Saturday, February 11, 2017

One More Shot at Second Chances

Everyone arrives at Postmodern Jukebox a different way. And, like the Ark, they generally arrive in twos.

In my case, it was two plus a fifth wheel (yours truly, marking a notable exception to the rule), that began at Saison for dinner, along with scads of others on their way to the same show. I barely made it two steps in when my J-Ward neighbors, the librarian and the social butterfly, called out from the bar.

The owner seated me at the back most table to await my tardy couple date and, since I'd run into him twice last weekend, I inquired about his plans for this weekend.

They were far more industrious than last week, with doors being hung, new cocktails to be tested out and, with any luck he said, perfecting the mixture of tequila and tonic in a single tap for ease of cocktail-making.

Talk about your post modern bartending.

Once my friends arrived, we awaited the arrival of our server and when it didn't happen, someone suggested that the fourth place setting at the table had her thinking we were waiting for my date.

So the evening began with a good laugh.

"Quick, move the menus and the place setting so she'll know it's just us," Pru insisted. It was just as a I was whisking the silverware into my lap that our server arrived, probably wondering if I was stealing flatware, but more than willing to fetch us a bottle of Faverelles Blanc, a white Burgundy, once I laid it back on the table.

I was, after all, just following direction.

Despite a large table of competitive shouters behind us, we managed to order and move on to updates since we'd gone out last weekend. In the five days since we'd last laid eyes on one another, there'd been multiple updates on the sunny western hemisphere adventure and everyone had a theory on why.

My favorite justification came from Beau on the subject of controlling types: "Take it from a computer geek..."

Unfortunately, I also had to take a raft of razzing when I told him that I'd been notified that Windows XP support had ended, a factor because apparently I have Windows XP (who knew?). That said, it's always good when you can provide a friend with a really hearty chuckle, especially one laced with condescension.

It was the happy couple's first dinner at Saison and the kitchen represented well. Beau's special of fried skate wing with fingerling potatoes was stellar while Pru's choice of a bacon cheeseburger validated how solid their burger continues to be even given the burger competition these days.

My brussels sprouts salad was shredded with radicchio, mustard seed, bleu cheese, walnuts and fig vinaigrette, while escabeche of pickled shrimp, mussels, salmon and roe with fennel, carrots and aioli was my currency to trade for bites of skate wing.

Chocolate sacher torte took care of my needs while affogoto and coffee provided major caffeine fixes for the Church Hill contingent as the early wave of diners cleared out and we soon followed suit to head to the National.

Waiting to get in, I saw several friends pass by as we stood in the slow-moving line, only to eventually discover that the National has now installed metal detectors and everyone must pass their belongings through an X-ray machine to get in. We might as well have been at the airport

Inside, we parted ways since their tickets were for seats in the balcony and mine was a general admission ticket for the floor, so I made a beeline for right in front of the sound booth, exactly where I'd stood when I saw the band here in May 2015.

Many of the people standing around me were the same, too. That's because I was far from the only one at the show who'd first discovered the band by being shown a PMJ video by Amour's owner, a PMJ junkie if ever there was one.

Looking dapper in a printed vest under his jacket, he and his entourage of a dozen or so devotees showed up around me and I recognized every single one from his restaurant. Sort of like a field trip for customers.

On the subject of the new metal detectors, a bearded friend said hello and dryly commented, "Is this the Trump state?" about the new entry procedure, while one of the Amour customers admitted he'd been turned away at the door for having three knives on his person.

Three? Seemed like a lot to me, but the theater professor insisted they each had particular functions: for eating, for theater work and for small odd jobs. Needless to say, he'd been sent back to his car to divest himself of all of them.

Winning the award for best reason to be at the show, my bearded friend explained that it was only because he'd found a backpack that looked like a teddy bear and inside had a wallet, an iPhone 7 and a mix CD that included a song by a local woman who'd been on American Idol.

After doing some research to track the owner down, he'd returned it all to Joey, who just happened to be one of the Post Modern Jukebox singers. Small world, eh?

The band - piano, bass, guitar/banjo, drums, sax/clarinet, trombone - arrived onstage before the MC bounded out and asked who'd seen them before. My hand was not the only one to go up, along with some fairly loud vocal affirmations from others, as well.

"How many this is your first time?" The Johnny-come-lately roar was impressive.

For the next hour and a half, PMJ did what they do so well: take mindless and occasionally classic pop and rock songs and present them in atypical arrangements that make them not just palatable but downright enjoyable, impressive even, given the major talent doing them.

So we got "Call Me Maybe" with dancing girls, "Toxic" as a torch song (MC: "I feel like I always have to have a smoke after that song") and, for the ladies of RVA, a long curly-haired man balancing a stringed instrument on one finger whilst he guzzled a beer.

Running throughout many of the songs was the talent of tap dancer Lisa who had as many sparkly outfits as she did dancing moves. At one point, the drummer challenged her, beating his sticks on her stage to mimic her taps.

"Whatever!" someone in the crowd called out because no one could outshine Lisa's moves.

Next, Joey of the lost backpack was introduced, causing the beard to lean down and whisper to me, "She should've given me a free ticket for giving her stuff back to her," a fair point. All bangs and gold sequined dress, Joey accompanied herself, first on ukulele as she sang that dreadful ballad "Delilah," and eventually on accordion.

"Sweet Child o' Mine" was sung by Mr. Long Hair sitting on the edge of the stage ("Ladies, I'll see you after the show," he swaggers, pointing) and laying onstage doing scissor kicks while the trombonist soloed over top of him, a feat almost matched by "Stacie's Mom" being started as a three-part a capella harmony before morphing into a piano rag and ending as full-on bluegrass jam.

Take that, Fountains of Wayne.

Even the MC got into the act beyond doing introductions, saying he'd never sung in front of people before ("That's not a lie, it's a fib. Okay, an alternative fact.") and then doing "My Heart Will Go On."

And the song that had first introduced me to PMJ, "All About That Bass" began with clarinet, upright bass, banjo and drums and featured three female vocalists, including one who, after singing, "You know I won't be no stick figure silicone Barbie doll," pointed at her ample breasts and quipped, "Grew these myself!"

Because at a PMJ show, you're guaranteed top notch tap dancing, boy toy sex objects, boob references, encores that feature not just Radiohead but Justin Bieber, mannequin posing and seeing a red kazoo plucked from the cleavage of a singer for a solo.

Let the wild rumpus begin, I'd instructed my cohorts earlier. Another jam-packed weekend is just beginning.

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