Sunday, October 16, 2016

Pop Arias and Beach Goth

Take me away, Indian Summer.

Before I left my apartment for a show at Hardywood, I actually debated the need for leggings under my dress and while I wore them, they were overkill.

The mercury is back in the upper '70s and I feel fine.

I felt even better exiting my car at the brewery because I immediately heard the full-throttle power pop blast of the Green Hearts, whose set had begun moments earlier. Running into an acquaintance as I walked in, I asked how far gone their set was.

"It's only the third song, but they're just the openers," he assured me. Fact is, they were the reason I'd come.

With not a thing on my Sunday to-do list, I wanted to be nowhere so much as in that hops-stinking tasting room because when the Green Hearts are singing, "Baby I Can Save the World" on a gloriously warm and sunny October afternoon, you believe they can.

If anything can save the world, it's got to be five guys in ties rocking hook-laden garage pop on a gorgeous afternoon.

The icing on the cake was lead singer Paul ending their set by saying, "Please vote. Intelligently."

During the break, one friend talked about the Tin Pan usurping Ashland Coffee and Tea's business and the other informed me that he and a friend had accidentally discovered that they both knew me. The latter was only staying for a little of the next set but the former had come specifically to see them.

Although they weren't my reason for being there, the Dirty Bourbon River Show did provide an opportunity to assuage my loss at not having seen Big Freedia at the sold-out S'Matter show last night since both acts are from New Orleans.

With a lead singer who had a voice like Cab Calloway (despite being a skinny white boy), the brass band arrived locked and loaded, almost immediately sucking in the beer-drinking crowd with its joyous party vibe and five band members who clearly liked being in the spotlight.

Local burlesque queen Deanna Danger came out to dance during one song, gyrating in front of members of the crowd to elicit their participation, many of whom seemed to be experiencing their first brush with burlesque.

One girl, busy looking at her phone, barely looked up when Deanna did a dance challenge directly in front of her. Don't you just hate when that pesky real life stuff interferes with looking at your phone?

Turns out that while the band was thrilled to be in Richmond, they had no accommodations, so they solicited from the stage. "Come talk to us during the break...especially if you have five empty bedrooms!" Sadly, I don't.

Before that could happen, they did a fine rendition of "Minnie the Moocher" (complete with a few people singing along) as well as a song, "Knockin' On Your Headboard," from their upcoming Spring album.

There was even a pocket trumpet solo for good measure.

When I left the tasting room, the sun was still shining and the tuba still ringing in my ears. Once home, I decided to head over to My Noodle for dinner solely because I wanted a walk before the sun set.

Besides a most excellent meal, I fell hard for a new-to-me band that the bartender identified as "a Growlers playlist." That told me they had at least a few albums.

It was a southern California '60s influence that I'd first heard, but she identified them as a California beach-goth band, even while lamenting not having seen them in D.C. recently. Okay, there's another sub-genre I can add to my musical quiver.

Walking home was a reminder how little light we have left in early evening any more.

My final stop of the day required getting back in the car to follow a moon so large and round it resembled a theater prop to Church Hill for music at Sub Rosa, except I arrived a tad early, so I moseyed down to Union Market to cool my heels for a bit with a snack of Maine root beer and bag of blue corn chips while investigating the inventory at close range.

My favorite was the tea towel screen printed with Church Hill restaurants, but it's likely the neighbors are just grateful for bread and milk.

Back at Sub Rosa, the crowd stood at 8 people (including baker/owner Evrim) when I arrived to hear the dream folk stylings of Wes Swing for, what, probably the third time in five years.

"Hi, I'm Wes Swing and we're Wes Swing," Wes said, gesturing at his musical accomplice. "The last time we played here was for a music video and it was 20 degrees and the space wasn't renovated. It was awesome!"

So was he with his endless ways of playing the cello - plucking, bowing, using as percussion - and looping it to create densely-layered chamber folk pop, sometimes playing acoustic guitar, with his sidekick ably handling guitar, synth and everything else.

But, oh, Wes' voice had that high, yearning, earnest quality that so many voices I love do. With only the light of five hanging bulbs, the bakery felt like a magical place for a very few.

By the time the audience grew to 10, the band was well into their set, so the new guest apologized for his tardiness to the room just before they covered Townes van Zandt's "Flying Shoes" magnificently.

Spring only sighed
Summer had to be satisfied
Fall is a feeling 
That I just can't lose

After a couple of songs on guitar, Wes grabbed his cello and said, "We're gonna bring back the drum machine now" ("That looks like  a cello," the newcomer called out) and launched into a seductive cover of Bjork's "Unravel" that only further demonstrated the transcendent ache in his voice.

When Wes mentioned how one of Evrim's Turkish songs had gotten stuck in his head, it resulted in a three-way discussion with Evrim's fellow bandmate Christina about how they should do the song and put it on their next album.

For now, Evrim went up, took the guitar and with Wes on cello, sang the hauntingly beautiful song to us, pleasing Wes no end. In return, Evrim requested Wes do his dark pop aria - something about Dido building a funeral pyre - adapted from a Henry Purcell opera.

"It's nice to be in Sub Rosa in warmer climes and when it's a real bakery," Wes said in thanks.

After an especially beat-driven song with lots of drums and percussion, Evrim called out, "Next time you come, it's going to be a dance party right in front of you!" Wes said a house show had once gone in that direction.

"Except it's hard to cry and dance at the same time," Evrim amended.

The duo closed out the night with a new song, "The Next Life," another clear-voiced vocal punctuated with sumptuous strings. Our small audience donated, clapped heartily and felt lucky for what we'd just experienced.

When I mentioned to a friend that it seemed wrong that there were so few people there, she demurred. "I kind of like that it was just us," she admitted. Me, too, although I hate to seem greedy.

I may have sighed, but Indian summer and I had to be satisfied. We were.

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