Saturday, October 14, 2017

Of Hens and Brisk Slips

I stretched for the stars and I know how it feels to reach too high, too far, too soon. Even so, I intend to see the whole of the moon.

With two articles to write today, I skipped my morning walk and got right to it. Doing research for a quote, I came across one of those beautifully written sentences that stay with you, this one by  F. Scott Fitzgerald: They slipped briskly into an intimacy from which they never recovered.

I'm not sure what's more romantic about that, the speed or the inability to resist, so I want to think about it some more.

In early afternoon I was interrupted by the phone ringing and answered to find a pollster at Roanoke College on the line. I tried to beg off, but allowed myself to be cajoled into doing it for the sake of representing the intelligent voter.

When she got to a question about my opinion of 45, I eschewed choices of approve, disapprove or no opinion to deliver a scathing indictment of a lunatic. "We're not supposed to say this, but I agree with you!" she  laughed. "God, it's so refreshing to hear someone answer like you just did."

How, honestly?

Facebook had alerted me that a DJ at WRIR who'd been at the Paul Weller show Saturday was devoting his entire show to a tribute to the Modfather, so once my work was finished, I tuned in to hear rare, alternate and acoustic versions of his songs mixed in with similar artists.

Some sets were so achingly perfect: solo Weller on "Into Tomorrow," Style Council's "Walls Come Tumbling Down" and the Jam's cover of "Heat Wave" segued seamlessly into the Waterboys' "Whole of the Moon," and it was such a beautiful musical flow, I just sat there smiling in appreciation, unable to do anything but listen.

That's some well-curated music, son.

Toward the end of the show, the DJ (who, I'll admit, I've known for 25 years), was tripping over his tongue after so much rhapsodizing about the show and Weller's music, not that it wasn't warranted.

Sounding utterly smarmy, he made a wisecrack about his tongue being too big, and amended that to say it wasn't always a bad thing. "If you know what I mean...and, frankly, I think that you do," he cracked hilariously before thanking listeners for joining him in basking in the afterglow of the Weller show.

I'll bask as long as you play, good sir.

It was damp and getting dark when Mac showed up to trek with me to the Richmond Folk Fest and besides desperately needing the walk, the visuals were stellar with the city looking atmospherically romantic with fog and muted lights along the bridges and canal.

The hordes hadn't yet arrived, so we easily made our way to a row of food vendors where she got a banh mi and, from La Milpa, I chose Mexican-style shredded chicken tacos that sang with the flavors of onions, lime juice, cilantro and white cheese. No sour cream or salsa to be found.

We ate our meals at a community table under a tree with leaves still attached rustling in the night breezes. When I commented on how positively musical the wet, green leaves sounded - completely unlike the rustling of dry brown leaves on a tree - the stranger across from me (notable because she and her companion were first-time Folk Fest attendees) agreed. "Yes, it's like music."

From there, we headed to the Westrock stage to see Hot Club of Cowtown's stylish pastiche of hot jazz and western swing.

There was a pink-collared dog onstage and the bass player (who looked like a cross between a young Patrick Swayze and Chris Isaac) was wiping the strings on his upright bass, presumably to dry them off in the 100% humidity.

The Austin trio played Richmond 10 years ago when it was the National Folk Fest, has now been together 20 years and their polished set showed that with a helluva range of songs: "I'm an Old Cowhand" to "The Continental" to "Big Balls in Cowtown," I kid you not.

After thunderous applause, the bass player (the front of his shirt soaked with sweat from slapping that bass so hard) noted, "Maybe we need to come back here more than once every 10 years!" and while that seems logical, I question how many in the audience would come see the band if it was at a local venue and not in the sheltered confines of the Folk Fest.

Just an observation.

As we sat under the tent surrounded by hundreds of people, we could feel a cool breeze blow across us from the river every few minutes, a reminder that fall is trying to assert itself.

We hurried over to the dance pavilion to catch the end of C.J. Chenier and the Red Hot Louisiana Band's crowded set because Mac loves zydeco, before crossing the bridge to leave the island (where we passed a young woman telling her friend, "I would just give him a blow job") and heading up the hill to the Altria stage for soul blues - a genre based in gospel - courtesy of Eddie Cotton, Jr.

The blues master announced from the stage that he was about to "turn this place into a juke joint," which would've been a real accomplishment considering that we were on a steep, grassy hill, but he did a damn fine job of trying.

Unfortunately, we landed next to a guy who chose the same spot to talk non-stop to his companion for 45 minutes straight.

"That's the thing," he explained patiently to her as if she cared. "Other women tempt me." Apparently they also dump him or turn out to be transgender and he explained how often both had happened to him loudly, along with his theories on why.

Mac and I could have moved, I suppose, but we had a lamp post to lean on, a clear view of the band and enough optimism to think he'd eventually shut up. We were wrong.

Meanwhile Eddie sang out, "Hey, Richmond, let's have some fun! You only get one life, then you're done," a philosophy I embrace wholeheartedly. His music ensured that the crowd would be moving non-stop and his voice harnessed the power of church singing.

During another song he asked all the men who were in love to raise their hands. "How many of you are henpecked?" he asked and many hands went down.

"There's nothing wrong with being henpecked as long as you're pecked by the right hen!" he told them and a few hands went back up. Nothing like a blues master to set the menfolk straight.

"Okay, on the count of four, I want everyone to get up and shake something!" he demanded, causing even the Baby Boomers to shake their aging tail feathers, some more appealingly than others.

For that matter, Mac and I couldn't hep but notice that you couldn't swing a dead cat without hitting a middle-aged man at the Folk Fest, so it could be a good place to meet fellow music lovers of the male persuasion who aren't yet in love.

Recovery from intimacy is optional, if you know what I mean. And, frankly, I think that you do.


  1. we sat right up front of Eddie & his band....great show, no one talking there just listening & dancing...sometimes as in real estate...location is everything.


  2. That's so true, cw! We really enjoyed the band, just not our blabby neighbors. Here's to better real estate today...