Saturday, January 10, 2015

That's All Right

For some things, I rearrange my entire schedule. Books are one of those things.

Tonight was the main library's annual book giveaway, which I'd attended last year for the first time, my bag in hand as directed. It is nirvana for a bibliophile like me, a chance to walk away with any titles that interest you. I gave up the artwalk to dig through stacks.

Last year, I'd arrived a half hour into the giveaway to find 30 or so people browsing the tables as librarians refreshed the cartons on the table. It was all very civilized.

Tonight I arrived ten minutes before the event began to find at least 75 people crowded into the lobby of the library. Many wore determined looks on their face and held cartons and crates with which to carry away their plunder.

Holy moley, when had this become a competitive sport?

The good news was that once we reached the bowels of the building where the giveaway is held, I saw that this year, we weren't relegated to just the center tables. No, we had full run of all the shelves in the basement, all the leftovers from the last library used book sale.

Talk about letting kids loose in the candy store!

I began at the tables holding CDs, scoring seven gems like a still-shrink-wrapped copy of the Sundays' "Static and Silence," the nostalgia of "Sergio Mendes & Brazil 66's Greatest Hits" and "Drift" by the Devlins, an Irish band I fell in love with after hearing their 1993 single "Someone to talk To" but never hearing another thing from since. Now, finally, 21 years later, I will.

Then it was on to the shelves which were a non-stop dance because every time you bent over to scan titles on a lower shelf, someone would inevitably want to pass behind you to get further down the aisle.

You could sense an urgency in some people, as if they were afraid that if they didn't hurry, the books they wanted would be snatched up before they could get them. This didn't concern me even the tiniest bit.

Did I really think anyone besides me wanted a 1944 edition of William Saroyan's "The Human Comedy," complete with chapter illustrations? Not really.

Was anyone fighting me for the 1931 copy of "The Thurber Carnival," a collection of his stories and essays? They were not.

And despite how many members of the second sex were there, I alone paused to nab second wave feminist icon Simone de Beauvoir's "Force of Circumstance." Hell, for that matter, who else would pick up a French existentialist and the '40s classic "Cheaper By the Dozen"?

But even less obscure books that went home with me, say Jacques Pepin's "The Apprentice: My Life in the Kitchen" and Isabel Allende's "Aphrodite: A Memoir of the Senses" (because who doesn't want to read about the delights of food and sex?), went unchallenged.

With an eye toward visiting Oxford, Mississippi, I scooped up "Collected Stories of William Faulkner," the better to prepare myself when I do.

When it felt like my arms were breaking from my eleven book, seven CD haul, I forced myself to leave, putting Hardywood in my sights and preparing myself for the overwhelming odor of hops.

Indie folk band Luray was midway through their set when I got there and located some musician friends near the front. Although I hadn't seen the band before, I'd been wanting to, interested because of guitarist Scott Burton and bassist Brian Cruse, both of whom I know from other bands, more jazz and world-oriented.

Here, with a female vocalist playing banjo, was something completely different and I liked it a lot, wishing I hadn't missed any of it.

During the break, I chatted with friends about the local music scene, casting my vote to restart Live at Ipanema, anticipating some of the excellent shows coming up this month and acknowledging that none of us had heard Snowy Owls in a good, long while.

One friend posited that the reason for that dovetailed with the reason that lead singer Matt was looking sharp in stylish new shoes tonight: new girlfriend. Love cuts into music every time.

Because it had been a while, it was an absolute pleasure when both guitarists in Snowy Owls cranked up their pedal boards and sent the sounds of shimmering reverb to my shoegaze-starved ears. Doing some of their best songs, a cover of the Cure's "Love Song" and a new song I hadn't heard, it felt like old times.

What's majorly different now is that the band that was once a trio has grown to a quintet with keyboards, making for a much fuller and groovier sound. I approved of every note, standing right in front of the stage with my favorite dulcitar player while the entire rest of the crowd stood eight feet behind us, as if separated by some imaginary barricade.

"They're just not cool enough," my friend quipped. Or something.

But because it's Hardywood, the fun has to be over early, leaving me plenty of time for another stop, this one at Cary Street Cafe where River City Band had just started their set. Grabbing a seat in the sound booth, I spotted a server in a t-shirt reading, "hippies use side door," a problem given that there isn't one.

The crowd wasn't big but it steadily grew as RCB, playing guitar, upright bass, mandolin and banjo, did their impeccable take on bluegrass and gospel under the spinning silver disco ball. Honestly, there's nothing bandleader Grant can't sing. Because yesterday would have been Elvis' 80th birthday, they even played his first release, "That's All Right."

A couple of girls in boots got the dancing started, shedding their coats in a booth and inducing others to shake a leg.

Grant stayed onstage to play mandolin when the band left and was joined by Alison Self (borrowing his guitar) to start off with "All the Good Times Are Past and Gone," followed by her directing everyone to buy RCB's music and merchandise.

"I don't have any. I have Bandcamp," she explained. "You can buy me a shot." Sure enough, within moments, she was handed one. "Think I'll sip it. I don't want to get drunk." Announcing she was going to do  "Your Cheatin' Heart," she insisted, "Don't be afraid to move around. Grab someone cute and dance with them!" Plenty of people did.

After Grant left the stage with much deserved applause, she did an original song called, "When I Feel Weak, I Make a Strong Drink," a couple of Kitty Wells' tunes, some more original material like "Lay Me Down" ("It's not about f*cking, it's about dying, but they're kind of the same thing. All my songs are sad.") and a Loretta Lynn tune.

No surprise, she got the crowd to sing and dance along to "Lord, I Wish I was a Single Girl Again," a song I've seen her perform many times and always popular.

She caught me by surprise when she said from the stage, "Thanks for coming out for the Tinder Meet-Up." What? To someone there, she called out, "Thanks for right-swiping me!" Since I will die without being right-swiped, this just made me laugh.

She closed with another of her inimitable originals, this one with the prolonged and very country-sounding title, "I Wouldn't Kiss You if I was Whiskey Drunk." And that's saying a lot.

Needless to say, this got the crowd dancing wildly, two-stepping on each other's toes with great abandon. I see a lot of right-swiping in their future.

In mine, a whole lot of reading and, if I'm lucky, some kissing, too. They're not mutually exclusive, right?

Because, single girl that I am, I'm counting on all the good times not being past and gone. And that's saying a lot.

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