Thursday, March 2, 2017

Star Roving

The musical arc of my evening hit the spot.

There was that delicious moment when I was sitting in my car, parked on Cary Street near Acacia (where I wasn't due for another ten minutes), watching headlights reflecting off the rain on the windshield, while discovering the first single in two decades for a 27-year old shoegaze band I've never even heard of.

And shoegaze, as we all know, is just a fancy term for music-from-a-cave and we all know how much I love my cave music.

Even better, it's a hall of mirrors. Specifically, it's an aural pastiche, clearly rooted in first wave shoegaze, yet showing decades of additional influences - as if it were a bunch of millennials worshipfully aping their dream pop elders - except being executed by original practitioners. Brilliant.

How great is it when you start the evening being given the gift of a band unknown to you when you left home? Little pleasures.

At Acacia, where I'm greeted by a wine rep eating dinner to support his childhood buddy, another wine rep who's actually doing a mini-wine dinner there tonight, the sound is funkier with the likes of Brothers Johnson's "Strawberry Letter 23" and Al Green. It's just the right vibe for the mild, damp evening.

A bottle of Domaine Rolet Cremant de Jura Rose arrives shortly after Holmes does.

Over Ruby Salt oysters, fried oysters over southern slaw and white anchovies topping marinated radicchio, forume d'ambert, pine nuts and romaine, Holmes solicits drink-making advice and I dig for back story. Turns out the Philly-born bartender went to college where I was born (GWU) and lived four blocks from where I did in Dupont Circle.

Small world. Where we differ are in his stints in Portugal, NYC, Berlin and New Orleans, information that inexplicably caused Holmes to ask if he'd moved out of NOLA in the middle of the night.

"I did many things in the middle of the night," the barkeep said with a twinkle in his eye. When I expressed surprise on learning about his Big Easy residency, he assured me he came from Bounce City.

"Oh, I met my husband at a bounce," he assures me. The hostess, standing nearby, asked me, "Didn't you see him on the dance floor at the Elbys?"

Obviously not or I'd recall his bouncing, I feel certain.

The bar menu netted me a lobster burger on brioche roll and let's just pause for a moment - shall we? - and appreciate a restaurant with a bar menu where something that sublime - chunks of lobster lightly spiced and bound (crabcake-style), smeared with lemon herb aioli - is served up with celery root slaw and a fresh-tasting green salad like it's no big deal.

Let me assure you, it is.

Meanwhile Holmes took advantage of the bar menu's fried chicken along with a side of panko-crusted mac and cheese and the artist had pasta with little neck clams. Dark chocolate flan with coffee caramel and sea salt inflicted the final damage.

Although he'd threatened to end the evening after dessert, we all knew we were going back to his man cave to listen to records until somebody pulled the work-in-the-morning card.

Tonight's treat was listening to 45s. Hell, just looking at the sleeves - Prince, Pretenders from a Bond movie, Phil Collins - was a  fascinating look at his eclectic taste.

We began with Bowie's "Blue Jeans" on blue vinyl and when I inquired if it had cost more because of its color, he shrugged. "It didn't matter 'cause I wanted it." Playing "Ashes to Ashes," he reminisced about a Bowie show at the Scope in '75. "There were people in pastel suits everywhere," he says.

Imagine having seen Bowie in '75. I can't even.

Since he's been in Richmond his whole life, I always learn historical tidbits from him and tonight's was about Back Alley Discs, a record store on Strawberry Street where now a real estate company occupies the building by the alley.

I spot a list of restaurants and inquire its purpose, only to hear that he was playing cruise director and it was possible places to entertain 30 family members after his Mom died. Rowland. Peter Chang. Amici. Mekong. Can Can.

"We were drunk when we made that list," I'm told. Sometimes it's better not to ask.

It's hilarious when he puts on the Tornados' "Telstar," that's right, a sci-fi-themed Top 40 song, for crying out loud. Holmes loves his sci-fi. Every time I say I need to leave, he puts on another song to suck me in.

Temptation follows temptation, but I stay only through Jackson Browne's "Doctor My Eyes," not because I'm a long-time Jackson Browne fan but because I came very late to him and after a lifetime of avoiding his music, I can now appreciate it.

Not to mention that it's later than it seems.

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