Sunday, February 27, 2011

No Blushing Here

"You know who in here I wouldn't want to see naked?" I asked my server at Rowland tonight.

The laugh attack I caused him almost made him choke. "No one has ever asked me that before," he gasped, trying to put his best professional hat back on as he leaned down for the answer. "Who?"

Despite every single table being full when I arrived around 8:30, the bar was a little sparse and while a couple eventually settled on the other end, it remained that way. It worked out fine because the three servers gave me more than enough conversation throughout the evening.

I know you're not supposed to drink alone but with no nearby barsitters, what's a girl to do but order some Anton Bauer Gruner Veltliner and make the best of the situation? My server told me that he can only drink one glass of this grape before the green berry fruits start to wear on him. I don't have that problem and enjoyed a glass before even considering my food choices.

Although the unique butterbean cake is a given at Rowland, I listened to the specials just in case something grabbed me, as it turned out, a wise decision because I was completely taken with the description of one of them. Seared scallops and grilled lobster chunks over savory corn pudding laced with thyme butter sounded too good to pass up, so I didn't.

I was enjoying a piece of crusty bread dipped in their signature garlic-infused olive oil with roasted garlic (presuming that I wasn't likely to be kissing anyone tonight, drat the luck) when the main event arrived. I had so made the right choice.

The dish was decadently rich, from the sweetness of the abundant scallops and lobster to the creamy, butter-drenched corn pudding and the nice acidity of the wine paired beautifully with it. Luckily, the wine police were not watching my consumption tonight, unlike last night.

My check arrived five minutes before the show I was going to see was to start ("Well, it's just not that far," my server grinned by way of explanation) but that's what happens when you tell people what your plans involve.

Over at Sprout, the crowd was forming for the Allison Self and Jail Swerves show. I've seen Allison enough to know not to miss her infrequent performances because she has a huge voice unlike any female singer in Richmond and a knack for choosing the ideal vintage material to showcase it.

She did some standards like "Good Night, Irene" and "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot," utilizing harmonica player Andrew Ali, as talented a player as any who only took up the instrument a year and a half ago. When we spoke during the break, he explained, "I want to be the old guy playing harmonica on the porch."

He's got a long way to go to old, but his talent is as evident as his passion. Allison explained her affection for old music, saying that her grandmother always told her, "The deader they are, the more you like 'em." She admitted as much.

After her well-done set, seriously enhanced by Andrew's accompaniment, they were joined onstage by the Jail Swerves for a song. Covering Lucille Bogen, Allison belted out what she called a dirty song, the classic, "Shave 'Em Dry," originally recorded in 1935.

The extremely X-rated lyrics are more graphic than you can imagine and probably way more so than most of the listeners in the room with the big black X on their hands could have fathomed.  Some of their faces were priceless in reaction; many looked stunned.

After a huge ovation, Allison left the stage and the punk hootenanny Jail Swerves kicked into the Clash's "London Calling." It was a major cultural shift.

No voice could have wowed after Allison's raucous, big-voiced set, but the quartet of banjo, fiddle, guitar and upright bass (and occasional accordion) was fun and energetic and also employed Andrew's talent. Periodically throughout their set, they would pass out tambourines to the crowd, always carefully collecting them in a laundry basket after each song.

Minor threats also aided the collection efforts. "If you keep these instruments, you are going to hell," the lead singer told the crowd.

After a rousing cover of "Tainted Love," the band insisted on leading the crowd into the other room to try to engage the bar crowd. Like the Pied Piper, people fell in line and followed for the one-song set near the bar before dutifully returning to the back room.

Proof positive that for some people, it's easier to play "follow the leader" than hear seriously raunchy lyrics. With any luck, they'll grow out of that.

Now if f*ckin' was the thing, that would take me to heaven
I'd be f*ckin' in the studio till the clock strike eleven

And that was by far the least objectionable part of the song. Kudos to Allison for sharing this vintage listener favorite with Richmond on a Saturday night.

It was truly an amazing thing to hear, naughty bits and all. Made me sorry I wasn't getting kissed...or more tonight.

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