Tuesday, December 14, 2010

No Princes Tonight

Some evenings just make you feel like a warm muffin, you know, all happy and satisfied. This turned out to be one of those.

It started with dinner at Sprout with Andrew. Although I'd shared his birthday dinner with his friends last Friday, tonight was just the two of us doing our annual shared meal in honor of him. I applaud his ability to keep his birthday going; he's now five days in and still celebrating.

This wicked cold compelled us both to start with Charlie's chicken and potato soup, full of large chunks of chicken and skin-on potatoes floating in a lovely clear broth. I felt better about the cold with every spoonful.

For my main course, I had the sliced steak salad (salad greens and radish with mustard dressing), the meat perfectly medium rare and the freshest-tasting mixed greens possible in December.

Andrew had the grilled cheddar with sliced apples and didn't even offer me a bite, despite having nothing but superlatives to say about it. I let it slide because it was, after all, his sandwich. Dessert, in the form of raspberry cream puffs on a plate of chocolate sauce, disappeared in the blink of an eye.

I left to go to the loo and ran into a friend; we talked about last night's show which she'd missed and she kindly invited me to her Christmas party. I must have chatted longer than I realized because when I finally came out of the bathroom, Andrew was waiting for me with my coat in hand. Time to go.

And he was right because tonight was the Listening Room and smart cookies know to arrive in time to socialize (and get the good donuts, if you're so inclined) before the music starts promptly at 8. So off we went.

As I walked by the musicians' room on the way in, my friend Jameson called to me. He'd told me the other night that he wanted me (and 20 other people) to help with stage props during their set tonight. Eyeing the collection of stuffed animals on the table, he grabbed one and said, "You should have the beaver," causing the room to explode in laughter. Indeed I should.

Josh Quarles of the Speckled Bird went on first and it was a pleasure to hear him solo for a change. He announced that, "I'm going to be the boring one compared with the other two acts." Boring is not the word I would have used for his excellent songwriting and voice. He even did some looping to bring his cello playing into the room.

I have seen Jameson's band, Lobo Marino, before but I knew this was going to be a particularly colorful set. Jameson came onstage barefoot (with reason) and Laney looked like a movie star in a long gold coat over all black; Nathaniel was his usual handsome multi-talented self.

They did a few songs off the upcoming album (recorded with the oh-so-talented Dave Watkins recently) and then music off their stellar last CD, "Keep Your Head Up."

At one point, Jameson's need for bare feet became obvious when he used his big toe to turn on a power strip, which started two box fans with paper streamers attached and bits of paper resting on top. It was quite an effect as paper scattered and streamers blew around during the song.

When they got to "Animal Hands," it was time for the crowd participation. The cue was the line "Oh, my god" and it was then that stuffed animal-holders had been instructed to throw their fuzzies at the band. I was in the front row center, so it was no difficulty at all to lob my beaver directly between Jameson's thighs. Let's just say I was the one who exploded in laughter that time.

Mingling after that set, I ran into a friend who'd assured me he was coming to the Listening Room (silly me, I thought he meant at the beginning). Turns out he was late because he'd gotten drunk (at the office Christmas party) and then lost (having parked over by Crossroads Coffee by mistake and then hiked to the show). But better late than never. I invited him to join us in the front row.

The laughter continued with Fuzzy Baby's set. If you haven't experienced them before, you can't be prepared for just how unique everything about this duo is. They bill themselves as a two-person one-man band for starters.

Instruments? Guitars, cymbals, drums, tuba, clarinet, cowbells, tambourine, and a Brazilian drum played from the inside. A capella, whistling, harmonies. Songs about cheese, unrequited love, obsessive love, photo albums and one of Richmond's finest trumpeters, Bob (the already classic, "Chimpanbob").

Theirs is truly music to laugh along with, when you're not marveling at their musical talent. A photographer friend leaned over in between songs and said, "I can't believe he's keeping time like that" about Giustino playing drums, cymbals, guitar and singing all at once. Not to mention looking extremely dapper doing it.

And the stage banter! Giustino's witty repartee with the audience riffed on everything from Josh and Lobo Marino to living room practice sessions ("I always have a microphone pointed at my crotch"). Molly was the perfect foil, setting him up and batting him down.

The late arrival friend asked me afterwards if they always did the banter (they do) and if it was always the same (it never is, which impressed him no end). Walking out, I asked him if he wanted a ride back to his car. He did.

Before he got out of my car, he asked me what I was doing next. "Are you off to have a drink and talk to princes?" he wondered.

I said that I hadn't decided but that I might just go home. "And write a blog post at 11-something?" he asked, clearly not believing.

"It could happen," I told him. It did.