Saturday, October 28, 2017

Never Enough in the Moment

Even bad ears can't mistake loud for anything else.

My ears may have only just recovered from Wednesday's rock and roll extravaganza, but I'd barely started across the bridge to Brown's Island this morning when I noticed how much higher the canal was. And I mean higher than yesterday.

Walking across the island, my ears soon alerted me that James was raging. At first, I doubted them because I'd walked the pipeline yesterday and the river had been the same as it's been for months: low and calm.

Man, not today, though.

Dipping down to the edges of the island, I was nothing short of gobsmacked at how high and fast-moving the river was compared to a mere 24 hours ago.

Places where I knew rapids existed were now tumultuous explosions of water that engulfed many of the rock landmarks the kayakers use. The bases of train bridge supports where I often see birds stading were engulfed in swirling water.

The rock outcropping where Mac and I used to dip our feet (before we saw a snake there and abandoned it) was completely inaccessible, with water completely covering the rocks we use to get there. What the hell?

And although I was alone, I sensed that the James' volume would have prohibited conversation if I had had a walking companion, so I tried talking loudly to no one, only to be drowned out entirely. I couldn't hear my own voice.

It was a startling enough change from yesterday for me to come home and do some research.  Yesterday when I'd walked, the James had been at 3.71 feet, while today it had risen to 5.65 feet. I walk the river practically every day and I'd never seen such a dramatic change in one day: two feet more of water! Craziness.

Also, I can't wait to go back tomorrow to see what's up.

Tonight was about noise of a different nature. Weeks ago, I'd bought a ticket for San Fermin at the Broadberry and while the venue isn't my favorite, I'll take my chamber pop where I can get it.

The evening started at Sabai (park once, party twice) which was understandably hopping given it was prime time Friday night and there was a show next door, with the added bonus of a classic R&B soundtrack of songs like "Brickhouse" and "Whip It."

I was a little surprised that the garage doors were rolled up (and the massive screens in place) given that the temperature had already dropped to 59 on its way to 47 tonight. I was prepared, though, wearing two tank tops, a sweater and a jean jacket. And a scarf for good measure.

But I adjusted, leaving my jacket on throughout dinner, while the screens afforded me a view of the Halloween costume street theater parading by as I chowed down on the Pad Se Ew with chicken recommended to me by the server as her favorite.

Walking in, the Broadberry was surprisingly uncrowded, despite openers Gracie and Rachel taking the stage within minutes. Not only did the blond Gracie wear white, but her keyboards, mic stand and cord were white, whereas brunette Rachel played a violin with the usual black accouterments. Their drummer Ricky used an abbreviated drum set and mallets to punctuate their songs, despite his name not being included in the band's.

"Most of our songs are about death," Gracie announced, not  a huge surprise given the songs' haunting sound. "This next one is as close to a love song as we get. It's about a stalker and it's called, "Run." Even more impressive was their choral arrangement of a former high school buddy and now rapper Kreayshawn's "Gucci, Gucci," a masterful reworking of a rap about basic bitches. Positively brilliant.

They shared that it was the last night of an eight-city tour, making those in the room feel like we got everything they had left at this point. Their set ended on one perfect note and each threw their hands up in the air to signal "the end."

"San Fermin is next and there's a lot of them," Gracie warned us. "They're really beautiful people."

During the shortest of breaks, I spoke to two people - a server at Laura Lee's and a clarinetist/saxophonist friend and both said the same thing: why was this show so pitifully under-attended? Well, first, it had gotten zero advertising and, second, a lot of Halloween events were going on tonight.

Still, a shame given that a band the caliber of NPR darlings San Fermin was playing for a paltry $14 tonight.

Lined up onstage were "a Telly, a Strat and a P-bass," according to a nearby fan (well, you don't think I could tell, do you?) and it was tough to imagine where the musicians would all fit around all the gear.

The band's eight members - baritone sax, trumpet, drums, guitar, violin, keyboards, two vocalists who also both played guitar - came out with no fanfare to demonstrate how easily they were able to move around each other despite how tight it was.

Vocalist Allen Tate completely won over the room with his baritone and casual charisma, eschewing the high drama of his female counterpart Charlene Kaye for sincerity and the occasional beating of his heart with his hand as he sang.

There was a definite sense that it was the last night of the tour and that they were all really enjoying themselves as they played songs off their past two records as well as the new "Belong." It was truly a highlight hearing "Emily" sung live in Tate's seductive tones.

Let's forget about it, oh
Leave it all alone tonight
And we're waiting on a moment when it feels right
Don't want to talk about it, oh, no

All the credit for the songs and arrangements goes to Yale graduate and keyboard player Ellis Ludwig-Leone, who was easily the most low-key person onstage, except that he beamed a lot, as if proud of his efforts doing the geek work.

Meanwhile, the entire band looked pleased when audience members sang along on choruses.

Their encore ended with "Jackrabbit," with Kaye changing the line "When you're lost in the woods" to "When you're lost in Richmond," setting off a frenzy of cheers as the voices and instruments reached a glorious finale.

To my bad ears, they weren't nearly as loud as the river had been this morning. But at the end of the day, San Fermin made for a mighty fine bookend to what James had begun.

I any case, it felt right.


  1. It's another world down there when the river is high. One feels transported to another place...far from the urban cocoon that Richmond sometimes is. At times just the place to be to escape the "it" city & it's clear the mind & refresh the soul...(whatever that is?). Glad you enjoyed it.


  2. You nailed it, cw! It truly does feel like another world when the river is so high because all sense of the city is lost.

    I think I needed that...

  3. Just got back from the river and it's lower (4.72 feet) than yesterday, but still higher than it's been for months. Not nearly as loud or raging but still moving at a good clip.

  4. Well with winter ahead they'll be plenty of water west of here to fill that bucket up...of course some days it'll be so cold, (when that wind on the water blows thru you), it'll be tough to take.


  5. Don't remind me! I'm a summer person and already hating that I need to layer up to be comfortable. It was with regret I finally took my beach chairs and umbrellas out of the trunk today.

    And you're right about more to come. Rain supposed to start around 3 a.m. tonight. Fine by me because I do enjoy sleeping to rain falling...

  6. yes that rain is coming down...but hey it's not winter yet,,, Besides I hate to layer to. Wear shorts & a sweater as long as I can.


  7. Well if today is a reflection of your mood maybe I'd better not say anything Pilgrim?

    Still when I was a kid a cloudy day was my favorite..I'd hide in it.

    Can't complain about the temp thou can we? Not my short-sleeve shirt & shorts on.....going outside again for a few times to. Maybe not Piping thou.


  8. I don't mind gray or rainy days because I always prefer humid to dry! And yep, this kind of temperature can't be beat considering it's February...

  9. Well, well, we're opposites there....dry to humid. Still what would be one without the other..

  10. Dry air in winter feels so much colder and it chills me right to the bone! Humid air always reminds me of the beach.

  11. OK I see your point & I do like the sea breeze!