Saturday, November 17, 2018

Holy, Holy

I hate to correct someone who came all this way to entertain me, but it wasn't the first time.

What I mean is, when I went to see Wye Oak at Capital Alehouse tonight, it was not the first time I'd seen them in Richmond. That honor dates back to September 2011 at the National on the "Civilian" tour. It's not even the second time, that having taken place on the "Shriek" tour three years later.

Yet here was singer/guitarist/keyboardist Jenn telling a roomful of people that this was their first show in Richmond and they were believing it. Did I need to show her that first blog post detailing  her telling us that she'd decided to opt out of using the National's hot tub for concerns of who had been in it recently?

So when she comes onstage in a buttoned-down mustard-yellow jumpsuit (an ideal background for her black and white patterned guitars) and begins by saying, "Sorry it's taken us so long to get here, but we're finally playing a proper show," I can't help but roll my eyes at my girlfriend.

Good thing somebody's documenting all this for the record. (Note: Andy was wearing a blue and white striped polo shirt with a deliberately torn hole in one sleeve).

I even had a corroborating witness in the friend (and her cute husband) I ran into almost as soon as I arrived. They both looked surprised to see me and his words came out first, "Where have you been for the past...year? I haven't seen you anywhere!"

Fortunately, I've worked the response to that question down to a manageable and only partially gushing answer to update my reality to friends I haven't seen in a while, but I probably still smile too much telling it. I now had a conversational partner in her for the duration because he was there taking photographs of the bands.

And, man, he must have gotten some fantastic ones given that the opening band, Thor and Friends, had three (three!) marimba/vibes/xylophone players, a violinist and, sitting in on sax, Andy the drummer from Wye Oak playing saxophone.

Jenn later referred to Thor as "the bad boy of meditative marimba music," a high compliment alluding to them calling to mind the soundtrack of a dramedy where some scenes take place in a fairy forest. And when all three had their mallets flying on the same or adjacent instruments, it was indeed a sight to behold.

The three women in the band, probably unbeknownst to them, looked like archetypes for various musical decades. One had long curly blond hair with bangs and was wearing a fitted Edwardian-style shirt and high waisted jeans, sort of an early Stevie Nicks look before the scarves overtook her. The '70s.

Next to her was a brunette with a layered haircut and a bold print top over a short, flared black skirt and black tights, pure '80s club kid. Then the violinist nailed the '90s with a black tank and a statement pendant over fitted jeans and low boots. As dressed up as grunge ever got.

Well done, ladies. You have to know your history in order to hold your spot.

As cold as I usually run, I thought the room was hot and felt kind of airless, so it was gratifying to hear from others during the break that they were feeling it, too. so, at least if we passed out, we'd all go down together.

Familiar music friends were easy to spot - the film buff, the park concerts organizer - including the sociology professor who'd recently posted a photo of the great selection of metal CDs at the Clothes Rack, coincidentally my go-to thrift store.

For a place that supplies my wardrobe, the occasional bedspread, a stylish lamp and my striped rubber boots, I'd have never given them credit for being a source for metalheads.

The crowd seemed to be full of first time Wye Oak show-goers - how else to explain no one reminding her that they've been here before - but even so, there was no reason for someone to yell out, "Encore!" after the third song. "Did you say encore?" Jenn asked politely, if a bit incredulously. "It's not over, guys," she says and proceeds to strap on her guitar.

Really, Richmond, get out much?

I'm such a fan of the band's sound, from the loud/soft shifting dynamics to the screaming guitar and wailing keyboards and that includes the raging as well as the songs of peace. That Jenn's voice is one of the most beautiful alternative vocal instruments going is indisputable, especially when experienced in a small venue like this one.

Hearing "Glory," a quintessential bad-ass song complete with killer guitar solo, made me glad we'd ended up near the front, even if the big guy next to kept knocking his elbow into my shoulder. Seriously, do you not know where you stop and strangers begin?

They played songs from "Civilian," their guitar-based album, "Shriek," their keyboard-based album and their new one, "The Louder I Call, the Faster It Runs," apparently their "grown-up" album because they compromise and use both. They've also been a band for over 15 years now, so you figure it out.

As the wise sage John Mayer put it, "There's no substitute for time."

It's hard to describe the pleasure of seeing a band that so perfectly embodies a sound I respond to: dense and busy, smart and inquisitive, loud but not too loud. So often, her vocals are the calm or urgent counterpoint to the music's swirling sound and I would close my eyes and get lost in it entirely except I love watching her and Andy (and tonight, a bassist instead of Andy doing double duty on bass and drums) produce so much sound from so few people.

"If you've seen us before, you know we don't do fake encores," Jenn announced before their last song. "So we're going to play our last song and then play one more and then all go home to our cozy beds." The crowded nodded in agreement, like the devoted first-time fans that they were.

You can lay in a cozy bed when you're dead, kids. The future is now.

"Thanks so much for coming out tonight," she said before the encore. "It's so easy to stay at home with all your things and not go out and interact with others and you came out, so thank you." Then they launched into "Logic of Color," a personal favorite, although this version was completely reworked.

Talk to me and I'll talk back
Let's lock eyes here in real time
Your illogical device
My impossible demand

If Jenn was trying to suck up to me by finishing with something I love so I wouldn't spill the beans about this not being their first Richmond show, well, it worked.

Holy cow, is this how fake news gets started and accepted as fact? Could this be the logic of lies?

Tell future generations they can seek out the truth in the sunny, rambling and convoluted stories captured on my blog posts.

And based on that, Wye Oak, it's welcome back. Don't be a stranger.

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