Sunday, March 11, 2018

Sinking, Rising, Reflecting

You know I'm not myself when I can't recall the last time I saw live music.

I know I haven't seen any in 2018 and looking back at my calendar, if you don't count plays, looks like it was early November.

All I can say is, that may be the longest stretch I've gone in years without seeing a band and I'm not proud of it.

So tonight I was among the music lovers who crowded Sub Rosa Bakery to see the Low Branches reunion, not to mention Jonathan Vassar and the Badlands opening up for them. For those not familiar with these two stellar local bands, allow me to clarify: first we heard JV& TB, a male trio singing sad songs, followed by TLB, a female-fronted trio singing sad songs.

Because if there is anything I need these days to reinforce my mood, it's sad songs.

Chairs and stools had been assembled to face the twinkle light-draped front windows and door and the room hushed quickly once Jonathan strapped on his guitar, greeted the crowd made up of lots of old friends from the Listening Room days - where I'd gotten to know both these bands - and began with the instantly recognizable "Days Go By."

With Nate (of bagel fame) on upright bass and doing harmonies and Curtis on pedal steel, the band did "You Were Gone," one of several songs off their new EP just released last month. You know, I've been listening to Jonathan make music since 2007 and his songs still move me every time.

Meanwhile, people kept arriving, making their way to the counter for wine and wedging themselves into any available spaces left. Jonathan lightened the mood after a group came in and quickly found seats, saying, "Now that my in-laws are here, we'll restart that one!"

Favorite lyric: We both crossed the line, but I can't remember who pushed who.

They closed their set with the very new "The Truth" with the timeless acknowledgment, "Change is the only thing that stays the same." Please don't remind me.

The break afterward allowed the latecomers to mingle with the punctual crowd and before long, the volume was such that you had to lean in to hear the person you were talking to. Two friends I chatted with have gotten pregnant since I last saw them and another had her one month-old with her.

I was delighted to chat with the scuba-diving artist who used to keep bees because we hadn't seen each other in over a year. Curious about why that was, she posited that it's her early bedtime to accommodate an early morning yoga schedule, leading to a discussion of how we both require 9 hours sleep a night.

She thought it might also be related to her absence on Facebook now that her social media platform of choice is Instagram. Asking if I used it, she was tickled pink to learn I'd just joined the Instagram fam a week ago. "Now we'll see each other there!" she predicted.

A musician friend I've known for 8 years now came over and asked me sotto voce why I wasn't blogging. Her question caught me completely off guard, although I didn't hesitate to tell her how flattered I was that she'd noticed. "Of course I noticed," she exclaimed. "Reading your blog is a regular part of my day and I miss it!" She even uses it as a reference to check on when things happened.

It's not like other close friends haven't asked me about the absence of my daily posts, but she wanted to know why. Without having put it into sentences before, I answered with words I didn't know my brain had formulated.

I'm really low right now and if I were to blog, it would be with a very different voice than my readers are accustomed to. I couldn't feign a cheerfulness or optimism I'm not feeling anymore and I told her that I don't think my readers would want to read the words of this mood and that voice.

"Well, I want to read your words no matter what the voice," she said, offering up perhaps the kindest response imaginable.

Jonathan, talking to friends about when the last time the Low Branches had played, turned to me and asked when it was. I wasn't exactly sure, but when I saw Christina, the heart and soul of the Low Branches, she laughed and said, "Well, you would know because whenever it was, you wrote about our final show."

The blog again. Seems I've been charged with keeping a record of Richmond goings-on.

Then it was showtime. "We're going to play some old songs and some new songs," Christina announced, her guitar on her crossed legs. "I have a lot to say."

Like with Jonathan, I recognized old songs such as "Like a Glove" and loved hearing new ones like "Down to the Church" and "The Stranger." It's always moving when she sings her lament-like cover of Dolly Parton's "Jolene," which I hadn't heard in years. Fittingly, today was Dolly's birthday, so Christina wished her a happy birthday.

Christina's got such a beautifully effortless voice and hushed way of singing and she mentioned that she thought her guitar was too loud (it wasn't), but two guitars and keyboards complemented the band's serene, introspective and meandering aesthetic.

"Thanks to Jonathan Vassar and the Badlands," she said after her final song. "It's just like old times!"

In terms of seeing two of my favorite long-time local bands, yes. In terms of life, I only wish.

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