Nice write up about Upper East Side Big Band’s recent Dogwood Dell performance by Karen from her blog, “I Could Go On and On”. Photo by Melisa Brugh:
Wouldn’t It Be Nice? (Saturday, June 11, 2011)
“Next time, bring a glass.”
That’s what the woman sitting near me at Dogwood Dell said to me at the end of the evening. Earlier, when she’d tried to surreptitiously open a bottle of wine, I’d looked over and grinned at her.
All good Richmonders know alcohol is forbidden at the Dell. That said, I’ve never once been to a a performance there and not seen people drinking. Most people.
So at the end of the evening, she’d made sure to tell me that if I brought a glass in the future, it would be filled. Good to know and yet completely meaningless from a stranger.
A neighbor and I had gone for opening night to see the Upper East Side Big Band. As it turned out, we also got the Mills Family band as an opener.
Their set list ranged from “Little Liza Jane” to Paul Simon’s “Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover” to Sesame Street, all enhanced by Samson Trinh’s unique bluegrass saxophone and nonstop leg gyrations..
We enjoyed our picnic supper of fried chicken, watermelon, grapes and German chocolate cake. We weren’t going to starve; he also brought a sandwich and I also ate a salad. Picnic of champions.
The night was beautiful, what with the temperature and humidity having dropped earlier despite no signs of the predicted thunderstorms.
As always at the Dell, dusk brought out the swooping bats over the trees and eventually the moon.
We had Jackson Ward neighbors sitting right in front of us (“We should have formed a caravan over from the Ward”), who only noticed us once my friend began lobbing grapes at them. Ah, the pleasures of thrown foodstuffs at outdoor activities.
The Upper East Side Big Band is big, with probably 18 or 19 musicians, including brass members from Bio Ritmo, Glows in the Dark and No BS Brass Band.
Their set led off with “Very Strange Night” from their first album and bandleader Trinh alternated vigorous musical directing with playing the flute. His multi-tasking was an indication of things to come.
A few songs later, out came five jazz vocalists. four women and one man, to augment the musicians on stage. “This is part one of blowing your mind,” he told the audience.
They began with “Back in the USSR” with keyboard player Adrian Duke on lead vocal (the closet vocal comparison I could think of was David Clayton Thomas) and the other five on backup.
Segueing into “Dear Prudence,” Trinh became a rubber-legged wonder, all but moon walking across the stage.
Raving about his love for the Beach Boys’ masterpiece “Pet Sounds,” Trinh said that, “This will be the first time in Richmond that the Beach Boys are done right.”
The crowd lapped up “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” and “God Only Knows” before a guest guitarist was brought onstage for “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”
Given Trinh’s love of the Beatles, finishing with “Rocky Raccoon” was no surprise. Many people packed up and made for the parking lot at that point, only to miss the barn-burner of the evening, “Helter Skelter.” It got the baby boomers dancing, that’s for sure.
Clearly pumped at the audience’s reaction, Trinh shouted, “Maybe next year we can be on Style’s Best Bands list. Five years and nothing!”
Had it been up to the crowd tonight, they’d have been a write-in vote.
After so much retro music, neighbor and I headed to Cous Cous for something much more au courant. The Diamond Center, those recent veterans of South by Southwest and Austin’s Psychfest, were playing a free show.
I’m always torn about shows at Cous Cous; it’s an ill-configured place to see a band perform and the crowd can be obnoxious.
It’s impossible to have a conversation without endlessly repeating yourself and a pain in the neck to get a drink from the overcrowded bar.
But the show was free and the Diamond Center were playing. I always see scads of people I know, always the music lovers. It’s a trade-off, she said diplomatically.
Visual projections were by Cosmic Hum and were they ever groovy. Amoeba-like forms morphed and moved over the screen behind the band and the ceiling.
At one point, the red blobs showing on the ductwork looked like blood spatters. Groovy and gruesome.
And then there’s the music, with its hazy guitar (including a twelve-string), haunting melodies and a sense of urgency that has bodies moving and heads bobbing.
There is a reason so many of us show up whenever they play. I ran into a musician friend who, like neighbor and I, had begun the evening at the Dell and moved on to something completely different sans his neighbor.
I saw the big-voiced singer and ukulele player I’d seen busking in Charlottesville before the Arcade Fire show. She’d been smart and watched the show from outside, saving herself from group sweat-in I endured.
And I saw the comedian/ukulele player/man-about-town who perennially suggests that I join his group after the show for some late night munchies and chatter at McLean’s.
I declined; the picnic had more than scratched that itch. Even my insatiable need for music and conversation had been well-satisfied.
If I didn’t know better, I’d say I had everything I need on this Friday night.
But next time, I’ll bring a glass and see who’s willing to fill it. There’s just no telling.
View this blog @ http://icouldgoonandon.blogspot.com/2011/06/wouldnt-it-be-nice.html