covered Prince at my friends' house during a summer storm. So how was your night anyway?