Monday, June 20, 2011

An Evening Grace Street Pleasure

In yet another of those odd coincidences that define life in RVA, I got invited to a house show and potluck tonight at a house that I pass on my walk every single day.

The occasion was that Baltimore's Little Sur was in town for tomorrow night's Listening Room, so there was going to be a small gathering and dinner and I was invited.

That's like hitting the Monday night jackpot.

Walking in to the house, I found plenty of familiar faces and about as many new ones. No problem; I'm an extrovert and can make friends in a room full of interesting strangers.

And I figured they were interesting because the food they'd brought was, always a good sign.

Among the things I noshed my way through were a beautiful beet/lentil dish, a flavorful white bean and arugula combo, sesame noodles, a spinach and garlic version of hummus and bread, a watermelon stuffed with feta and herbs and homemade mac and cheese.

For dessert, there was rhubarb crisp, two kinds of cookies, muffins, fresh berries and handmade jelly candies.

By the time everyone had had seconds (and thirds; Christina, you know who you are) and been well lubricated from the beer and wine table, the music started up.

Small Sur's sound came from guitar, bass, drums and a saxophone, which sometimes was replaced with another guitar.

Lead singer Bob's voice had a pure and haunting quality, which put me in mind of a male version of the Low Branches, the band who performed just after them.

He began by saying, "We're playing the Listening Room tomorrow so we'll play a different set tonight."

The spare arrangements were enhanced by the addition of the sax and the tenderness of Bob's voice.

Charmingly introducing a song, he said, "This song is about a reservoir near where we live where we like to go swimming. It's drinking water, so we're swimming in our own glass. It's great."

After having just heard these guys, I'm already looking forward to hearing them do all different material tomorrow. It'll be a rare musical double dip.

Add in these guys to Beach House and Wye Oak and it's clear that Charm City is a great music town these days. Note to self: head up there soon. Not that any place beats Richmond, of course.

The Low Branches played next and it was easy to understand how the two groups had been attracted to each other's sound. They're first cousins, musically speaking.

A always, there was the pleasure of Christina's voice but tonight we also got a new song, one she said they would play "because you seem like a forgiving group."

While that was undoubtedly true, we didn't need to forgive anything. Parts of the new song were downright upbeat, a highly unusual sound for the Low Branches.

"I must have taken my happy pill," she admitted after the show about writing the song.

My happy pill came in the form of delicious food, chatty friends and a quiet storm of music on a Monday night.

You can bet that when I go by that house on my walk tomorrow, I'll still be smiling.

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