Sunday, October 15, 2017

One Is More Than Enough

You can ask me to do many difficult things, but walking slowly is not one of them.

And, sadly, at the Richmond Folk Fest, there are frequent times when I am forced to walk at the snail's pace of humanity. It is excruciating, I can assure you.

And that was after I tried traversing the block along Second and Grace where a quintet of skateboarders had made it their own this Saturday afternoon. A guy walked by me, warning, "You better walk faster, this is now a skate zone."

Then he leaned in chuckling, saying, "Ain't never seen a guy with a gray beard on a skateboard." Clearly you don't spend enough time in certain parts of the city, then. I know 50-somethings who still skate regularly.

Because a writing deadline had kept me from making it down to the Folk Fest until the shank of the afternoon, I was bound to wind up in the crush of music fans heading across the bridge to Brown's Island at the exact same moment (side note: how do people stand to walk that slowly?).

By the time I reached the dance pavilion, I'd run into the radio show host, my favorite hippie musicians, a WRIR DJ and two musicians in search of the best world music. Before the day was over, I also saw the printmaker and her husband, one of my first blog fans and her man, the bookseller and my neighbor, in a particularly gregarious mood after 4 beers (and on his way to score his fifth).

My arrival was ideally timed to find a spot on the dance floor barely four people back from the stage that gave me a bird's eye view (minus his feet) of Memphis soul singer Don Bryant and his band the Bo-Keys, who played without Don on the first song to build the anticipation.

Then the dapper Don joined them and you could just see the joy of performing radiating from his face. This is a 75-year old man who put out his first album in 1969 and his second this summer, a man still marveling at his good fortune.

He kicked off their set by measuring out the ingredients he was going to need - four tablespoons of Memphis guitar, a cup of fatback drumming, a pinch of organ (I was especially taken with the organist's showmanship: every time his hands left the keys, he yanked them back dramatically, as if he'd touched something hot and beamed a smile) - and began strutting and dancing like a man half his age.

As far as I could tell, his only concession to age was alternating a barn burning song with a slow jam to allow him to catch his breath.

When I'd interviewed him a few weeks ago, he'd told me his show would be all about the love and he wasn't kidding. The set included songs about doubting your partner, jealousy, being hurt by love and being true and the ones that weren't danceable were perfect for swaying to, slow dance-style.

Don's voice, honed by years of singing gospel, had no problem producing notes high and low that got the crowd screaming in appreciation. "Don't Turn Your Back on Me" gave us possibly his best lyric:

I'm doing the best that I can
Remember, I'm only a man

Don't worry, we never lose sight of that. Then, just to prove he's still nothing but a man, he closed with "One Ain't Enough (and Two's Too Many)," entreating the adoring crowd to sing along and offering the mic to a few people up front to sing the classic line about having too few or too many women.

Crossing the footbridge after his set ended, I heard a terrified-sounding woman tell her children about the overcrowded bridge, "We're all gonna die." Quality parenting at its best.

Dropping money in one of the Folk Fest's orange buckets to earn my Saturday sticker, I was caught off guard when the guy bearing the bucket threw his arms around me, then turned to the crowd, shouting, "Cheap stickers, free hugs!"

After scoring a foil-wrapped Maryland-style crabcake, I headed up the hill to the Community Foundation stage and soon ran into a DJ/musician friend heading away. I was incredulous that he wasn't staying for Be'la Donna, the all-women go-go group from D.C. I'd been looking forward to all day.

"Doesn't sound like go-go to me," he grumbled. I didn't take him for an expert on all-women go-go groups and kept going to find a better view.

Besides having great hair and all the energy in the world, these women were dressed to impress in bright dresses and tops that made for an explosion of color as they sang, danced and played in high-heeled lock step, singing, "They don't love you like I love you" and doing shout-outs to prove it.

No question it was hot onstage and one of the singers used a large folding fan to cool herself off in between stints at the microphone.

Near where I was standing watching, a mother with an affection for go-go began dancing in circles around her mortified teen-aged daughter who couldn't even look her mother in the eye as she gyrated. A better question might have been, how could the daughter not be moving at all to such an infectious beat?

When their set ended, I began walking, only to hear my name called and see my favorite part time server/professor beckoning me over to meet her friend ("Karen's not too cool to go to a poetry reading," she assured him) and catch up. Before it was all over, we'd covered a multitude of unmentionable topics before moving on to going to Godfrey's Latin night later and the demise of the Virginia State Penitentiary that once stood near where we did.

It's what we like about each other: our interests swing widely.

Walking back up the hill toward home, who should I run into again returning for a second stab at the Folk Fest, but the two musicians with a taste for world music? Turns out they'd taken my advice and parked on my block before hoofing it down rather than wasting time trying to park downtown.

Still, at a festival teeming with people, it was amazing to happen on the same two twice in one day.

With enough music under my belt to be able to live with myself, I finished out the night at the Comedy Coalition to watch three of the house teams do long form improv. It was completely different than what 'd been doing since yesterday and for that reason, it was a fine way to close out my day.

The Johnsons' cue was "planetarium" and that sent them off riffing on scarecrows hitting on people in a corn maze ("Don't flatter yourselves. I said I had pimento cheese!") and a married woman making a Jolene-esque plea to her husband's first wife so he'd pay attention to her instead.

Dollar Machine, in their last performance ever, got "basement" as their starting point, which took us to hoarders, colonies of feral cats and hamsters being buried in Crystal Light containers. Just as funny were alley trolls who put strolling daters to various tests (like demonstrating second base) to see if they'd make sound couples.

If only such a thing could be determined so easily in an alley.

Last up was Big Bosses, comprised of the Coalition's heavy hitters, long time staff and teachers, making light of a phrase from a bad Christmas movie, "It's turbo time!" which quickly became, "It's justice week!"

Before long, we were enmeshed in comedy involving Superpowers like Single Dad Man, Subtraction Man and Inquisition Man and a reporter who persisted in saying, "I'm from the local papes" before taking notes.

A character named Dick Cheney was the bad guy (casting to type), fixing the 2000 election and killing anyone who disagreed with him. These days, you laugh so you don't cry.

But only after you've danced to a Memphis soul singer reminding you to never give up on love. His rationale? "Love's not giving up on you!"

Is that a promise? Because I would be willing to walk slower to make it so.

No comments:

Post a Comment