Thursday, August 28, 2014

Three for Three

Triple booked tonight and it was worth every bit of the to and fro-ing.

First was the cocktail party at a friend's house.

The occasion? Her Mom is visiting from Mexico in anticipation of the two of them flying to Bermuda, where she lived for 11 years, next week.

Nice trip if you can get it.

Actually, I've been to Bermuda and had a fabulous time, but that doesn't stop me from envying my friend her upcoming time there.

Her Mom was delightful and droll, never more so than when she observed her two-year old granddaughter in a tutu and a cropped Ramones t-shirt and deadpanned, "I bet she's never even heard the Ramones."

She shared a news-making story from her days as a curator, raved about her 14-year old seat mate on the plane ride and was wearing fabulous jewelry she made herself.

An interesting mom altogether.

After far too much Rose, cheese and figs and deviled eggs, I said my goodbyes to make stop number two, joining two girlfriends at Balliceaux.

Tonight was their first time experiencing Hand to Hand Haiku and by the time I got there, they'd already nabbed a front row table and had beers in front of them.

It was an unusually small crowd tonight but there were still plenty of combatants to follow host Raven Mack's opening monologue about the 1300 sonnets he's writing.

He was kind enough to read us two of them.

Then it was on to round one between Ryan, who characterized his haiku writing as stupid and John, who called his straight bullshit.

I've seen Ryan compete before so I already knew the constant in his haikus is the use of the word "dude."

Dude, this neighborhood
suffers from a serious lack
of Blue Oyster Cult

Like that. Except John won. Like Raven, he's got a terrific voice and an interesting look, so he's one of my favorites to watch compete, even when he doesn't win the match.

Round two brought Paul who referred to his haikus as "Appalachian filth" and the defending champion Amy, who called hers "written a few minutes ago."

I have to say, the room about lost it when Paul read this one.

New Volvo driving
old white ladies with butt plugs,
pucker lips, hate me

Later, he told me he was writing about the women he sees at Ellwood Thompson who always make a point to scowl at him.

Amy was no slacker either.

Home girl burnt her lip
on the joint's hot spot.
Blunt force trauma.

As one of my friends put it, "I didn't expect haikus to be so funny."

Oh, but they can be.

There's always a death match that pits host Raven against a worthy challenger and tonight's was Rebecca, who read a haiku called "Skin."

Our greatest asset
gives us the ability
to touch and be felt

Just as good and all too relevant for my friend was one of Raven's.

By day, mild mannered
state administrator.
By night, depressed.

Eventually, Rebecca ran out of haikus so they went to free-styling, making up haikus on the spot for the judges (of whom I happened to be one), a mighty impressive thing to witness.

Raven won again, taking the pink game cock (yep, you read that right) trophy back home with him for the umpteenth time, but the man can write haiku about masturbating with peppermint soap and how tingly it feels, so he truly is the master.

Usually the death match is the end of the evening, but tonight John and Amy returned to fight it out until John ran out of haikus and conceded.

Luckily, he's talented and tenacious, so he frequently comes back.

After the match ended, we sat and chatted for a while, planning our next date and trying to convince one of our friends to go see "Boyhood," a film two of us had loved.

Somehow, we got on the subject of people who don't pay attention to music and how foreign and unpleasant a world that would be for us.

We sat there preaching to the choir before breaking camp so one could go home to bed, one to have another beer and wait for her boyfriend and me to go to a show.

Now there's a surprise.

As if a great bill on a Wednesday night wasn't lucky enough, I found a parking space directly in front of Strange Matter.

Inside, I found a clutch of WRIR folks, a music writer and a drummer, but all in all, far fewer people than I'd anticipated.

Playing first were hometown heroes White Laces, although playing as a trio tonight instead of a quartet, and doing lots of songs off their upcoming October release, "Trance."

Did I miss the keyboards? Yes, but that's not to say that their smart, guitar-driven sound wasn't fully satisfying to hear, as always.

From the lead single, "Skate of Die" to the album's final cut, "Strangulation Blues," their set was yet another reminder of how far this band has come since I first saw them at the courtyard during the artwalk four years ago.

Watching them, it feels like a big deal to have witnessed their steady ascent to where they are now.

During the break, I talked with a friend about the challenges of freelancing, glad to hear that her frustrations mirror mine and it's not just me.

Then the room began to fill with smoke as Sisu's smoke machine kicked into overdrive.

They also had video showing behind them and two perfect sets of bangs, courtesy of Sandy and Jules of the Dum Dum Girls.

It's Sandy's band and the music is psychedelic, full-bodied and dark with plenty of reverb.

Loud, too, but not as loud as it would have been if the drummer hadn't put his red plaid flannel shirt over his drum before playing it.

Being visual creatures, lots of guys seemed to be taking pictures of the lovely Sandy shredding her guitar.

At one point, I looked over at the door and all I could see was a solid haze of smoke and no door at all.

After their set ended, I talked to a friend about why more VCU kids weren't at the show and with the drummer of the Shangri-Lords about the stellar set of theirs I'd seen at the pool party the other night.

Turns out he and the bass player have been girl group fans for years and finally got to let their inner girls out via this band.

As the crowd began to filter back in, San Diego band Crocodiles took the stage and began an audio assault laden with echo, one of my favorite sounds.

It was music from a cave, full of guitar distortion tamed into something wonderfully energetic and danceable.

A drunk girl in front of me wrangled a guy to dance with her, producing hysterical results as they managed to dance off beat for the next five songs, stumbling into each other and everyone around them without ever moving in relation to the music being played.

But at least they were dancing, as was most of the room to Crocodiles' catchy, noisy psych-rock with the kind of guitar work that calls to mind all those post-punk bands of the mid-aughts that I loved.

Just another Wednesday in River City.

While some might lament the serious lack of Blue Oyster Cult, I'm calling it a damn fine evening.

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