Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Worlds Colliding

This is an evening for people who love all forms of music and are most excited to see something unlike anything else out there. If you're a true music fan, you're not going to want to miss it. 
~ RVA Mag "Shows you must see this week."

Tell me something I didn't already know.

I mean, how could you call yourself a music fan and not jump on an intimate show of a string quartet performing selections from Trey Pollard's new album "Antiphones?"

Throw in that hometown-boy-made-good Matthew E. White was opening and it was a benefit for Classical Revolution RVA and you'd have to be a musical fool not to snap up tickets early. And I'm no fool, or at least, no musical fool.

Besides, despite being strangers, Trey and I go way back. I'd seen Foxygen at the National last year, the same Foxygen who'd had Trey do the arrangements for the album, which is why I went (that and local musicians backing them on said arrangements). I was part of the enthusiastic audiences that saw him play as part of Ombak at Balliceaux in 2010 and 2014. That's right, I saw him backing Lydia Ooghe at Live at Ipanema in 2010, a cozy and memorable show. Back in 2011, I'd not only heard jazz sextet Old New Things do Trey's "Americana" at the Camel, but met a middle-aged man who'd recently begun taking guitar lessons from Trey and bragged about it to me, a stranger. Heck, in 2016, he'd been part of the appeal of hearing the Scott Clark Other Other 4-tet in the dim light of the Gypsy Tea Room. For that matter, there was the time I saw him as part of the Matt White hometown show at Strange Matter touring behind Matt's "Big Love" album just when it was breaking huge. And let's not forget the Richmond Symphony Pops performance in 2017 where Trey wrote the arrangements for all the performers - Tim Barry, Bio Ritmo, Clair Morgan - and I was in the nosebleeds for them all.

But if you really want to drill down, I was at the Listening Room in April 2010 when he'd been playing pedal steel instead of his usual guitar and found myself too curious not to go up to him afterward. Music novice that I am, I'd asked him about it and been surprised when he admitted that the instrument was new to him, so it still required every bit of concentration he had.

Who knew anything musical was ever difficult for Trey Pollard?

All of that's just a long way of saying that seeing the RVA Mag piece after I'd gotten tickets for last night's birthday week fundraiser for Classical Revolution RVA was just validation that I'd made the right call.

Not that I need validation, mind you, but it's always a nice bonus.

After dinner at Goatocado - me with a Californian, Mr. Wright with a Mediterranean - you can be sure we arrived moments after the doors opened so I could have my choice of seats (second row, center, behind family members in the front row) for an evening with Spacebomb founder Matt and longtime collaborator Trey.

Spotting the usual suspects - the DJ I'd just seen at "La Dolce Vita," the Bridgepark mastermind, assorted local musicians - I somehow managed to miss a favorite girlfriend who messaged me this morning, saying she'd seen me before the show and then I'd disappeared. How we missed each other, I'm not quite sure.

Next to me was a young couple, sounding new to each other because they were sharing their musical tastes. She explained that her taste was eclectic, although she couldn't abide country and he listened politely as she told him how much more music there was where she came from than here. Still, they agreed, Richmond was getting better and they were hoping they hadn't made a bad choice in coming tonight.

I didn't have the time or inclination for some real talk with them.

Matt came out and sat down at the piano with the uber-talented Alan Parker on guitar, explaining that it had been only last night when he'd asked Alan to accompany him. That's some serious chops right there. He then proceeded to play some of his new hushed and soulful songs, his back to the room because of the piano's placement.

"I was gonna tell a Trey story between every song - I've known Trey half my life - but I decided not to," he joked at the start, a shame for those of us who love a good yarn. His song about the current dictator in the White House was entitled "No Future in Our Frontman" and got a resounding round of applause, as much for the song's urgency as its message.

If not our musicians and artists speaking out against this abomination-in-chief, then who?

Eventually, Matt relented and shared a favorite Trey story, telling us how, as a teenager, his Virginia Beach guitar teacher was always holding up Trey as the local guitar pinnacle, which was meaningless because Matt had no idea who he was. At least he didn't until he realized that the cheesy Norfolk restaurant where he was hosting had a weekly band consisting of old guys playing rock and roll covers with one young guy shredding mightily on guitar.

Matt, meet Trey.

The string quintet - two violins, viola, cello and upright bass - joined Matt for the last couple of songs, with Trey warning the room that they'd not rehearsed together for this. But these were classical musicians and pros, and they nailed his arrangements, adding an incredibly lush note to Matt's music.

They were so good, in fact, that after the final note, Matt turned to them and Trey looking terribly impressed. "Hey, that was pretty good, Trey!" he marveled since he had just heard the arrangements for the first time, too.

Apparently when you've known someone nearly all your musical life, arranging for their songs is no big deal, or at least it isn't for someone as talented as Trey.

After a brief intermission, the string quintet returned to play selections from Trey's "Preludes and Fugues for String Quartet," a series of short pieces that delivered various moods and musical expectations, only to take off in a direction that felt fresher than any string quartet music you can remember hearing.

Trey introduced the musicians, then took up a spot standing off in a corner as they played.

Like an expectant father being asked to witness his baby's delivery, Trey's focus involved listening intently to the quintet while staring down with his eyes covered or up at the ceiling, at least until his young son approached him, arms extended. Trey took in the rest of the performance with his son's head nestled in his Daddy's neck. It was incredibly sweet.

But so was being on the second floor of the Hof with a small crowd of music lovers listening to homegrown Richmond music about to be released to the world. These guys represent Richmond impressively well and anyone who knew about the show and chose not to come had missed out.

Trey and the Classical Revolution musicians got a much-deserved and extended standing ovation and every time they tried to stop bowing and leave, the clapping kicked into a higher gear. Safe to say, everyone there knew they'd witnessed something extraordinary.

Making our way out, I ran smack into the handsomest bass player I know, surprising both of us since it had been a while and I'd missed his annual Halloween extravaganza because I'd been at a black tie gala dancing to "Brick House" instead of at his house.

"As I live and breathe, Karen Newton!" he exclaimed, hugging me while holding his wife's violin off to the side.

Just another part of a stellar evening I wouldn't have wanted to miss. As the DJ and I agreed, there was absolutely nowhere better to be in Richmond this Tuesday night.

P.S. Happy sixth birthday, Classical Revolution. Helluva celebration.

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