Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Long and Winding Road

Even when it's not stated, the first rule of the Listening Room remains the same.

And it wasn't stated tonight; the new Chris, who replaced the former Chris as emcee, neglected to remind attendees that there is no talking at the Listening Room.

But when you have two bands as hushed and beautiful as South China and Small Sur, people instinctively shut up anyway.

But just in case, I had brought my official badge of the Listening Room police, a birthday gift from a favorite couple. I was advised to consider mounting it on a sash for a feminine look. I'm considering it.

Upon walking in, I also fell into a discussion of the old "Perry Mason" show, of which I am a huge fan.

Give me '50s-era Los Angeles, an imposing attorney, his hot secretary and the big lug of a detective set to the most unsettling theme music ever composed and you've got some magnificent TV noir.

I was just amazed to find a kindred soul who appreciated it as much as I do. Who knew there were others?

But then I had to remind myself that I was really there for the music.

Portland Maine's South China made it easy with their set consisting of cello, accordion  and guitar with two voices.

It would be too simplistic to call them folk because they had an experimental edge to them, especially evident in the cello playing. It was a unique sound for the Listening Room, compelling but unusual.

They'd come down a day early to visit Hollywood Cemetery and were still adjusting to the heat. Imagine if they'd come during that last heat wave, the poor northerners.

Baltimore's Small Sur was up next and although I had heard them last night, here, I enjoyed them no less tonight.

A few songs in and the lead singer asked the audience if we had any questions.

"Did you play that song last night?" I asked. A friend had thought not when I asked her, but it turned out she was mistaken so I got public validation. Besides no on else was asking anything.

Tonight's show differed from last night's in that sax/guitar player Andy also played the piano on several songs, the Firehouse Theater conveniently having a piano stage-side and all. It was a lovely addition to their sound.

Like last night, the songs were romantically beautiful, full of imagery of entwined lovers and much longing.

Afterwards, I joined some friends in going to Sprout to wish co-owner Jamie a happy birthday and enjoy some Gatao vinho verde. It is the first day of summer, after all.

As we sat there talking about Best Coast and happy hours, I heard music start up in the back room.

A last minute show had been booked for Philly's Chris Kasper; when I went to check it out, he and a violinist were in the back room playing their hearts out and sounding terrific...for no one.

Which was a real shame because as someone who has seen him perform twice before, he's the kind of talent that deserves a roomful of listeners, like he had at the Listening Room when he played there.

Even so, I stood at the archway to the room listening to the well-crafted songs and beautiful harmonies, finally going inside and sitting down with my wine. It was a show for just me.

I felt obligated to apologize for the absence of Richmond's music-loving population, but they knew the show had been booked at the last minute and understood.

When they finished, he insisted I take one of his CDs and I was happy for the gift, both of the record and of the unexpected performance.

To quote a regular commenter to this blog, "It's a long road with many twists and turns."

I count myself as fortunate for how often that road puts me in a surprisingly interesting place.


  1. Please do not get me started on Perry, Della, Paul, Tragg and Burger. It remains my all time comfort TV. Along with "Slaughter on 10th Avenue" I used to perform the opening soundtrack theme before slamming into raves onstage.

    With our antecedent dismissal of cell phones and hunger for culture, your latest revelation has created another view from my roundabout.

    Thank you for that.

    Yours in bon mots et al.

    You know my close...

  2. I would never have guessed that my affinity for Perry Mason would be considered an asset. Or that there were others out there who shared my affection for it.

    You know I am always glad to hear any bon mots you have to offer this blogger.

    Despite that I've now immortalized your close, I hope to continue seeing it as a reminder when I need it.

  3. A good morning to you.

    I hope your walk is enjoyable and the friends you interact with today more so.

    "Immortalized" is a hefty word. In my past, I've at least craned my neck at it a time or two. The view was breathtaking. Me far below. Those above far away.

    Before I forget, your use of the word "lug" (Poor Paul: all hair and mohair. Plus- for the fancy tidbit pool, he was Hedda Hopper's son) made me laugh out loud.

    Awake with thoughts of those gone before and memories of laughter and less; I write this for you today. 'Lest we forget...

    Life is a long road with many twists and turns.

  4. Heat and humidity aside, my walk was enjoyable, made all the more so for the usual pleasantries exchanged with strangers.

    A guy said, "Those are some mighty short shorts!" and gave me a thumbs up. Who wouldn't enjoy that?

    So glad my arcane word use gave you a laugh!

    I'm looking forward to the day and whatever it brings, hopefully none of it forgettable.