Monday, April 10, 2017

Be For Real

As a long-time reader had to remind me today, "Too fine a day outside for us to be on the keyboard."

Amen, brother.

For the second weekend in a row, my passion for Nate's Bagels had me headed to his pop-up, this one at Blue Bee Cider, an easy walk for Mac and me, especially for the conversational time it afforded after not having seen each other in over a week and missing each other's smiling faces.

As we'd hoped, we were first in line as Nate got set up and ready to do business.

With Mac's glass of Blue Bee's bold-tasting Heirophant, an ice cider that's been fermented to dry, we took our bagels outside to the patio, the better to dish and chow down concurrently. And while we'd been the cidery's first visitors today, the next 10 arrived within minutes of us.

But, oh, the sheer pleasure of crunching down through that magnificent crust with its satisfying chew. We'd have walked far further than 2 1/2 miles to snag one.

I thought we were leaving to walk back but Mac led us directly to King of Pops where she had an orange dream pop and I, ever a creature of habit, succumbed to a chocolate sea salt pop, both eaten as we wound our way through Scott's Addition and back toward the Ward.

Despite the reminder from that favorite reader, I had no choice but to spend part of this fine day inside, having bought a ticket to see "The Sad and Beautiful World of Sparklehorse" at the Byrd back in mid-March.

After finding a seat in my favorite row, I listened as the crowd of a certain age filtered in, inevitably recognizing each other (one guy climbing over another: "Oh, it's you!" and another asking his seat mate about his kids) because so many in the crowd had either known Mark Linkous when he was part of the Richmond scene, or had been long-time fans of his music.

Spotting a lanky friend making his way down the aisle, I called for him to take advantage of the empty seat beside me, only to hear that he knew almost everyone sitting around me (which undoubtedly makes him far cooler than me).

The documentary was indeed sad and beautiful, like its subject, and much of that was because of its painful truth that untreated mental illness is a reality no one deserves, even the poor, even the musicians, even the uninsured.

It was also an unadulterated treat to hear so much lo-fi Sparklehorse music with its distinctive hushed vocals (he usually recorded while his wife was asleep upstairs and he didn't want to wake her) and utterly poetic sound.

Afterward, the music crowd gathered in clumps on the sidewalk in front of the Byrd, sharing impressions and memories. I heard a favorite couple greeted with, "Hi, chicken people!" (they liked it), was introduced to David Lowery (who'd been a talking head in the film), queried the Man About Town on his recent bout of bubonic plague ("It was just the flu") and held a movie poster so its owner could roll a cig.

When the Nerd - at least as big a geek as me, except he's also a singer/guitarist, which lifts him out of full nerd-dom - asked if I was off to the Bijou for the next film, I admitted to a need to eat, causing him to metaphorically roll his eyes. "I have an apple in the car to tide me over," he said before dashing to the Bijou.

Clearly he was the superior festival-goer with that kind of planning.

But once I'd put on the feedbag, I walked over to the Bijou for the Silent Music Revival, the James River Film Festival's final event of the weekend, with the Richmond Avant Improv Collective - a group I'd only seen for the first time a couple of months ago - improvising a soundtrack with a vocalist. They did it first to the 1924 classic "Ballet Mechanique" and then to 1928's "Seashell and the Clergy Man."

You couldn't really ask for a more suitable group to come up with a score on the fly for surrealistic films than this group, and that's organizer Jameson's real strength: pairing just the right local band with his choice of obscure silent film. I've been watching him do it for 10 years now and he only gets better.

Even Mike, one of the JRFF creators, admitted to being blown away seeing his first Silent Music Revival tonight and understanding how sublime the combination of silent film and live band is when witnessed.

Film over, I invited a teaching friend on Spring Break this week over for some record listening, knowing he usually pleads to early mornings and couldn't use that excuse this time. Asking for nothing more than a year as a starting point, he offered up 1973, because, he said, when he looks at the songs he plays on his radio show, the majority seem to come from that year.

Even though he's a musician and a music geek, I was able to stump him with my 1973 pick of McCartney's "Red Rose Speedway" before moving through Grin (also one he couldn't identify), Fleetwood Mac's "Rumors" (his choice because he and other musicians are covering it soon), Prince's "1999" (spotted as I was flipping through discs because he hadn't heard it in eons), Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes (both of us bowing to that '70s testifying style) and closed out with the Chi-Lites because the Chi-Lites.

The fine day had finally given way to moonlit night, so all bets were off. We, on the other hand, had the windows open listening to obscure '70s and the Sounds of Philly with nary a keyboard in sight.

Mission accomplished, dear reader.

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