Sunday, September 25, 2016

Kick Out the Jams

It was out of the natural order but I wouldn't have missed it for the world.

When it comes to spinning vintage 45s, my heart belongs to Mr. Fine Wine, the problem being that it had been ten months since he'd made the trek from New Jersey to Metzger and I was jonesing badly.

I know we have a lot of great DJs in this town and I have friends who are superb DJs, but no one has ever quite nailed my musical needs on the dance floor quite like Mr. Fine Wine and it's for this reason that I would move heaven and hell to catch him when he comes to town.

Tonight, as it turned out, I didn't need to do much more than work into the early evening before Mac arrived to accompany me to Metzger's Oktoberfest.

Granted, I don't drink beer and true, sunset was nigh and the event had already been going on for close to seven hours when we arrived to find a bored-looking cop popping a squat in his cruiser, probably alternately mocking the crowd and checking the police radio.

You see, tonight's Fine Wine dance party was happening on a closed-off street, part of the Oktoberfest vibe and therein lies the rub.

If there's one thing that's a constant at all Metzger's throwdowns where he DJs, it's the heat. You can't very well fill a small restaurant to capacity with sweaty dancers and not expect the temperature to rise.

But when you're dancing outdoors on a breezy 68 degree night, such issues are moot.

But the party began with listening (nay, reveling in), not dancing, as we arrived, took stock of the knots of people and decided our course of action. Food was first.

The restaurant's windows were being utilized as order and pick-up stations, so we placed our order for roast chicken, sauerkraut and an obscenely over-sized soft pretzel with Chef Brittney after chatting her up.

When she thanked me for coming, I reminded her that I'd yet to miss a Fine Wine evening and that my main purpose in coming tonight was just that. Food and drink were mere icing on the cake. "I know, I wish more people were paying attention to the music," she lamented, a fact I'd already noticed.

Clearly most of the Oktoberfest celebrants had either no knowledge of this component of the festivities or else were oblivious to the non-stop rare yet catchy series of three-minute soul gems he was spinning.

Either way, it was tragic.

She allowed that while tonight's weather was glorious for the occasion, the street had been a miserable place along about mid-afternoon on this especially warm Fall day without so much as a lick of shade anywhere.

Our delayed arrival, it seems, was perfectly timed.

Job one was scoring Ruby Salts and slurping them standing up while mulling over the wisdom of cocktail sauce next to them (far better the accompanying lemon or mignonette, even upright) while I told her about a rainy afternoon in the kitchen of the woman anointed world's best oyster shucker, with the only warmth coming from the oven.

Mostly, we talked about "mens," as she called them and what a problem they can be. You can't buy memories like that.

Food in hand, we roosted on the steps of the church just on the other side of the magic chain that delineated the biergarten, with a clear view of Mr. You Know Who and his seemingly endless supply of obscure R & B vinyl that was already causing my hips to twitch.

After devouring crispy-skinned chicken (the juicy leg being my favorite), tangy kraut and what amounted to an everything pretzel, we procured glasses of Gruner Veltliner and took up residency on the street dance floor.

Since it was Mac's first time, I was hardly surprised when she repeatedly turned to me to say, "Man, this music is just so good!" Tell me about it....or, better yet, ask the tall guy in leiderhosen dancing non-stop. Or the trio using a hula hoop to dance over and through.

For the most part, the crowd was unfamiliar to me, unlike at past Fine Wine events, but there was one major difference tonight and it was a doozy.

This vinyl party was to stop at 9:00. For someone who's used to him starting to spin at 11, it was enough to make me dread the stroke of nine.

Not long before that cataclysmic event, a couple came over to say hi and I recognized them because we'd met previously when he'd approached me to share that his wife was a devoted reader of my blog. Apparently, she still feels shy about approaching me, despite also feeling like she knows me well given how long she's been reading about my life.

Hoping to prove the point that the blog is just another vehicle to meet people, I introduced her to Mac, suggesting she ask her how we'd come to be out together.

Because, of course, our friendship was a direct result of the blog. You just never know where a new pal is coming from.

Two beer-loving friends came over to talk, telling me they'd gone to Pridefest on Brown's Island to see my favorite cover band, Trunk Show, play this afternoon, a show I'd had to forego to work on assignments.

So, what did they play?

"Let's see, Amy Winehouse, um, there was some David Bowie..." he said, trailing off. I bet there was Fleetwood Mac, I said. "How'd you know that?" he said, sounding incredulous.

Simple, I miss about as many Cover to Cover shows as I do Mr. Fine Wine nights, although the former ends around 9 and the latter, usually not until 2 a.m. I only wish tonight.

Promptly at 9, the music died, although the man who'd introduced me to WFMU's master DJ gave him permission to play one final song, but even one final hour would never have been enough, so when that ended, we knew we had to move on.

Or as one of the more amusing staffers yelled, "The cops want you guys to get the hell out of the street!" and people began to disperse.

After a heartfelt thanks to Mr. Fine Wine, who was kind enough to remember me from past evenings, and a soulful sigh, we exited stage right.

Fortunately, I had another stellar plan, although sadly, this one didn't involve dancing.

The Bijou - the new arthouse theater that has laid claim to my last three Saturday nights, mind you - was showing the music documentary "Danny Says" about rock gadfly and former Ramones/MC5/Stooges manager Danny Fields.

Adding to the cachet of the film was that today was arthouse theater day, meaning the Bijou was showing a film that hasn't even opened nationally yet.

Yet again, Richmond manages to be too cool for school.

When one of the co-founders thanked me for coming, I reminded him I'm practically a fixture lately. "You class up the joint," he kindly told me before Mac and I joined her man in third row seats to eat gratis popcorn.

The film was a who's who of music talent from the '60s to the late '70s - Judy Collins (who kindly took Danny to a beach so he could enjoy his first acid trip at the that's a friend), Iggy Pop (young and old, but always lean and leathery), Alice Cooper - but the undisputed star of it all was the interviews of Reid, who manages to distance himself and completely immerse himself in the tangential glow of musical evolution, which he helped shape with his support of underdog punk bands he believed in.

But as a film and photography geek, I was bowled over by all the archival footage, including a recording of Danny playing the Ramones for Lou Reed the first time ("This is the greatest thing I've ever heard!") and hearing that MC5 was the only band with a minister of defense.

You don't learn these nuggets unless you're a dedicated documentary dork and you're lucky enough to have a small, independent theater looking out for your film needs.

Nor do you have your killer Saturday night tied neatly with a bow when you learn that Danny did a stint as a DJ at WFMU, coincidentally, the same WFMU that currently hosts Mr. Fine Wine's ode to the music of my heart, Downtown Soulville.

I could have danced all night and still have begged for more.

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