Sunday, July 21, 2013

Shannon's Steppin' Stone

The music just kept on coming.

Today's seven-hour musical extravaganza, WRIR and the Commonwealth of Notions present Volume 3 (part 3), was conveniently (for me) located at Gallery 5, meaning I could stroll over at 4.

I'd been instructed not to be a minute later by the show's first performer, Dave Watkins.

Unlike the park show where I'd recently seen him, tonight he had his full array of instruments, layering dulcitar, drums, keyboards and percussion to craft "songs."

With many new faces in the crowd, I just leaned back and watched their awed faces as they tried to wrap their mind around the textured sounds Dave was creating.

It was during his second song that the members of Dumb Waiter, an instrumental math rock/improvisational quartet (with sax!), joined Dave and that's when the epic factor went off the charts.

Seriously, these are musicians to watch and Dave complemented them magnificently.

The good news is I heard they've already scheduled an upcoming show together.

The only one I knew was Nathaniel, who used to be in Lobo Marino and who was in his element on drums here.

Speaking of, next, we all trooped upstairs for Lobo Marino, playing in the same room where they'd recorded their album a while back.

I'm proud to say that you can hear my laugh on that album.

Lobo Marino has been on tour a lot lately, so it was great to have Laney and Jameson back in RVA to play for long-time (and new) fans.

They did material from all their albums old and new, including inviting the audience to follow along with the hand gestures on "Animal Hands," the ecstatic "Celebrate," and the evocative "Stay with Me."

Calling up Nathaniel to join them onstage for the first time in over a year, Laney said they'd do the only song they sing in Spanish, one that they hadn't done in ages because it was "dependent on Nathaniel."

It's true; his trumpet and mandolin on that song make it even more beautiful and it was a real treat to hear it again after so long.

Back downstairs we went for Herro Sugar, a band whose singer wore their collective heart on his t-shirt, which said Wilco.

They began by sound-checking their mics, with each member stating that his mic should be the loudest because he was the most important member of the band.

I do like it when musicians have a sense of humor.

Their tightly written, indie pop songs were short blasts of energy and hooks and the crowd bopped right along with them.

Way, Shape or Form followed, sans one of their guitarists, who was away, but with a worthy replacement.

Their sound is more polished, with jazz and pop elements, demonstrating the range of the show's bands and yet the overlap of fans who enjoyed them just as much.

After their set, I bade my music buddy farewell for a bit, as I headed home to eat and get a little work done before returning.

When I got back, Warren Hixson was just starting and Friend and I picked up where we'd left off, with water in hand and attention to the band.

I'd seen them back in April, so it was no surprise that their catchy psychedelic surf rock was easy enough to enjoy from the first notes.

But I had to laugh when I overheard a guy say to a girl, "They're so new and different, I find them interesting."

Clearly his musical history knowledge was surface deep as the band's influences were all over the music, but I didn't correct him.

I did repeat his quote to some musicians who laughed at his naivete, but that's another story.

After their set, I mingled for a bit, only to have someone come up and exclaim, "You left and I couldn't find you! I was so upset I threw up!"

You have to love the high drama of friends after they've been drinking at a show since 4:00.

Even if they mean it.

Tonight's piece de resistance was Baby Help Me Forget's reunion show a year and a half after they'd played their last at the 2012 WRIR birthday party.

I wouldn't have missed their set for anything.

Personally, I think singer Jamie is the best showman in town, whether singing, dancing, gesturing or flinging his hair.

Until you've seen him bound onstage or leap off it, you can't imagine how he abuses his body in the service of rock and roll.

He leaped onstage in a jacket, vest and shirt and I knew right away that he'd be losing layers as the set progressed.

Unlike at past shows, sadly, we never got down to bare chest.

The band kicked into high-energy mode from the first song and the remaining crowd danced and cheered them along.

At one point, Jamie dedicate a song to the event's organizer, Shannon and it was a doozy.

"(I'm Not Your) Steppin' Stone" whipped the band and the audience into a '60s pop frenzy, with people doing everything from the pony to pogoing.

From there, you'd have thought they couldn't possibly take things any higher, but they did.

They sure did.

Jamie came down off the stage and placed what looked like a candle on the floor in front of the stage.

Returning to the stage, the band began another kick-ass song just as the "candle" showed itself to be fireworks of some kind, sending up a stream of colored sparks and plumes that lasted almost as long as the song.

Meanwhile, Jamie sang, ending up writhing on the floor, as is his long-standing tradition at shows.

It was the most epic ending to the show that could have been imagined, short of burning down Gallery 5.

And we wouldn't want that anyway.

Strolling home under a nearly-full moon, I had to think what a fantastic day in the neighborhood it is when I can support my local independent radio station by watching local talent strut their stuff all day and night.

Plus fireworks.

My only regret is making someone throw up for missing me.

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