The Blue Raccoon

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Istanbul or Constantinople?
They Might Be Giants/Bread and Puppet Theater/RVA

No, this isn't Monroe Park, but there was a guy who had a banner flag
and the bus, and its handpainted backdrop, was there, too. This is
via the Bread and Puppt Theater photo gallery.

Far as weekends go, this was about as good as Richmond can make them. Amie and me started on Wedensday with our first visit to the Richmond Toad's Place to see They Might Be Giants. You can read about the experience, and the set list, here.

We were pleased to find Tyler and Moira there, and to learn that the event also marked the anniversary of her nativity. Moira hasn't owned a television in 15 years. I find this admirable and commendable, as we have three that we don't watch that much, and the big debate here on Colonial Avenue every month is whether to cut off the cable.

Toad's Place is the fantasy Flood Zone, as Amie described the sleek and techno space, as opposed to the bare concrete of the nontheless beloved venue which deteriorated then was claimed by the Have A Nice Day Café. They don't allow wearing of hats there, a textured irony, since on New Year's Eve at the Flood Zone, Ignatius the Hatmaker used to sell his wares for Shockoe Bottom prices.

The effort that went into converting a former Lady Byrd hat making factory into a music venue rendered notable results. Toad's opening filled a gap for a moderate-sized venue that Richmond has lacked ever since the Flood Zone shuttered in 1997.

But since I'm old, the flat hard floor got to my knees a bit and I was glad Amie nabbed us a perching place available on the left wall. I guess the high up shelf space contains a trunk for wiring or plumbing, something, but the ledge also provides seat of sorts. One of the staff members whom I know from Around told me that a sound person from the Toad's in Connecticut came down to tinker with the sound system all day, and, well, where it wasn't bad, sometimes I couldn't distinguish the lyrics. But, the two bars served cold Legend brown and that was excellent.

I really want to see Regina Spektor when she comes.

I enjoyed the Giants; John Flansburgh reminded me of a stouter Elvis Costello, and John Linnell a slighter David Byrne. Their smart, quirky songs warmed my nerd rocker heart.

That they could goof around on stage with the Toad's Place mascot endeared them to me.

Thursday I was reminded by ACORN's David Herring about the Virginia Center for Architecture's opening of its exhibit celebrating 50 years of historic preservation in Richmond. Amie dashed down to the splendiferous Branch House, location of the Center and the Virginia's AIA headquarters. There was some reminiscing and speechifying, and Rachel Flynn, the year-and-change director of community developmnt for the city was wonderful, and it was good to see HRF's new dynamo director, Mary Jane Massad Hogue, and its first full-time director, Jack Zehmer. Then I ran down to the Firehouse to attend the Spinning Into Butter premier.

Then, on and exquisite Sunday afternoon, we got to converge upon Monroe Park to see the commedia dell' arte/political satire stylings of the Bread and Puppet Theater. The self-sustaining group could come here through the good offices of Amanda Robinson and Gallery 5.

They are a circus that I'd run away with and join. Well, if I was 25 years younger. Oh, the zest and energy and fun and pointed criticism, done with painted cardboard and decorated gunny sacks and musicians playing accordian, sax, drums, and trumpet. Their "Merry Pranksters"--esque painted school bus served as stage and prop box as the players circled it, dressed one way, then came around, outfitted another way.

The weather was splendid, and the Monroe Park audience diverse, including a number of the the folks who, um, hang out on the benches who were both puzzled and amused by the show.

One of my favorite parts was the parade of "government mules" who were herded across the grass. On their flanks they each carried a word that formed the Jeffersonian sentence, Whenever The Government Becomes Destructive It Is The Right Of The People To Alter Or Abolish It and a wee mule came galloping from behind the bus and pushed along by the herder, bearing a ! for the end.

There was also a wonderful little bit about how third party candidates are excluded from the system in a Debate Of Extremely Pertinent Points. Two grim masked politicos flanked a bespectacled scruffy Third Party representative. A moderator asked about global warming, the money supply and the issue pre-emptive war-making. The Republican, ("Lock and load America!") would crow, "Problem? What problem?" and the Democrat retorted, "This is a verrry serious issue!" and as the Third Party character tried to form several complete, thoughtful sentences the Repubocrats would lean in and shout, "Ta-dahhh!" as though they'd accomplished something. The final question was about reforming corporate support of political candidates and before the Third Party could answer, he was beaten down by the other two.

And that about says it all. I recall watching a Third Party candidate debate on C-SPAN during the 2004 cycle and there they were, Green, Constitutional, Libertarian and even Natural Law and all of them made more cogent and even eloquent statements than anything most of the mainstreamed candidates either fell compelled or are allowed to say.

One of the best parts of the weekend, though, was seeing our good friends John DeShazo and Susannah Anderson, and their toddler son, Toby. John and Susannah were intimately involved during the early years of the Firehouse Theatre Project, with acting and technical aspects, and Susannah played Aphrodite in a collaborative piece titled Venus Rising produced through an exhibition of Amie's at the 1708 Gallery and a play I wrote, (with Amie's assistance) which presented the Venus de Milo coming to life and giving her side of the Greek myth stories. We took this production on a barnstorming tour of the deep South, including New Orleans and the now gone Zeitgeist space. They toured Amie's current Plant Zero show.

We really need to get out to Seattle, where they've lived now for--what?--six years? Whew.

After departing from John and Sooz, Amie needed to go further down Hull Street to her studio to put away some materials and conduct some cleaning up operations. She gave me a big trash bag and asked me to undertake litter removal around the property. I actually enjoy this because a place always looks better after you've removed trash. What never ceases to amaze me is the callous, cavalier and careless regard people seem to have for their surroundings. I filled a big three foot long bag with refuse. And this is just one portion of Hull Street near Pilkington. Magnify this, increase the amount geometrically, world-wide. You can understand why, as Laurie Anderson sang years ago, that the history of the future will be about the tranformation of waste.

C'mon, somebody, invent a Mr. Fusion Home Energy Reactor that we can attach to our cars.

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