Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Nothing Lost in Translation

I shall draw two conclusions from the evening's fun: the Scots are a resilient lot and Brazilians never forget a face.

Yes, of course I'm making blanket generalizations.

Arriving at the Grace Street theater to find only one other person in the auditorium, I briefly wondered if I'd been mistaken about there being a film tonight. Taking my usual seat anyway, I soon heard my name called and was joined by a familiar face who introduced me to his companion.

Talk quickly turned to film and I learned from the newcomer that Richmond has a Bollywood connection. No kidding, this woman who is married to an Indian informed me that new Bollywood films are screened at the VCC theater on the same day as they open in India.

What? How had I not heard of this fascinating offering?

When I expressed regret for having missed out so far, she assured me that I could watch some of the films on YouTube, at which point I had to clarify that I watch movies in public on big screens, the way god and Shiva intended. She immediately understood.

Interestingly enough, she also gave me a source for English translations of Indian reviews of new films. This woman was turning out to be invaluable.

Another familiar face showed up, a guy I run into at all kinds of events, including this one. The three of us who'd seen "Wild Grass" last week as part of VCU Cinematheque got into a big discussion of its protagonist and whether the film's events had been real or imaginary.

It was soon clear that each of the guys had completely opposite takes on the plot. One saw nut case, the other saw sex offender. I saw a lonely woman with bunions who fell for the stranger who found her stolen wallet. Never the twain shall meet.

Tonight the Cinematheque was showing a documentary, an infrequent offering but one the Professor said spoke to their mission to show lots of different things. He also warned us there'd be no Q & A because the film was self-explanatory.

Reminding us that there are four more films in the series before the semester ends, he instructed us to tell our friends (as I do) or even bring them. "It's  a cheap date!"

I hear that, Prof.

"Touch the Sound: A Sound Journey with Evelyn Glennie"  began with a woman playing snare drum in Grand Central Station and only later do we learn that she is profoundly deaf (and Scottish, but understandable) since a neurological disorder during childhood claimed her hearing.

She adapts by using a sense of touch and bare feet to play mad percussion with all kinds of talented people, including making a wholly improvised record with experimental musician Fred Frith in an abandoned warehouse ("The nature of improvisation is your whole life up to that point.").

In one scene, she improvises on the floor of a restaurant using drumsticks on two plates, a metal ashtray, a glass and a metal box.

A large portion of the film was her playing alone and with others in all kinds of locations, but apparently there weren't enough quick cuts and car chases to entertain the ADD set because a surprising number of students cut out early. A guy near me kept leaning forward as if to stave off sleep.

Some of the stuff that came out of her mouth was profound such as, "Silence is one of the loudest sounds you'll experience," something I discovered trying to sleep in the country after a life in the city. Or, "The absence of sound is the closest thing I can imagine to death."

But what earned her the crown of most resilient was her take on life. "My role on this planet is to bring the power of sound." As we saw, that she did over and over, whether on a farm, a rooftop or Japan.

When the movie ended, I noticed one acquaintance had already cut out. Another asked what I was up to next. When I said more music, he showed little interest. Too much music? No such thing.

Gallery 5 was hosting a Brazilian band that played South by Southwest this past Saturday night and were swinging up the east coast since.

I ran into two friends leaving on the way out ("We were working"), arriving partway through Richmond band Candy Spot's set. I didn't know the band but just the sound of the jangly guitar alone was enough to get me interested even before I rounded the corner.

Hints of psychedelia, definite shoegaze elements and catchy songs. Yup, I liked these guys and hope to hear them again sooner rather than later.

It was after their set ended that I looked up to see a favorite girlfriend busy talking to a group of musicians (you can always tell) before heading my way.

Neither of us had expected to see the other, so we were busy catching up when one of the handsome musicians in the back walked up to me and said, "You were at our last show, weren't you?'

Now let's be clear, yes, I had seen Marcelo Fruet and Os Cozinheiros exactly two years ago this month at a house show on southside at the mid-century modern home of a glamorous friend. How in the world he recognized me is beyond me.

Surprised, I assured him I had been at that show and had fallen in love with their sound and energy. "Thank you so much for coming out tonight," Marcelo said in his Portuguese-accented English.

You know that feeling when you're really happy you decided to go somewhere? That was me.

My girlfriend and I chatted while the band got set up: Marcelo on guitar and vocals plus a drummer, bassist and a percussion master with killer triangle skills (the man could shake and strike anything).

Their set was more raucous than the one I'd seen in my friend's living room in 2013 and the band was even tighter, if that's possible, playing their hybrid of samba, rock and jazz.

By the second song, Marcelo said, "We better play more Brazilian music so you know we're from Brazil tonight." He may have been shredding his guitar, but his hips were swaying sinuously.

In fact, the instrumentation and the way they played came across like indie rock while the lyrics and groove made it clear they were from the southernmost state in Brazil.

Almost everything sung was in Portuguese until Marcelo said, "I don't write as good in English as I do in Portuguese but here's a song I wrote in English when I was 14." The only obvious Latin touches on the rocking "Land of Moons" was Marcelo's elongated and sibilant ending on  "moonssssss."

Leaning in toward me between songs, my friend whispered, "Marcelo is cute as a button, isn't he?" Indeed, and earnest too, a swoon-worthy combination.

If the set they played in Austin was half as powerful as the one they played for the small crowd tonight, the critics must have eaten them up with a spoon. Their Latin roots were the underpinnings for every song, so no matter how hard guitar and bass were wailing or how much of my beloved reverb they were using, you could never lose sight of their heritage.

Which is exactly why I wouldn't have missed another chance to catch them after two years.

"We wish we had a place like Gallery 5 in Brazil," Marcelo said from the stage before the last song. "But we don't."

Here's the thing, Marcelo: We wish we had men who remembered our faces after two years and were thrilled when we showed up. And if they have liquid hips, all the better.

But we don't. Which makes us very happy when guys like you stop by.

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