Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Will You Ride Shotgun?

I recall when a friend facetiously suggested a t-shirt for the Chamber to give out:
Welcome to Richmond
We talk at shows

And unfortunately, we don't just talk at big shows at the National with 1500 other people, we talk at house shows and small venue shows. Hell, we even talk at intimate Sundown at Scuffletown shows, where the musicians are barely amplified and we're practically in strangers' backyards.

We're just rude that way.

And by "we," I hope you know I mean "they." Whether I pay for a music show or not, I am there to listen not talk. I'm considerate enough to know that I can chat before it starts and once it ends.

Not everybody seems to be so civil.

I'd wrangled Mac into joining me and my hired mouth at lunch today and during the course of the meal, she'd shared with our young server that we were going to hear music at Scuffletown Park tonight. She even explained that it was a word of mouth event not shared on social media, which he thought was very cool (and perhaps strange).

Translation: we were looking forward to it.

I met her there an hour before sundown and, as promised, she'd brought two cans of Lambrusco, a fitting red wine for a 70 degree evening. She'd also staked out a bench for us, so we were pretty much set for the evening. It was a big crowd, easily twice what it was two weeks ago when I was last there, and while I don't care about crowd size, I do resent people talking and laughing so loudly that I can't hear the music.

The crowd continued to grow and you could get a feel for who they were by their t-shirts: "Give Richmond the Byrd," "You Da Wild, Naughty Pines, CA," "Ice Cream for Strength" and more common sightings such as "WRIR" and "Bon Iver." Me, I was wearing my feelings, too, with my newest shirt: "My book smells better than your tablet."

Because it does.

Saying that we were witnessing history tonight because it was the first Scuffletown show featuring pedal steel, our emcee introduced Trey Hall and Friends, consisting of Trey on acoustic guitar and a guy whose name we couldn't hear on pedal steel. Before their set was over, two singers joined them.

"I have torn vocal chords," Trey explained. "So I thought I'd play songs that are very sad." Trey plays with Dharma Bombs, meaning I'd seen him before, just not without the rest of the Bombs.

"Say hi to Charley," Trey said about the young woman who came to the microphone after the first couple songs. "The best part of having torn vocal chords is having friends to help me out, like Charley." And while Mac and I would have loved to have heard Charley singing along, the gaggles of giggling girls directly across from us ensured that it wasn't easy.

Introducing "Canadian Tuxedo," Trey announced, "Charley's gonna sing it better than I can," a true statement.

The coolish weather was ideal for an outdoor show, never more so than when fireflies began flitting around and there was a break in the screaming children playing tag. The sound of the pedal steel in the dusky evening air was nothing short of beautiful...and historic, as it turns out.

For that matter, I recall the time they brought a piano in for a show at Scuffletown, so they don't mess around. But pedal steel is a distinct pleasure.

If I sound like the angry guy on his front lawn shaking his fist at the kids on his grass, it's because I've been a Scuffletown regular for the past five years and each year it seems like fewer people come for the music. They come to eat (although why anyone would bring sub-par pizza from PBR when a glorious pie from 8 1/2 is available next door escapes Mac and me) and see their friends, have some beer or wine, probably even see and be seen, but an annoyingly large percentage clearly don't care about the music or they wouldn't face away from it and chatter, right?

Rude people's noise made it tough to hear lyrics, but Mac and I cracked up when we thought we heard the lines:
She's an addict
But she's got toys in the attic

But for all we know, we're mishearing lyrics and he really sang something completely different. We'll never know.

Eventually Charley was replaced with Mackenzie from the band Pistol Sister and she sang on "Black Rose Tattoo," her big voice piercing the hum of random conversations.

The set closer was by far the most raucous song, as if Trey was willing to push past his torn vocal chords for the sake of the liveliness of the guitar and pedal steel parts on their swan song.

And here's the kicker: when the emcee got up to insist on another round of applause for the band and ask if there were any community announcements, everyone got respectfully quiet and listened.

No, no, no, kids, we stop talking for the music, not for the end of the music. It's enough to give a person have toys in the attic, if you know what I'm saying.

Gimme some ice cream for strength.

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