Sunday, July 16, 2017

Back to Mac

Despite a high of 94 degrees, it turned out to be a day for standing on the pavement.

When I set out on my walk, it was with the intention of beginning at the dedication of the Maggie Walker statue right here in Jackson Ward. When I saw the size of the crowd standing in the middle of Broad Street, I adjusted the plan.

After a walk to the river, I returned via Broad Street so I could witness the new sculpture after all the speechifying was over, snagging a fan from my favorite R & B record store, Barky's Spiritual Store, en route.

There were still plenty of folks milling around on the new plaza, but at least I could get a good look for the first time at Miss Maggie in her new Arts District digs. I'll tell you what, it certainly is refreshing to see a statue of a woman of note for a change, and even better, a woman of color.

Welcome to the 21st century, Richmond.

The second highlight of the day was being reunited with Mac after 4 long weeks of not seeing her smiling face. Life - good and bad - had intervened for both of us and I couldn't wait to spend the evening with her.

She'd chosen Dinamo (and gotten no argument from me) for dinner but we arrived half an hour before they opened, so we took advantage of 821 Cafe's empty patio to sit down on mod-looking furniture and pour out our stories from the past 28 days.

Talking to her again just reminded me how much I'd missed her company and our ongoing conversation.

Promptly at 5:30, we followed another couple into Dinamo's cool environs and chose seats at the bar behind the espresso machine. Life was good. If not for the table that came in next with 3 caterwauling children, it might have been great.

But of course the food made up for it all, from my special of crab, shrimp and corn chowder to a platter-sized flatbread with artichoke hearts and chick peas to double desserts - fresh sliced peaches and a mound of freshly whipped cream the size of a grapefruit and a Nutella cookie with sea salt that I dipped in the whipped cream.

We rolled out of there full as ticks so that we could go stand in a parking lot under the still brutal sun, something we'd only consider if the Purple One was involved.

As it happened, he was because the Trunk Show Band was presenting the tenth and latest installment of the Cover to Cover series and tonight's album was "Purple Rain."

And unlike the last nine in the series, all of which I've attended and loved, tonight's was being presented not in the hop-scented tasting room that makes me gag, but on an outdoor stage, the better to sweat to the funk.

Host Matt kicked things off onstage by announcing, "Some of you gave my outfit some looks as I was walking through the crowd like you didn't know you were going to a Prince show. I'm just going to go ahead and tell you I look fabulous." He wasn't lying.

After some applause and hollering, he went on, "I thought we got over that gender normative dressing in the '70s!"

We did. I was there. But tonight's crowd was enormous and unfortunately, some people didn't get the memo. On the plus side, just like at the two Prince shows I'd attended in the '90s, the crowd was satisfyingly diverse, a nice change for Hardywood.

Major props go to the band who began with a mixtape selection of one song from each of the nine albums they've already covered - songs like Green Day's "Basket Case,"  Amy Winehouse's "Back to Black," Paul Simon's"Graceland" and Maggie doing a terrific version of Alanis Morissette's "Hand in Pocket" - a lovely memory for those of us who'd been there and undoubtedly a cruel tease for those who'd missed those stellar shows.

Oh, well, keep up or miss out, kids.

During the break, I turned to see Foto Boy coming at me with open arms and we took a hot minute to catch up since it had been ages since our last lunch. A favorite theater lover stopped by for a hug and to get a recommendation (I sent him directly to "The Toxic Avenger") of what I'd seen that qualified as fabulous lately.

Where the crowd appropriately lost it was when the band, complete with two drummers and two guitarists, began "Let's Go Crazy." I mean, it was practically a directive. Also, it was the start of a two-hour dance party that barely left room to breathe.

"I don't know if it's the reverb or what, but y'all are making us feel like rock stars!" Matt enthused after that song ended. After "The Beautiful Ones," he called out, "Y'all should be dancing if you're not."

Please. Mac and I had started moving with the first notes. After all, this wasn't our first trunk show rodeo.

Apparently it was for the drunk guy who blocked my view of guitarist Grant (not to mention his superb guitar playing and great haircut) by  planting himself smack in front of me (a slight jab to the back moved him closer to his date and out of my way), at least until he began bobbing and weaving leaving his date to begin supporting him.

After sending him off to the bathroom, she leaned over and asked if I would recommend a restaurant nearby where he could soak up the copious amounts of beer he'd ingested. I suggested Supper and an Uber (he was from North Carolina and her car was back at his hotel) and wished her good luck.

"Do they have burgers?" she asked, sounding desperate. Yes, now go, please, so Mac and I can grind to Todd singing "Darling Nikki."

An extended version of "I Would Die for You" with Anthony singing lead became a crowd singalong and midway through, a breeze arrived to take it into sublime territory.

"Purple Rain" got the royal treatment with three vocalists and Maggie and Ali using wands to blow bubbles over the sweaty crowd, many of whom used their cell phones as flashlights subbing for Bic lighters to wave overhead.

It was over too soon.

Anticipating just that, the Trunk Show Band had rehearsed a few hits for a final set: "Kiss," "Raspberry Beret," my favorite, the masterfully metaphoric "Little Red Corvette" and then the inevitable crowd-pleaser, "1999," coincidentally the year the baby-faced bass player Pete was born.

But because the crowd was now at fever pitch, they couldn't end it there and, as Cover to Cover tradition dictates (and I've come to count on since that very first show), they did a reprise of "Purple Rain," complete with more bubbles as Mac and I basked in the purple glow.

I don't know if it was the reverb but, hot summer day or not, some shows are worth dancing on the pavement for.

Especially now that Mac is back in town.

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