Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Ways to be Wicked

There are so many reasons to entertain come the end of the year.

To start with, everyone knows that the best way to get your house cleaned is to invite people over. Despite my house being constantly neat, it was aching for a big dose of clean, which it got.

Not to brag, but I'd put my freshly-laundered curtains and lemon-polished furniture up against the nearest clean house, at least for the next few days.

For that matter, it's ridiculously easy to piggyback during the season of non-stop soirees.

After saying yes to Tracy and Kenny's holiday jam at Steady Sounds - which involved alcohol, sweets and gangs from Danville and New Jersey planning to rumble after their band Positive No played - I saw that several friends I don't see often enough were attending.

How easy would it be to invite a few of them to make the three-block trek to my abode afterward for some holiday revelry a listening party on my new/old turntable?

As it turns out, not very.

One way to look at it is that Positive No had put everyone into such a great mood (Tracy's swinging ponytail and green tunic over red tights dancing around the store as she sang was enough to do so) that my intended guests couldn't help but say yes.

Well, except for the friend who'd just come down with the "RVA flu," which is knocking people out of circulation for upwards of a week with its debilitating symptoms. No, thank you.

Another is to presume that after both of us saying for literally years that we were going to get together, one friend decided to take advantage of a ready-made opportunity, bringing her art geek spouse along to amuse us with a mispronunciation of "'zines," which came out rhyming with "dines," and resulted in much laughter.

Yet another guest was a friend of a friend and new to me, or at least I didn't recognize him as he appeared tonight at Steady Sounds, but once ensconced in a chair in my living room, once he told me his drag name, but of course I knew him from all manner of burlesque performances over the years.

There was the shy one quietly sipping on her J.Mourat "Collection" Rose, occasionally clarifying Turkey's geography for the group or the sound benefits of a venue and then there was the one who was almost embarrassed to admit he'd never been to my house despite our man-made familial connection.

It made me happy to take questions about some of the local art on my walls, regaling them with stories about the who and why when asked. That was usually by the one who works at VMFA, although I had to tease her after she admitted that she only switched her major to art history because of a crush on her art history professor.

Who doesn't have their tawdry secrets?

I plied my guests with alcohol, then played music loud enough for it to be a focus during conversation. After all, it's my party and I'll play how I want to.

Considering my audience, I chose my records carefully, eager to appeal and not bore, but trying to find some soft spots and knowing full well that no other human being would enjoy everything I played as much as I did.

Karen's holiday 2016 playlist started with "The Best of Donny Hathaway," not just for the voice that inspired everyone from Stevie Wonder to Amy Winehouse, but because side two ends with an unknown-to me holiday gem, "This Christmas," and how better to kick off a party?

Then, to reel in my Hopscotch regulars (who questioned why I don't attend and insisted they always have an extra bed), you play Lydia Loveless' "Real" and try to pretend it isn't on daily rotation (it is), but more importantly, follow it with Lone Justice's self-titled 1985 debut album, hoping others will, like me, marvel at how, given the era and their sound, they didn't get bigger than they did.

But in order to bring it around to my real roots, we then dive into "To Be True" by Harold Melvin and the BlueNotes featuring Theodore Pendergrass, for a solid dose of Gamble and Huff-penned Philly soul that I still enjoy every bit as much as I did when I first heard it.

And, let's be real, most women could listen to Teddy (RIP) sing the phone book.

By this time, I can tell that between pulls on his wine glass, the DJ is fully researching every album cover after I start the record, and frequently allowing his inner dance party to express itself by reacting to the bass line and grinning like he'd been the genius to put it on. Ahem.

"Roxy Music: The Atlantic Years 1973-1980" speaks to practically everyone regardless of age or sex (or maybe the beer and wine have just kicked in by now) because every song Bryan Ferry croons is instantly familiar and swoon-worthy.

Completely confident of my audience by then, I put on the Blow Monkeys' "Animal Magic," which causes one guest to '80s dance in his chair while another films the action. Hilarity ensues when the video shows him dancing while the younger guest next to him appears frozen motionless...or at least completely unmoved by the music.

I decide to close out with the Roches' 1979 debut album, mainly because a serious music geek recently said to me that if "Hammond Song" from that record came along today, the band would be huge and he's probably right.

What got my attention was that it was produced by Robert Fripp. Wow, just wow.

But looking at the album cover of the three sisters, all my youngest party guest can do is marvel at the vintage Adidas and Nikes the women are wearing on the cover. I've had that album for decades and never noticed their shoes.

Which brings us to our final point, which is that sometimes you entertain just to have fresh eyes on your life and fresh ears on your stories.

This Christmas, Mr. Hathaway, that's my goal.

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